Posted on: 18 October 2016

Book Review:

Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam, and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India
By Venkat Dhulipala
Published by Cambridge University Press - 2015

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In his book on the idea of Pakistan, the historian Venkat Dhulipala argues that Pakistan was not simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was popularly imagined as a sovereign Islamic state, a new Medina, as some called it. In this regard, it was envisaged as the harbinger of Islam’s revival and rise in the twentieth century, the new leader and protector of the global community of Muslims, and a worthy successor to the defunct Turkish Caliphate. The following article has been excerpted from the book

The basic reasoning behind the assumption that Pakistan was Jinnah’s bargaining counter and not a demand for a separate sovereign state is that such a state would have been disastrous for the Muslim minority in Hindu India. As the argument goes, Jinnah as the Qaid of all of the Indian Muslims was hardly going to abandon the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims. However, his own public utterances on the matter seem to point to a different idea regarding the place of minorities. Never the abstract theoretician, the meticulous constitutional lawyer gave concrete examples to clarify what he meant by nations, sub-national groups or minorities. For Jinnah, Muslims in the ‘majority provinces’ were a nation with concomitant rights to self-determination and statehood since they constituted a numerical majority in a contiguous piece of territory. On the other hand, Sikhs, though distinct enough to be a nation, did not fulfill either of these criteria and hence were a sub-national group with no option but to seek minority safeguards in Pakistan. Jinnah specifically compared the position of Sikhs to that of U.P. Muslims. The U.P. Muslims, though constituting 14 per cent of the province’s population, could not be granted a separate state because

“Muslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered. Therefore, in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-national group who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilized government to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear.”

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