For 66 years, the two spools remained unaired and unheard—safely locked up in the vaults of the archives of All India Radio in India’s capital. The labels on them are terse: ‘Jinnah’, they read. Only a few knew of their contents or value. Unlike other recordings of historical import, neatly marked for date, time and context, the ‘Jinnah tapes’ were something that existed behind a bureaucratic iron curtain.
Now, on hearing the master tapes after an eight-month pursuit, this much can be said: Mohammed Ali Jinnah sounds every bit like the man he despised—Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Only, the accent is stiffer, more gravelly, more Brit. And yes, in one of them at least, the Karachi-born barrister makes the same noises as the one from Allahabad.
The first of the two recordings we heard was perhaps Jinnah’s last address on the radio within the borders of what is now India. It was made on June 3, 1947, in Delhi, two months before he left for the country that had become his life’s mission. All India Radio’s internal records do not reveal if Jinnah came to its studios to record it or if sound recordists were sent to his house at 10, Aurangzeb Road. All we can say is this: it lasts seven minutes and 45 seconds.
The second, shorter but more well-known recording was his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on the day that nation came into existence: August 14, 1947. It is, in a manner of speaking, the equivalent of Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, full of high values and noble objectives. In spirit, it has a direct kinship with the speech three days before that: the famously elusive August 11 speech, which he made at the Pakistan Constituent Assembly's first meeting. (Only the transcript of the full speech is available, though purported excerpts show up on Youtube)
For those who haven't chanced upon it before at online chaupals where such things have great currency, hearing the creator of the first country carved out on the basis of religion talk of the other Abrahamic religions in the same breath as Islam, and of tolerance and respect for other faiths and beliefs too, is at once thrilling and humbling. Especially if one juxtaposes it with the reality of modern-day Pakistan.
It is the master recordings of the Constituent Assembly speeches in Karachi that Pakistan has been chasing for years, if not decades now. How India came to be in their possession is not as mysterious as it may sound. As the two nations stood parted by Cyril Radcliffe’s scalpel, Pakistan requested All India Radio to send sound engineers to record the birth of the new nation, as it were. Reason: neither Lahore nor Peshawar, both classified as ‘Class B’ radio stations, had the wherewithal.
All India Radio complied. Its engineers, said to be all south Indians, came back with two recordings. The August 11 one, where Jinnah spelt out his secular vision for Pakistan with the now memorable words, “You are free to worship in your temples and mosques....” It is this ‘missing’ speech that landed L.K. Advani in trouble in 2005. The second recording (one of the two we hunted down) is the official master tape of Jinnah’s Aug 14 address. All India Radio sources say the August 11 recording is “not with us”. Be that as it may, why All India Radio has still not handed over the master August 14 recording to Pakistan is unclear. One version has it that the bloodshed during Partition had coloured minds in India about a certain disconnect with Jinnah’s words contained in the radio address. Another version has it that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s animosity knew no bounds.
August 1946 Communal riots break out in Calcutta. (Photograph by Getty Images, From Outlook 09 September 2013)
Why Pakistan wants the tapes now and what it will do with them is unclear too. But among those eagerly waiting to hear the official tapes is Murtaza Solangi, director-general of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation: “The August 11 recording is not in public domain and from my point of view, hearing the speech is very important because the founder of Pakistan clearly speaks his vision of a peace-loving, pluralistic, democratic Muslim majority Pakistan, as opposed to an Islamist state. I also believe that, had Pakistan pursued the vision of Jinnah, we would not be facing an existential threat caused by home-grown extremists and terrorists.”
Mushirul Hasan, the director of National Archives, Delhi, hasn’t heard the tapes. But he has a few sharp cuts for Jinnah. He says, “Jinnah’s address is a case of too little, too late. It is of academic importance. After all the bloodshed, which he is partially responsible for, how can one forget that he crafted a new nation on the basis of religion? That said, societies which go through civil strife do go back to the vision of the father of the nation. In contrast, we may have forgotten our father of the nation—this is because we are a more confident country as we have a functioning democracy with the democratic structures in place.”
It’s not just Jinnah. The shared legacy of Sadat Hasan Manto, one of the foremost portraitists of Partition, sits hidden in some vault of All India Radio. When historian Ayesha Jalal, Manto’s grandniece, sought the recordings as part of ongoing research, she was told by officials that the recordings did not exist. Yet, persistent queries have revealed that All India Radio does have a recording of a Manto play. It is also learnt that All India Radio would like to have the recordings of actors Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor from Pakistan’s broadcasting authority. Officials are not saying whether there is a quid pro quo involved here.
It took Outlook all of eight months to hear All India Radio’s Jinnah recordings. This was preceded by much stonewalling and countless calls for approval from the Prasar Bharati Corporation, which is the parent body of All India Radio; the information and broadcasting ministry, the controlling authority; and finally, the ministry of external affairs. The external affairs ministry was involved because Jinnah is a “foreigner”, and in matters related to two nations, it is this ministry that has the final say.
A version of this appears in print
Is Outlook so short of ideas that it had to dig up Jinnah’s speeches, the gist of which have been in the public domain ever since L.K. Advani’s visit to Pakistan and Jaswant Singh’s subsequent book (Clipped Speech, Sep 9)? Jinnah took advantage of the demand for a separate homeland for Indian Muslims articulated largely by the leaders of the Muslim League, dominated by the United Provinces Muslim elite and sections of the student and teaching community of the Aligarh Muslim University. The communal angle came in handy for Jinnah. Whether he was communal or secular is irrelevant. Nor does not conforming to the tenets of Islam make him secular. A devout Muslim like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was truly secular, unlike the superficially modern and westernised Jinnah. If he or his successors had even the remotest regard for a secular polity, the ethnic cleansing of a sizeable minority in Pakistan after Partition would not have taken place. Sections of Muslims like the Ahmadiyyas and even the Shias are even now in the process of being eliminated from the frame in Pakistan.
P.N. Radhakrishnan, Westport, US
“How on earth would the residents of his ‘nation of the pure’ respect minorities when the word ‘Pakistan’ itself suggests that non-Muslims are impure?” asks Saba Naqvi in her piece. Well spotted! In decades of reading about the subject, I’ve never come across this simple, and it would seem, this obvious a point.
Mamood Mamook, Agra
The idea of Partition was first voiced from Meerut in 1888 by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He referred to Hindus and Muslims as two warring nations. Later, the Muslim League raised the slogan ‘Divide and Quit’ and ‘Bant ke rahega Hindustan’. But the father of the idea of ‘Pakistan’ was the poet, Sir Mohammed Iqbal, who in 1930 declared that the formation of a consolidated northwest Indian Muslim state seemed to be the final destiny of Muslims. By 1940, Jinnah had declared: “The difference between Hindus and Muslims is deep-rooted and ineradicable.” Soon after, the Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution which Gandhi called “baffling”, Nehru referred to as “one of Jinnah’s fantastic proposals” and C. Rajagopalachari deemed as “a sign of a diseased mentality”.
V.S. Dharmakumar, Gurgaon
There is nothing special in these tapes. Jinnah was just a typical megalomaniac.
Pradip Singh, Stafford, UK
Can we take Jinnah’s speeches on an occasion or two at face value? Especially when they have been given on a special occasion when the whole world might be listening. The late Provas Chandra Lahiri, a former Congressman and ex-minister of state for finance, in his book India Partitioned and Minorities in Pakistan, which I read in my college days, had referred specifically to the much-hyped Aug 11 speech and said that behind the speech, he hid the claws of minority persecution. Is it not discernible in the Qaid-e-Azam’s open support for the imposition of Urdu on its Bengali population—the largest ethnic group. This betrayed his narrow ideology. He was, in effect, ungrateful to Bengal premier H.S. Suhrawardy and the Bengali Muslims—the real architects of Pakistan.
Sandipan Khan, Calcutta
On June 5, 2013, the Central Information Commission had asked the Government of India to look into Jinnah’s two speeches. cic Satyanand Mishra even stated that keeping everything related to Pakistan ‘top secret’ was regressive. By publishing the Jinnah tapes, Outlook has done a great favour to history enthusiasts and those interested in Partition and Jinnah studies specifically. He was undoubtedly no devout Muslim: he consumed liquor and ham, was never particular about namaz or the Islamic dress code, married a Parsi, named his daughter Dina, kept dogs and had a Mangalorean Hindu driver till his departure to the new country he had created. More than an Islam votary, he was a power-hungry man whose words and actions for the sake of power resulted in the worst bloodbath in Asia.
G. Anuplal, Bangalore
It is evident from records of the ruling British and sundry pre-1947 memoirs and transcripts that the Congress leadership, Nehru and Patel in particular, were equally responsible for the partition of India, besides Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten. Had Lord Wavell continued as the Viceroy, the bloodbath and Partition could well have been avoided. It’s not fair to blame Jinnah alone for the catastrophic events in the subcontinent. We Indians need to be objective and self-reflective, not blind to historical record.
Narasimhan P., Bangalore
Jinnah’s role in conceptualising and instigating the Direct Action Day in Calcutta when the Muslims went on a murderous rampage against the Hindus is revealing enough of the man’s political modus operandi, notwithstanding his later turns of ‘secularism’.
Pinaki S. Ray, Adelaide
Didn’t Nehru himself plainly state why he went for Partition? As he told his biographer Michael Brecher, “We saw the Punjab burning and were afraid the flames would engulf the rest of India.” What more should he have waited for? It was clear that the Cabinet Mission proposals were the only ones Jinnah would accept because, as Gandhi noted at that time, they were really worse for the Hindus and Sikhs than Pakistan. They gave the country no effective state and did give Jinnah full control over all of Punjab and Bengal. What more could he have even dreamed of, with only 28 per cent of the population on his side? The fools who bemoan Partition today don’t realise how completely exhausted and disillusioned with the Muslim League the Congress leaders were by this time, including Nehru who was very inclined to give Muslims every benefit of the doubt. He had had a harrowing experience of leading the interim government where the Muslim League made an issue of every Hindu-Muslim row, even if it had no communal connection. For instance, on one occasion, Nehru, disgusted to see Indian leaders disputing with each other during a cabinet session, under the eyes of the British viceroy, suggested to the Muslim League colleagues in his government that the Indian side should meet and settle their views over tea before cabinet sessions. The Muslims rejected his proposal with furious abuse because, they said, he had insulted them by sending his secretary instead of coming himself! It was experiences like this and the daily, deadly riots which convinced Nehru that Partition was the only way out. As he told Brecher, “If such large numbers of people do not want to be in India, why should we and how can we keep them in? Let them go their own way.” India without Partition would simply have degenerated into endless, massive civil wars. Today, virtually no Muslim in Pakistan or Bangladesh wants to rejoin their countries with India. It’s only a tearful Lahori mob that has kept alive the fantasy. Indian Muslims have lived to see how the demand for Pakistan has left the Hindus better off, in effective control of the main part that was India, while Muslims are divided between three countries. Partition partitioned the Muslims.
Altaaf Ghosn, Aurangabad
Apropos of my letter last week on the ‘Jinnah speech world didn’t hear’ (Sep 9), readers may be a bit confused over the identity of Provas Chandra Lahiri. He wasn’t a minister of India, but of the provincial government of East Pakistan. He fled to India during Ayub Khan’s rule.
>> A true partition, with a complete exchange of the religious populations...
What a diabolical Hitlerian idea!
@ Narasimhan - "The end result is that minorities in Pakistan and Bangla Desh have been decimated and the minorities in the Rest of India are wagging the dog. "
Indeed, the tail is wagging the dog. Well said, sir.
Without partition, the percentage of Muslims in India would have been over 40 and that is a sobering thought. A true partition, with a complete exchange of the religious populations would have been the ideal solution. But our great secularist leaders belonging to the Hindu religion would have none of it. The end result is that minorities in Pakistan and Bangla Desh have been decimated and the minorities in the Rest of India are wagging the dog.
Jinnah’s speech of 11th August 1947 to which secularists/librals usually refer to, is just a drop of ink in the ocean of blood that forms his legacy – Pakistan – the laboratory of Islam!
Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time::
1."" Hindus would cease to be Hindus'',::
Possible .Ho jaye ga .
2. "" Muslims would cease to be Muslims, ""
Not possible .Maulvi sahib nahin hone denge.
But I do appreciate your idea .
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