THE ORIGINS OF THE FEUDALS IN THE PUNJAB
Let us see what was happening in the Punjab in the years just prior to independence. The British had two ways of ruling the Muslim majority provinces. They appointed Hindus to the administration, and they forced the Muslims out of the government. They also used other Muslims to control their brethren. The British had given lands to certain Muslims in the Punjab who had kowtowed to British Raj and were loyal to the British administration. These were loyal British poodles that ruthlessly controlled the people within their domains. These pro-British feudal landlords were indeed hated by the population at large. However the feudal landlords controlled the population with an iron fist. Any insurrection against the British would be ruthlessly repressed by these Gymkhana visiting WOG
(Western Oriental Gentlemen) brown sahibs.
MID TWENTIETH CENTURY NOMADIC PASTORALIST PUNJABI TRIBES OF SOUTH AND WEST PUNJAB
The landlord of the Punjab were worse then their British masters. They cloned themselves as the buffers and the masters of the poor people of the Punjab. This is what David Gilmartin says about the Punjab in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan. “As late as the middle of the nineteenth century, the population of much of southern and western Punjab had been pastoralist, migrating between the river valleys and the barr, the flat uplands between the rivers. But in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries much of southwestern Punjab had come under canal irrigation –leading to the settling of the pastoralists and to the migration of settlers from Central Punjab. This led to the implantation of an important rural Sikh minority in some areas, and to the growth of Hindu-dominated market towns. But in the canal colonies, as elsewhere in western Punjab, the great majority of the population remained Muslim and
rural.” There were many Indias at the time…and the subcontinent was surely a land of contrasts. Shahjehan was building the Tajmahal and the Badshahi mosque in Agra and Delhi in the 16th and 17th centuries.
PUNJAB PASTORALISTS TURN TO SETTLEMENTS AS “AGRICULTURAL TRIBES”: THE SLAVERY OF THE ZAMINDARS
Punjab till the middle of the nineteenth century was truly nomadic society. As this nomadic society transformed itself into a tribal society it ended up at the mercy of the landlords. As the society transfigured itself from a tribal society, the “tribes” and “clans” remained very important in the new “baradri” system. However the populate revolved under the central figure in the society the landlord. The landlords had gotten their ill-gotten lands by serving their British masters. The landlord was responsible for the birth, death, education, employment, punishment and prosperity of the peasants. The landlords had their own prisons, their own goonda armies, their own system of justice and their own prisons. The poor sharecroppers were asked to till the land for half the “fasil” but they were never able to keep any of the proceeds. Burdened in debt, and unable to increase their grain production, the sharecroppers eked out an existence at the mercy of the landlords. Education was illegal for the peasants.
PUNJAB SOCIAL STRUCTURES: ZAMINDARS TREATED WOMEN AS CHATTEL
Women were treated as chattel, and most landlords did not give them any right of inheritance. Many of these landlords imposed harsh taxes on the poor villagers, and imposed the right to of first night (on all brides-no matter who they brides wedded). Patterned on the officially sanctioned British practice of Premier Norte used on their Scottish colony in Europe, the Punjabi landlords used to get first priority on all brides before the brides were married to their husbands. This barbarous practice still exists
in remote villages of the Punjab today. Punjab was ruled by ruthless feudal lords, Hyatts and Tiwana. The Tiwanas were so cruel that they had a tree stump in the back of their mansion where insolent “kisans” were beheaded because they would not agree to the harsh laws imposed by the landlords. To this day, many landlords have their own private prisons. Prisons full of poor kisans were discovered in the Mianwali region as recent as 1994. The pictures, printed in all major Pakistani newspapers of the female bonded
prisoners and the straight-jacketed male prisoners were indeed a sad reflection on our attempts to modernize the nation.
PUNJAB POLITICAL LIFE: THE ZAMIDARA LEAGUE AND FEUDAL UNIONISTS WHO IMPRISONED THE PUNJAB IN THEIR OWN PRIVATE FIEFDOM
The Unionist Party of course had its origins in the Zamindara League of the 1920s, the party that was created to defended and protect the right of the zamindars of the Punjab. This is what David Gilmartin says about the Punjab in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan (Page 125-126):
“The maintenance of local power continued to preoccupy most Unionist
leaders in the Council. But the definition of the Land Alienation Act, the protection of Punjabi agriculturists from the depression now seemed to be
intimately linked to the maintenance of the imperial power structure in
rural Punjab. The spread of popular concerns about indebtedness, and the
escalating potential for rural conflict, provided the foundations of the enunciation by the Unionists of an ideological defense of the whole structure of political power in rural Punjab couched in the Land Alienation Act’s language.
Sir Choutto Ram who emerged as the leading Unionist spokesman in the Punjab Legislative Council, articulated this defense most powerfully. A Hindu Jat from eastern Punjab’s Rohtak district Choutto Ram had already established in the 1920s a political organization in Rohtak, the Zamindara League, and a newspaper, the Jat Gazette. These articulated the interests of Hindu Jats and attacked the influence of Hindu “banaias”, or moneylenders.
Building on his political base in Rohtak, Sir Choutto Ram played an increasingly prominent role in provincial politics in the 1920s and the 1930s. As he described it, he began his efforts with only the organization of the Jats in mind. But, he wrote, he “had perceived almost intuitively the to rescue Punjab as a shole from domination of vested interests the net would have to be cast sufficiently wide to embrace all agricultural tribes, irrespective of religion. For that purpose, the Unionist Party gave Sir Chhotu Ram the critical provincial vehicle, The ‘agriculturist classes are the most numerous and yet the most ruthlessly exploited section of the Indian community’, he declared. ‘They provided, at least in the Punjab, ready elements for bringing into existence a powerful well-knit unit of
PUNJAB POLITICAL STRUCTURES: LOYALIST ZAMINDARA LEAGUE DEFENDS RAJ
Colonialism had been good to the knighted elite of the Punjab. Sir Chouttos loyalty to the Raj was based on ideology, but it was also based on profits. The Zamindara League after the elections had taken over the administration of the province, and this gave power and prestige and it gave it a key to the profits.
“some local officials saw little difference between the Zamindara League and the Congress But the antigovernment tone of the organization only thinly concealed the organization’s underlying ideological support for the existing structure of the colonial regime. He chided the government in 1930 of failing to realize the importance of the League as a defender of the British system against more radical groups. ‘ ZAMINDAR LEAGUE WORKERS’ he declared ‘ARE BEING OPPOSED BY CONGRESS,KIRTI KISAN, AND Hindu SBHA WORKERS AND ARE IN SOME MEASURE FIGHTING THE BATTLES OF GOVERNMENT’. Indeed the significance of the Zamindara League lay primarily in its attempt to mobilize support for the rural power structure in the name of interests of a popularly defined ‘class’ constituency. And in this it became a vital model for the Unionist Party as the process of ‘democratization’ proceeded. Though the Unionists never established a popular rural political organization of the sort established by the Zamindara League in Rohtak, the party used the Zamindara League name after 1936 as a mantle for its own efforts at popular organizing outside the Council. The name in fact came to symbolize the party’s claim to an independent, ‘class’ base.”
Perhaps most important, however, Sir Chhotu Ram translated the goals of the Zamindara League into a program in the Council in the mid-1930s, which embodied the interests of the ‘agriculturalist classes and laid the foundations for the articulation of a powerful symbolic ideology by the Unionists themselves.’ ”
SIR CHOTTU RAMS UNIONISTS PARTY
In the Forties a rag tag band of landlords thieves was led by Sir Chhutto Ram, Sir Fazli and the Hyatts and Tiwanas under a party called The Unionist Party. The Unionists secured their votes by ensuring that if one person in the village did not vote for them, they would apply mass punishments to the entire village by cutting off their water, or banishing entire families away from the villages. These landlords also ran private prisons for those who did not comply to the heinous laws. The poor kisans, caught in a vicious cycle of poverty were steeped in debt and would lose their lands to the money lenders. The British passed an act called the Land Alienation Act that would discourage this policy. The landlords did not overtly oppose the act that would have favored the landless pageantry but the landlords opposed it tooth and nail . This is what David Gilmartin says about the Punjab in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan
” The rurally based Unionist party continued to dominate provincial Muslim
politics, although provincial autonomy changed the unionist party character. it had long been the most important party in the Legislative Council but before 1936 had possessed little institutional identity outside the Council, organized by a handful of council leaders within the Council. The party had operated primarily as an alliance of factional leaders—-particularly sir Fazli Husain, and later, Sir Chhotu Ram. Defense of the “zamindars”, the “agricultural tribes” as defined in the Land Alienation Act, gave the party a program; its local political foundations were based on the structure of British rural administration. As Sir Fazli Husain realized, the party’s cohesion in the Council was limited; in the late 1920s and early 1930s it had been manipulated easily by the colonial government”
…As inheritors of the colonial administrative tradition, most Unionist leaders had easily maintained their local power as the franchise was extended and electoral politics expanded under the new constitution. The ambivalent Unionist response to the Shahidganj mosque affair indicated the contradictions in the party’s position. Though unionist leaders like Sir Fazli Husain and Sir Feroze Khan Noon had condemned the agitation style of the movement’s largely urban leadership—a style challenged the
administrative structure of Unionist influence—…Unionist ideology had to be consistent with the structure of the imperial hierarchy and with the idioms of authority in which the party’s local power was based.”
It was under these circumstances that Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan organized the Muslim League in the Punjab. Initially the Muslim League in order to claim its rightful place as the representatives of all Muslims of the Subcontinent formed alliances with Muslim parties …this is what Stanley Wolpert says in A New History of India (Page 326):
“Meanwhile Jinnah brought the vagrant flocks of diverse provincial Muslim
parties into one political fold under his League, winning over Fazlul Huqs
radical Praja Party and control of Bengal in October 1937 at the same time
as he captured the reactionary ministry of the BARONIAL LANDLORD SIR
SIKANDAR HYAT KHAN whose Unionist Party ruled the Punjab.”
MUSLIM LEAGUE ALLIANCES JINNAH-SIKANDAR PACT
This is what David Gilmartin says about the Punjab in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan (Page 174):
” To bring the League new organizational strength, he announced, at the annual Lucknow session of the Muslim League in October, the signing of a pact with Sir Sikandar, which was intended to unite the Unionist Party and the Muslim League into a single organization. Though this move caught many Punjab Leaguers unprepared, the alliance was in keeping with Jinnah’s intent to make the League a symbol of Muslim unity and grew naturally from his policies in the previous year. For Sir Sikandar as well, the pact few
from a long search to strengthen Unionist power;..”
However Sikandar Hyatt did not get along with Alama Iqbal and all the Muslim Leaguers. Hyatt wanted to replace all the old Muslim Leaguers with his own loyal Unionists. Iqbal wrote to Jinnah repeatedly. This is what Iqbal said “but he goes beyond the pact when he wants a complete change in the office-holders..He also wishes that the finances of the League should be controlled by his men. All this to my mind amounts to capturing the
League and killing it’.
HYATT VIOLATES THE PACT: ALAMA IQBAL AND HYATT FEUD IN THE PUNJAB
To understand the true intentions of Sikandar Hyatt, one has to see his directives to his office-bearers. This is what David Gilmartin says about the Punjab in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan (Page 176):
“To leaders like Iqbal, however, Sikandar’s actions after his return from Lucknow only confirmed their worst fears about Unionist plan to turn the League to Unionist ends. Sikandars first move after sealing his pact with Jinnah was not to form local branches of the League, as Jinnah had requested, but rather to use the pact to resurrect the Zamindara League, an organization whose primary aim, in the words of a resolution passed at an October 1937 meeting of the zamindars, was to protect the ‘legitimate
interests’ of the ‘owners of land’. Local Unionist supporters were instructed to form Muslim League branches only after local Zamindara League branches had been successfully launched. As a Unionist resident secretary wrote in the late October 1937 in explaining this policy to once local Unionist leader:
‘After the Zamindara League is founded…in your ilaqa, you will then proceed at once to constitute the local Muslim League consisting of the Muslim members of the local Zamindara League. I hope I have been able to make myself clear that we have to constitute and then run side by side:
a) Zamindara League, consisting of Zamindara of all communities
b) Muslim League, of course consisting of Muslims only
This was hardly the Muslim League organization that the urban leaders had envisioned; they viewed the tactics as almost wholly obstructive. In reporting to Jinnah in November on the Punjab situation, Iqbal castigated the Unionists for failure to sign the creed and to hold a League session in the province, observing that ‘my impression is that they want to gain time for their own Zamindara League to function’
HYATT TRIES TO GET MUSLIM LEAGUE TO ABANDON THE TERM PAKISTAN
Sikandar Hyatt did not overtly support the concept of Pakistan and publicly hedged the issue on many occasions. This angered the students of the Punjab who had wholeheartedly supported Liaqat Ali Khan and had supported Jinnah’s ideas on Pakistan. David Gilmartin goes into great detail on how Sikandar Hyatt opposed the Leagues stand on Pakistan in his book Empire and Islam: Punjab and the making of Pakistan (Page 180-183). For example in ..”Responding to the Lahore resolution, Sikandar attempted in early 1941 to convince the Muslim League working committee to abandon the term ‘Pakistan’, which was not in the resolutions original language, to free himself to interpret the League’s policy consistently with Unionist interest…..But his efforts failed; he found himself in an increasingly difficult position…Sikandars’ public speeches on Pakistan were as one local League supporter put it ‘half-way in and half-way out’. Occasionally Sikandar and his colleagues reacted to the political threat of pro-Pakistan propaganda by actively discouraging public discussion of Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab.”
”Ultimately, Sikandar Hyatt antics proved too much for Jinnah and the Muslim League and he was expelled from the Muslim League. After his timely death soon afterwards, the Sikandar-Jinnah pact was declared dead, and the Muslim League took over the machinery of the Unionists.
MAKING THE MUSLIM LEAGUE A POPULIST ORGANIZATION
In the year 1943-44 this is what was going on. Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan (Jinnah kept poor health during these times and Liaqat Ali Khan ran the vital and day to day affairs of the League. Khan was the brilliant strategist and alliance former of the Muslim League. He faced the “Akhand-Bharat” agenda of the Unionist-Congress alliance head on and won
the day. Liaqat Ali Khan and Jinnah out maneuvered the fifth column of the anti-Pakistan, pro-Congress, pro-United-India Unionists and got them thrown out of office. The Muslims League then pressed on with their demand of “contiguous districts in the north-west and east of India’-‘Pakistan’.
I quote Stanley Wolpert (Jinnah of Pakistan, Page 222):
” Jinnah during this interval focused his time and energies on the strategy of seeking to make his league more effective and responsive to popular demands and needs in the provinces it ran. ‘The Pakistan slogan is gaining momentum’, reported the Punjab’s governor toward the end of May. ‘There has been considerable amount of discussion in the Press as to whether Jinnah was justified in suggesting [in Delhi in April] that the Punjab Cabinet is a League Ministry. The Nawab of Mamdot (Punjabi Leader of the Muslim League) has sought to improve the occasion by a Press statement that the Sikandar-Jinnah Pact has come to an end, the implication being that the more active interference by the Muslim League in the Punjab politics is to be expected. ‘Sikandars death in December 1942 had left his Unionist party ministry under the control of a much younger, less experienced Muslim leader, Khizar Hyat Khan Tiwana (1900-75). By early June ‘Hindu indignation with Jinnah’ was reported by Linlithgow as ‘greater than ever. Jinnah himself is well pleased, so far as one can judge, and there is no question that he has sent his stock up still higher.
I quote Stanley Wolpert (Jinnah of Pakistan, Page 225):
“Jinnah held a series an inconclusive series of summit talks with Khizar
Tiwana in Simla at this time, which the Punjab’s chief minister recounted
to his governor as ‘a series of lectures from Jinnah about the services
that he had rendered to mankind”
Also on this site: How Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan outmaneuvered Gandhi, Nehru and the INC and Sir Chottu Ram’s Zamindara (renamed Unionist Party). Please click here
IS INDIA A FAILED STATE: Also on this site. Please click here
IS INDIA A FAILED STATE: Also on this site. Please click here
WHY PAKISTAN WAS CREATED?Also on this site. Please click here
Also on this site: Why Pakistan was created?