After World War I, Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, started formulating a plan for post-war reforms and asked Indian leaders for concrete recommendations as part of this process. Nineteen elected representatives of the Imperial Legislative Council sent a memo to the Viceroy in October 1916 suggesting reforms. However, their recommendations were considered, altered, and accepted at another session of the Congress and the Muslim League which later on became known as Lucknow Pact.
Background of Lucknow Pact
With the start of World War I and the previously unstable situation in India, such as the annulment of the Bengali partition, the heinous massacre in Kanpur, and the casualties in the Balkan war, growing anti-British sentiment persisted unabatedly among Muslim orthodox religious circles, calling for a change in Muslim alliance with the Hindus instead of the British.
Finally, in the month of December 1916, Congress and the Muslim League met jointly in Lucknow and adopted a plan. The Lucknow Pact was the name given to the Congress League’s proposal. Jinnah, who served as the Lucknow Pact’s chief architect, was praised as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim harmony.
At the end of December 1916, the Congress and the Muslim League met in Lucknow. They accepted the reform plan put forward by their various committees with unanimity. The Lucknow Pact laid forth the actions that had to be done for India to achieve self-government. Jinnah backed the alliance of the two parties to pressure the government into giving India independence.
Importance of Lucknow Pact for Muslim League
The Muslim League’s first-ever recognition by the Congress as a body representing was its most significant accomplishment. Generally speaking, the federal government was to refrain from interfering excessively with the operations of the provincial governments. The Muslims who feared losing their Islamic and cultural identity were given the following assurances:
No bill, any clause thereof, or a resolution introduced by a non-official member affecting one or the other community, which question is to be determined by the members of that community in the Legislative Council concerned, shall be proceeded with, if three-fourths of the members of that community in the particular Council, Imperial or provincial, are opposed to the bill, any Clause thereof, or if the resolution is opposed in the majority and minority provinces.
The Muslims were guaranteed more seats than the proportion of their population, but less seats in Punjab and Bengal. As a result, the Muslim majority in these two regions was less useful going forward.
Jinnah’s first Major Political Achievement
Jinnah appeared to connect more with the League than the Congress in a speech where he claimed the demand for a united India was “irresistible”. Only three years after joining the League did he take the helm as its president. This improved both the League’s and Quaid-i-Azam’s standing as a political figure. According to him, the Muslims should band together for political action lest impending changes (self governance) overwhelm them as a whole.
Jinnah concluded as a result that the Congress did not adequately represent all of India’s communities, particularly the Muslim community. He used the Muslim League to interpret and articulate Muslim viewpoints.
At this time in history, he supported Muslim-Hindu unity and fought to hasten India’s full freedom from British domination.
Read about Aligarh Movement, the renaissance of Indian Muslims.