The Speech of Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949)

This is a historic speech and a document that posterity will re-examine. Seldom has one piece of legislation caused so much trepidation. Thanks to my firebrand friend Usman Qazi, I got to read this speech that I had heard about from many people. Here is the text of the address of Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949).

Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (East Bengal : General) : Mr. President, I thought, after my colleague, Mr. Bhupendra Kumar Datta, had spoken on the two amendments on behalf of the Congress Party, I would not take any part in this discussion. He appealed, he reasoned and made the Congress position fully clear, but after I heard some of the speakers from the majority party, viz, Muslim League Party, the manner in which they had interpreted the Resolution, it became incumbent on me to take part in this discussion.

I have heard Dr. Malik and appreciate his standpoint. He says that “we got Pakistan for establishing a Muslim State, and the Muslims suffered for it and therefore it was not desireable that anybody should speak against it”. I quite agree with him. He said; “If we establish a Muslim State and even if we become reactionaries, who are you to say anything against it?” That is a standpoint which I understand, but here there is some difficulty. We also, on this side, fought for the independence of the country. We worked for the independence of the entire country. When our erstwhile masters, Britishers, were practically in the mood of going away, the country was divided – one part became Pakistan and the other remained India. If in the Pakistan State there would have been only Muslims, the question would have been different. But there are some non-muslims also in Pakistan. When they wanted a division there was no talk of an exchange of population. If there was an exchange of population, there would have been an end of the matter, and Dr. Malik could establish his Pakistan in his own way and frame constitution accordingly. It is also true that the part of Pakistan in which Dr. Malik lives is denuded of non-Muslims. That is clear.

Dr. Omar Hayat Malik: On a point of order, Sir, I never said that. He has understood me quite wrongly.

Mr. Omar Hayat Malik: I never said that Pakistan was denuded of non-Muslims. My friend on the opposite has misunderstood me.

Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya: I say the part in which Dr. Malik lives is denuded of non-Muslims. I did not say that Dr. Malik had said that Pakistan was denuded of non-Muslims. That is clear.

But we belong to East Bengal. One-fourth of the population is still non-Muslim. Therefore, what constitution is to be framed, it is our duty, it is in our interest to look to. We are not going to leave East Bengal. It is our homeland. It is not a land by our adoption. My forefather, founder of my family, came to East Bengal thousand years back on the invitation of the then King of Bengal. I am 27th in decent from him. Therefore, East Bengal is my land. I claim that East Bengal and Eastern Pakistan belongs to me as well as to any Mussalman and it will be my duty to make Pakistan a great, prosperous and powerful State so that it may get a proper place in the comity of nations because I call myself a Pakistani. I wish that Pakistan must be a great State. That will be covetable to Muslims as well as to non-Muslims who are living in East Bengal. A few people from East Bengal have left – may be five per cent and my calculation is not even that. Of course, there are other calculations too – somebody says ten lakhs. We are living in East Bengal peacefully, in peace and amity with out Muslim neighbours as we had been living from generations to generations. Therefore, I am anxious to see that its constitution is framed in such a way which may suit the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. I have gone carefully through this Resolution and I have carefully, read made-to-order, nicely-worded statement of my esteemed friend, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan. But after reading the Resolution carefully and reading the statement, even after hearing the speeches of my friends, both the Doctors and others, I cannot change my opinion. I cannot persuade myself to accept this Resolution and my instruction to my party would be to oppose this Resolution.

Now as for the first paragraph:

“Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust”.

This part of the Resolution, I think, ought to be deleted. All powers, in my opinion, rest with the people and they exercise their power through the agency of the State. State is merely their spokesman. The Resolution makes the State the sole authority received from God Almighty through the instrumentality of people – Nemittamatrona, “Merely instruments of the State”. People have no power or authority, they are merely post boxes according to this Resolution. The State will exercise authority within the limits prescribed by Him (God). What are those limits, who will interpret them? Dr. Qureshi or my respected Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Osmani? In case of difference, who will interpret? Surely they are not the people. One day a Louis XIV may come and say “I am the State, anointed by the Almighty” thus paving the way for advent Divine Right of Kings of afresh. Instead of State being the voice of the people, it has been made an adjunct of religion. To me voice of people is the voice of God, “Jatra jiba tatra shiva.” The people are the manifestation of God.

In my conception of State where people of different religion live there is no place for religion in the State. Its position must be neutral: no bias for any religion. If necessary, it should help all the religions equally. No question of concession or tolerance to any religion. It smacks of inferiority complex. The State must respect all religions: no smiling face for one and askance look to the other. The state religion is a dangerous principle. Previous instances are sufficient to warn us not to repeat the blunder. We know people were burnt alive in the name of religion. Therefore, my conception is that the sovereignty must rest with the people and not with any body else.

Then about the Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan. This Constituent Assembly was created by a Statute – Indian Independence Act – allotting one member for ten lakhs of people to be elected by the members of the Provincial Assemblies. The members were not elected by the people themselves. They are for the purpose of framing a constitution. They have the legal right to do so but they cannot say that they are the representatives of the people. They are merely a Statutory Body.

Then I come to the fourth paragraph:

“Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.”

Of course, they are beautiful words: Democracy, freedom, equality, everything. Now about this portion I had some discussion with some Maulanas from the Punjab. What they told me must be from their religious books. I shall repeat here. If I commit blunder, I wish to be corrected.

In this connection you say “equal rights”, but at the same time with limitations as enunciated by Islam. Is there any equal right in an Islamic country? Was there any …. An Honourable Member: “There was in Islamic countries.” ……. It was not between Muslims and non-Muslims. We are now divided into Congress Party and Muslim League Party here for farming constitution and suppose after framing of this constitution we face election, and parties are formed on different alignment, there may not be Congress, there may not be Muslim League, because the Congress has fulfilled its mission of attaining independence and Muslim League has also got Pakistan. There may be parties of haves and have-nots – and they are bound to be – and have-nots party may have a leader coming form non-Muslims. Will he be allowed to be the head of the administration of a Muslim State? It is not a fact that a non-Muslim cannot be head of the administration in a Muslim State. I discussed this question and I was told that he could not be allowed to be the head of the administration of a Muslim State. Then what is the use of all this. The question is whether there can be Juma Namaz in a country with a non-Muslim as its head, I am told that a country where a non-Muslim is the Head of the administration – as was in India, the Britishers were the head of the administration – according to the interpretations of Muslim rules, and I do not know much of them Muslims cannot say their Juma Namaz. As an instance, I cite a case and I think, the Honourable President also knows about it – in the District of Faridpur, Dudu Mea’s party. They do not say Juma Namaz. His grandson, Pir Badshah Mia, told me that “in a country where the head is a non-Muslim, there cannot be Juma Namaz.” Therefore, the words “equal rights as enunciated by Islam” are – I do not use any other word – a camouflage. It is only a hoax to us, the non-Muslims. There cannot be equal rights as enunciated by Islam. If the State is formed without any mandate of the religion, anybody whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist who can get votes can become its head, as such there would be difficulty if a portion of a book – it is not my book, it is not a Congress book, it is a Jamat-I-Islam publication from Lahore and it was handed over to me. I read a few lines from this book – Page 20.

“The preceding statement makes it quite clear that Islam is not democracy; for democracy is the name given to that particular form of Government in which sovereignty ultimately rests with the people in which legislation depends both in its form and content on the force and direction of public opinion and laws are modified and altered, to correspond to changes in that opinion. If a particular legislation is desired by the mass of people steps have to be taken to place it on the Statute Book if the people dislike any law and demand its removal, it is forthwith expunged and ceases to have any validity. There is no such thing in Islam which, therefore, cannot be called democracy in this sense of the term”.

My friend, the Honourable Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, the other day said ‘What is in the name’? I also say, what is in the name? Name may be given to mislead people but it will smell theocracy.

The Honourable Sardar Abdur Rab Khan Nishtar (West Punjab: Muslim): Do you know what treatment was meted out to this man by the Government? He is in jail.

Mr Sris Chandra Chattopadhya: That is a different matter. Further he goes on:

“A more apt name for it would be the Kingdom of God which is described in English as “theocracy”.

I do not know much of your theocracy or Sunna. But he told me many things about Islam.

And then you will also find this:

“No law can be changed unless the injunction is to be found in God’s shariat. Laws are changed by the concensus of opinion amongst the Muslims.”

So, if any law is to be changed, it is to be changed by the vote of the Muslims only. Where are we then? We are not Muslims. There are, I find, many safeguards in the Resolution. I do not attach much importance to them. Words are there but there is no law which will allow them to be put into practice. That is the limitation. If the non-Muslims cannot vote, then what is the good of our coming here for farming the constitution? Even if we have the right to vote for a legislation but if some non-Muslim wants to be the President of the State, he will not be able to do so. If we want to elect somebody who is a non-Muslim, he cannot be elected by us to be a member of the legislature. We may vote, but we can vote for Mr Nishtar only and not for Mr Chandra Chattopadhya, who is a non-Muslim. I know you can pass this Resolution because you are in the majority and I know the tyranny of the majority. But we cannot be a consenting party to it; we must oppose it in order to safeguard our interests and not to commit suicide by accepting this Resolution. If that is so, what is the position of non-Muslims in a Muslim State? They will play the part of the second fiddle – the drawers of water and hewers of wood. Can you expect any self-respecting man will accept that position and remain contented? If the present Resolution is adopted, the non-Muslims will be reduced to that condition excepting what they may get out of concession or pity from their superior neighbours. Is it equality of rights? Is it wrong if we say that the non-Muslims will be in the position of Plebeians? There may not be patricians and plebeians in the Muslim community, but the question is between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

That much about this Resolution. Now, Dr Qureshi has attributed fear complex to the non-Muslims and has found a new dictum of behaviour for the minority. He has given a warning to the non-Muslims and has asked them to discard fear and behave well. What does our conduct show? We are not afraid of anybody. We, the Congress people, were not afraid of any or any power. We are still living in Eastern Pakistan and we are not running away. We are telling our brothers not to leave Eastern Pakistan and not to give up one inch of land. The position in the Western Pakistan is different. There the non-Muslims have left. But we are determined to stay on. As for behaviour it depends upon the majority community by their behaviour to get the confidence of the minority people. The minority people cannot create by their conduct confidence in the majority. They majority people should behave in such a way that the minority people may not be afraid of them and may not suspect them.

Dr Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi : On a point of personal explanation, Sir, I never said or implied in my speech that my friends on the opposite side were suffering from the fear of the seen. Unfortunately, they have been suffering from the fear of the unknown and my point was that the Objectives Resolution does not embody any principle which might make them afraid. I know that my friends are very brave and they would certainly not run away and I also know .. …

Mr President : This much will do for your explanation.

Mr Sris Chandra Chattopadhya : It goes without saying that by introducing the religious question, the differences between the majority and the minority are being perpetuated, for how long, nobody knows. And, as apprehended by us, the difficulty of interpretation has already arisen. The accepted principle is that the majority, by their fair treatment, must create confidence in the minority. Whereas the Honourable Mover of the Resolution promises respect, in place of charity or sufferance for the minority community the Deputy Minister, Dr Qureshi, advises the minority to win the good-will of the majority by their behaviour. In the House of the Legislature also we find that, while the Prime Minister keeps perfectly to his dictum, others cannot brook that the Opposition should function in the spirit of opposition. The demand is that the Opposition should remain submissive. That is Dr Qureshi’s way of thinking. The minorities must be grateful for all the benevolence they get and must never complain for the malevolence that may also be dealt out to them. That is his solution of the minority problem.

Dr Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi : Sir, I again rise on a point of personal explanation. I never said that. My words are being twisted. What I said was this that the best guarantee of a minority’s rights is the good-will of the majority and those words cannot be twisted into the way my friend has been twisting them.

Mr Sris Chandra Chattopadhya : My esteemed friend, Mr Nishtar, speaks that there is difference of outlook between the two parties. It is true that before the division of India into two States, India and Pakistan, we opposed the division on the ground that the people of India consisted of one nation, and the Muslim League supported the division on two-nation theory, the Muslims and the non-Muslims. There was this fundamental difference in our outlook and in our angle of vision. India was divided without the division of the population. So, in both the States there are Muslims and non-Muslims – no exchange of population and even no exchange of population under contemplation. We, the non-Muslims of Pakistan, have decided to remain in Pakistan, as the loyal citizens of Pakistan. Of course, some non-Muslims from East Bengal and practically the majority of non-Muslim from West Pakistan left the place. We all ourselves the nationals of Pakistan and style ourselves as Pakistanis. But this Resolution cuts at the root of it and Mr Nishtar’s speech makes it clear. We, the Congress people, still stick to our one nation theory and we believe that the people of Pakistan, Muslims and non-Muslims, consist of one nation and they are all Pakistanis. Now, if it is said that the population of Pakistan consists of two nations, the Muslims who form the majority party and the non-Muslims who form the minority party, how are they to be described? Nowhere in the world nationality is divided on the score of religion.

Even in Muslim countries there are people of different religions. They do not call themselves a majority or minority party. They call themselves as members of one nation, though professing different religions. If the Muslims call themselves Pakistanis, will the non-Muslims call themselves non-Pakistanis. What will they call themselves?

Some Honourable Members : Pakistanis.

Mr Sris Chandra Chattopadhya : Will they both call themselves Pakistanis? Then how will the people know who is Muslim and who is non-Muslim? I say, give up this division of the people into Muslims and non-Muslims and let us call ourselves one nation. Let us call ourselves one people, people of Pakistan. Otherwise, if you call me non-Muslim and call yourselves Muslim the difficulty will be if I call myself Pakistani they will say you are a Muslim. That happened when I had been to Europe. I went there as a delegate of Pakistan. When I said “I am a delegate of Pakistan” they thought I was a Muslim. They said “But you are a Muslim”. I said, “No, I am a Hindu”. A Hindu cannot remain in Pakistan, that was their attitude. They said: “You cannot call yourself a Pakistani”. Then I explained everything and told them that there are Hindus and as well as Muslims and that we are all Pakistanis. That is the position. Therefore, what am I to call myself? I want an answer to that. I want a decision on this point from my esteemed friend, Mr Liaquat Ali Khan.

I request my Honourable friend, Mr Nishtar, to forget this outlook, this angle of vision. Let us form ourselves as members of one nation. Let us eliminate the complexes of majority and minority. Let us treat citizens of Pakistan as members of one family and frame such a constitution as may not break this tie so that all communities may stand shoulder to shoulder on equal footing in time of need and danger. I do not consider myself as a member of the minority community. I consider myself as one of seven crores of Pakistanis. Let me have to retain that privilege.

I have stated about this Resolution. Now what will be the result of this Resolution? I sadly remind myself of the great words of the Quaid-I-Azam that in state affairs the Hindus will cease to be a Hindu; the Muslim shall cease to be a Muslim. But alas, so soon after his demise what you do is that you virtually declare a State religion! You are determined to create a Herrenvolk. It was perhaps bound to be so, when unlike the Quaid-I-Azam – with whom I was privileged to be associated for a great many years in the Indian National Congress – you felt your incapacity to separate politics from religion, which the modern world so universally does. You could not get over the old world way of thinking. What I hear in this Resolution not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan – the Quaid-I-Azam (may his soul rest in peace), nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Honourable Mr Liaquat Ali Khan but of the Ulemas of the land.

When I came back to my part of the country after several months absence in Europe, the thing that I saw there depressed me. A great change for the worse has come over the land. I noticed that change this side also. I told His Excellency Khawaja Nazimuddin of it. I told the Honourable Mr Liaquat Ali Khan about it and now that spirit of reaction has overwhelmed this House also. This Resolution in its present form epitomizes that spirit of reaction. That spirit will not remain confined to the precincts of this House. It will send its waves to the countryside as well. I am quite upset. I have been passing sleepless nights pondering what shall I now tell my people whom I have so long been advising to stick to the land of their birth? They are passing a state of uncertainty which is better seen and left than imagined from this House. The officers have opted out, the influential people have left, the economic conditions are appalling, starvation is widespread, women are going naked, people are sinking without trade, without occupation. The administration is ruthlessly reactionary, a steam-roller has been set in motion against the culture, language and script of the people. And on the top of this all, by this Resolution you condemn them to a perpetual state of inferiority. A thick curtain is drawn against all rays of hope, all prospects of an honourable life.

After this what advice shall I tender? What heart can I have to persuade the people to maintain a stout heart? But I feel it is useless bewailing before you, it is useless reasoning with you. You show yourselves incapable of humility that either victory or religion ought to generate. You then go your way, I have best wishes for you. I am an old man not very far from my eternal rest. I am capable of forgetting all injuries. I bear you no ill will. I wish you saw reason. Even as it is, may no evil come your way. May you prosper, may the newly-born State of Pakistan be great and get its proper place in the comity of nations. (Applause.)

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