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I just want to talk and discuss about Islam and other non Islamic organisations like Ahmadis/Qadianis who portrayed them in a guise of Muslims to deceive and betray all human society as its a well known fact their forefather who claimed to be their prophet was planted by British in subcontinent to uproot soul of JIHAD From Muslims . Jews are Jews , Christians are Christian ,Hindus are Hindus so should be Qadianis (Non Muslims) My aim is to discuss Islam with any Muslim or Non Muslim who want to talk and want to know the reality of Islam. that's it ! Let Me welcome all of you interested with good faith . 

Friday, 15 April 2011

Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam (Full History)

Syed Ata-ul-Muhaiman Bukhari is president of Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam (Pakistan).

History of the Movement

The Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam , were a short lived separatist political movement who were former Khilafat movement. They differed with the Indian National Congress over certain issues and afterwards announced the formation of their party in a meeting at Lahore in 1931. Freely funded by the Congress, the Ahrar were also opposed to the policies of the Muslim League. They declared that their objectives were to guide the Muslims of India on matters of nationalism as well as religion. Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam spearheaded movement to declare Ahmadiyya community as non-Muslims. By the early 1930s, the Majlis-i-Ahrar-Islam (hereafter MAI) had become an important political party of Muslims in the Punjab. Its agitation in the princely states, and mobilisation on socio-religious issues, earned it an important position in regional politics. Besides these campaigns, the MAI also participated in the mainstream political developments of British India between 1931 to 1947. Its political career can be divided into two parts; the MAI’s response to political and constitutional issues, and its performance in electoral politics. An examination of its role in these two areas can help in addressing the question as to whether the Majlis was a provincial party or an all-India organisation. Its leadership, political programme and its role in and outside the legislature are vital for this investigation. Such inter-connected issues may help us locate the debate on Indian nationalism, Muslim identity politics and the developments within Punjab, the political heartland of the MAI.


The MAI strategy was the mobilization of the Muslim masses through the advocacy of emotional and topical issues. However, it did not miss the opportunity of participating in any movement, or commenting on any issue, that was likely to influence the future of India or that of Indian Muslims. Their main constituencies were the Sunni Muslims, and particularly those living in Punjab. Constitutional issues did not evoke as much interest in its ranks, as social and religious issues; which meant that the clerics and not the lawyers set the agenda. Theanti-colonial and determinedly pro-Muslim attitudes were reflected in the MAI’s reaction to the constitutional issues. Soon after its formation, it aimed at projecting itself as an anti-colonial and pro-Indian National Congress (hereafter INC) party by actively participating in the civil disobedience movement of the 1930s, championed by Mahatma Gandhi. It supported the Red Shirts Movement led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the passing of the India Act of 1935, and efforts for an agreement among different communities in India. The MAI maintained contacts with all the political parties and responded positively to other opposition groups, though its pro-INC leanings remained quite explicit. After its initial political ventures in Kashmir, Kapurthala and Alwar, the MAI turned its attention to its organisational and institutional outreach.

Constitutional Issues

The major contemporary constitutional issues hinged on resolving India’s complex political challenges, and coincided with the formation of the MAI. The Ahrar leaders boycotted the Simon Commission in 1927-28, and subsequently rejected its recommendations; which included a federal political system for India, and separate electorates for Muslims.1 The All-Parties National Convention held at Calcutta in December 1928, adopted the Nehru Report. The adoption of this Report led to a division of the nationalist Muslims into two groups; one group, to which a majority of the future Ahrar leaders belonged, wanted its acceptance with some amendments; while the other group favoured its unconditional acceptance.2 The Nehru Report was still being debated when the INC held its annual session at Lahore in December 1929, and abandoned the Report, while adopting complete independence as its ultimate objective.3 The independence resolution appealed to the anti-imperialist sentiments of the MAI, and brought it closer to the INC. When the latter launched its civil disobedience movement, after the rejection of its demand by the British government, the MAI shelved its organisational work, and enthusiastically participated in the non-cooperation movement. Meanwhile, theBritish Government had convened the Round Table Conference (hereafter RTC) in November 1930, to work out an agreed constitutional formula for India;4 but the MAI, in line with the INC policy, opposed the RTC.5 The first RTC reached a consensus on a federal system for India, and after spelling out the principles of the future constitution, set up eight sub-committees. However, the MAI stuck to its original objectives and at its all-India conference in July 1931, reiterated that, “the chief aim and object of the Majlis will be complete independence for India”.6 The British government realised the futility of framing a constitution without the INC, as did the other political parties that had participated in the first RTC. During the INC-led civil disobedience movement, many of its leaders and activists had been imprisoned. When the British government realised the importance of associating the INC with the constitutional negotiations, it approached its leadership. Wedgwood Benn, the Secretary of State, wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, about the desirability of coming to terms with the Congress. In order to call off the civil disobedience movement and attend the second RTC, Gandhi was released unconditionally, and the Viceroy held negotiations with him. These negotiations climaxed with the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact on 5 March 1933;7 and consequently, Gandhi decided to attend the second RTC in London. The MAI felt the INC had bypassed it. Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman and Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari (the leaders of Ahrars) rushed to Bombay to persuade Gandhi not to attend the RTC.8 They argued that the nationalist leaders should not engage in constitutional discussions with the colonialists because it would be a ‘futile’ exercise. However, they failed to convince Gandhi, and his decision to participate in the RTC resulted in the ‘parting of ways’ between the INC and MAI. The blind faith and trust that the MAI leadership had so far reposed in the INC, was shattered.9 Henceforth, it did not openly share a common platform with the INC.10 The INC’s participation in the second RTC made the London Conference more representative, although the participants, failed to evolve an agreed formula to resolve the communal differences, or agree on the future politicalmap of India. Consequently, on 16 August 1932, the British Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald, announced a Communal Award on behalf of the British Government, which was to be followed by the India Act of 1935.

Communal Award and the India Act of 1935

The Communal Award not only retained the principle of separate electorates for Muslims, but was extended to other minorities as well. Weightage for minorities was also maintained, which was given equally to the Muslims in Hindu majority provinces, and to Sikhs and Hindus in the Muslim majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal. Hence, the Muslim representation in Punjab and Bengal was less than their ratio in the population. In Punjab, where the proportion of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs was 57.10%, 27% and 13% of the total population respectively; they were given 49%, 27% and 18 per cent of the provincial seats in the Assembly. Similarly, in Bengal, where the percentage of Muslims and Hindus was 55 and 43 respectively, they were given 48 and 43 per cent of the total seats in the legislature.11 The lowering of property qualification for voters increased their numbers, although it was still a far cry from universal suffrage. Sindh, following a long-standing demand, was separated from Bombay and constituted into a separate province. Non-Muslims in Sindh were given more seats than their number warranted. Similarly, in the constitutional reforms carried out in the NWFP, non-Muslims got heavier weightage, which meant that they could play a critical role in case of division among its Muslim members. The Communal Award, in an emphatic way, widened the gulf between the rural and urban Muslims in the Punjab, by offering more representation to the landlords.12 This worked to the greater benefit of the Unionist Party, since it favoured the rural classes, as did its trans-communal composition. The Communal Award was not popular with any of the communities. The Muslim League was displeased, because it did not meet the Muslim demands for 56 per cent representation in the Punjab Assembly,13 and nor did it provide them with amajority in Bengal. The reaction of the Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs was also negative; and they declared that any system of government in Punjab and Bengal under the Communal Award, would amount to a British-imposed ‘Muslim Raj’ in these provinces. The Mahasabha dominated Hindu politics in the Punjab, and was more influential than the Congress. In fact, the Congress had little support among the Punjabi Hindus, who looked towards the Mahasabha for safeguarding their interests.14 The Punjab Mahasabha’s aggressive advocacy of Hindu interests, embittered communal relations. Their relations sank to an all-time low on the issue of separate electorates. Sikh agitation against the Communal Award was equally hostile. They had demanded 24 per cent of total representation in the Punjab Assembly, whereas they were only provided 18 per cent seats in the provincial legislature. They opposed separate electorates, and the provision of a possible Muslim majority in the assembly;15 they organised demonstrations and set up a council of action to achieve their objectives.16 On 2 August 1932, the council reportedly gathered more than one hundred thousand Sikhs in Lahore, and demanded treatment similar to that of Muslim minorities in the Hindu majority provinces. Earlier, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians had organised a joint Minority Conference to oppose adult franchise. They demanded division of the Punjab province, in case their demands were not met; which was perceived by the Muslims as a plan to subvert Muslim majority in the province. The communal division of Punjab seemed pre-ordained.17 The MAI had tried to mobilise the Muslim masses in support of joint electorates at the time of the Nehru Report, but found it difficult. Their campaign for joint electorates convinced them of the growing demand for a “separate Muslim identity”, and they gradually came to accept the importance of the system of separate electorates for Muslims. Their participation in the Congress-led civil disobedience movement and severance of their links with that party in 1931, brought home the realisation that Muslims constituted a ‘political entity separate’ from the Sikhs and Hindus.18 Secondly, the MAI was dissatisfied with the weightage provided for the minorities in the Communal Award,which gave the Muslim community a thin majority in the Punjab legislature. They felt that the Award had not awarded to the Muslims their due share in the Punjab Assembly,19 and believed that a solution acceptable to all the communities could still be found. They proposed that Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims should sit together, and work out an agreed formula for the representation of various communities in the Punjab; an alternative to the Communal Award.20 However, they warned that if any community attempted to solve the communal problem by force, Muslims would be justified in fighting back for the protection of their interests.21 They also criticised the Communal Award, because it was silent on the long-standing Muslim demand of 33 per cent Muslim share in the central legislature.22 The MAI was disappointed by the reaction from Hindus and Sikhs in the Punjab, and began to take an equally communal line. They took out processions and rallies in many towns of the province, in support of their position.23 With the passage of time, they adopted a more oppositional attitude, not only towards the British, but also against the Hindus and Sikhs.24 It was alleged that the Sikhs had enlisted 100,000 men to challenge the Muslims, and that the government was supporting the Sikhs, with the objective of precipitating a conflict between the two communities. The MAI called on the Muslims to carry swords to defend themselves, particularly in those districts where the Sikhs carried kirpans. They set up an action committee in the Punjab, to counteract the activities of a similar body established by the Sikhs.25 The MAI made Amritsar the centre of their activities over the issue of Communal Award, and from September to December 1932, it organised several public meetings in the Punjab.26 At a Provincial Ahrar Conference held on 4-5 December 1932, the MAI formed a sub-committee to suggest a formula for the Communal Award. It was to be discussed at the Allahabad Conference, scheduled for March 1933.27 But no agreed formula could be worked out at these sessions, and the MAI was thus left with no option but to accept the Communal Award. The All-India Muslim League Council, in a meeting in Delhi on 2 April 1934, accepted the Communal Award till abetter alternative was found. The Majlis also formally accepted the Communal Award at an All-India Communal Award Conference in Dacca, on 24 March 1935.28 B. R. Ambedkar, the leader of the Scheduled Castes, was persuaded by Gandhi to renounce separate electorates for the ‘Untouchables’.29 The response of the three communities in the Punjab to the Communal Award strengthened communal identities, intensified competition among them, and thus proved the last proverbial straw. The British Government issued a White Paper after the third Round Table Conference in March 1933. The Conference appointed a Joint Select Committee, which finalised its report in November 1934, and was subsequently debated in Parliament.30 The Report consisted of recommendations for the future government of India. It also discussed the issue of communal representation, and provided a basis for the British government to introduce Communal Award. When the Indian Legislative Assembly debated this report in February 1935, the INC moved a resolution for the total rejection of the report, condemning it as one of the ‘usual imperialist devices’ “to deprive the Indian people of the power to assume charge of their affairs”.31 M. A. Jinnah, then the leader of the Independent Party, disagreed with the INC, and moved an amendment that was finally accepted.32 The MAI supported Jinnah’s position on the White Paper, and also the report of the Joint Select Committee.33 The British Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1935 on 2 August 1935, which provided for a federal political system for the sub-continent.34 Its important features were that it defined provinces as separate legal entities, and lowered property qualifications for voting, thus enlarging the provincial franchise. The Muslim elite had always been apprehensive of a centralised government dominated by the Hindu majority, and the danger of being turned into a ‘permanent minority. The MAI, like all other Muslim political parties, was concerned about the federal part of the constitution, though it preferred to wait and watch. However, this part did not come into operation, since the required number of states did notaccede to the federation. This similarity of views on constitutional issues was an important factor that brought the MAI closer to the All-India Muslim League (AIML). In 1936, the MAI allied itself with the Muslim League, and its leaders accepted membership of the Central Muslim League Parliamentary Board, although this alliance was also short-lived.

Electoral Politics

The MAI decided to participate in the electoral process in the 1930s, without modifying its ultimate objective of complete independence from the British colonial rule. There were several reasons behind this decision. The MAI wanted to influence the constitution-making and law-making processes;35 and after the severance of its relations with the INC and the formulation of its own platform and programme, it wanted to prove its own separate and distinct existence. Its spectacular performance in the agitation against the rulers of the three princely states gave it confidence.36 The MAI, which was primarily an urban political party, like other Muslim political parties, had supported the Communal Award. As the anti-Communal Award campaign of the Mahasabhites and the Akali Sikhs intensified, the MAI felt that it could counter that pressure by participating in the elections, and asserting its Muslim credentials. They also harboured the dream of leading the Muslim urban lower and middle classes, through a sustained struggle. The increasing communalism in politics had spawned the creation of a number of political groups jostling to capture the leadership of urban Muslims in Punjab, and MAI was emerging as the most influential voice. The Majlis might have contested the August 1930 elections, but boycotted them as a result of its decision to participate in the INC-sponsored civil disobedience movement. Their first electoral activity was in 1933, in the three bye-elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Then in 1934, the MAI put up candidates in two constituencies, in the elections to the Central Legislative Assembly; and in 1937, it took part in the elections to the provincial assemblies under the Government ofIndia Act of 1935, and supported candidates for the provincial assemblies of the Punjab, Bihar and Bombay.

Bye-elections of 1933

The working committee of the MAI, in a meeting at Lahore on 12 June, 1933, took the decision to participate in the three bye-elections for the Punjab Assembly.37 It selected three prominent MAI figures as its candidates to contest these polls. One of its candidates was the patron-in-chief of the MAI, Chaudhry Afzal Haq, who decided to contest the rural Muslim seat from the Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana districts of East Punjab. He was an experienced political figure of Muslim politics in the Punjab. He had been elected twice to the Punjab legislature; in the 1924-27 and the 1927-30 periods. The second candidate, Chaudhry Abdur Rahman Khan, was a prominent member of a Rajput family of Jallundhar, who had led the Ahrar agitation in Kapurthala. He was selected to contest the Muslim urban seat from the Sheikhupura, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur and Jallundhar’s area.38 The third candidate was also a senior Ahrar leader, Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, who contested the seat vacated by Sheikh Din Muhammad from Gujranwala.39 He had also been a member of the Punjab Legislative Council from 1924 to 1930. One of his opponents in this urban Muslim constituency was the prominent lawyer from Lahore, Malik Barkat Ali.40 The MAI participated in these bye-elections with a high profile, and aimed at building its image as a formidable political force. Other than demanding independence, its economic, social and political programme promised the welfare of the poor and underprivileged Muslim masses. Like its counterparts in the field, it championed their interests as if it was their only saviour.41 The MAI had established its credentials by fighting for the civil rights of the Muslim community in the princely states, and their anti-Qadiani stance, had established them as a sectarian party in Indian politics. With a strong anti-feudal stance, the MAI promised to reform the society in a way that would ensure an equitable social and economic environment for the poorMuslim community of India. They advocated Muslim nationalist causes, but also supported secular anti-imperialism of the INC. The MAI believed in direct interaction with the masses, and used mosques for their election campaign, converting them into their main centres of publicity; but they also used corner meetings as a method of campaigning. They also organised rallies and public meetings, where their leaders spoke in support of the MAI programme and its candidates. While newspapers, according to Afzal Haq, ‘are tools in the hands of the capitalists’, the MAI was blessed with orators who were a “source of their propaganda.”42 In addition, all the three candidates were notable and well-established Muslim figures of the Punjab. The result was a resounding Ahrar victory in all the three bye-elections; Afzal Haq secured 1800 votes,43 Mazhar Ali Azhar obtained 2920 out of 6633 votes,44 while the third candidate secured more than 1500 votes.

The MAI and the Elections of 1934

The next round of elections contested by the MAI was
for the Indian Legislature, held in January-February 1934. These
elections were due in 1933, but the Assembly’s three-year term
had been extended by another year. These elections were
conducted under the Government of India Act of 1919 with a
limited franchise. The MAI nominated or supported candidates
on only two out of 127 seats in the general elections of 1934; one
in the Punjab and the other in the UP. The Working Committee
of the MAI decided to support Khalid Lateef Gauba in the
Punjab, who was a recent convert to Islam.Gauba had
supported the MAI during their agitation in the Kapurthala
state.He contested the election from the Central Assembly
(Muslim) constituency, which incorporated three districts of
Ludhiana, Amritsar and Lahore.The Unionists put up Haji
Rahim Bukhsh, a retired Kashmiri civil servant and a judge, in
order to tap the large number of Kashmiri voters who resided in
Amritsar and Lahore. The MAI’s other candidate was Qazi
Muhammad Ahmad Kazmi, an advocate by profession, who was
to contest the Muslim rural seat for Central Assembly from the
Meerut Division in the United Provinces.
Kazmi had defended those who were tried in the Madh-e-Sahaba cases in the UP; and this had earned him a great deal of political support. He had also
been a dynamic figure in Muslim politics of Allahabad, but from
the Congress platform.
Like other bye-elections, the MAI used mosques to
launch K. L. Gauba, a relatively new entrant in politics. It also
used this platform to collect  funds for the election campaign,
enlist new members for the party, and to organise corner
meetings. It had meager funds for the election campaign, and
depended mainly on its muballighs rather than the print media,
to gain public support. The Ahrar speakers, like Ataullah Shah
Bukhari, Sheikh Hissamuddin and other religious leaders,
campaigned vigorously in the main cities of the Punjab. Their
impassioned oratory, for the expulsion of the  farangis from
India, and the Ahmadis from Islam, appealed to the Muslim
masses. The uniformed volunteers of the Majlis, paraded the
streets while carrying axes, which, like the spades of the
Khaksars, was the Ahrar symbol  of defiance and force. They
tried to enlist voters by offering a vision of a liberated India, free
of foreigners, feudals, and the Ahmadis. The MAI highlighted
Gauba’s conversion to Islam, and his authoring of a book on the
life of Holy Prophet, as a sublime achievement.  They appealed
to the urban Muslims to vote for him, and assert their Islamic
identity.They propagated that a  Muslim convert should be
supported, because it ‘is the duty of a Muslim’ to encourage a
nau-Muslim.The MAI also used its  Shoba-e-Tabligh for .
Gauba’s election campaign.Both the Ahrar candidates, Gauba
and Kazmi, eventually won the elections; a big achievement for
a new party.

The Elections of 1937

The next spate of elections that the MAI contested were those of the provincial assemblies under the Government of
India Act of 1935. The MAI realised that it had to broaden its
electoral platform in the Punjab, as it could not face the Unionist
Party alone. It looked towards M. A. Jinnah and the Muslim
League as its natural allies. It had supported Jinnah and his
Independent Party in the Central Legislative Assembly. The
MAI leaders and the Punjab Leaguers, including, Allama
Mohammad Iqbal, had jointly struggled for the welfare of the
Kashmiri Muslims, and had similarity of views on the Ahmadis.
Jinnah himself had been active in resolving the Shahidgunj
dispute, and had visited Lahore several times for this purpose.
Therefore, when the AIML, under Jinnah’s leadership, decided
to contest the elections, and Jinnah visited the Punjab in search
of partners, he held talks with the Ahrar leaders. He knew that
the MAI was a popular political force among the urban Muslims;
and his abortive attempt to win over the Unionists led by Mian
Fazl-i-Husain, had further strengthened his desire to woo the
The Ahrar leaders held several meetings with Jinnah,
who, following the AIML’s Bombay session in April 1936, had
been authorised to constitute a Central Parliamentary Board on
the eve of the 1937 provincial elections.Jinnah convened a
meeting of the Muslim leaders in Delhi on 26 April, to negotiate
for a pre-election alliance; and two Ahrar leaders, Afzal Haq and
Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman, were invited to attend the meeting.
Jinnah asked the Ahrar leaders to participate in the provincial
elections under the League umbrella. They were initially
receptive to the idea, but hesitant in signing an agreement to the
effect. They laid down two conditions for an alliance: firstly, the
alliance should have ‘complete  independence’ as its primary
objective; and secondly, the League would expel all Qadianis
from its ranks. Jinnah remarked that he could not support
complete independence, since the AIML constitution only had
provision for responsible government. As for expelling Qadianis,
that would have to be decided by the General Council of the
AIML.They agreed to continue these parleys in Lahore. Jinnah
visited Lahore in May 1936, to hold further talks with the
political parties, but his negotiations with Mian Fazl-i-Husain
did not succeed. The Unionist leader had declined to be part of
the Central Muslim League Parliamentary Board; earlier, he had
refused to accept Jinnah’s request to preside over the all-India
session of the AIML.Jinnah’s talks with the leaders of the
MAI and Majlis-i-Ittehad-i-Millat were successful, and Iqbal
provided the requisite help in this context.Jinnah focused on
Muslim issues, and used the same arguments that he had used
with their colleagues in the UP, in his effort to establish a crossparty alliance in India.
Jinnah visited the head office of the MAI, and then held
an exclusive meeting with its leaders at Abdul Qavi Luqman’s
residence. They requested him to preside over a public meeting
in Lahore. Subsequently, the MAI arranged the function, which
its volunteers guarded with their symbolic axes.After the
meeting, Jinnah left for Srinagar, where he met Kashmiri leaders,
including Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf, who apprised him of the
Ahrar contribution towards the cause of the Kashmiri Muslims.
While in Srinagar, Jinnah announced the formation of the AIML
Parliamentary Board; and four members of the MAI, Abdul Aziz
Begowal, Afzal Haq, Sheikh Hissamuddin and Ghulam Hussain,
were included in the Board. The MAI president accepted these
nominations, and announced that they would participate in the
proceedings of the Board.Soon, the MAI incurred the
displeasure of the Unionists, particularly of Mian Fazl-i-Husain,
for associating themselves with Jinnah; as he was viewed as a
political foe by the Unionist leader. The MAI had to face the
Unionist animosity in the Punjab, though the motivating factor
for their alliance with the AIML was Jinnah’s sincerity and
integrity, and his concern for the welfare of the Muslim
community  The MAI’s association with the AIML did not last long;
soon the conflict started over the selection of candidates for the
Central Parliamentary Board. The Punjab Parliamentary Board
required the applicants for the ticket to give 500 rupees as a nonrefundable contribution, and an additional sum of 150 rupees for
the ticket. This amount was more than the Ahrar candidates
could pay,and the Ahrar leaders argued that it was a pretext to
keep their candidates out from the electoral contest.The Ahrar
dissociated themselves from the activities of the Muslim League
Provincial Board in Punjab. The Unionist pressure played some
role in making the MAI revise its alignment; but the Ahrar
insistence that there should be a clause in the oath for the AIML
candidate, that he would struggle for the expulsion of Ahmadis
from the Muslim community, was a major point of
disagreement.Interestingly, the Unionists were not willing to
accept that as well, because they did not wish to lose the support
of the British. Still another point of conflict was that in some
cases, candidates of both the parties, wanted to contest the same
constituencies in urban areas. When the MAI’s conflict with the
provincial Muslim League leadership heated up, they approached
Jinnah for its resolution, but by then the conflict was too
advanced. The pro-Unionist Muslim press in the Punjab played a
significant role in aggravating the MAI-AIML differences.
Finally the Majlis broke the alliance on 25 August 1936, putting
the blame on the Punjab League leadership; and decided to
contest the elections from its own platform.
The all-India working committee of the Majlis
authorised provincial branches to select and field their own
candidates. On 30 August, the Punjab MAI appointed a fifteenmember parliamentary board, which included its three Members
of the Legislative Council.The board invited applications by
mid-September 1936, and considered the names of twenty-four
candidates for the Punjab Legislative Assembly.After
considerable consultations, it selected candidates for ten out of a
total of eighty-six seats.The MAI also supported one
independent candidate, Syed Mohammad Habib, in the
Rawalpindi constituency.Breaking from the tradition of earlier
elections, the MAI put up one female candidate on a rural
Muslim seat in the Punjab.The nine male candidates were
given tickets in constituencies spread all over the Punjab. They
included Shaikh Hissamuddin (Amritsar), Chaudhry Afzal Haq
(Hoshiarpur), Mazhar Ali Azhar (Sialkot), Chaudhry Abdur
Rahman (Jullundur), Ghulam Husain (Jhang), Ghulam Haidar
(Ferozpur), Ghulam Rasul (Daska), Sardar Mohammad Shafi
(Qasur), Mazhar Nawaz Khan (Multan), and Khwaja
Mohammad Yusuf (Ludhiana).These candidates included the
top leadership and activists, known  as, ‘dictators’ and ‘salars’.
Besides Punjab, the MAI aimed at contesting elections in the UP,
Bombay and Bihar. Initially, the MAI boycotted the polls in the
UP, because of its civil disobedience movement in connectio
with the Madh-e-Sahaba movement. Later on, when the
movement was called off, the provincial MAI fielded its
candidates for the elections. The Bombay Provincial MAI put up
one female candidate, in addition to three male candidates.
Similarly, its provincial organisation in Bihar also fielded
The MAI in the Punjab had not only to fight against the
AIML and Majlis-i-Ittehad-i-Millat candidates, but also faced
strong opposition from the Unionist candidates.After the death
of Mian Fazl-i-Husain in 1936, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan (1892-
1942), his political successor, led the Unionists in the elections.
While every Unionist candidate wielded influence in his
constituency, the Unionist Party also enjoyed the tacit support of
the provincial administration. The MAI organised a more
systematic campaign in this election than it had in the elections
of 1933 and 1934, and started a campaign to persuade
prospective voters to register themselves for polls.It issued a
new election manifesto that reiterated a commitment to basic
social and economic problems of the lower and middle classes,
like the fixation of minimum wages. It also appealed to these
classes by mobilizing their anti-elite emotions. They were
against  lumbardars,  Sahukars, and  hawaldars.  It called for the
exemption from land revenue of agricultural income up to 500
rupees per year; a minimum wage of 30 rupees per month for
workers, to relieve them from the burden of inflation; reduction
in salaries of highly paid government servants; abolition of
zamindari and jagirdari systems; nationalisation of industries; a
ban on interest or usury in accordance with Islamic values;
protection of peasants and factory workers from the traditional
moneylenders, and free elementary education for all. It also
promised military training to improve the health of youth;
expansion of industries to create opportunities for employment,
to bridge the gulf between the rich and the poor; and equality
before law. The Ahrar manifesto promised prohibition of
prostitution and the abolition of discrimination on the basis of
caste, creed and race. It also promised the establishment of
Islamic courts, along with the commitment to enforce Islamic
law of inheritance and protect the religious places.
The MAI leaders publicised their party’s socio-economic
programme, but when the Unionists put them on the defensive
by highlighting their indifferent attitude over the Shahidganj
Mosque issue, they began to aggressively focus on the
Qadianis.With insufficient funds and practically no press, the
MAI candidates depended on the Ahrar firebrand speakers, who
included Syed Ataullah Shah Bokhari, Shaikh Hissamuddin,
Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, Sahibzada Faizul Hasan, Qazi
Ahsan Ahmad Shujahabadi, Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman
Ludhianwi and Maulana Daud Ghaznawi. The MAI often took
out long processions characterised by uniformed ‘jayush’ and
cavalry of the MAI volunteers carrying swords and hatchets. The
provincial elections in the Punjab were held on 16-25 January
1937, and about one million polled during the closing four days.
Fifty thousand Muslim women participated in the voting process,
an unprecedented number.Considering the limited resources of
the MAI, the results were not discouraging, although some of its
prominent figures lost the elections. Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar,
Chaudhry Abdul Rahman Khan and Khwaja Ghulam Husain
won urban Muslim seats;while Mazhar Ali Azhar’s victory
was at the expense of Malik Lal Khan, the general secretary of
Majlis-i-Ittehad-i-Millat.Three of its members were elected to
the Bihar Legislative Council,and two were elected to the UP
Legislative Council.The MAI president, one salaar, one Ahrar
‘dictator’ and one ex- Member Legislative Council lost to the
Unionist candidates. Ghulam Jannat, the only female candidate
who contested from the outer Lahore Muslim women’s
constituency, lost to Begum  Shah Nawaz, who stood on the
Unionist ticket.A Unionist candidate, Rana Nasrullah,
decisively defeated Afzal Haq, the MAI president, in the urban
Muslim constituency of Ferozpur and Hoshiarpur districts. Later,
he again suffered defeat in a bye-election for a Muslim urban
seat of Amritsar, where the AIML candidate, Sheikh Sadiq
Hasan, won with the ‘support and approval of the Unionists’.
Two members of the Punjab Legislative Council, and one
member in the Indian Legislative Assembly, stayed loyal to the
party till the dissolution of the legislatures for the 1945-6
elections.A contemporary analysis of the election results gives a
general picture of the political situation prevailing in the
province. The MAI gives the impression of a party not interested
in electoral politics, which is evident in its selection of a small
number of candidates, despite the fact that a large number of
voters had been enfranchised in the 1930s.Propaganda in the
press remained strongly in favour of the Unionists in Punjab,
because they had political control over the provincial
government funds, and were able to organise a favorable
campaign. All the Urdu newspapers were owned by individuals
and not by organizations. The Inqilab and Zamindar led a severe
propaganda campaign against the MAI candidates, especially
Afzal Haq. The Unionist Party  being in power was able to
influence the voters in an impressive way. Consequently, when
the MAI won in urban constituencies like Amritsar, where it had
held a big rally, their victory was considered ‘a noble success’.With the enlargement of franchise, political parties needed more funds than were available, and often candidates had
to fend for themselves. Since the MAI candidates mostly came
from the lower middle class, they found it difficult to pay for
transport, food and other facilities.It was further handicapped
by the  biradri-based electioneering,for instance, Afzal Haq
being a Rajput, was opposed by non-Rajputs in his hometown.Since Jinnah failed to rally the Muslims of Punjab to a joint
platform, a united front against the Unionist Party could not be
established. It resulted in the disintegration of Muslim votes, and
since the Unionists were organised and had official patronage,
they managed to get 88 seats in a House of 176.On the eve of
these elections, the MAI was busy in rehabilitation work for the
survivors of the Quetta earthquake, which had destroyed this
garrison town in 1935. For the MAI, the social cause was more
important than their political and electoral activism. Their focus
on social service for the victims of the earthquake was to
establish the MAI’s reputation for being concerned with the
plight of the poor and the deprived.

Performance in Assemblies

As the above account shows, the MAI had a very small
representation in the legislatures, and being a new party, that was
not surprising. It had three seats in the Punjab Assembly in the
1933-1937 period, as a result of the bye-elections.  It won two
seats in the Central Legislative Assembly in 1934, one from
Punjab and a second from the UP. In the 1937 elections to the
provincial assemblies, three MAI members were elected to the
Punjab Assembly, two in the UP Assembly and three in the
Bihar Assembly. Its presence in the provincial assemblies and
the central assembly was so small, that it was not in a position to
form its own parliamentary party in any of the assemblies, and
usually sat with the opposition.The strength of the MAI in the assemblies dwindled over a period of time. In the central assembly, one of its two
members, K. L. Gauba, resigned from his seat to contest the
provincial elections of 1937, and won it.94From 1934 to 1945,Muhammad Ahmad Kazmi remained an Ahrar member of the Indian Legislative Assembly. He had supported Jinnah’s Independent Party within the Assembly, during the initial period of his.Parliamentary career. A member in the Punjab Assembly,
Ghulam Hussain from Multan, lost his seat to Zain ul Abidin
Shah, because of an election petition against his eligibility. The
remaining two members stayed with the Party till the very end.
All five Ahrar members joined the Muslim League in the UP and
Bihar Assemblies.Muhammad Abdur Rehman played an active role in the Punjab Legislative Assembly for the MAI,in its anti-recruitment drive during the 2nd World War, while the other member was imprisoned for one and a half years for participating in that drive.The MAI members made their
presence felt in the assemblies on several economic, political and
social issues in spite of their small numbers. They voiced their
opinion through questions, sponsored bills and motions of
adjournment, and participated in the budget debate.
K. L. Gauba, an Ahrar member from the Punjab, raised
the issue of the Indo-UK trade agreement. The government was
not ready to reveal all the details of this agreement, and this
attitude of the government was severely criticised by the MAI.
K. L. Gauba introduced an adjournment motion that,‘this
Assembly, after duly considering the agreement between His
Majesty’s Government in the UK and the Government of India,
signed on 9 June 1935, is of the opinion that in as much the said
agreement is unfair to India, the Government of India should
terminate it forthwith.’ His criticism was against the ‘procedural
secrecy’, of the government.The MAI supported the
opposition stance that this agreement was a continuation of the
fiscal policy of the past, and had nothing new in it. Gauba’s
motion, that the matter needed a discussion in the House, was
adopted.The MAI members in the Punjab Assembly usually
criticised any increase in the salaries and allowances of the
MLAs, on the plea of austerity.Since 1937, the opposition had
been criticising the suggested raise in the salaries of the Prime
Minister and his ministers.They also questioned the high rate
of taxes and revenues on agriculture in the Punjab, the ‘granary’
of British India. However, they failed to influence the fiscal
policy of the Punjab Government, although they actively
participated in the budget sessions.For instance, in March
1933, Khwaja Ghulam Hussain  congratulated the finance
minister, yet demanded of him that the special development
funds should be devoted to removing illiteracy. In contrast, the
INC and a few Unionists members criticised the budget, for not
containing proposals for improvement in any direction.Two issues were the focus of MAI’s criticism in the Punjab Assembly; one related to the political prisoners issue and the other, related to it, was about jail reforms.Since joining the assemblies, the MAI members apprised the British
Government and the Punjab administration of the pitiable
conditions in jails, and the torture of political prisoners.The
MAI Patron Afzal Haq had made some contribution in bringing
about jail reforms. The MAI’s anti-colonial policies and
agitational politics had often landed them in jails in large
numbers, so they knew the conditions prevailing in them. The
were imprisoned so frequently, that they considered jails as their
second homes.During their movement in the state of
Kashmir, more than forty thousand Ahrar leaders and workers
were interned. The number was even larger during the civil
disobedience movement of 1930-31 and 1939. Some of its
leaders took special pride in going to jails.They  were  often
arrested without any warrants, or even before the completion of
legal requirements.Most of the time they were given ‘C’ class
jails; where they had to perform unpaid physical labour, such as
grinding jute manually, spinning, weaving, brewing, and like all
other prisoners, were served unhygienic food.Afzal Haq had
been the unofficial member of the Committee for Jail Reforms in
the Punjab Assembly during 1927-30, and had made
recommendations for the jail manual.He had resisted the
mistreatment of prisoners by the jail officials,and mobilised
other prisoners into nonviolent resistance.The MAI leaders were treated as opponents of the British as well as the Punjab government, so they were subjected to punishments like shackles, or kept hungry for long
durations.They were given unauthorised prolonged detention
because of their anti-recruitment campaign, since the campaign
discouraged Indians from joining the armed forces.They were
never given ‘A’ class in jails, which was their right as political
prisoners, except when they were arrested along with their INC
colleagues.They were also refused contact with the outside
world through correspondence and  newspaper facilities.When
the newspapers in Punjab and the UP published stories of torture
and illegal detention of the MAI leaders during the antirecruitment campaign, the ministers for jails in the assemblies denied that this was happening. The trumped-up cases against the Ahrar orators, such as Ataullah Shah and Hissamuddin,diminished the popularity of the Unionist government in the province.The MAI claimed to have arranged hunger strikes,
defied the jail administration, and held political meetings with
the non-political prisoners whenever there was an opportunity.
Their method of hunger strike always shook the administration,
not only at the provincial level, but at the centre as well.
Belonging to the lower strata of society, the MAI volunteer
could bear the hunger and torture longer than the others. The
stories of their torture in jails were well covered in the Urdu
dailies and weeklies, which helped mobilise support outside the
jails.During the INC-led civil disobedience and antirecruitment campaign, even some Hindu newspapers had publicized their case. Afzal Haq, Shorish Kashmiri and Janbaaz Mirza were some of the activists who had successfully mobilised the jail inmates. Their demands were for the basic rights of jail
inmates; including ‘A’ class for political prisoners, better food,
the right to meet and correspond with relatives, and perform
religious rituals.After the 1920s, the jails were viewed as
‘political schools’, where politicians were trained in schemes to
dislodge the British from India; and the British colonial
administration tried to curb these ‘training camps’.
The physical health of the MAI internees was affected;
and Afzal Haq’s suffering during incarceration resulted in his
death in 1942. Ghulam Nabi Janbaaz lost his right shoulder
because of police torture during the Maclagan College episode in
Lahore.They have acquired fame in the annals of the freedom
movement, for their forbearance and suffering. They did not
meet with much success, but continued to struggle to raise
awareness on the issues of torture, corruption and living
conditions in jails. The MAI also advocated the repeal of the
Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which had been imposed in the
Punjab during elections, without the approval of legislators.
Explaining the necessity for legislation, Nawab Muzzafar Khan,
the Revenue Member and the mover of the bill said, that the
offence of slandering one’s political opponents during elections
was becoming frequent, and the existing procedure for
prosecution in such cases had been ‘slow, cumbersome and
uncertain.’ He argued that it was desirable to make the procedure
quicker and more effective, given that there was a wider
franchise in the new Constitution. The MAI members resisted
the bill at the provincial level as well as at the centre.
Muhammad Ahmad Kazmi and Khwaja Ghulam Hussain took
the lead in this, and moved a resolution to repeal the Punjab
Criminal Law Amendment Bill, under which central and
provincial governments had  acquired infinite powers.They
argued that in the presence of the Government of India Act 1935,
there was no need for such new draconian laws.The issue was not resolved until 1940.During the Punjab Assembly sessions of 1939-42, the
MAI’s ‘questions’ about the deteriorating political situation
following the anti-recruitment campaign, had been generally
supported by the INC, but were disallowed for any discussion.
When the Anti-Recruitment Law was promulgated in 1941,
Muhammad Ahmad Kazmi described it as the crushing of a
‘moral revolt’ and tried to highlight the British government’s
discrimination against Muslims in the Indian Legislative
Assembly.The MAI member, Khwaja Ghulam Husain, tabled
a no-confidence motion against the Sikandar Hayat Khan in the
Punjab Assembly, and vigorously sought the right of Muslims to
take possession of their holy places of worship. Shahidganj was
an old mosque in Lahore, which had been occupied by the Sikhs
since 1850s, and who tried to rebuild it as a gurdwara in July
1934. A committee had been formed under the leadership of
Maulana Zafar Ali Khan to acquire the site, and restore the
mosque. Initially, the MAI remained aloof from the dispute, but
subsequently raised the issue both inside and outside the
assemblies. They differed with the opinion and policy of
Sikandar Hayat Khan, the Prime Minister of Punjab on the law
and order situation in the province caused by the Shahidganj
issue.The MAI also spoke on religious, educational and other
issues of concerns to Muslims, including the Muslim Personal
Law.Several amendments to this law, issues relating to
blasphemy,the Sahidganj Masjid dispute in Lahore, and the
references to a proposed Shariat Bill, were some of their areas of
concern.The MAI’s major contribution in the central legislature
was its proposed amendments to the Shariat Bill. Muhammad
Ahmad Kazmi, who had suggested several amendments in the
text during 1939, supported the Bill till it became a law in
1941.The Assembly took up the bill moved by Muhammad
Kazmi, to consolidate and clarify the provision for the
dissolution of marriage by women under Muslim Law.He
demanded that it should be mandatory that a Muslim Judge
should be present in any hearing of Muslim divorce case.The
provision dealing with apostasy in the bill was one of the main
concerns of the MAI. They raised the issue of the impending
execution of Abdul Qaiyum in Karachi in 1934, who had
murdered a Hindu because of his blasphemous remarks.The House rejected it. The accused  was sentenced to death.The police held his funeral in Karachi where the Muslim participants were mistreated. At that time Jinnah took serious note of measures taken by Henry Craig, the Home member for the
maintenance of law and order in Karachi. He criticized at length
the route plan and arrangements for a funeral procession, and the
government decision to open fire on a peaceful gathering; as a
result of which more than thirty Muslim participants were
killed.The Ahrar members pursued issues of general welfare in
the Punjab assembly, such as the health policy,and lobbied for more dispensaries and doctors for their respective
constituencies.Their other social concern was the ‘subordination
of Muslims in educational services’.Mazhar Ali Azhar was
the longest serving member of the Punjab Legislature, and had
been there since 1924.He questioned matters that fell under the
jurisdiction of the government; like the share of the Muslim in
the civil services, and the granting of licensees to official
contractors for public transport in Amritsar.On a few
occasions he put the Home Member on the defensive, by asking
a number of questions relating to motorcar accidents in the
province, and the role of police. He wanted to improve
legislation on these issues.The Ahrar members were more active in the central legislature in presenting bills and raising questions. K. L.
Gauba’s questions dealt mostly with the employment opportunities for Muslims in the Railways Department, or were about taxes, service criteria and the share of Muslims in foreign and political services.The MAI members often voted with the AIML in the Central Assembly; while Gauba frequently raised the issue of police torture on Muslims, and the law and order situation in Karachi after the communal riots.His speeches were never transformed into legislation, but he remained a vocal critic of the official policies.Gauba made a useful contribution in the Assembly, and his departure in 1937, when he joined the Ittehad-i-Millat party in Punjab, was a blow to the MAI.


While examining the role of the MAI representatives in
the assemblies, two features were prominent: they opposed
imperial control; and concentrated on social issues and human
rights. Despite having a low representation in the assemblies,
they still managed to have a high profile. They attempted to stay
aloof from the Shahidganj Masjid dispute, but were vigorously
engaged in legislation pertaining to blasphemy, conditions in
jails and other social issues. During 1933-4, the Party was quite
visible in the assemblies, but after the setback of the 1937
elections, the MAI took its cause to the public at large. With the
outbreak of the Second World War the Ahrar focus, like that of
others, shifted to the campaign against recruitment for the
military in the Punjab.

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