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Demian Rusakov
Demian Rusakov

Lahore Resolution 1940: A Landmark Document in the History of South Asia - PDF Version

Lahore Resolution 1940: The Birth of Pakistan

The Lahore Resolution, also known as the Pakistan Resolution, was a landmark document in the history of South Asia. It was passed by the All-India Muslim League at its annual session in Lahore on 23 March 1940. It demanded that geographically contiguous units be demarcated into regions which should be constituted as independent states for Muslims in north-western and eastern zones of India. It was a clear expression of Muslim nationalism and a rejection of Hindu domination. It was also a decisive step towards the creation of Pakistan as a separate homeland for Muslims in 1947.

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But how did this resolution come about? What were the main factors that led to its adoption? How did it affect the political scenario in British India? And what was its significance for Pakistan's future? In this article, we will try to answer these questions by exploring the historical context, content and implications of the Lahore Resolution.

Before we do that, let us first look at how different groups reacted to this resolution. The British government was taken aback by this sudden demand for partition. It tried to ignore it or dismiss it as a bargaining counter. It hoped to maintain its control over India by playing off one community against another. The Congress party was outraged by this challenge to its claim to represent all Indians. It denounced it as a mad scheme or a medieval concept. It vowed to resist any attempt to divide India on communal lines. The Hindu Mahasabha was alarmed by this threat to its vision of a Hindu Rashtra. It accused Jinnah and his followers of being traitors or agents of the British. It intensified its campaign of Hindu revivalism and militancy.

Historical Context

To understand the Lahore Resolution, we need to go back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a period of social, economic and political transformation in British India. It was also a period of rising Muslim nationalism and communal conflict. Let us see how these developments influenced the Muslim League and its demand for a separate homeland.

The Rise of Muslim Nationalism in British India

The Muslims of India had a long and glorious history of ruling over large parts of the subcontinent. They had developed a rich and distinctive culture, language and religion. They had also contributed to the fields of art, literature, science and philosophy. However, after the British conquest of India, they faced a decline in their political power and social status. They were reduced to a minority in a predominantly Hindu society. They were discriminated against by the colonial administration and the Hindu majority. They were also threatened by the spread of Western education, culture and values.

In response to this situation, some Muslim leaders emerged who tried to revive and reform the Muslim community. They also tried to protect and promote their interests in the changing political scenario. Some of the most prominent among them were Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a pioneer of Muslim modernization and education. He founded the Aligarh Muslim University in 1875. He encouraged Muslims to learn English and Western sciences. He also advocated for Muslim representation and rights in the government and legislature. He opposed the Indian National Congress, which he saw as a Hindu-dominated organization. He argued that Muslims and Hindus were two separate nations with different cultures and interests.

Allama Iqbal was a poet, philosopher and politician. He is regarded as the spiritual father of Pakistan. He wrote inspiring poems that awakened the Muslims to their glorious past and their potential future. He also gave visionary speeches that articulated the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. In his famous Allahabad address in 1930, he said:

"I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India." [7]

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a lawyer, politician and statesman. He is known as the Quaid-e-Azam or the Great Leader of Pakistan. He started his career as a moderate nationalist who believed in Hindu-Muslim unity. He joined both the Congress and the Muslim League in 1913. He played a key role in negotiating the Lucknow Pact of 1916, which was an agreement between the two parties on constitutional reforms and communal representation. However, he became disillusioned with the Congress after it rejected the Nehru Report of 1928, which denied any special status or safeguards for Muslims. He resigned from the Congress in 1929 and devoted himself to the cause of Muslim separatism.

Jinnah became the president of the Muslim League in 1934. He reorganized and revitalized the party. He mobilized the Muslim masses across India. He articulated their grievances and aspirations. He challenged the Congress claim to speak for all Indians. He asserted that Muslims were a distinct nation with a right to self-determination.

The Muslim League's demand for separate electorates and safeguards for Muslims was partially accepted by the British government in the Government of India Act of 1935. This act provided for provincial autonomy and limited self-government in India. It also increased the representation of Muslims in the central and provincial legislatures.

The Congress Rule and its Impact on Muslims

The Government of India Act of 1935 paved the way for provincial elections in 1937. The Congress emerged as the largest party in six out of eight provinces. It formed governments in these provinces with its own leaders as chief ministers. The Muslim League failed to win a majority in any province, even in those where Muslims were in a majority.

The Congress rule from 1937 to 1939 proved to be a turning point in Hindu-Muslim relations. The Congress governments adopted policies and actions that alienated and marginalized the Muslims. They ignored or violated their rights and interests. They imposed their ideology and agenda on them.

Some examples of these policies and actions are:

of instruction. It also emphasized the teaching of Hindu scriptures and values. It ignored or neglected the Muslim culture and religion. It also failed to provide adequate facilities and teachers for Muslim schools.

  • The Vidya Mandir scheme: This was a scheme introduced by the Congress government of Central Provinces to establish model schools in rural areas. It aimed to provide free education to all children irrespective of caste, creed or religion. However, it also required the students to take an oath of loyalty to India and its national symbols. It also made it compulsory for them to participate in social service activities like spinning khadi, cleaning temples and planting trees. It also imposed a uniform dress code and curriculum for all students. It disregarded the Muslim sentiments and preferences.

  • The ban on cow slaughter: This was a measure taken by some Congress governments to appease the Hindu sentiments and prevent violence by cow protection societies. It prohibited the killing of cows for any purpose, even for food or religious rituals. It violated the Muslim dietary and cultural practices. It also deprived them of a source of income and livelihood.

  • The hoisting of the Congress flag: This was a symbolic act of asserting the Congress claim to represent the nation. It involved raising the tricolor flag with a spinning wheel in the center on public buildings and institutions. It also involved singing the national anthem "Jana Gana Mana". It offended the Muslim sensibilities and patriotism. They saw it as a sign of Hindu domination and cultural imposition.

  • The singing of Vande Mataram: This was a patriotic song composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his novel Anandamath. It was adopted by the Congress as its official song in 1937. It praised India as a mother goddess and invoked Hindu imagery and references. It hurt the Muslim religious feelings and sentiments. They considered it as idolatrous and blasphemous.

These examples show how the Congress rule created a sense of insecurity, alienation and resentment among the Muslims. They felt that they were being treated as second-class citizens in their own country. They felt that they had no voice or stake in the political system. They felt that they had no future or hope in a united India.

The Lahore Session of the Muslim League

The Muslim League realized that it had to counter the Congress challenge and assert its own position as the sole representative of the Muslims. It decided to convene its annual session in Lahore, which was a stronghold of Muslim culture and politics. It also decided to adopt a resolution that would reflect its vision and demand for a separate homeland for Muslims.

The Preparation and Organization of the Session

The Lahore session of the Muslim League was prepared and organized by a team of dedicated and dynamic Muslim leaders. Some of them were:

  • A.K. Fazlul Huq: He was the Prime Minister of Bengal and a veteran politician. He was also a member of the Working Committee of the Muslim League. He drafted and presented the resolution that became known as the Lahore Resolution or the Pakistan Resolution.

  • Nawab Mamdot: He was the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Lahore session. He arranged for the venue, accommodation, security and publicity of the session. He also welcomed Jinnah and other leaders to Lahore.

  • Muhammad Zafarullah Khan: He was a lawyer, diplomat and scholar. He was also a member of the Working Committee of the Muslim League. He assisted Fazlul Huq in drafting and revising the resolution.

  • Other leaders: There were many other leaders who played important roles in making the Lahore session a success. Some of them were Liaquat Ali Khan, Raja Sahib of Mahmudabad, Nawab Ismail Khan, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayuni, Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung, Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan etc.

The venue of the session was Minto Park, which was a large open ground near the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque. It was renamed as Iqbal Park after the session. The date of the session was 22-24 March 1940. The attendance of the session was about 100,000, including delegates and visitors from all over India.

The highlight of the session was the speech of Jinnah, who was the president of the Muslim League and the undisputed leader of the Muslims. He addressed the session on 22 March and delivered a historic speech that laid down the foundation of the two-nation theory and the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims. He said:

"The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literature. They neither intermarry nor interdine together, and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life, and of life, are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other, and likewise their victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent, and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state." [8]

He also said:

"We maintain and hold that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a hundred million, and what is more, we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life." [9]

He also said:

and Muslims can evolve a common nationality; and this misconception of one Indian nation has gone so far that even our old-time Muslim friends have been affected by it." [10]

He also said:

"The only solution of India's constitutional problem is to divide the country into Hindustan and Pakistan, because such a division would be in accordance with the wishes of the people." [11]

Jinnah's speech was a powerful and persuasive exposition of the two-nation theory. It was also a clear and categorical declaration of the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims. It electrified the Muslim masses and galvanized them into action. It also stunned and shocked the British and the Congress.

The Content and Implications of the Resolution

The resolution that was adopted by the Muslim League on 23 March 1940 was based on Jinnah's speech. It was drafted by Muhammad Zafarullah Khan and presented by A.K. Fazlul Huq. It read as follows:

No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign. That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in the units and in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights of the minorities with their consultation. Arrangements thus should be made for the security of Muslims where they were in a minority.

The resolution did not use the word "Pakistan", which was coined by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1933 as an acronym for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. The word "Pakistan" also means "land of the pure" in Urdu and Persian. The resolution used vague and ambiguous terms like "regions", "zones", "areas" and "states" instead of "Pakistan". There are several reasons for this choice of words:

  • The resolution was a compromise between different factions within the Muslim League. Some wanted a single Muslim state, while others wanted two or more states. Some wanted complete independence, while others wanted federation or confederation with India. Some wanted to include all Muslim-majority areas, while others wanted to exclude some parts like Assam or Hyderabad.

  • The resolution was a tactical move to avoid provoking the British and the Congress. It did not challenge the sovereignty of the British crown or the territorial integrity of India. It did not specify the boundaries or names of the proposed states. It did not rule out any possibility of future cooperation or adjustment with India.

  • The resolution was a strategic ploy to mobilize Muslim support and opinion. It appealed to the emotions and aspirations of the Muslims without committing them to any specific plan or scheme. It left room for negotiation and flexibility in case of any change in circumstances or conditions.

the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity and cooperation. It also marked a decisive acceptance of the idea of Muslim nationhood and self-determination. It also marked a decisive step towards the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.


In this article, we have tried to explain the historical context, content and implications of the Lahore Resolution of 1940. We have seen how it was a result of various social, economic and political factors that shaped the Muslim nationalism and communal conflict in British India. We have also seen how it was a response to various policies and actions of the British government and the Congress party that alienated and marginalized the Muslims. We have also seen how it was a declaration of Muslim identity and aspiration that challenged and changed the course of history.

The Lahore Resolution was not just a document or a resolution. It was a movement and a vision. It was a movement that mobilized millions of Muslims across India to fight for their rights and interests. It was a vision that inspired them to dream of a separate homeland where they could live in freedom and dignity. It was a movement and a vision that led to the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan in 1947.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a part of history. It is also a part of heritage and legacy. It is a part of the heritage and legacy of Pakistan, which claims to be the inheritor of the traditions of Muslim India and the heir of the two-nation theory. It is also a part of the heritage and legacy of India, which rejects the two-nation theory and chooses to be a secular state that embraces religious pluralism and composite nationalism. It is also a part of the heritage and legacy of South Asia, which is still grappling with the consequences and challenges of partition.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a matter of past. It is also a matter of present and future. It is a matter of present and future for Pakistan, which has to deal with its internal diversity and external security. It is a matter of present and future for India, which has to deal with its communal harmony and national integration. It is a matter of present and future for South Asia, which has to deal with its regional cooperation and development.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a source of pride or pain. It is also a source of learning and reflection. It is a source of learning and reflection for Pakistan, which has to learn from its successes and failures as a Muslim nation-state. It is a source of learning and reflection for India, which has to learn from its achievements and shortcomings as a secular democracy. It is a source of learning and reflection for South Asia, which has to learn from its opportunities and challenges as a subcontinent.

and progress.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a historical event or a political document. It is also a cultural phenomenon and a human story. It is a cultural phenomenon that reflects the diversity and complexity of South Asian society and culture. It is a human story that involves the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, the dreams and nightmares of millions of people who lived through it or were affected by it.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a matter of fact or opinion. It is also a matter of perspective and interpretation. It is a matter of perspective and interpretation for historians and scholars who study it and analyze it. It is also a matter of perspective and interpretation for citizens and leaders who remember it and celebrate it or regret it and criticize it.

The Lahore Resolution is not just a question or an answer. It is also a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge and an opportunity for Pakistan, India and South Asia to learn from their past, to understand their present


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