Monday, August 14, 2006

A Vision for India and Pakistan: 1947

In the hot, fevered and bloody month of August 1947, the British Empire in India came to an end, and two free nations, India and Pakistan, came into being. Even before birth however, animosity between the two had set in, and they refused to share even their birthday. And it came to be that Pakistan became an independent country on August 14 1947, while India followed one day later on August 15 1947.

On the anniversary of their freedom, Amar Akbar Anthony salute the two nations, and wish them and their people peace, prosperity, and happiness.

Amidst other reflections, I started thinking back to those emotional days. There was Nehru's legendary speech on India's tryst with destiny, which many of you will know of. And then I started to wonder. After all, it was Pakistan's independence day too. What the hell was the equivalent Pakistani speech?

I thought comparing Jinnah's and Nehru's speeches would be interesting. It turns out rather amusingly that while Nehru's speech was given on 14 August, rather than 15, Jinnah in turn addressed the nation on 15 August, and also earlier on 11 August [but not on 14 August]. Two great men giving speeches on the same occasion at around the same time, what did they each say?

Jinnah's 15 August speech is largely a forgotten one. Here is a transcript. The most amusing line is this one: August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign State of Pakistan. Jinnah, the laywer's lawyer, was probably correct in terms of the legal technicalities. But you won't find any Pakistani celebrating August 15 as independence day!

Jinnah does have one very famous speech however, an oft-quoted one on caste and creed ceasing to matter. This was given on 11 August, on his first address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Nehru's 14 August speech, in turn, was also his first address to the Indian Constituent Assembly. Because of this fact, and also because it was more amusing, I decided to compare Jinnah's August 11 speech with Nehru's August 14 one.

Anthony also mentioned something to keep in mind. While it is Jinnah's speech that seems somewhat random, the fact of the matter is, Jinnah had his staff working for most of the day on the speech, and wasn't very happy with the final product (see Wolpert's biography of Jinnah). Nehru on the other hand didn't have time to write the speech (he always wrote his own speeches), remembered something CR said about India having a tryst with destiny, and ran with it extempore (see Galbraith's Ambassador's Journal).

Nehru's speech
Jinnah's speech


Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen! I cordially thank you, with the utmost sincerity, for the honour you have conferred upon me - the greatest honour that is possible to confer - by electing me as your first President. I also thank those leaders who have spoken in appreciation of my services and their personal references to me.

The Occasion

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.


You know really that not only we ourselves are wondering but, I think, the whole world is wondering at this unprecedented cyclonic revolution which has brought about the clan of creating and establishing two independent sovereign Dominions in this sub-continent. As it is, it has been unprecedented; there is no parallel in the history of the world.

The Vison

[I]t is the future that beckons to us now. That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart.

We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.


The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order.

The second thing that occurs to me is this: One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering - I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse - is bribery and corruption.

Black-marketing is another curse.

The next thing that strikes me is this: Here again it is a legacy which has been passed on to us. Along with many other things, good and bad, has arrived this great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery.


To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.


Well, gentlemen, I do not wish to take up any more of your time and thank you again for the honour you have done to me. I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fairplay without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will, in other words, partiality or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.

Both have a terrible post-script:

I beg to move, sir, that it be resolved that: After the last stroke of midnight, all members of the Constituent Assembly present on this occasion do take the following pledge: (1)At this solemn moment, when the people of India, through suffering and sacrifice, have secured freedom, I a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, do dedicate myself in all humility to the service of India and her people to the end that this ancient land attain her rightful place in the world and make her full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind. (2)Members who are not present on this occasion do take the pledge (with such verbal changes as the president may prescribe) at the time they next attend a session of the Assembly.


I have received a message from the United States of America addressed to me. It reads: I have the honour to communicate to you, in Your Excellency's capacity as President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, the following message which I have just received from the Secretary of State of the United States:

On the occasion of of the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly for Pakistan, I extend to you and to the members of the Assembly, the best wishes of the Government and the people of the United States for the successful conclusion of the great work you are about to undertake.