Hind ra in’n zauk Azadi ki dad’h?     

Said’h ra sau’dai sayadi ki dad’h?

Un’n Brahmin zadan zindah dil

Lalia’h ahmar rau-shou’n khajil 

[Who gave Hind/India zest for freedom?

And who turned the hunted into hunters?

They were the lively sons of Brahmins 

Whose facial radiance  puts the sparkling stones to shame!]

Tez been puktah kar va sakht koosh      

Az nigah’shoun far’hangh un’derh kharush

Asil shou’n az khakh damangir ma aast  

Mat’lah akh’taran Kashmir maa aast!

[Vigilant dexesterous and ever striving

Their sharp vision made Western imperialists look inwards

Their essence comes from my enchanting land

For the galaxy is full of stars from our Kashmir’]

Iqbal wrote the above verses to highlight the role Kashmirs played in India’s struggle for freedom. In particular he praises radiant faced sons of Brahmins. It is speculated that he was specifically aiming at Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, but it is also likely that he included himself and others like Tej Bhadur Sapru, Kailash Nath Khatju, Rattan Nath Sarshar etc. as among these stars.

Iqbal’s affection for Jawarhlal Nehru is well known. The Brahmin Kashmiri connection was a natural bond, in addition both shared the distinction of being a failure at practicing law, but becoming towering figures in literature and politics respectively.

Early in 1938 Nehru was visiting Lahore when he was invited by Iqbal to visit him. Iqbal was not well due to his asthma and other medical problems. The meeting took place on 24th of January 1938. According to those who were present at the meeting, when Nehru arrived he was received at the door by Mian Shafi and 13 year old Javed Iqbal. Nehru was led to Iqbal’s bedroom and he walked with his arm around the shoulder of Javed. Iqbal was laying on the bed and as a mark of respect Nehru refused the chair that was offered and sat on the carpeted floor.

They talked about a range of subjects. Most of the talking was done by Iqbal and Nehru listened respectfully.

It is interesting that Iqbal asked Nehru how many of his fellow Congressmen agree with his socialist ideas. Nehru replied about half a dozen and Iqbal remarked,”How do you expect 10 crore Muslims to be convinced by your advise to trust Congress when you cannot even convince more than 6 of your own party?’’ Nehru had no answer to this and neither have those who want to put the entire blame for partition on Jinnah and Muslim League.

Year later, in his book, The Discovery of India, Nehru has recalled the  meeting with affection. There are two remarks in the book on Iqbal that need to be looked at.

Nehru claims that Iqbal said to  him, "The difference between you and Jinnah is that he is a politician and you are a patriot.’’

Only Iqbal knows what exactly he meant. These words can and have been interpreted in many ways. Nehru certainly took it as praise for himself and a snub for Jinnah. And yet was it so?

One of my learned friends Professor Ishtiaq thinks so and says that the word politician is a derogatory term and used in a negative sense, if praise is intended then he would have used statesman. I disagree.

According to the World Book Dictionary

"Politician is a person who gives much time to political affairs; a person who is experienced in politics and a statesman is a person who is skilled in the management of public or national affairs."

And although many have expanded on this subtle difference to illustrate the much greater practical difference, the impression I get is that a statesman is like a more senior, advanced and higher grade of a politician, a bit like a physician becoming a professor. To achieve the status of a statesman a politician has to prove by his ideas, vision and performance that he can be called a statesman.

Now in January 1938 neither Nehru nor Jinnah could be called statesmen as neither had made any significant impact on the world. They were both spending considerable time of their lives on politics and hence both should be by definition called politicians. However, the fact that Iqbal only called Jinnah a politician was in my opinion a slight snub on Nehru whose life was obsessed with politics.

Furthermore, calling Nehru a patriot does not automatically mean that he was calling Jinnah unpatriotic. As far as I can see Iqbal did not use the term politician in a negative way, but simply told Nehru that Jinnah has an edge over him in this field while he has no doubts about his (Nehru’s) patriotism.

Nehru then (in his book) quotes Edward Thompson who has attributed these words to Iqbal:

“Pakistan will spell disaster for Hindus, Muslims and British Government. But I am the president of Moslem league and therefore it is my duty to support”. 

And with this Nehru has tried to portray that Iqbal had completely washed off his hands from his role in the idea of an autonomous Muslim state in India and that he was not agreeing with the politics of Jinnah  and Muslim League.

While people say different things at different times it is hard to agree with the narrative of Thompson. Two letters from Iqbal to Jinnah, dated 28th May 1937 and 21st June 1937 are available, in which he ridiculed the newly framed constitution of United Federation in India, asking Jinnah to put in a plea for self governing Muslim States in North West and Northeast. Also during Iqbal’s lifetime Jinnah and the ML had never made the demand for Pakistan.

The meeting between Nehru and Iqbal did come to a rather abrupt end when Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din suggested that things might turn out better if Iqbal were to take over the leadership from Jinnah. Iqbal became rather upset at this, got up from his bed and admonished Mian sahib telling him that only under Jinnah have the Muslims achieved some sort of unity and he regards Jinnah his leader and himself just one of his soldiers. Sensing the tension at this stage Nehru excused himself and left.

There is no doubt that some disagreements did exist between Iqbal and Jinnah. The foremost was Iqbal’s repeated plea to Jinnah to start a program of social and economic uplift for Muslims side by side with his political struggle for their rights. Iqbal was afraid that in the post British India the Muslims would be rendered voiceless and sidelined due to them being a minority which was backward and poor and would be exploited by Hindu and Muslim jagirdaars.

Some of the Muslim League leaders like Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din were followers of Iqbal in this and in the Calcutta session of Muslim league they opposed the proposal to give the leaders of Unionist Party of Punjab (which had all the big landlords) the permission to have joint membership with the Muslim League.

They were overruled on this. Dejected, they left for Lahore to inform Iqbal of this decision, which for sure would have been sharply criticized by Iqbal, but when they disembarked the train at Lahore station the newspaper hawkers were peddling the evening paper shouting, ‘’Alama Iqbal has passed away’’ It was the 21st of April 1938.