In 2013, I visited the resting place of Chaudary Rahmat Ali in New Market Cemetery, in the university town of Cambridge. Difficult to find unless one has specific directions, nestled in the third row from the entrance, is the grave. Though the inscription is beautiful, and the setting serene, I could not help but feel an immense pang of guilt that we have left the mortal remains of this great man away from the nation he named.
Chaudary Rahmat Ali needs no introduction. He was already a distinguished student at Cambridge, when in 1933 he published perhaps one of the most important pamphlets in history, titled “NOW OR NEVER: Are we to live or perish forever?”- today known as the Pakistan Declaration. Self-published and written at his residence in Cambridge by him alone, it is the first time the word “Pakistan” was used in a document. Not only did he give us the word Pakstan (the ‘i’ was added later for easier pronunciation), made from the five northern units of Hind: P for Punjab, A for KPK (then referred to as Afghania), K for Kashmir, S for Sind and –tan for Baluchistan; he was also the founder of the Pakistan National Movement.
Chaudary Rehmat Ali was far ahead of his time and his contemporaries. At the time when he was propagating these noble ideas, both Allama Iqbal and the Quaid-e-Azam were pursuing the goal of autonomous Muslim provinces within a united ‘federated’ India. Although it is evident from the speeches of both statesmen that they were prepared for the eventual possibility of an independent Muslim state, the concrete idea of one was still not the top priority, nor was its attainment yet the primary goal. This lends even greater claim to Chaudary Rehmat Ali’s contribution to Pakistan, at a time when other Muslim statesmen had not yet committed to the idea of a separate independent state for the Muslims of Hind.
However, Chaudary Rehmat Ali’s views were far advanced in relation to the Pakistan we know today. He was very conscious of the danger, the extreme Hindu Nationalism posed to Indian Muslims (his views vindicated by the actions of the RSS, BJP and others in India today, most notable the Gujarat genocide of 2002), and envisioned multiple Islamic states in Hind, in addition to Pakistan. He was of the firm opinion that wherever Muslims were in the majority in hind, they should form just and social states. This included an independent Osmanistan in Deccan, Bangistan in Bengal, and 3-4 other smaller Muslim states across India.
Owing to political realities on the ground of course, the idea of Muslim majority social states was never feasible, however, his primary dream of a separate independent state materialised into a beautiful reality in the shape of Pakistan. This is no mean achievement. It is definitely on par with the contributions of his contemporaries.
Sadly though, during and after the creation of Pakistan, Chaudary Rehmat Ali developed political differences with the Quaid. Chaudary had wanted more than just an independent Muslim state in the North-West and Bengal, and thus disagreed with the Quaid, primarily on pushing for and achieving ‘just’ this, without the other envisioned parts of Muslim India. Therefore, in 1948 Liaquat Ali Khan asked Chaudary Rehmat Ali to leave Pakistan, which he did. To this day, that political disagreement and ensuing controversy is still cited as the reason why Chaudary’s remains have not been returned to Pakistan. Most recently this issue was debated in President Musharraf’s time, but no decision to return the remains was taken.
Two things however, must be remembered here. Firstly, it was a political disagreement; such disagreements happen, and are healthy in order to achieve vibrant political debate and progress. I very much doubt that either the Quaid or Liaquat Ali Khan saw it in any other way. Many years have passed, and thus the implications of the political disagreement are now moot. Truly Ali ibn Talib (RA) had political differences with Umar ibn Khattab (RA) and Uthman ibn Affan (RA), but we award the same love and devotion to all the beloved companions of the Prophet (SAW) and hold them in the utmost respect. All the Founding Fathers of the country toiled hard to make it a reality, no matter what trifling political differences they might have had, and therefore, must be awarded the same respect.
Secondly, let us think for a moment what might have happened if Chaudary Rehmat Ali had not invented the name Pakistan, or had not had such advanced notions of post-British Hind. Would there have been a name to rally around? Would the territory of Muslims of the Subcontinent today have been the same? It is often the case in history that national leaders are forced to adopt a view, albeit a more conservative one, in the face of an advanced idea which emanates from an individual or group within the masses. It is not to argue, that this was definitely the case, but one should think, without the more expansive territorial demands of Rehmat Ali, would we even have obtained what today is Pakistan? (Or even the Bengali Muslims, what today is Bangladesh?)
It is indeed remorseful that we have abandoned the mortal remains of a man who spent his life fighting for us, and who is responsible for our identity today – the identity of which we are so proud. I feel even more guilt ridden to know that he was alone during most of his struggle. It took him months to find signatories for the Pakistan declaration – the noble men who signed it (including Mohammed Aslam Khan Khattak, Sheikh Sahibzada Mohammad Sadiq and Inayat Ullah Khan of Charsaddah).
Let us not leave his mortal remains alone in a foreign country anymore. Let us bring him back to his homeland. Let our children be allowed to visit the grave of Bani-e-Tehreek-e-Pakistan and Khaliq-e-Lafz-e-Pakistan, just like they revere and remember the resting places of Mufakkir-e-Pakistan and Quaid-e-Pakistan. I appeal to all those in government and opposition to make this a reality, lest the same guilt is transferred to another generation. Let us bring Chaudary Rahmat Ali back to Pakistan, where he rightfully belongs.
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