Jogendra Nath Mandal (1904-196, a leader of scheduled castes or namahsudras from East Bengal, is mentioned on Wikipedia as ďone of the central and leading Founding Fathers of modern state of PakistanĒ. A state which was purported to be replicating the Medina of the days of the Prophet of Islam, as Venkat Dhulipala has argued in his recent book.
Sadly such an important person has been reduced as a mere footnote of Pakistanís history. He was a devout disciple of Dr Ambedkar, the Dalit leader who framed Indiaís Constitution. After seeking his consent, Mandal had made common cause with the Muslim League and its struggle for a separate state for the Indian Muslims. Having been approached by some important leaders of Muslim League after the fall of Fazlul Haqís ministry in March 1943, Mandal joined hands with Khawaja Nazimuddin on the condition(s) that three Scheduled Caste Ministers would be included and five lakhs recurring grant for the education of the Scheduled Castes be stipulated.
One impetus for Mandal to be part of that political arrangement was the identical nature of the economic interests of both the communities namely Muslims of Bengal and Scheduled Castes. Both of them were educationally backward and also harboured a mutuality of perception about dominant Hindus as exploiters.
Mandal stood with Nazimuddin and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy through every thick and thin which also included the Direct Action Day on August 16, 1946 observed by the Muslim League. He nevertheless lent unflinching support to Muslim League.
When Pakistan came into being, Mandal was made the first chairman of the constituent Assembly of Pakistan and then first Law & Labour Minister. Later on, he also served as the Minister of Commonwealth and Kashmir Affairs. In a current situation when Pakistani minorities are persecuted with impunity, the very fact that Jogendra Nath Mandal played any role in the initial phase of Pakistanís history appears quite surreal. Absolutely distraught and disappointed, Mandal bade farewell to Pakistan in 1950, left his home and hearth and went over to India where he lived a life of an anonymous figure until 1968.
But here we are concerned about his letter of resignation that he wrote on October 8, 1950. The 28-page long letter makes several revelations. Though it was made public a few years ago, ironically, it evoked very little response from Pakistani historians and analysts. Such indifference exists despite the tremendous worth and significance of the said document which may help us put our typical demeanour towards the people from different faiths in historical perspective. It would be interesting if the history of Pakistan is conceived and written from the particular standpoint of the minorities. It will certainly furnish a much needed alternative historical narrative and also puncture the existing linear trajectory that Pakistani history is beset with.
Reverting to the resignation letter addressed to the then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan that offers some important insights into the stateís insouciance towards the plight of the minorities during the early period of Pakistanís history. It underscores the harrowing act of forced conversions, using women of the minority communities for carnal pleasure and attempts to squeeze Hindus out of Pakistan. These gruesome acts of sheer villainy were perpetrated much before the time of Bhuttoís alleged ďappeasement of the clergyĒ and Ziaís Islamisation. Actions of these two might have accelerated the process of victimisation of minorities but the Muslim League leadership after Jinnah was fundamentally responsible for setting such a horrific tone.
Despite Mandalís endeavours to strike social equilibrium between the two communities, nothing of any consequence happened. Ministerial positions were promised but those promises were made only to be flouted. Majority (Muslims) did not show willingness to accept the people with different faith. State too continued to play quite a partisan role. Complaints lodged with the chief ministers or even with the prime minister were not heeded. False promises were followed by prevarications on the part of those saddled in the position of power.
Mandal laments that the government officials resorted to coercive measures in dealing with Scheduled Castes with the result that they started migrating to India. One reason for such misdemeanour, as Mandal highlights in his letter, was the dissenting role of the Hindu representatives in the legislative assembly for which the entire Hindu population was punished. During early 1950, Mandal reveals nearly 10,000 Hindus were killed in the communal riots in Dacca and Narayanganj. Curiously enough, every ministry that was formed in East Bengal during that time meted out the same sort of treatment to the minorities, be it Nazimuddin or Suhrawardy or Nurul Amin.
One can sum it all up by saying that we as a nation are incapable of accepting social or religious plurality. That trend started right after the demise of Jinnah who has been the only exception to the norm in the entire history of Pakistan. Mandal also points that out in quite a succinct manner.
No matter what some of the Ďeminentí and Ďself styled scholarsí say about Jinnahís zeal for Islam, he appears to be the only humanist who took considerable pains to lend sustainability to the all inclusive, multi-cultural ethos that Pakistani populace inherited from its preceding generations.
To conclude one may suggest that Jogendra Nath Madalís resignation letter makes an important reading as a text containing an important historical lesson particularly for those involved in policy formulation. It would not be a sweeping inference to say that had the political elite of Pakistan learnt a lesson, the country would not be cut asunder in 1971.