Rajagopalacharia continued his efforts to bring about a Hindu-Muslim accord and in this regard Rajaji formula got famous. It was on 17 July, 1944 that Gandhi set the ball rolling by writing to Jinnah: “I have not written to you since my release. Today my heart says that I should write to you. We will meet whenever you choose. Do not disappoint me.” Jinnah, who at that time was in Kashmir, replied that he would be glad to receive Gandhi at his residence in Bombay on his return. They met at Jinnah’s house in Bombay on 9 September and thereafter corresponded at some length. They did meet a number of times up to 26 September, but without arriving at an agreement. They did not keep any record of their oral discussions but the text of their letters is available.
The Quaid-i-Azam and M.K. Gandhi talking to pressmen in Bombay, 1944
The first letter in this series was written by Jinnah to Gandhi on 10 September, and it is learnt from it that during their meeting on the previous day, Jinnah had tried to persuade Gandhi to accept the Pakistan Resolution of March 1940, while Gandhi had put forward the Rajaji Formula. The main points that emerged during the debate were as follows:
Jinnah complained the Gandhi’s claim that he had come to discuss Hindu-Muslim settlement in his individual capacity raised “great difficulty” in his way because he himself could speak only in his capacity as the president of the Muslim League. Gandhi characteristically claimed, “though I represent nobody but myself, I aspire to represent all the inhabitants of India”, to which Jinnah replied, “I cannot accept that statement of yours. It is quite clear that you represent nobody else but Hindus, and as long as you do not realize your true position and the realities, it is very difficult for me to argue with you.”
For his part, Gandhi questioned the right of the Indian Muslims to call themselves a nation, “I find no parallel in history”, he wrote in one of his letters, “for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock”, to which Jinnah gave the famous reply:
“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 value 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. By all canons of international law we are a nation.”
The two leaders also differed with regard to the boundaries of Pakistan and how the issue of whether India should be divided at all, was to be determined. Gandhi was adamant on the question of partition and although he appeared to be conceding the possibility of partition he did everything he could to persuade the Quaid to give up his demand for the establishment of two sovereign States.
The British had been watching with anxiety the progress of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks and were making plans to meet the situation if the Congress and the League arrived at an agreement. The failure of these talks spurred the Viceroy to make renewed efforts to break the political deadlock in India.
The Quaid-i-Azam with M.K. Ghandhi in Bombay, 1944
Though the Gandhi-Jinnah negotiations failed to achieve the avowed goal of the Hindu-Muslim unity, they brought to Jinnah and the Muslim League two important political gains. Firstly, the leadership of the Congress had now offered to discuss the question of Pakistan seriously — before that, the Congress and Mahatama had kept the door to that subject uncompromisingly shut. Secondly, the Congress could no longer justifiably claim that it stood for all the communities in India including the Muslims.