Skip to main content

Gandhi and Jinnah: Clash of the 20th Century

An air warrior, MG has a checkered and owns a string of cars including Mustang and BMW


The seeds of conflict

The seeds of the conflict between Gandhi and Jinnah lies in the early 20th century. Gandhi belonged to the ruling elite in Gujarat and after completing his bar at law in London moved to South Africa for 20 years. The years in South Africa were the formative years for Gandhi and slowly he evolved to nonviolence. He founded the African National Congress. At that time he was also a supporter of the British Raj. He helped in the recruitment of Indians to the British Army and served in the ambulance brigade of the royal military.

Gandhi in India

Gandhi returned to India after 20 years in South Africa. He had a clear vision to lead the Indian people out of slavery towards independence. Initially, Gandhi was happy with Dominion status for India but when the British showed no inclination for it, he stepped up his demand to total freedom. But his guiding principle was non-violence.

This concept Gandhi had developed during his stay in South Africa helped Gandhi to claim leadership. He became a member of the Indian National Congress Congress. He made a very big impact as he realized that in India the masses could only be motivated by religion and hence he began to commence his meetings with verses from Hindu scriptures like the Geeta and Ramayana. During his prayer meetings, everyday slokas from the Bhagavad Gita were recited.


Jinnah, on the other hand, was born into a Hindu family in Gujerat. Thus both Gandhi and Jinnah were natives of Gujerat. His father was a Hindu but he was expelled by the Hindu community for trading in fish. As a reaction he renounced Hinduism and converted to Islam and Jinnah who was a young boy at that time was also converted.

Jinnah was a member of the Congress Party and claimed to be a secularist. There are reports that he was fond of his whiskey and kebabs. There is no record that like a true Muslim he prayed 5 times a day.

When Gandhi entered and joined the Congress Jinnah thought it was a passing fad. He reportedly commented about Gandhi in a meeting "let him have his say and go," but Gandhi had the pulse of the Indian people in his grasp. He quickly began to overshadow Jinnah.

Transformation of Jinnah

Jinnah felt himself being marginalized and so he resigned from the Congress and formed this own party the Muslim League. He wanted political power and realized that he could sway the Indian Muslims only by asserting their Muslim character and ethos.

He began to propound that Hindus and Muslims are two separate Nations. He also adopted the idea laid out by the poet Iqbal that Muslims and Hindus are two separate Nations and cannot live together and as such, the Muslims must have there their own Homeland. Iqbal had coined the word 'Pakistan," the land of the pure. It is worthwhile. to remember that Iqbal is the same man who wrote one of the most touching poems of India which stated "Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara." Translate this means from the entire world the most beautiful and lovely place is Hindustan.

Jinnah copied this idea and stated that Hindus and Muslims have nothing in common and made a famous statement to the effect "While I eat the cow, the Hindu worships it." Jinnah is the man who brought about the big divide between Hindus and Muslims.

Gandhi the non-violent leader

Gandhi on the other hand always held out an olive branch to Islam. Many Muslims like Maulana Azad joined Gandhi but Jinnah always referred to him as a Hindu leader. Perhaps Gandhi committed a mistake by laying emphasis on the Gita and Ramayana and incorporating it in his political philosophy. This alarmed Muslims and perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Muslims have never recognized Gandhi as their leader. Gandhi and Jinnah went about their separate ways.

Jinnah was an ambitious man and he wanted to be Prime Minister of India. Till 1945 there was no talk of Pakistan. Nehru and Patel were loathed to hand over the Prime Ministership of India to Jinnah. When Mohamedali realized that he had no chance of becoming Prime Minister of United India he pressed home the demand for Pakistan. The British were keen to grant Pakistan by bifurcating India. This was their parting kick for having been thrown out of what they considered as the Jewel of their Empire

Gandhi did not want to accept partition. Nehru and Patel wanted a share of teh power and Nehru wanted to be Prime Minister of India. Both these leaders persuaded the old Hindu leader to agree to partition. This was a defeat for Gandhi as all along he had fought for a United India.

Scroll to Continue

Two Nation Theory


Pakistan was created but Jinnah felt it was a"moth-eaten "country. Because the people who had fought for Pakistan from Bhopal to Lucknow remained part of India and those who had never asked for Pakistan as Punjab, Baluchistan, and northwest frontier were forcefully incorporated into Pakistan. Pakistan was separated by 2000 kilometers from East Pakistan.

Two-nation theory

Jinnah is the propounder of the Two-Nation theory but like Gandhi, he suffered a big defeat. After his death, the state of Pakistan broke up on linguistic lines. East Pakistan broke away and formed Bangladesh.

As far as India is concerned after Gandhi's death the men who followed him equated secularism with appeasement. The result was that the Muslims left behind in India never integrated with the mother country and even now as far as India is concerned the two-nation theory is alive and kicking. Muslims in India have not reconciled to the idea of one republic, one land, and one law.

In Pakistan Islam is the dominant religion yet sub- nationalities like the Baluchis and the Pathan have revolted and an insurrection is on in Balochistan. Religion by itself is no binding force.

Last word

What conclusion can one draw? Gandhi's legacy will be more lasting than that of Jinnah. For all his faults Gandhi has left behind a resurgent India. Jinnah instigated sectarian killing especially in 1946 when he gave the call for "direct action" to create Pakistan.

Much water has flown down the river since then and India is heading to be a world power while Pakistan is almost a failed state racked by terrorism and the world recognizes it. It is as the Infant terrible that the world has to be wary off. Readers can draw their own conclusions as to who is the winner in the clash between Gandhi and Jinnah.



MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 22, 2020:

Anupam it is so nice that you have articulated your inner thoughts. I think you are doing something great by imparting education to young people.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on July 22, 2020:

That's the reason I feel a similar mindset of mine on your articles. You are the masculine and the finest version of me. I too feel much more attached to Bose than any other leader. The bollywood movies based on his life has played a great role in our mindset. I explored a lot about him.

Otherwise, I have never been to politics, maybe because of our family custom, where the ladies or girls are kept away from such discussion. And I can't deny my own disinterest in such discussions.

Right now lived almost half of my life but the inner self provoke me to do something realistic for the education system. Not working with school but a coaching institute and everywhere in the education industry just want to fill their pockets. They don't have any intention to mould the future generation in a constructive manner.

Once again sir, I feel blessed to read people like you.

I believe in evidence and emotions and your words have both the spice.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 22, 2020:

I am glad we are seeing eye to eye on this topic. I follow the blog of Justice Katju of the Supreme Court now retired. He says satyagraha had no meaning and tell me one country in the world in the last 4000 years where satyagraha won anything. All the satyagraha of Gandhi did not win freedom but the action by Subash Chandrabose in galvanising the Azad Hind Fauj was the real catalyst.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on July 21, 2020:

I completely agree with you. I have read that in your article on India and China conflict as well, where you stated how Nehru foolishly abandoned our Manasarowar for the Chinese to take over. He wanted to show how peaceful he was but with that attititude of his, he lost the faith of many.

I too don't agree with this Non violence and peace strategy to end the conflict when the opponent is known to be aggressive and shrewd. You might be well aware what these peaceful strikes have in their back mind.

I can empathise with the brave soldier mind of yours.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 21, 2020:

Anupam, I have not heard of the two men you have quoted but I have read a lot of bad things about the Gandhi family some of which of course is true. I fault Gandhi on two points first his love for Nehru and neglect of his own children and second his policy of nonviolence. More on that later.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on July 21, 2020:

I didn't know that Jinna was a converted Muslim. What's right, what's wrong? I see so many articles on Gandhi stating how he used to sleep naked with his grand daughters and other young girls just to prove how holy he was.

I don't have any clarity of history. Read a few books from here and there, watched a few episodes of Indian history on youtube, but everywhere people frame the story based on their individual perception.

Have you heard about Pushpendra Kulshreshtha? I respected him a lot for his speeches but when I saw that a few statements made by him were just political and had no authenticity, I lost faith in him. Then there was a great influential hindu speaker named Rajiv Dixit, who used to claim that Gandhi and Nehru family have ruined India using so many pieces of evidence. Later on, it was found that most of his claims didn't make any sense.

Also as a teacher, I can say that there are many lessons in history which is taught to the primary or secondary students are just fictional.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 15, 2019:

Dear Brother Manatita, so nice of you to have spared time and commented. I feel flattered with your observation. Thank you, sir.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 15, 2019:

Thank you, Devika for your comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 15, 2019:

I admire Gandhi for everything he experienced on his trip to South Africa. A leader of non-violence and hoped for a united world. An interesting insight to Jinnah and Gandhi.

manatita44 from london on November 15, 2019:

Separation is never a good thing and probably helped the hands of outside powers. It is also possible that Gandhi could have done more to prevent it.

I don't know that we should be looking at winners and losers. People die in war as as seen in Iraq and other parts of the world, millions suffer, mostly innocent women and children.

I have followed you for a while and your knowledge of history and politics is as awesome as ralph Schwartz in the U.S. Carry on Bro.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 14, 2019:

Thanks Rob for your comment

Robin on November 14, 2019:

Great Article

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 14, 2019:

Thank you Ratan, yes Gandhi's influence was for the good asJinnah's was baleful

Ratan Das on November 14, 2019:

A wonderful article. Though I am not a supporter of Gandhi yet in comparison to Jinnah he was way ahead.

Related Articles