Forgotten Hero by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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The Pakistan Movement, led by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was no doubt a most peaceful and democratic struggle which resulted in the partition of the Subcontinent and the establishment of a Muslim-majority separate country.

Jogendra Nath Mandal was one of the prominent non-Muslim politicians who aligned himself with the Muslim League. He was a strong supporter of Quaid-e-Azam and believed that Pakistan would be a role model of a peace-loving democratic country where equal rights to every citizen would be ensured regardless of religious affiliation. Although Mandal was a leader of the Hindu community, he believed that his community would be able to live peacefully in Pakistan.

Mandal, a highly educated citizen belonging to Bengal, was also a trustworthy companion of Quaid-e-Azam. His presence as a non-Muslim minister on the platform of the Muslim League in the 1946 pre-Partition political setup of British India played a pivotal role in strengthening the Pakistan Movement and countering anti-Pakistan propaganda.

According to the 3rd June Plan, the Sylhet District was to vote either to join Pakistan or remain in Assam. Following instructions by Quaid-e-Azam, Jogendra Nath Mandal personally visited the area to successfully convince people to support Pakistan. He also presided over the historic session of the Constituent Assembly, held on August 11, 1947. Mandal, on behalf of non-Muslim Pakistani citizens, showed his confidence in Quaid-e-Azam with the hope that Pakistan would emerge as a developed and progressive country on the world map.

Mandal supported the title of ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ for Jinnah; it became an official title as a result of a resolution passed in the same session. The Pakistani flag was also waved for the first time during the session presided by Jogendra Nath Mandal.

On the occasion, Quaid-e-Azam also gave a concrete roadmap on how to run the affairs of Pakistan. He said in clear words that: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” To keep his words, Quaid-e-Azam also included non-Muslims in his cabinet. Jogendra Nath Mandal was given the portfolio of the law ministry and thus it was made clear that the government of Pakistan considered all citizens equal. Mandal also served as the second minister of Commonwealth and Kashmir affairs. The first assembly of Pakistan reportedly consisted of 13 non-Muslim members out of a total of 53 members, which means that one-fourth non-Muslim population in Pakistan was officially recognised.

After the death of Quaid-e-Azam just after one year after independence, the state policies towards minorities started changing and the bureaucracy also sought its decision-making role in national politics. When the non-Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly were vigorously opposing the Objectives Resolution in 1949, Mandal supported it with the hope that the Pakistani Hindu community would benefit from it. Whether it was the drafting of the viewpoint of the government of Pakistan to the UN on the Kashmir issue or the initial drafting of the constitution, Mandal proved his sincere commitment to the betterment of Pakistan.

Ironically, despite all his good contributions, Mandal was badly ignored in the emerging political scenario. I think the rulers of that time were not in a mood to tolerate anybody who followed principles and values. Due to this, in October 1950, he found no other option but to resign as a minister. He was a patriot but was forced to leave his beloved country forever. Mandal was very hurt to know the bitter truth that he was no more welcome in Pakistan and, thus, he migrated to India. With a heavy heart, he also highlighted the reasons he was moving. The incidents related to social injustice and biased attitude towards non-Muslim minorities that he mentioned in his resignation letter later also became part of the reason for the separation of East Pakistan.

Even after moving to Calcutta, he didn’t end his affiliation with Pakistan and dedicated his remaining life to looking after oppressed Hindu refugees who had migrated from Pakistan. Being a democratic politician, he believed in a peaceful political struggle for protecting the rights of his community. He also tried to join the Indian political sphere in 1967 but local political parties refused to own him. His rivals even resorted to name-calling – calling him: Jogendra Ali Mollah! Despite the criticism and hostility, Mandal contested the elections in India but lost badly. This was so shocking for him that he passed away only a year later on October 5, 1968.

Jogendra Nath Mandal is no more in this world but on the occasion of his 49th death anniversary, I would like to make an appeal that his active support for Muslim League, huge sacrifices for Pakistan, and unconditional love for Quaid-e-Azam must be acknowledged. We must also keep struggling to transform our beloved country according to Quaid-e-Azam’s vision – a country where a culture of tolerance, equality, humanity and diversity can prevail.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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