Q: What about business in general all over
India? Were there any prominent Muslims?
Yes, Sir Abdullah Haroon of the Haroon family was a businessman
in Karachi, but nothing very big. He did have a sugar mill somewhere
in Bihar with someone else, but there were no outstanding Muslim
business leaders. Curiously enough, only in the Kathiawar states
[in Gujarat], you had multimillionaire Muslims, like Sir Haji Kasim
Dada who was the sole agent for Lever Brothers, and this [famous]
brand of theirs, which is called Dalda, and the "l" in it came from
Levers. Their main money came from this distribution. Similarly,
there were [a few] others who were multi-millionaires. The Adamjees,
the big name in Pakistan, they had a match factory in Burmah, from
there they started, then they came to Calcutta and had a jute mill,
on a small scale, not very large. In Bombay, there was one family
of Chinoys who were businessmen, car dealers; Sultan Chinoy was
the top man. Again, fairly good but nothing very big.
Q: Did Muslim businessmen at that time feel
excluded because they were Muslim by a Hindu - dominated elite?
Yes, but it depended on the province. In UP, the rich Muslims were
talukadars [large feudal landholders]. The Muslim kingdom of Awadh
lasted for two hundred or one hundred fifty years, and at that time
most of the land owners were Muslims and estates belonged to them.
The largest was a Hindu, Raja of Balrampur, but the number two was
Mahmudabad, the Raja of Mahmudabad. Mahmudabad's income in those
days, in 1935, was no less than seven to ten lakhs [hundred thousand]
rupees [per year], which was a very large sum at that time. The
Raja of Jehangirabad was, after Balrampur, supposed to be the wealthiest.
Mahmudabad had the largest estate, but he spent money; Jehangirabad
on the other hand kept his money. At that time it was said that
he was worth a crore of rupees, which then was something fantastic.
In the United Provinces, the landholding class had money, the talukadars.
By and large, they were eighty percent Muslims.
Now these were the people who were hardest by hit the independence
of India [and creation of Pakistan]. They lost everything. Mahmudabad
had kept part of his estate, but it was nothing like before.
Q: So why did they fight for the creation
A: My own interpretation was that it was largely the civil servants
of UP, who saw no future [in a united India], for then their numbers
would have been reduced to their actual percentage in the population,
whatever it was. The weightage they had enjoyed through the Fazli
Hussain reforms was to be lost to them, so they were very aggressively
promoting Pakistan and most of them came to Pakistan at the time
Q: Let us go back to the businessmen again.
Muslim businessmen - people like Haroon for instance supported the
Muslim League it seems pretty sincerely from early times - why?
What was in their interests as business people that they saw the
Muslim League giving them more of than say Congress?
A: Dealing with Congress probably made them feel that the Hindus
would never give them their due share. I will give you one example.
The Lahore Electric Supply Company was a private concern, managed
by a man called Rai Bahadur Sohan Lal, who was the descendant of
the owner of a printing firm. There were two very large printing
firms in Lahore. One was Ghulab Singh's, and Sohan Lal was the grandson
of Ghulab Singh who started the firm. The other one was [owned by]
Attar Chand Kapur, who was also Hindu. Rai Bahadur Sohan Lal was
a Member of the Punjab Assembly, which is why I knew him well. I
got a man, a Muslim, recruited in the Lahore Electric Supply Company,
and you will be surprised to hear that he was the only Muslim clerk
there. Perhaps there were a few coolies, taking ladders and doing
artisan work, but even then at the clerk level there was only one
Muslim although Lahore had a majority population of Muslims. This
gives you an idea.
When I started an industry in Bahawalpur State, we were the first
pioneers to set up a textile mill in Rahimyar Khan. I brought Lever
Brothers to Rahimyar Khan. At that time there was no industry which
belonged to the Muslims [in this area], we were the first.
When the Congress became very dominant through the elections [of
1937], Muslims felt that they were nowhere. The Quaid's [Mohammed
Ali Jinnah's Muslim League] position was very weak in Muslim majority
provinces, he had his base in the minority Muslim provinces like
UP, or Central Provinces, or Bombay. So we went to Lucknow, where
the Jinnah Sikander pact was signed, an agreement where we all [Muslim
Unionist members from the Punjab] became members of the Muslim League
[on the all-India level].
Q: Why did Sikander compromise then?
He felt that eventually there would be some kind of set up at the
center, ultimately. If in the center the Muslims had no one to represent
them - Jinnah was an all-India leader, whereas Sikander was only
a provincial leader - he wanted the all-India position of the Muslims
to be safeguarded and the only person who could do that was the