But, AIR says it does not have a recording of his famous August 11, 1947 address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly

India will hand over copies of two speech-recordings of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Pakistan, but says it does not have a recording of his famous August 11, 1947 address to the country’s Constituent Assembly (CA).

The decision comes in response to a request by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and after a year-long battle by Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal to access the recordings.

On March 29, 2012, the-then PBC Director General Murtaza Solangi wrote to the All India Radio (AIR) Director General Leeladhar Mandloi requesting him to provide a copy of Mr. Jinnah’s first presidential address to the CA in Karachi.

Mr. Solangi noted that he was told during his visit to the AIR in November 2011 that the speech was in the archives. In that speech, Mr. Jinnah had spoken of his vision of Pakistan as a state with equal citizens, irrespective of community, colour, caste and creed, and said people were free to go to their places of worship.

But AIR said that while it did not have a copy of that particular speech, it had two other recordings “We will hand over the copies of the recordings to Pakistan at the earliest. We have got clearances from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B),” Mr Mandloi told The Hindu.

In one speech, delivered to Pakistan’s CA, Mr. Jinnah said it would be their constant effort to work for the welfare and well-being of “all the communities in Pakistan.” Stating that the “tolerance and goodwill” shown by Emperor Akbar was “not of recent origin,” he said that “13 centuries ago … our Prophet not only by words but deeds treated the Jews and Christians handsomely after he conquered them.”

Mr. Jinnah added that the “whole history of Muslims where they ruled is replete with those humane and great principles” and should be “followed and practised by us.” The message of Pakistan’s founding father assumes contemporary political relevance at a time of attacks on minorities in Pakistan.

The second speech is a direct address by Mr. Jinnah on June 3, 1947, right after the Transfer of Power plan was announced, discussing its implications and appealing to all to maintain “peace and order.”

In June last year, The Hindu reported details of PBC’s request to AIR. Mr. Agrawal attached the news clipping to file an application with AIR, seeking recording of the speech and other related information. He was initially told that recordings were being searched for and would take time, while it was later conveyed that these were under exemption provisions and could not be disclosed. AIR also referred the matter to the I&B Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Mr. Agrawal then appealed to the Central Information Commission, which issued an important order in June this year, stating it would be “regressive” for any public authority to “take the stand that everything related to Pakistan or the leaders who went over to Pakistan should be kept secret or confidential.” Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra added it was the “duty of the state” to make such records available freely to the public so that the “citizenry becomes informed and research scholars get valuable material.” He directed AIR to publish a list of all such recordings on their website, and said it was “high time” for authorities to take a final view on the Jinnah recordings and decide within two months.

The CIC order appears to have expedited the decision. On August 22, the I&B Ministry gave its clearance, paving the way for copies of the recording to be shared, and handed over to Pakistan.