Jinnah: Jaswant Singh’s and Ours
by Virendra Parekh on 03 Sep 2009 4 Comments

That Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah is selling like hot cakes in Pakistan should bring him no cheer. The Pakistanis have no use for his scholarship, such as it is. That a BJP politician, a proud Rajput to the fingertips, with an army background to boot, sticks his neck out in favour of Jinnah is enough for them. A great propaganda advantage is handed to them on a platter. What more can they ask for?

That is the first lesson. Beware when the enemy gives you certificates of fairness, scholarship, courage or statesmanship. They only show that you have done him a favour.

The second lesson is as elementary. In assessing a public figure, never lose sight of his motivation and also the consequences of his actions on others.

Jaswant Singh’s graceless expulsion from the BJP has somewhat sidelined the important issues he has raised in his latest book, “Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence.” He has made three observations in the book and in a subsequent interview to a TV channel that merit closer attention.

Jaswant Singh asserts that Jinnah was not the demon he is made out to be in India. His problem was with the Congress, not Hindus. Personally, he was neither communal nor anti-national. He was demonised because India after Partition needed to create a demon.

Now there is a duality both in Jinnah’s career and in his personality. Personally, he was a highly educated thoroughly westernized gentleman who enjoyed his sundowner, ate pork, rarely entered a mosque, and was more fluent in English than in his mother tongue, Gujarati, not to mention Urdu or Bengali. 

There is no doubt that in the first part of his career (1905-1932) he was broadly secular, patriotic and worked hard for Hindu-Muslim unity. He did not join the Aga Khan-led delegation that met Viceroy Minto on October 1, 1906 and sought special privileges for Muslim Indians, such as reservation in the Army and separate electorates. He joined Congress long before joining the Muslim League, and even when he joined Muslim League, he issued a statement to say this in no way implied “even the shadow of disloyalty to the national cause.”

Jinnah brokered the famous Lucknow Pact in 1916 and was hailed as the Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. In 1917, he opposed Viceroy Chelmsford’s proposal to send Indian troops to Europe to fight against Germany in the First World War, saying that Indians could not die for a British cause. Gandhi supported the Viceroy’s proposal.

Jinnah was opposed to the Khilafat agitation and bitterly criticized Gandhi for yoking the freedom movement to it. He initially dismissed the idea of Pakistan as a ‘student’s dream.’ He left Congress in 1920 ostensibly because he did not believe in mixing religion with politics or in working up mass hysteria.
However, after 1936, he did both these things most effectively. Though he was not a religious man in the traditional sense, he used Islamic separatism and Muslim gangsterism with devastating effect. His role in unleashing the barbaric “Direct Action”, non-interference with the pogrom in Noakhali, and abetment of the brutal massacre of Hindus and Sikhs and forced nikah and conversion of their women in Pakistan and the merciless armed attack in Kashmir in late 1947 are well known.

The question is: which Jinnah should we remember? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Obviously, the latter, because it is that Jinnah who is venerated in Pakistan, it is that Jinnah whose legacy we Indians have to live with.

Jaswant Singh misses or deliberately ignores this point. Hence the outrage against him is justified.

Jinnah spotted and exploited two weaknesses of Hindu leaders represented by Congress. First, in any given situation, the Congress leaders thought that the onus, the burden, the responsibility was on them to find a solution, to craft a proposal that would satisfy Jinnah. So Jinnah went on refusing to be pleased till he got what he wanted. Secondly, Congress leaders had no stomach for planned and organized violence on a large scale. The idea of Direct Action by Hindus to check depredations wrought by the Muslim League did not even occur to them.

Pakistan too has been consistent in exploiting these weaknesses. At least in this respect, it has not strayed from the path laid down for it by the Quaid-e-Azam.

Jaswant Singh has sought to trace the transformation of the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” into the Quaid-e-Azam. His formulation is that Jinnah was not actually seeking Pakistan, but a certain ‘space’ for Muslims which the Congress, more specifically Jawaharlal Nehru, was adamant on denying. Thus, Jinnah was ‘forced’ to seek Partition. If only Congress could have accepted a decentralised federal India, then a united India “was clearly ours to attain.” Since this was “an anathema to Nehru’s centralising approach and policies,” Nehru was at least as responsible for Partition as Jinnah.

Nothing could be further from truth. Whatever else one may accuse Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders of, they could not be said to be indifferent to Muslims’ interests. Right from its inception, Congress attached great importance to Muslim support and their participation in its activities. Hindu-Muslim unity was one of the pillars of Gandhi’s Constructive Programme. As Aurobindo remarked perceptively, they made a fetish of Hindu-Muslim unity.

Their efforts failed because they failed to understand the true nature of Muslim separatism. The British, of course, played a mischievous role and the Communists provided the Muslim League with all the intellectual arguments it needed to press for Partition. But they did not create it. The real culprit was the Muslim psyche, which lived in the ‘glorious’ past when the Islamic sword ruled India. The prospect of living as equals with kafirs in independent India was unacceptable to Muslims.
Just read what Janab R.M. Sayani said in his Presidential Address at the 12th Session of the Indian National Congress in 1896. Speaking of Muslim psychology, he said, “Before the advent of the British in India, the Musalmans were the rulers of the country. The Musalmans had therefore all the advantages appertaining to it as the ruling class. The sovereigns and the chiefs were their co-religionists and so were the great landlords and great officials. The court language was their own. Every place of trust and responsibility, or carrying influence and high emoluments was by birthright theirs. The Hindus did occupy some position but the Hindus were tenants-at-will of the Musalmans. The Hindus stood in awe of them. Enjoyment and influence and all good things of the world were theirs. By a stroke of misfortune, the Musalmans had to abdicate their position and descend to the level of their Hindu fellow-countrymen. The Hindus, from a subservient state, came into land, offices and other worldly advantages of their former masters. The Musalmans would have nothing to do with anything in which they might have to come into contact with the Hindus.” (History and Culture of the Indian People, edited by R.C. Majumdar, Volume XI, The Struggle for Freedom, Bombay, 1981, pp. 296-97.)

Notice that this was said long before Gandhi, Jinnah or Nehru appeared on the national scene. This psyche was the real basis of Partition. This is the real reason why Muslims rejected a deeply religious scholar like Maulana Azad and fell for Jinnah, a leader without any mass following till the 1930s, when he started articulating their separatist demands.

Loss of privileges as the ruling class is portrayed as privation. Abhorrence of equality with fellow citizens is justified as “fear of majoritarianism.” There can be no political solution to this psychological problem. 

Jaswant Singh shows some appreciation of this, but offers no real solution. He said in an interview that “with the loss of the Mughal empire, the Muslims of India had lost power but majoritarianism didn’t begin to influence them until 1937. Then they saw that unless they had a voice in their own political, economical and social destiny, they would be obliterated.”

Still he thinks that Muslims needed “certain assurances within the system to give them that space.” And then comes the contradiction: “And those assurances amounted to reservation, which I dispute frankly. Reservations went from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. And then from reservation that became parity, of being on equal terms. Parity to partition.”

Yet, astoundingly, Jaswant Singh recommends the same approach even for post-Partition India. He writes that Indian Muslims who stayed on in India and did not go to Pakistan are “abandoned”, they are “bereft of a sense of kinship”, not “one with the entirety” and that “this robs them of the essence of psychological security”.

We are too familiar with this litany of woes. Normal Hindus would refuse to believe that those Muslims who did not go to Pakistan have done them a favour. There is no reason why they should be burdened with the responsibility of “winning the hearts and minds” of a perpetually sulking community, especially when experience shows that expectations of those ‘hearts and minds’ will go on increasing without end.

Unwittingly, Jaswant Singh has provided an advance justification for the next jihadi attack on India.

Finally, to revert to the key issue that Singh has sought to tackle: was Jinnah solely responsible for the Partition or were Congress leaders equally culpable? It is possible to agree with a quotation Singh has himself used, by late Mangat Rai, ICS (not Ram, as cited by Singh) who wrote that all sorts of people and their motivations, groups, powers and forces led to the process that resulted in Partition.

At the same time, it must be pointed out that no other leader pushed for Pakistan with as much ferocity, determination and single mindedness as Jinnah, and backed it with Direct Action. If an individual is to be given ‘credit’ for the creation of Pakistan, it can only be Jinnah.

The argument that he was forced to seek Pakistan by the obstinacy of Congress leaders is not convincing. Like Jinnah, Subhash Bose also had reason to be bitter about Gandhi and the Congress. Bose also left the Congress with a broken heart, yet he later charted a course that placed him in the forefront of patriots for all times to come. Compare what Netaji did for India to what Jinnah did to India, and you would know the difference between an illustrious son of the Mother Country and an unworthy offspring.

Partition could have been avoided if Hindus in undivided India had shown the clarity, determination and ability to proclaim the primacy of their civilization in the whole of Bharatvarsha and fought both the British and the residues of Islamic imperialism to regain their motherland. That they have not been able to do so even in post-Partition India speaks volumes about the enormity of that challenge.

The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top