Jinnah or Nehru: who was the villain?
by C. I. Issac on 05 Sep 2009 13 Comments

The recent biography of Jinnah by Jaswant Singh has ignited a heated controversy. In the light of the new exposition, the names of Jinnah and Nehru are being debated widely in Indian elite circles. These were very scarcely debated in the days of our freedom and ensuing years. The main reason for this was the carnage following the vivisection of ‘Mother India.’ Then India had no time to think about or to make a pros and cons analysis of the situation.

Within a short time, Jinnah dream was reduced to that of the proverbial milkmaid. Four wars between India and Pakistan and the subsequent development of cross-border terrorism, rise of American interest in the sub-continent, growing arms-race, etc., all changed the course of the history of this archipelago. Sri Aurobindo’s prophecy that the division would ‘not last long’ was not discussed properly. In the deluge of time, the space for intellectual debate was shrunk due to non-availability of documents. Many documents were either ignored or destroyed deliberately to keep the vested interests of the Nehruvian dynasty; the missing documents are numerous.

These include documents pertaining to the dual relations of leaders like Motilal Nehru with the Empire; the exit of Nariman from politics; the British assessment of Nehru, etc. The caucus around the ‘Nehru dynasty’ concentrated only on getting their space in the corridors of power. Those who enjoyed immense political influence and its bits and pieces through the Interim Government were not much bothered about the need for an un-divided India. Hence,  in the days subsequent to the dawn of freedom there was no time to debate the role of Jinnah and Nehru.

The history of the Partition of India is essentially the story of two power-mongers - Jinnah and Nehru. Who will be seated at the apex of sovereign India, whether divided or undivided, was the question to be sorted out between them.

Motilal Nehru, through his access to Gandhi and the Congress, aimed to ‘make the way straight’ for his son, Jawaharlal, to the prime minister-ship of future India. He was one of the wealthy leaders of then Indian National Congress (INC). Since 1909, he was at the zenith of his legal profession by gaining approval to appear in the Privy Council of Great Britain. Therefore he had good relations with British officialdom in his capacity as a prominent lawyer of the Allahabad High Court, and opposition leader of the Central Assembly as well as leadership of the Indian National Congress leadership.

Michael Breecher remarks, “he was a complete man with many-sided interests” (Nehru: A Political Biography, p 39). The entry of Motilal’s glamorous and foreign-educated son, Jawaharlal, into politics in 1916 was the beginning of the most powerful Indian political dynasty. When Motilal Nehru handed over the Congress president-ship to his son in 1929, it was with the blessing and the backing of Gandhiji. It greatly pleased Motilal and Nehru family and admirers to see the son takeover from his father. No leader of India was gifted such a walkover in the history of our nation in modern times.

The elevation of Jawaharlal to the president-ship of the INC with the blessings of Gandhi provoked Jinnah, who was then very close to him.

Motilal imparted the basic lessons of ‘white-collar’ national movement to his son and did not appreciate the son’s obsessive nationalism. Anyone who looks at Jawaharlal’s criticism of Motilal’s 1928 report, the Nehru Report, can see a game of hide and seek therein. All these aimed to make a marking position for his son in the future India. A similar game was later played by father and daughter to ensure the persistence of the Nehru dynasty at Indraprastha. Anyhow, the Nehru family became the weakness of Gandhi, who noted the death of Motilal as “should be the envy of every patriot.”

No doubt Gandhi was a nishkama karmi (man of disinterested action) of high order; a religious Hindu who stood for a secular state. Correspondingly, he was a firm believer in the Gita. He strictly pursued the message of Chapter II Verse 47, “let not the fruit of action be thy motive”. Krishna prohibits Arjuna from desiring the spontaneous/innate fruits of his actions.

But Gandhi moved further and sacrificed the intrinsic fruits of his action, that is, the political leadership of India. His stance on the leadership of free India was contrary to the universal practice of ‘leader of the revolution to be the leader of the new order.’ Instead of assuming the political leadership of free India, he gave it to Nehru, the ‘noblest blunder’ in Indian history. This may be one of the prime reasons for the inevitable vivisection of ‘Mother India.’

Jinnah was the only staunch Congressman with spine, who opposed the move to share the Khilafat platform. For many years he was an antagonist of the Muslim League. In the 1910 Allahabad session of the Congress, he moved a resolution condemning the system of communal representation offered through the Govt. of India Act 1909. A few months before the death of Sir Mohammad Iqbal, he commented to Nehru that ‘Jinnah is politician’ (Discovery of India, p 355).

Jinnah left the Congress not because of the Hindu-Muslim question. Nehru certifies that it was because his idea of politics was of a superior variety (Ibid p 365). While Jinnah was giving evidence before the Joint Select Committee appointed by Parliament to examine the Govt. of India Reform Bills 1919, he unequivocally stated that ‘the Hindu-Muslim riots are instigated by the police.’ To substantiate his contention, he cited the examples of the riot-free princely states of India.

The 1920 Nagpur Congress finally voted for Khilafat-Non Cooperation wedlock. It was during this session that Jinnah left the INC. He retired from Indian politics and from India, and settled down in England. After the long stay there (1920-28), he returned to India and migrated to the new political space, the Muslim League.

This change of political complexion was gradual and he took more than a decade to identify himself with the Muslim League. Subsequently, he put forward his historic ‘fourteen points’ through which he registered the demand for a federal system of government, contrary to the Nehruvian dream, and simultaneously found space in the document to extend solidarity with Muslim politics. Gandhi was not against his federal concept. As an opportunist, Jinnah was able to strengthen his domain in the new haven through the novel gimmick of ‘fourteen points.’

The absence of Jinnah geared up Nehru as undisputed leader of the INC. All other leaders of the then contemporary politics found solace in Nehru and played second fiddle. Said Nehru, “Mr. M.A. Jinnah himself was more advanced than most of his colleagues of the Moslem League. Indeed he stood head and shoulders above them and had therefore become the indispensable leader” (Ibid p 394). But Jinnah dreamed of the efflorescence of democracy and federalism in Pakistan.

Keith Callard observes, “The background of the men who organized the campaign - for Pakistan - was not theology and Islamic law but politics and common law, not Deoband but Cambridge and the Inns of Court. Mr. Jinnah and his lieutenants such as Liaquat Ali won Pakistan largely in spite of the men of religion. They led a secular campaign to create a state based on a religion” (Pakistan, A Political Study, London, 1954, p 200).

The leaders of Muslim politics of the day were well aware of the designs of Jinnah. But their main concern was the end, not the means. His second wife was a Parsee; for most of his life he seldom kept a fast during the month of Ramzan; openly drank liquor and ate pork that is forbidden by Islam; etc; all highlights his communal credentials may be fake or ironic.

“…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State” (Jamil-ud-Din Ahmed, (ed.), Speeches and Writings of Jinnah, Vol. II. Lahore, 1964)

This historic address in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947 is sufficient testimony to the dubious proposition of his two-nation theory. His dreamland was not to survive because of the wrong option of Islam as a means to cherish him in the annals of history as ‘father of a nation’. Even though Jinnah was not a committed Muslim, he was sometimes well aware of the indigestibility of democracy to Islam. Hence between the devil and the deep sea, his option of devil may be the result of the psychosis he suffered. One cannot blame him for this choice, because he was a power-monger.

In the absence of Jinnah, opportunism gained momentum in the Congress. In the 1935 Provincial Assembly elections, the INC under the leadership of Nariman got a thumbing majority in the Bombay Presidency. Nariman’s candidature as CM was genuine. Sardar Patel and his equals could not stomach a Parsee as CM of Bombay. Patel and his colleagues “could not reconcile themselves to such a position and felt that it would be unfair to the Hindu supporters of the Congress to deprive them of this honour” (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, p 16).

Thus B.G. Kher was made CM. Nariman was heart-broken and his public life came to an end. Nehru was then the president of INC. But to Nehru, for the realization of his goal, Patel’s friendship was essential.

A like situation developed in Bihar also. Here Dr. Rajendra Prasad played the game. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad evaluates that, “the Congress did not live up to its professed ideals” (ibid p18). No doubt, inside the Congress certain venomous developments evolved. The first victim may have been Jinnah; others were subsequent additions. But behind the charisma of Gandhi, all these stains were not noticed by the rest of the world. One cannot acquit the conclave evolved under Nehru behind the magnetism of Gandhian era. Really the rudiments of communalism were inherent in the propositions of the INC.     

Much water has flown under the bridge after the stepping-down of Jinnah from the INC. The elevation of Nehru as undisputed steward of the INC in the absence of competent personalities made a U-turn in our history. Gandhi stood for an un-divided India, an end for which he was ready to go to any extent. Patel’s craze for power was an important reason for the failure of the interim government. “Patel who was in his anxiety to retain the Home portfolio offered Finance to Muslim League - Liaquat Ali (ibid p 197). This was a foolish action and as a result the hands of Congress Ministers were tied.

“Lord Mountbatten took full advantage of the situation” (ibid). The British were waiting to punish the INC for its anti-War stand. Sri Aurobindo and other visionaries and creative thinkers of the day disapproved the anti-War stand of the INC and termed the decision unripe and shallow. They were well aware of the future consequences of this unripe decision. Thus an opportunity fell in British hands and they successfully utilized it.

Consequently Patel became instrumental in deciding the destiny of India. He was the first man to fall into Mountbatten’s trap. Before the arrival of Mountbatten, Patel was mentally prepared to accept vivisection as a fact. “Sardar Patel was fifty percent in favour of partition even before Lord Mountbatten appeared on the scene” (ibid). Thus he became the first prey to Mountbatten.

Another villain of vivisection was Krishna Menon, the weakness of Nehru (ibid p 198-9). Menon, Patel, and other power-crazy elements in the INC, along with Mountbatten and family, transformed Nehru from acquiescence to the idea of partition to a supporter.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad said, “Now a situation had arisen where we were becoming greater supporters of partition than Jinnah. I warned Jawaharlal that history would never forgive us if we agreed to partition. The verdict would be that India was divided not by the Muslim League but by Congress” (ibid p 202).

Let us examine the situation in the light of Maulana Azad’s confession. Gandhi strove to avoid a disaster - the vivisection. He suggested ‘let Jinnah to form government with ministers of his choice’. Gandhi was well aware of his health; he was confident that the office of prime minister will become vacant in a couple of years. But this was vehemently opposed by Nehru and Patel. “In fact they forced Gandhiji to withdraw the suggestion” (ibid pp 203, 204).

Patel became dear to Indians through his bold diplomatic exercise of integration of princely states in the Indian union. His craze for power was not a secret since the days of the interim government. His only priority in this critical hour was the earliest transfer of power. That is why he insisted with others for this ‘hedonism’. One cannot refute the responsibility of Patel in the security lapse and subsequent assassination of Gandhi. In this milieu, who can prosecute Jinnah alone for the sin of vivisection of ‘Mother India’?

In the light of the above, who can blame Jinnah, who can praise Patel and Nehru? In order to save the face of some, several documents were suppressed or destroyed. The records relating to the disappearance of Subhash Chandra Bose are still shrouded in mystery. Who is still frightened of the soul of Subhash? Who made Kashmir an ulcer of India? What was the intention behind giving special constitutional status to Kashmir? Why does the Congress party remain constantly under the wings of the Nehru dynasty?

These are questions Time must answer. The contributory responsibility of three opportunists-cum-democrats is very clear. The present debate, even though it is late, does not end with these few questions. 

The author is a retired Professor of History, and lives in Trivandrum

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