Mumbai's Jinnah Hall Trust
As India is plunged into an acrimonious
debate on Mohammad Ali Jinnah's secular credentials,
a trust in Mumbai named after the founder of Pakistan
is busy helping poor students of all creeds.
Welcome to the Jinnah Hall Trust.
Sitting in his small cubicle at The People's Jinnah
Hall at Grant Road in south Mumbai, Nayan Yagnik,
a trustee of the Jinnah Hall Trust, does not want
to comment on whether Bharatiya Janata Party chief
Lal Kishenchand Advani was right when he praised
Jinnah's secular credentials recently in Pakistan.
He does not comment either on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh's attack on Advani. He has no views on the
RSS' Akhand Bharat Theory -- a line of thinking
that seeks to reverse bloody Partition.
Yagnik is thinking of the days ahead. He has his
job cut out. A new educational year is staring him
in the face. What it means for him is a flood of
applications for scholarships. The applications
will have to be screened and deserving students
would have to be awarded assistance. Deserving students,
mind you -- not deserving Hindu students, not deserving
Muslim students, not deserving Christian students.
The Jinnah Hall Trust, as the name suggests, also
controls a community hall that is let out for cultural
and family functions for a small price. It is let
out to political parties too and parties of all
hues, including the Shiv Sena and BJP, have used
the hall. Though the trust calls it The People's
Jinnah Hall, political parties refer to it as just
The People's Hall on the invitation cards.
Attempts were made by the Sena and BJP to pressure
trustees to rename the trust. Yagnik, a Gujarati,
and other trustees, none of them a Muslim, refused.
How this hall got its name is an interesting story.
It was 1918. Lord Willingdon was relinquishing the
governorship of Bombay province and a meeting was
convened to appreciate his services. Jinnah did
not approve of the idea and decided to organize
a protest. He along with his wife Ratanbai and a
large number of protestors were forcibly removed
by the police. The episode made Jinnah a hero and
within a few days his admirers, mostly Congress
workers, contributed Rs 30,000 in his honor.
The amount was presented to him at a felicitation
ceremony at a small hall at Congress House. However,
Jinnah, one of the most successful barristers in
the city, returned the money.
The Congressmen then named the hall after him and
set up a trust with the Rs 30,000. It was called
the Jinnah Hall Trust.
Yagnik says it is a small trust with annual earnings
of less than Rs 100,000. Nobody from Jinnah's family
has ever been involved in the trust though Nusli
Wadia, Jinnah's grandson and chairman of the Bombay
Dyeing group, lives in Mumbai.
"Sometime ago the Pakistan government had wanted
to set up their temporary visa office here, but
we said no. We don't want to make it a diplomatic
or political issue," Yagnik said.