An Unexpected Tribute to Jinnah
By Farhana Mohamed, PhD
Los Angeles , CA
Most Indians and Indian Diaspora are still uncomfortable with the partition of India in 1947 and hence bear deep-rooted acrimony towards the founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
For the last 62 years, Jinnah has been demonized by this strong lobby as they accuse him of orchestrating the partition of India and portray him as a man with deep-seated hatred for Hindus. For instance, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (Feature Film, 1982, partially funded by India) did its best to dwarf, marginalize, and humiliate Jinnah by depicting him in a ten-minute “villainous” role played by Alyque Padamsee.
Historically, it’s the hatred of supposedly impartial Lord Mountbatten (last controversial Viceroy of India) for Jinnah, which is quite alarming, “Mountbatten contributed to the slander against Jinnah, calling him vain, megalomaniacal, an evil genius, a lunatic, a psychotic case and a bastard while publicly claiming he was entirely impartial between Jinnah’s Pakistan and Nehru’s India. Jinnah rose magisterially above Mountbatten’s blatant bias, not even attacking the former Viceroy when, as Governor-General of India after partition, Mountbatten tacitly condoned India’s shameful invasion of Kashmir in October 1947.” (Andrew Roberts, Sunday Times, London, August 18, 1996).
As a vindication, the malice-based “pass-the-buck” accusation campaign against Jinnah has gained a strong unlikely opponent: Former Foreign and Finance Minister of India Jaswant Singh, Member of Parliament, and a stalwart of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). His book, “Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence (Rupa & Co, 2009),” is drawing a firestorm in India and among Indian supporters abroad. Prior to this, another strongman of BJP, L. K. Advani, had the guts to truthfully reiterate Jinnah as the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” in Karachi. Though Advani did not coin the term, yet as a punishment, he was removed as BJP Chief and four years later, on August 19, 2009, Jaswant Singh was also expelled from the party. This turns out to be a failed litmus test for the freedom of speech for the world’s largest democracy.
In a detailed two-part interview telecasted on CNN-IBN with Karan Thapar (noted Indian TV anchor and interviewer), Jaswant Singh reveals what Jinnah was really like as a result of his in-depth five-year research.
Jaswant Singh mentions that Jinnah was definitely not a “Hindu basher.” Actually, he was duly recognized for his relentless pursuit of nationalistic goals, in the first two decades of the 20 th century, with the title of “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity” by prominent Congress leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Jinnah, himself, repeatedly said that he harbored no hatred against the Hindus; however, he did not hesitate to express his strong dislike for the tactics of the Congress and, per Singh, “his principal disagreement was with Congress.”
Compared to Wolpert’s Jinnah of Pakistan, which is a thorough, meticulous but somewhat detached study on Jinnah by an academician, Jaswant Singh’s hefty book (per the publisher’s claim, the first analytical treatise on Jinnah by a politician) is a more passionate objective assessment by a prominent Hindu leader. Mr. Singh mentions methodically how Jinnah transformed from a fierce nationalist to the founder of a state with Muslim majority. He holds Congress and Nehru responsible for Jinnah’s change of mind, as they refused to give any share to the Muslim League in the provincial government in 1937, especially in UP, even “after fighting the elections in alliance with that party.” Similarly, in 1946, even though the Muslim League won all the Muslim seats, it was brushed aside by the Hindu-dominated Congress. This demonstrated the “Congress’s repeated inability to accept that Muslims feared domination by Hindus and they wanted space in a reassuring system.”
According to Singh (and also supported by other historians), initially, Jinnah was for a federated India where minorities, especially Muslims, will have space, but Nehru was under the influence of a “Western socialist thought” so “he believed in a highly centralized polity.” While Gandhi accepted the fact that only a federal polity would give Muslims their due share in government, Nehru “stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.” Nehru did realize his mistakes only after the partition. Overall, in his book and through post-interviews, Jaswant Singh, has made a courageous attempt to call “a spade a spade” by clearly acknowledging Jinnah’s greatness, and, basing on “ex-post facto 20/20 vision,” has tried to hold Jinnah and Nehru equally responsible for partition and considers it unfair to regard Jinnah as the “principal villain.”
Most Pakistanis do not agree that Jinnah should share any blame or even be partly demonized for partition of India; they also disagree with Singh’s conviction that Muslims “would have been significantly stronger in a united India.” Perhaps the Indian Muslims, to some extent, have “paid the price in their personal lives” but, unfortunately, it’s not the cause and effect of the phenomenon of partition. Muslims in pre-partition India were much worse off than in today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh - economically, educationally, socially, and politically. That was the singular reason why Jinnah and his Muslim League steadfastly stood against the might Congress and unsympathetic British rule to carve out a separate homeland with a Muslim majority.
Interestingly, while most Indian leaders have maligned Jinnah, most Pakistani leaders have expressed no acrimony against Gandhi or Nehru. When Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist, Nathuram Godse, Jinnah stated, “Muslims of India have lost a great friend.” (Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, Oxford University Press, 1984). Late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto wrote, “Millions had been swayed by the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah…” and, “My father (Z.A. Bhutto) also admired Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.” (Benazir Bhutto, Daughter of Destiny, Simon & Schuster, 1989).
In another example of a different Pakistani psyche: while Pakistan lost its East Wing due to its political leaders and army’s blatant mistakes of not providing proportional opportunities to their brethren in East, most Pakistanis have been more introspective and pragmatic in establishing improved relations with Bangladesh in a shorter span of time when compared to most of their Indian counterparts. Instead of moving on and striving for being on good terms with Pakistan, they myopically continue to find a villainous scapegoat in the form of Jinnah and penalize their own who speak out otherwise.