Jinnah, Jaswant & Jihad.

Jaswant flu has pushed the swine flu out of media’s focus. Probably it is because of fatigue with staleness of news story or easing of panic with realization that there is life post swine flu after all. I have not read his book. From news paper articles & reports it appears he has revisited the points & issues that others have raised & commented before him. However, our political class is uncomfortable in dealing with truth. They seek comfort in embracing & perpetuating fiction. The fiction seeks to white wash Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Azad… and vilifies Jinnah & gang. What is of interest is the cacophony that has resulted after the expulsion of Jaswant Singh from BJP?

Narendra Modi led Gujarat government has proved to be consistent. He is damningly consistent in his intolerance. His government’s ludicrous stance while banning the book would have drawn guffaws had it not been for its sinister implications. His fabled intolerance has now turned even against a person who was his own kin just a while ago. Intolerance springs from staunch beliefs that would not brook even dalliance with truth & evidence. The ban is sinister for two reasons. It is audacious & it has been imposed without application of mind. This vacuous audacity has to be feared & condemned when displayed by people in positions of power. That this ban flies in the face of the law of the land is of no concern to Modi.

Was Jinnah Secular? There seems to be confusion between not living by the tenets of some religion & being secular. Jinnah consumed pork & drank liquor. This is proscribed in Islam. Does it make him secular? But he insisted upon his love Ruttie, daughter of Dinshaw Petit, converting to Islam before marrying her. Does that make him religious? Prior to 1931, when Jinnah left for London with a view of permanently settling there, he was a staunch nationalist according to eminent Jurist M C Chagla, who had close association with Jinnah for a long time. But upon his return, instead of once again embracing a nationalist agenda & working for Hindu-Muslim unity, he began propounding two nation theory & a separate homeland for Muslims. Chagla says his cleavage with Jinnah was complete when he found he had turned rabid communalist. The point here is not if Jinnah internally was consumed by communal ideology or not. The crux is whether he was willing to use patently communal ideas to further his own politics. It is not his beliefs, but his actions that determine the character of the public space he occupied in latter years. A deeply religious person that Gandhi was, nobody will claim he was communal whatever may be other faults that he may have had. Jinnah on the other hand was lead astray by his overarching ambition to opportunistically even sacrifice his secular outlook to expediency. Communalism was not an article of faith, but a self serving instrument of power in his hands. If that doesn’t make him communal, then I wonder who is communal.

One meaning of Jihad in Islam, some hold the only meaning, is person’s striving for spiritual self perfection. It is in this spirit of Jihad that Indians as well as Pakistanis & Bangladeshis need to revisit the history of partition. For politicians & in popular imagination it is shrouded in comforting dogmas & myths. A simple rendering of this popular imagination was given in an article by Meghnad Desai. It reads : “I was told the story—Gandhi, Nehru and Patel fought hard for India’s freedom; the fiendish British divided and ruled; Jinnah was a stooge of the British and full of venom if not envy and hatred; he divided India single-handedly“. I can vouch for the veracity of this rendering. That is because I too learnt the same myth from my history textbooks. I am sure if one were to read a textbook from Pakistan, then one would find an equally simplistic myth there too – albeit with necessary mutations. There is no dearth of material surrounding the partition available for study. Even after 62 years such a study is important. It is important because it still rankles our people. It is required to set the record straight. Various acts of omissions & commissions of various leaders that precipitated directly or indirectly the partition need to be brought out into open. These should become part of public memory & imagination. If that happens, then one would have to admit Jaswant saga had a point after all.

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