What is strange about this entire discussion is the way it has shaken the Indian psyche. Challenging the historiography of the events of 1947 is a difficult task. Many have tried it.
Rammanohar Lohia wrote a book titled “Guilty men of India’s partition” (Published by Kitabistan, 1960). However that earlier work was largely ignored by those who find it easier to be in the age old comfort zone–demonizing Jinnah, by corollary all Muslims and by extension Islam for all the problems that face Bharat today.Jaswan’t Singh has stirred literally typed up a storm (pun intended). The book, like all books will bring out the best and the worst. Some will use it to confirm their pre-existing bigoted notions. Others will let it be water off a ducks back. A few will change their mind. Based on the comments on our site, the Bharati psyche has been shaken but not stirred. Many of our Bharati readers still see Jinnah as a antagonists, and the Pakistani readers see him as an protagonist of 1947.
We of course do not agree with Singh’s lament about what he calls “partition”. We don’t think of 1947 a cataclysmic event. We think of it as a natural extension of the wranglings of the 570 states that were in existence in South Asia before the British arrived in South Asia in 1757. Many states of the Indus banded together to renew their pledge to continue to live together. The states on the Ganges were coerced or decided to live on the banks of the Ganges. The states on the Brahmaputra later decided to live independently on the banks of the Bay of Bengal.
Mohmmad Ali Jinnah did not create facts on the ground. The Muslim population rejected various other messages thrown at them, and conscripted Mohammad Ali Jinnah (After he resigned from the Indian National Congress and left for England) and brought him back. This was not mere accident of history. It was a complex mixture of divine providence, manifest destiny and the wishes of the Mussalmans of South Asia.
If Jinnah did not exist, the Muslims of South Asia would have created him. He was not imposed on the people. His plans were not artificts from his library. As a good attorney he represented the Muslims to the best of his ability–taking into consideration the wishes of the people of South Asia. After he was repeatedly elected by the Muslim League to represent the Muslims.
The Indian National Congress (INC) with all its machinery could not eliminate the Muslim League. The INC could manufacture consent by marketing a relatively unknown failed attorney from South Africa. The INC could bring in religious symbols to encourage the RSS into proposing the Ram Raj. But the INC could not eliminate Mohammad Ali Jinnah by drumming out the Muslims from the INC.
A decade ago a book by Delhi historian Ajit Javed celebrated Jinnah as a pragmatic man who wanted foremost to achieve security for Muslims in a new Indian federation. In 1989 a senior barrister from Mumbai, H.M. Seervai, authored a book, Partition of India: Legend and Reality, in which he portrayed Jinnah as a staunch secular leader, who really wanted to reach a credible accord with Congress for the equal status of Muslims in an independent India. A good 50 years ago another barrister, S.K. Mazumdar, published Gandhi and Jinnah, in which he argued that Jinnah was badly let down by the clueless Congress.
Even Gandhi’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, portrayed Jinnah in a very favourable light in his famous book Eight Lives: a Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter.
One of us was involved in the British television series End of Empire in the early 1980s, and interviewed political figures and key civil servants around Mountbatten, who stated that there was a realistic solution other than partition. It would not have been easy; high-level civil servants too were split along which way to go. But few, if any, believed partition was inevitable.
Winford Thomas, a BBC correspondent posted in Delhi at the time, said the fault lay principally with Nehru and Patel. Labour politician Woodrow Whyte spoke highly of Jinnah and said that the Congress made the gravest mistake when it failed to accommodate him. It is on record that Jinnah accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946 — which ultimately may have undermined his bargaining position with the Congress.
Just before independence Maulana Abul Kalam Azad wrote to Gandhi, pleading that Congress give maximum autonomy to the provinces. The subjects (such as finance, foreign affairs, defence) dealt with by the central government should be divided equally to create a reassuring sense of parity between Muslims and Hindus.
Azad argued that an increasingly insensitive Congress by then had lost Muslim sympathy and that it consequently needed to resort to strong and self-sacrificing measures to regain it. Gandhi, unfortunately, responded to Azad’s plea in a way that amounted to a snub.
Gandhi instructed Azad not to issue public statements on this delicate issue because at that moment, according to Gandhi, Azad’s radical proposals could not be entertained. Dawn. The partition game By Sayeed Hasan Khan & Kurt Jacobsen, Thursday, 03 Sep, 2009 | 09:03 AM PST |
In an interesting back and forth between Kapil Komireddi and Samar Abbas Kazmi we can see microcosm of the age old discussion that has been going on among the people of South Asia.
In his analysis of a new book about Jinnah, Kapil Komireddi accuses the author, Jaswant Singh, of “bowdlerising zealously” to rid Pakistan’s founder of the “blame of partition”. Yet Kapil’s account omits certain important facts relevant to any discussion of how the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” came to found one of the modern world’s only two states carved in the name of a religion (the other being Israel).
To suggest that the story of a man as complex as Jinnah can be told without omissions in the confines of an opinion piece would be unfair to the man and to the storyteller. Kapil errs not in that he makes omissions in the story but that he attempts to tell the story at all in such a confined space. As Kapil rightly points out, Jinnah was, by all accounts, a secular constitutionalist and staunch Indian nationalist for most of his career. The story of how he became the voice of the movement that sought British India’s division across religious lines is a complex early 20th century drama involving conflicting personalities and fractured identities set against the backdrop of a dying empire.
The leading characters in this drama – Nehru, Gandhi, Jinnah, Patel, Iqbal – are variously worshipped and demonised in modern India and Pakistan. Yet, they are all merely human, children of India’s first tryst with modernity, individuals trying to make sense of their own very different histories to conjure visions of their future, who, in doing so, happen to alter the history of the subcontinent forever.
- RSS bigotry, INC arrogance, Gandhi’s racism made Pakistan inevitable
- Pakistan was inevitable– its seeds had been sown many centuries earlier
- Muslim rule in “India”: Myth and reality
Their stories are rich and worthy of being told and retold, and for anyone interested in how modern India and Pakistan came to be, their relationships withone another are worth examining in detail. These are stories of evolving identities in which we find the Harrow and Cambridge educated Mr Nehru becoming Pandit Nehru; barrister Gandhi becoming Mahatma Gandhi; Sir Iqbal becoming Allama Iqbal; and, the most fascinating of them all, the provincial Mahomedali Jinnahbhai transforming into the Savile Row-fitted Mr MA Jinnah, before finally settling on the Persianic Quaid-e-Azam. These are splendid, complex, brilliant men, each guided by his own sense of self and nationhood, who come together to dismantle the British Raj, yet part ways when the end is in sight.
It is thus unfortunate that these fascinating individuals must always be seen through the prism of their greatest collective failure: the sequence of wholly avoidable events leading to the bloodbath of partition. And as events of great human tragedy often do, the story of partition has become a deeply divisive and political issue in modern India and Pakistan.
The two countries have evolved competing histories of the event and the persons responsible for it: India sees the creation of Pakistan as a result of machinations by Jinnah, his band of Muslim League cronies and the conniving, departing British; Pakistan imagines its birth as a result of a hard-fought historic struggle against the twin evils of British imperialism and Hindu majoritarianism.
It is in this wide chasm between two competing falsehoods that Singh finds his space. In Singh’s book a new Jinnah is born, a much more human Jinnah, neither the demon hated in India nor the hero worshipped in Pakistan: a self-made man in an era of princes and privilege, driven by ambition to the pinnacle of success, yet held back by circumstance; a person whose intransigence was fed by that of those he was up against; and one whose resolve eventually broke him and the India he had set out to free.
His argument, drawn from primary sources of the time, centres on the sense of insecurity bred in the psyche of Muslim leadership as a result of what they perceived to be gains of Hindus, as represented by the Congress, at their expense. The level to which these fears were real is, of course, open to debate among historians, but as Singh explains, this “minority syndrome” amongst Muslim leadership caused religion to become the field where battles over federalism, socialism, modernism, and Indian identity are fought between these highly complex personalities.
He is, of course, not the first to challenge the historiography of partition. As early as 1960, Ram Manohar Lohia, an active member of the nationalist movement, had published a book called Guilty Men of India’s Partition, which criticized Nehru and Patel’s acquiescence to partition. In her 1985 book The Sole Spokesman, Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal examined the last decade of British power in India and reached similar conclusions as Singh as to the causes of India’s partition.
Kapil is wrong to dismiss Singh’swork – he does an important job in straddling the important boundary between academic, polemical and popular histories and reaching a conclusion that challenges both prevailing national narratives. Needless to say, it helps that Singhis one of modern India’s most prominent individuals, and has the ability to generate a greater popular effect than the most erudite of academics: the fact that his book has been banned in Gujarat, while sad and reprehensible, speaks volume for the level of discomfort his narrative is causing to that of the Indian establishment’s. He may ultimately be wrong – the strengthof his evidence leads me to suspect he is more right than most existing accounts – but the very existence of his work should serve to kindle a long overdue soul-searching in both countries as to how we see ourselves, our leaders and each other. When it comes to the question of Jinnah, independence, India and partition, zealotry must give way to intelligent discourse if we are to ever exorcise the ghosts of partition. Jinnah: neither angel nor demonPakistan’s founder was a complex figure. A controversial new book rightly challenges zealous fictions about him.Samar Abbas Kazmi guardian.co.uk, Monday 31 August 2009 16.00 BST Article history
Almost every discussion of the events of 1947 quickly degenerates into brickbats being thrown on the personalities of the leaders of the INC and the Muslim League. The Bharati temple educated point of view does not accept Pakistan. Bangladesh is brought up as a point to denigrate the Pakistani ideology. The Bharati point of view goes as follows. Since there are problems in Pakistan, therefore there should be no Pakistan and it should be absorbed back into Bharat which should extend from Kabul to Raj Kalhani (mythical land east of Hindu Bali in Indonesia). The bankruptcy of this mystical behemoth state is based on the some weird interpretation of Hindu scripture which concocts up the hallucinating notion that Qandhar somehow was mentioned in the scripture. It is historical fact, testified by meticulous Greek and Afghan records that Qandhar/Kandhar is a corruption of the Sikandar/Alexander and representsone of the hundreds of the cities named after the Macedonian. The temple educated logic doesn’t end with the fabrication about Qandhar, it continues to try to represent Buddhist and Jainism as part f Hinduism. Of course the Jains and Buddhist around the world (Korea, China, Lanka, Tibet, Vietnam) do not consider themselves as Hindus–but Hinduism tries to assimilate them within its own fold. This is the reason that Buddhism was exterminated from the place of its brith. Hinduism first eliminated Buddhism in Kashmir and other places and then tried to absorb it into the Hindu dharma. All this is rejected by the Buddhists.
The irredentist fabrication of history in Bharat does not end with the effort to incorporate Buddhism. It tries then to reach back into the Indus Valley Civilization which was certainly not Hindu in any sense of the word. The Indus valley people did not worship any of the Hindu pantheon of Gods (Agni, Mithra, Arjun, Ganesh, Shiva Lingam, Hanuman, Ram, Sita etc.), they buried their dead, did not use the Hindu Sanskrit language in any of its forms, were voracious beef eaters, did not know the horse (so no Arjun, Sita, Ram, Hanuman), were an Urban society (unlike the Hindu scriptures Kauras, Pandas, Mahabharta etc which are based on a rural society), used a pictographic language (not known to the Hindus of the Ganges Valley), did not cremate their dead, and read right to left (rather than left to right). The incapacity of the temple educated Bharatis cannot comprehend the Indus man as the modern Pakistan.
Just because John Principas concocted Ashoka as a composite figure, it doesn’t mean that he really existed. There are no records of “Ashoka” in any other text before 1837. Did Ashoka exist? Did Pandit Radhakantta create him for James Princep in 1837
In short, if Jinnah did not exist, the Muslims would have drafted another Muslim to represent them to create Pakistan.