The author of “Jinnah” has recently visited Pakistan and continues to push himself as a “friend of Pakistan”. Full disclosure–this author is at the tail end of his and has reached 1947. His book by all counts is not vituperative vitriol that one would expect from a Bharati (aka Indian) author. Mr. Singh’s schizophrenia is evident in his narrative as well as his interviews–he eulogizes Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a Quaid-e-Azam of Bharat, a great leader–but he disagrees with everything that the Quaid stood for. Mr. Singh accepts the reality of Pakistan, but does not accept the ideological basis for its creation. Obviously Mr. Singh has come far in his thinking. He is one of the few Bharatis who is willing to accept the reality of Pakistan as a fait accompli, however this sort of de facto recognition is facile and superficial. Mr. Jaswant Singh’s trope is still steeped in the arcane notion that somehow deities have been involved in real estate and today’s boundaries should be ascertained by scripture. It is this sort of thinking that is responsible for the cancer in the Middle East, and it is this disease which prevents peace in South Asia.
It goes beyond boundaries. Those left behind in Bharat are ghettoized, and marginalized. The Indian Muslim face incessant pressure to assimilate, convert or leave. While intellectuals like Mr. Jaswant Singh can publicly proclaim that they ‘accept the legitimacy” of Pakistan–this is not a huge sacrifice. The British Act of Independence of 1947 already consecrates that de jure fact and Bharati recognition of Pakistan as a full fledged member of the United Nation sanctifies it.
This being said—Bharatis in general have a desire, and a goal to undo the events of 1947. There can be no peace unless Bharati historians move two steps forward–accepting the de facto and de jure recognition of Pakistan is not enough. Bharati intellectuals have to accept the basis of the creation of Pakistan. Unless and until that recognition permeates the air, water, and rocks of the length and breadth of Bharat–the land of the tri-color will continue to produce nothing but hatred, bigotry and racism.
Jaswant Singh while proclaiming that Indian Muslims are Indian Citizens cannot deny the fact that they face depravity of the worst kind in every aspect of their life. Here is what the Sacahr Report says:
The Muslim community exhibits deficits and deprivation in practically all dimensions of development. Mechanisms to ensure equity and equality of opportunity to bring about inclusion should be such that diversity is achieved and at the same time the perception of discrimination is eliminated. Creation of a National Data Bank (NDB).
Anjum Niaz has written a prodigious article on Jaswant Singh and what he says about Pakistan. The more we read about Jaswant Singh, the more we are convinced that the Bharat Pakistan divide is truly a reflection of two separate and distinct nations with their own thinking patterns. Never shall they meet.
Anjum Niaz is lucky that the journalist was able to interact with Mr. Singh. The description of the press conference gives us some nuggets of his thinking.
The last time I saw Jaswant Singh was in a small study at his New Delhi home. He sat behind a pile of books listening to Vivaldi. His eyes were of a discoverer thrashing through a jungle of overgrown foliage covered in fog. Before him lay his typed manuscript covered with handwritten corrections in red. Two years into his voyage, the author of Jinnah: India-Partition Independence had finally arrived at his destination. He was in Islamabad last week to describe that journey.
I missed interviewing Jaswant Singh. The Indian High Commission came between us. Many of his media interviews got cancelled because of commitments nobody had any control over. The launch of his book started an hour late because he was suddenly called to the presidency. The throng waiting to hear him was told to go get another cup of tea. When the launch was over, all rushed towards him. Then there were television crews shoving their cameras in his face asking him repeated questions. He looked exhausted. Finally his son came to his rescue.
“Why do you cover your head?” I ask Chitra Kumari, Jaswant’s daughter-in-law. She has a green chiffon sari on. “It’s our custom,” says the pleasant looking mother of two. “She began covering her head after marriage,” adds Manvendra Singh, Jaswant’s son. He wears a black Nehru jacket with a dapper red silk handkerchief dangling out. “How come the party that expelled your father because he praised Jinnah in his book has you in the central executive committee?” I ask Manvendra. He nods and with a smile (rather sweet) says, “I stopped talking about it to the media the day my father left BJP.”
I persist by quoting Jaswant who once told an interviewer: “The political parties that exist in the country are really functioning like private limited companies or family concerns… congress of course is purely and unashamedly a family concern and they don’t make any bones about it, but the same problems seem to have afflicted my former political party. It has become sycophantic, full of time-servers. These are not the ideals with which we began. The purpose of the party was the service of the nation.”
Earlier, Jaswant mentions his spat with L.K Advani over the latter’s “adverse remarks on the Quaid” plus the “BJP’s funding of RSS,” the militant Hindu nationalist party and the “Ayodhya incident.” He tells us that he “boycotted the BJP’s meetings whenever its ally, the Shiv Sena” headed by the right-wing extremist Bal Thackeray were present. “I’m eccentric and a maverick. Had I stayed on in the army, I would have been court martialled!”
However what impresses me is Jaswant’s son and his daughter-in-law’s low key presence. They don’t go around throwing their weight at the book launch as sons and daughters of our (rotten)VIPs do here. Humble, modest and subtly sophisticated is how the couple comes across.
During the Q and A session, Jaswant repeats his soft-spoken conviction: “The real renaissance of Islam would have taken place in undivided India if there had not been a partition.” He does not go into much detail, but here is one lead for our religious scholars/academics to follow and prove or disprove Jaswant’s contention. While such a topic can never lock in a conclusion due to the pluralistic viewpoints Hindus and Muslims hold on this sensitive subject, it does not hurt to open the forum. A Pakistani-American once said to me that Islam in its pure and unadulterated sense will descend on Pakistan one day. “It will come from outside; not from within Pakistan.”
Jaswant holds tight to his opinion on the futility of partition. “I don’t accept partition, but at the same time don’t reject it either. I don’t question the legitimacy of Pakistan, but I must know what caused partition.” He says that Muslims are not a separate nation. “What about Muslims living in India? They are an integral part of India.”
But he moves on swiftly to say, “We’re fated for peace. I’m committed to Hindu-Muslim unity as peace between India and Pakistan. Partition was the most traumatic event of the 20th century. As a member of parliament since 1952, I’ve been seized with this issue and have now written about it. If we don’t study our history, we’ll become the victims of revenge of geography. Was the partition of India fated or were we people sedated?”
Throwing a wager at the audience he asks: “How many members of Pakistan parliament have ever read or written about partition?” There was no answer from the audience.
“Were we fated to be separated?” he continues. He then takes the audience through the arc of history to arrive at his conclusion. “You don’t condemn a subcontinent because you are tired,” says Jaswant of the indecent haste in which the British quit India. “Nehru too was in a hurry because he too was tired. Do tired men carve out nations? Jinnah wasn’t impatient even though he knew his time on earth was ending. United India was broken hastily… great events are often accompanied by small events that leave behind issues that the coming generations have to pay for.”
We sit in pin drop silence listening to his powerful thesis delivered in an authoritatively mellifluous tone loud enough to thunder across the hall of over 1,000 initiated. He tells us how the young Nehru, “born with a silver spoon” was groomed by his father to enter politics, while Jinnah was a self-made man, who until he became a successful lawyer, would walk to his place of work and live in a shanty hotel in Bombay. Jinnah would say: “There’s a place at the top always; but you have to climb the stairs. There’s no lift”!
Jaswant’s book carries the vituperative comments made by Nehru to Gandhi on Jinnah. The author explains that Nehru developed a deep dislike for Jinnah. This is the raison d’etre for partition (read the book!). He makes another admission: “I’m deeply prejudiced against Mountbatten. He was a self-seeking and self-opinionated viceroy more interested in his genealogy than peaceful transfer of power.”
The man who wants to be remembered as an “ordinary human being; an Indian and a friend of Pakistan” leaves us with his final thought: “While partition can’t be undone but its consequence can be undone”! Jaswant Singh, 72, may or may not see his dream come true. Who knows? firstname.lastname@example.org