Jaswant’s Jinnah demonizes Nehru
After Lal Krishna Advani, we now have Jaswant Singh eulogizing Jinnah. I had agreed with Advani that the man who founded Pakistan was by choice a secularist whose politics turned communal. But I have problems coming to terms with Jaswant’s perspective released in the form of a full-fledged book. I wonder whether his project is aimed at denigrating Pandit Nehru or giving Jinnah his rightful place as a secularist who (for whatever reasons) went haywire to recognize — after the Partition — the limitations of the divisive philosophy that created Pakistan.
The issue isn’t coming under discussion for the first time. American historian Stanley Wolpert’s analysis of Jinnah’s secular pitch in his August 11, 1947 speech makes a lot more sense. In his book Jinnah of Pakistan, he found the speech rooted in the realization that while a country can be secured on the philosophy of hate, it cannot be run on the philosophy of hate.
Wolpert sounds credible also because Jinnah’s life can be divided into chapters some of which (including the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Muslim League and the Congress that made Sarojini Naidu call him the Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity) were at variance with the way it climaxed. One can safely argue that Jinnah had a modern mind that wasn’t communal by instinct. Advani therefore was right when he reminded his Pakistani hosts during a visit to that country that today’s Pakistan was antithetical to the vision of their Quaid-e-Azam.
In comparison, Singh, an influential BJP leader who lacks Advani’s stature, has ventured to present the anatomy of the sub-continent’s bloody partition. He argues that Nehru opposed a federal India (that had Gandhi and Jinnah’s support) until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.
In a democracy, there is space for individuals to air views that could be unpalatable to others. But should Singh have demonized Nehru to give Jinnah a belated image makeover? I’ve always held that Indians and Pakistanis need to revisit each other’s national heroes for a more informed view of their role in the freedom movement. But I am not sure whether Singh’s Jinnah will be acceptable to a wider Indian audience especially when he makes him look fairer by painting Nehru black.
The book may even be dismissed as a pamphlet authored by a member of a political parivar that made a living out of berating Jinnah and and alienating Indian Muslims in their own country.