Thursday, August 20, 2009

Excerpt from the Book: Jinnah - India - Partition - Independence : Mumbai Mirror

Excerpt  from the book:

Jinnah hated the Congress, not Hindus or Hinduism
... why Partition and how are 'Muslims a separate nation'? Unarguably, all this had started just over a hundred years ago, (Simla delegation, 1906), with separate electorates but it is on this narrow foundation had finally got built the assertion of separate 'nationhood' on which Mohammed Ali Jinnah had achieved that near impossible, of willing into being what he enunciated: 'Muslims are a separate nation'. That 'nation' came into existence on 14 August 1947. That controversial call through a persistent repetition of which Jinnah succeeded in carving out a separate land, how do we now, expost facto assess it? Did the birth of Pakistan conclusively prove Jinnah's thesis? Or was there actually a rejection of this thesis in the emergence of Bangladesh? This, and other similar ones are rather worrying questions. Did Jinnah's death empty the core of this idea? Also, this concept, propounded by Jinnah and the path on which he had set his creation - Pakistan - does the reality of it tally with those early fundamentals? With the coming into being of Pakistan did Jinnah's journey end? Or is the past of this idea actually a forerunner of our future?
    Towards the end (1940-47) Jinnah was both a self-avowed and the actual political leader of almost the entire Muslim community of undivided India. He had started his political life as an early champion of Hindu-Muslim unity, along with the total commitment to the cause of freedom from the British. During that period he stood unambiguously for a united India; yet when he sought a Muslim 'nation', that was through partition, a division, and only in terms of a separation from India, whether internal or external, but as a separate entity. M.R.A. Baig, for some years Jinnah's secretary, has written in Jinnah: 'Islam, as such, came very little into his thinking, and if asked how a mere belief in a common faith', by people of essentially the same ethnic stock could make a nation, he always gave the example of 'Americans [having proven] that nationalism was purely subjective. If the Muslims thought themselves a nation, [well then] they were a nation, and that was all there was to it'. This was not just a lawyer's argument, it was Jinnah's assertion of his belief in the 'power of faith, which he held to be the foundation of nationhood'. Even though this kind of reasoning remains riddled with infirmities, 
for Jinnah this was the needed and the only philosophical (at least so it sounded) platform, a kind of a much needed ideological 'cap', wearing which an idea [such as this] could be pushed. His opposition was not against the Hindus or Hinduism, it was Congress that he considered as the true political rival of the Muslim League, and the League he considered as being just an 'extension of himself'. He, of course, made much of the Hindu-Muslim riots (1946; Bengal, Bihar, etc.) to 'prove the incapacity of Congress Governments to protect Muslims; and also expressed fear of the "Hindu Raj" to frighten Muslims into joining the League, but during innumerable conversations with him I can rarely recall him attacking Hindus or Hinduism as such. His opposition, which later developed into almost hatred, remained focussed upon the Congress leadership'.
    The Muslim community for Jinnah became an electoral body; his call for a Muslim nation in his political platform; the battles he fought were entirely political - between the Muslim League and the Congress; Pakistan was his political demand over which he and the Muslim League could rule. Religion in all this was entirely incidental; Pakistan alone gave him all that his personality and character demanded. If Mr. Jinnah was necessary for achieving Pakistan, Pakistan too was necessary for the fulfilment of Mr. Jinnah.
    Philips Talbot, as an eyewitness, (and he is perhaps the only one still alive) has assessed: 'Jinnah organised and hastened the development of Muslim solidarity with master strategy. By shrewd, brainy bargaining, cold-blooded astuteness, an absolute refusal to be panicked, and perceptive recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of both himself and his opponent, he has turned every opportunity to the advantage of the League. In ne
gotiations he has considerably proved a match for the Congress high command with all its talent. "I am constitutionally and by long habit a very cold-blooded logician," he told an adulatory Muslim gathering last November'. No one could have analysed him better.
The Muslim League's revival was a mistake
On 15 December 1947 the residual Muslim League in India adopted a resolution about reviving itself. Gandhi advised them not to, instead to lend their support to the Congress party. This was wise counsel, welcomed even by Suhrawardy. Sadly, though, Azad failed to rise to the occasion, a de
moralised and confused Muslim community in India was his to lead, he did address them, in that much acclaimed oration of 23 October 1947 at the Jama Masjid, but that speech was far too layered over with the language of taunt and reproach, 'I hailed you; you cut off my tongue'.
    Leaders of the Muslim League in the Constituent Assembly had then, rather mindlessly, demanded not only a reservation of seats but separate electorates as well. This provoked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel into delivering remarks that would have, on any other occasion been better left unsaid, but then with the country's partition wounds still raw, any such claim of reservations being raised again rubbed those wounds afresh and made them bleed all over again. The Sardar, in pain and in anger, admonished: 'I do not know whether there has been any change in their (the Muslims) attitude to bring forward such an amendment, even now, after all this long reflection and experience of what has happened in this country. But I know this that they have got a mandate from the Muslim League to move this 
amendment. I feel sorry for them. This is not a place today for acting on mandates. This is a place today to act on your conscience and to act for the good of the country. For a community to think that its interests are different from that of the country in which it lives is a great mistake. Assuming that we agreed today to the reservation of seats, I would consider myself to be the greatest enemy of the Muslim community because of the consequences of the step in a secular and democratic State....[Those] who do not trust the majority cannot obviously come into the Government.... Accordingly, you will have no share in the Government. You will exclude yourselves and remain perpetually in a minority. Then, what advantage will you gain?'
    Is that why there is in this a sense of disappointment and tragedy? Perhaps yes, but also perhaps because we continue to repeat the great errors of those epochal decades. Take 'minoritism', again. M.J. Akbar, in an erudite and magisterial essay analyses the challenges of it convincingly, in a yet to be published work The Major Minority: 'At what point in the story of the last thousand years did Indian Muslims become a minority? The question is, clearly, rhetorical. Muslims have never been in a numerical majority on the Indian subcontinent'.
In becoming an Islamic state, Pakistan inevitably had to become a jehadi one …
With Montford Reforms, which had introduced elections, though with ownership of property as the qualifying requirement for voting rights in local bodies like municipalities, (1909-19) an opportunity had presented itself to the Muslims, there was at last an opening offered. It was instantly seized. 'Reservation' became the starting point and with a granting of that status the Muslims were recognised and set apart as a distinctively different political category again. Thereafter, from reservation to special percentages, one-fourth to one-third to minority rights; to where in majority its preservation (Punjab/Bengal); to parity, and finally to partition - this was one continuous, ever increasing demand charter, almost an evolutionary flow sheet. Partition had to be claimed, yes, but for what? Was it for security, communal order, peace - which of these was the impulse that most energised this call of partition? As none of these were sufficiently sustainable points for a 
division of India, there then arrived the thesis: 'Muslims are a separate nation'. On first hearing, this sounded so absolutely, totally, illogically wrong, so unacceptable; and yet, it acquired a beguiling resonance, through constant repetition as if some high principle was being enunciated, any refutation of which would be both unjust and a complex task when and if attempted; besides this slogan, through ersatz, was sufficiently high sounding. Ultimately, both the Congress, the League and the departing British tried so much, so assiduously, so continuously, so hard and for so long to break India, that India had finally to divide. And in the end the physical act of partitioning became just a shabby, graceless and an indefensibly cruel 'give and take' of numbers: 'You have this, I'll take this'. And thus was fractured the great unity of this ancient land: a divide that could simply not bring any peace in its wake; it first compartmentalised and then tightly sealed Hindu-Muslim animosities, cementing festering grudges into near permanent hostilities; what was domestic - Hindu-Muslim, became international - India-Pakistan; we made global our domestic disagreements. For Pakistan, it became the policy plank - 'perpetual and induced hostility towards India that became its premiere state polity', it could scarcely be otherwise.
    Mohammed Ali Jinnah was, to my mind, fundamentally in error proposing 'Muslims as a separate nation', which is why he was so profoundly wrong when he simultaneously spoke of 'lasting peace, amity and accord with India after the emergence of Pakistan'; that simply could not be. Perhaps, late General Zia-ul-Haq was nearer reality, when asked as to why 'Pakistan cultivated and maintained this policy of so much induced hostility towards India?', he replied (some say apocryphally, but tellingly) that, 'Turkey or Egypt, if they stop being aggressively Muslim, they will remain exactly what they are - Turkey or Egypt. But if Pakistan does not become and remain aggressively Islamic it will become India again. Amity with India will mean getting swamped by this all enveloping embrace of India.' This worry has haunted the psyche of all the leaders of Pakistan since 1947.
    I share here some thoughts about how Pakistan has fared post 1947. Since birth it has been accompanied by high drama, often troubled by dark and imaginary shadows of history, also myths; some grandiose dreams and plans, therefore often intense emotionalism, and a sad absence of cold, 
phlegmatic logic. Inevitable therefore, the 'idea of Pakistan' has often got usurped, which is why Pakistan's friends have so often become its masters, and which is also why the 'state' of Pakistan continues to remain fragile, so unsure, so tense. However, there were other factors, too. Pakistan, founded on the notion of separateness, a 'nation' distinctly apart from India, could do no more than to continuously affirm its Islamic identity. It therefore adopted the identity of being an Islamic Republic. This seemingly direct and logical evolution from 'Muslims as a separate nation' to Pakistan as an 'Islamic State' was neither direct, nor evolutionary as might at first sight appear. In reality this has impeded Pakistan's coming into its own, evolving into a modern, functioning state. Sadly, a reasoning and credible national identity eludes it still. From becoming an Islamic state, Pakistan ultimately, again perhaps inevitably, had to become a 'jihadi state', and when set on this path - it also then became, again perhaps inevitably, the epicentre of global terrorism; the chosen house of all the names associated with this global scourge: Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and Taliban and so on.
An unfair start; India should have been generous
However, this partition had made Pakistan start 'life' with great administrative disadvantages too. Upon attaining Independence, India, freed of British rule, had a continuing identity, a functioning administrative structure, and in that immense spread of its land sufficient mass, enough resilience and cushion to absorb multiple shocks, repeatedly, as it had done so often though history. Not so in Pakistan; 
the challenges that it faced upon independence were formidable. After all, Pakistan had been no more than a 'negotiating idea', a tactical ploy to obtain greater political role for the Muslims of India so that they could become arbiters of their own political and social destiny, instead of leaving it in the 'unreliable political hands of a Hindu Congress'.
    Besides, no one, not even Jinnah knew, or had ever defined, Pakistan; the cry was always in the name of Islam. That is why when this dream of Pakistan finally became a reality, no one was prepared for it. There existed no prior assessment of problems or priorities, for no one had known what the final shape of Pakistan was going to be. Yes, 14 August could not wait, and Jinnah dared not ask for a deferment.
    In less than two months provinces had to be divided, civil and armed services bifurcated and 
assets apportioned. 'This telescoped time table created gigantic problems for Pakistan, which unlike India had not inherited a capital, a government, the financial resources to establish and equip its administrative, economic and military institutions. The migration of millions of refugees imposed its own burdens on this struggling state with an awesome burden of rehabilitation'. This comment, from a former Pakistani diplomat would be one amongst many of the multiple challenges that then faced Pakistan. For a fledgling Pakistan a quick release from these problems lay in a psychological diversion, a 'confront India' approach; that was so obvious an escape, but sadly it led nowhere then, and cannot, pragmatically assessed, lead anywhere even now.
    This is when, with the benefit of hindsight, I believe, India needed to give more; it needed to accept with greater generosity (of spirit, 
too) what had separated from its own body. This was, and is, an extremely difficult call; the trauma of a searingly cruel partition having cauterised the sensibilities of an entire subcontinent, generosity could not, does not come easily. The manner of carving out the land, the shattering of the psyche of an entire generation (more than one, perhaps) and that unprecedented uprooting of so many millions made any accommodation of the other's needs almost a superhuman demand, so at least it was in the beginning. Pakistan was starting on its journey of statehood neither with any abundance of options nor with the goodwill of an amicable settlement, a willing partition of assets amongst disputant brothers. Great bitterness got added to what was already a very bitter partition. Under these circumstances could India have been more understanding? This now becomes largely an academic query.

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