Monday, August 17, 2009

Jaswant Lauds Jinnah as "A Great Indian"

Jinnah was a great Indian.

Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don't we recognize that?

Jinnah stood against the might of the Congress party and against the British who didn't really like him.

Jinnah was not against Hindus.

Indian Muslims are treated as aliens.

Nehru's insistence on centralized system led to India's partition.



Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh has said Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was "demonized" by India even though it was Jawaharlal Nehru whose belief in a centralized system had led to the Partition.

Jaswant, whose book "Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence", will is being released today, also said Indian Muslims are treated as aliens.

"Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single-handedly he stood against the might of the Congress party and against the British who didn't really like him...Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don't we recognize that? Why don't we see (and try to understand) why he called him that," Singh said, when asked by Karan Thapar in an interview whether he viewed Jinnah as a great man.
He said he did not subscribe to the popular "demonization" of Jinnah.
Singh, a former external affairs minister, feels India had misunderstood Jinnah and made a demon out of him.

Contrary to popular perception, Singh feels it was not Jinnah but Nehru's "highly centralized polity" that led to the Partition of India.

Asked if he was concerned that Nehru's heirs and the Congress party would be critical of the responsibility he was attributing to Nehru for Partition, Singh said, "I am not blaming anybody. I am not assigning blame. I am simply recalling what I have found as the development of issues and events of that period."
Singh contested the popular Indian view that Jinnah was the villain of Partition or the man principally responsible for it. Maintaining that this view was wrong, he said, "It is. It is not borne out of the facts...we need to correct it."
He feels Jinnah's call for Pakistan was "a negotiating tactic" to obtain "space" for Muslims "in a reassuring system" where they would not be dominated by the Hindu majority.

He said if the final decisions had been taken by Mahatma Gandhi, Rajaji or Maulana Azad -- rather than Nehru -- a united India would have been attained, he said, "Yes, I believe so. We could have (attained an united India)."
Singh said the widespread opinion that Jinnah was against Hindus is mistaken.
When told that his views on Jinnah may not be to the liking of his party, he replied, "I did not write this book as a BJP parliamentarian. I wrote this book as an Indian...this is not a party document. My party knows I have been working on this."

Singh also spoke about Indian Muslims who, he said, "have paid the price of Partition". In a particularly outspoken answer, he said India treats them as "aliens".

"Look into the eyes of the Muslims who live in India and if you truly see the pain with which they live, to which land do they belong? We treat them as aliens...without doubt Muslims have paid the price of Partition. They could have been significantly stronger in a united India...of course Pakistan and Bangladesh won't like what I am saying.

In his book, Singh says Pakistan's "induced" sense of hostility to New Delhi is now somewhat "mellowed" and it is ready to accept a greater understanding of the many oneness that bond it with India. However, he admits Pakistan had chosen terror as an instrument of state policy to be used as a tool of oppression.

"...nemesis had to visit upon such policy planks; that malevolent energy of terror, by whatever name you choose to call it, once unleashed had to turn back upon its creator and to begin devouring it," Singh writes in "Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence", which will hit the stands tomorrow.

"This has now converted Pakistan into the epicenter of global terrorism, sadly, therefore, Talibanization now eats into the very vitals of Pakistan," the 669-page book says.

"Its (Pakistan's) induced and perpetual sense of hostility to India is now somewhat mellowed, it is more confident of itself, therefore, accommodative and is now ready to accept a greater understanding of the many oneness and unities that bond India and Pakistan together. Or is it really ready? Dare I ask?" Singh questions.
The BJP, however, maintains that Pakistan has been responsible for terrorist acts against India by elements trained and funded from its soil.

Source: ExpressBuzz India

Here's a video clip of Former Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh discussing the current situation in Pakistan:



Related Links:

Iqbal and Jinnah

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Eleven Days in Karachi, Pakistan

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

jaswant will go the way of advani. This stupid move of advani to show himself as a great secularist to attract muslim votes bombed on the both the side. Neither muslim believed him nor hindus voted for him.

He is on his way for prematured retirement. Whether people like or not, any body who is going to make these type of statement will be quietly assigned to political pre-matured retirement

Hope people learn lesson from these two great diplomatic leaders.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "jaswant will go the way of advani."

You may be right. But I think it could possibly help BJP by taking away the power and the mystique of Nehru family which sustains Congress in power. If Indians begin to believe Jaswant's claim that the true culprit of partition was Nehru (not Jinnah), then it will take votes away from Congress and help BJP.

Anonymous said...

The old man - Jaswant Singh - has raked up another controversy before selling his book. Jaswant's views on Jinnah will be a fodder for debates and discussions. Period!

I doubt the BJP can get political mileage out of it. The electorate does not decide one party over the other based on the disagreements between ex-national leaders who are long gone.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "The electorate does not decide one party over the other based on the disagreements between ex-national leaders who are long gone."

I beg to disagree.

In a rural, agrarian society with high illiteracy, national icons are important...such as Nehru/Gandhi in India and Jinnah/Bhutto in Pakistan and Mujib in Bangladesh.

Dynastic politics and dynastic rule are hallmarks of the South Asian politics.

Anonymous said...

Riaz, you wrote, "Dynastic politics and dynastic rule are hallmarks of the South Asian politics."

Like in South Asia, dynastic rule or single party rule is witnessed in other parts of the world such as Japan and Mexico. Besides, icons change over time and elections in India revolve around contemporary issues. If political parties drumbeat issues that do not affect the lives of electorate they're usually hammered in post-election results. That makes me believe Jaswant's book will not help the BJP during election time.

In some ways, Jaswant Singh shares the frustration that Jinnah may've felt in overpowering the Congress party of their eras.

Anonymous said...

I am from India. I don't think Jaswant Singh has is talking or writing lies in his books. whatever he has found he has written. we were always told how Jinnah was now alteast we would come to know the other side of the story. Jaswant Singh is not a fool to write anything.

Anonymous said...

Dynastic politics and dynastic rule are hallmarks of the South Asian politics.

Yes, maybe. But standards in India are far higher even for the dynasties than they are in Pakistan. Comes from almost uninterrupted electoral politics. The so-called "illiterate folks in the countryside" - code for rural folks in the North Indian states (rural folks in South India are largely educated) are still well-schooled in the power of the ballot. As a result, Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot and a host of other generational politicians are far more in touch with what the people are looking for than that little moron Bilawal. That dude is only outperformed by his "hugging" father (remember the Palin episode?).

Anonymous said...

Hi All

We wanted d demon, we created in India out of Jinnah. Who can forget his clarion call for Homerule, when partition was not even thought of?

If one goes through pages of history, Jinnah always talked about United Free India. The contemporary circumstances and fellow congressmen (read Nehru) made him to quit Congress and form Muslim league. If any Indian who follows Marathi and reading this blog, I highly recommend Jinnah's biography written in Marathi by Anand Hardikar. (Titled "Quaid-e-Azam)This book will certianly unviel a new Jinnah unknown to us Indians.

Just now I read that Jaswant has been expelled from BJP for his views on Jinnah......man... we live in democracy!!!! and you cannot express your views.

I know that almost all Indian would think that I am a Muslim writing in a guise of Hindu name...I dont pay damn to them.

I only wish that Jinnah should have live atleast 10 years more after 1947.

Regds
Anant Karandikar
Mumbai-India

Riaz Haq said...

BBC's Soutik Biswas talks about Jaswant S8ngh in the following words:

... to the original question, why did Mr Singh write this book? Does it have to do with his wider political ambitions? He is a self professed liberal in a party of hawks. In 1992, at the zenith of the BJP's rathyatra (motorised chariot) movement to whip up support for a temple at Ayodhya, Mr Singh did not attend a single function on the road. His induction into the cabinet in the late 1990s was vetoed once by the party's ideological fountainhead, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

With his mentor and BJP's only pan-Indian leader and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee fading out and Mr Advani himself weakened by political defeat and party infighting, is Mr Singh trying to position himself as a liberal party leader-paterfamilias that Mr Vajpayee once occupied? It is difficult to say.

Anonymous said...

"Mr Singh trying to position himself as a liberal party leader-paterfamilias that Mr Vajpayee once occupied? It is difficult to say"

Too late for him anyway..BJP took great pride in being a cadre party and being able to distinguish itself from quarrelsome Congress. But not being able to get hold on power for 2 terms and utterly confused ideologically after Vajpayee's retirement, BJP find itself in the position as Congress, only weaker and more divisive.

This also shows that majority of Indian voters who are rural Hindus are not particularly charmed by Hindu fundamentalism. Their richer urban cousins, especially those who live in USA and are Modi fans could learn from this.

Zen, Munich, Germany

Anonymous said...

The real strength for India and Indians has always been democracy and strong political base. No one of Indians do believe Nehru is great. We arevery aware of Nehru familys abilities and false glorifications. But that does not put Jinnah at par with Nehru any day. Nehrus internal strength is many times mightier than Jinnah. His internal discipline and self discipline are what we Indians have benefitted from. Indira is deadlier to Pakistan than any of BJP leaders were. The most successful achievement of Congress is to divert Indian muslims attention from their backward cousins across border and create Indian consciousness. My fathers generation is poles from my generation.BJP is confused today and will never create History with its confused policies. India is far too preoccupied economically that Indian system will ignore this book quickly as it does not fit into its system. Power rules.
Pakistan with its self destructive policies and ridiculous leaders looks as confused it ever was. Look at any Pakistan in any forum-they have no idea what a nation or nationhood means . The only thing they are aware is that they are muslims. Its is increasingly hard to accept unity for Indians than Pakistanis. why and who wants a 15 million misguided rural population with extreme religious views. No wonder Jaswant is popular in Pakistan. Mumbai attacks are land mark because for the first time Pakistan is hated deeply by Indian common man apart from hindu nationalists.This is coming from an common man like me from the streets of Kolkata. This will make things very hard for Pakistan and its extremely foolish to think that Indians will come to table for talks even at US pressure.If Manmohan cannot do it-No one can attempt it.Its unfortunate that Pakistan is known for its terrrism policies and terrorists when its generation should be rapidly climbing the ecomomic growth ladders. Inspite of having much less poverty than India, its growth is no where near India because of its intolerant society.
The sad part is it cannot just rise quickly because foundations were never sincerely laid for a stable nation by reforms such as land, political or electoral. Now to climb fast economically will be tragedy as it will collapse fast. What a mess and what a tragedy.

Ashraf Moinuddin
12/3, Liberty Street.
Kolkata
Bengal

Riaz Haq said...

Ashraf Mohiuddin,
For another perspective on Jinnah,
here is The Hindu’s editorial of September 13, 1948 titled ‘Mr. Jinnah.’It was published two days after the death of the founder of Pakistan. ’ —

At his bitterest he never forgot that firm friendship between India and Pakistan was indispensable

The news of the sudden death of Mr. Jinnah will be received with widespread regret in this country. Till barely a twelvemonth ago he was, next to Gandhiji, the most powerful leader in undivided India. And not only among his fellow-Muslims but among members of all communities there was great admiration for his sterling personal qualities even while the goal which he pursued with increasing fanaticism was deplored. For more than half the period of nearly forty years in which he was a towering figure in our public life he identified himself so completely with the struggle that the Indian National Congress carried on for freedom that he came to be as nearly a popular idol as it was possible for a man so aristocratic and aloof by temperament to be. During the last years of his life, as the architect of Pakistan, he achieved a unique authority in his own community by virtue of the blind allegiance which the mass, dazzled by his political triumphs, gave him though the sane and sober elements of the community became more and more doubtful of the wisdom of his policies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a piece by Luv Puri, a Fulbright fellow at New York University. He previously reported for The Hindu in Jammu. It was published in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper today.

Paying tributes to Jinnah in Karachi, Advani described him as among the ‘very few who actually create history. Qaid-e-Azam is one such rare individual.’ Advani also referred to Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech, in which he made a forceful espousal of Pakistan as a secular state. As such, Advani’s statement caused a political storm within the BJP.

In the Indian imagination, particularly that of the BJP, Jinnah is held responsible for the Partition of India and the ensuing communal riots. Millions of Indians imbibe this notion in their early life through school and college history books. In this context, Advani had to pay the price for his reconciliatory remarks on Jinnah. He had to resign from the party president’s post. The ongoing controversy continues to haunt him, and even resurfaced during the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Jaswant Singh, in his newly released book, Jinnah - India, Partition, and Independence, goes a step further than Advani. He is the first Indian lawmaker to publicly challenge Jinnah’s vilification and question the claim that he was singlehandedly responsible for Partition. Singh apportions much of the blame for Partition on Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel.

Riaz Haq said...

Puri's commentary contd:

Not surprisingly, the action against Singh was swift and decisive as compared to Advani. He was expelled from the party without any notice. The reason for this drastic decision was the much bigger challenge that Singh, a self-proclaimed liberal democrat, posed to the BJP and its ideological moorings: he attacked Patel, the party’s pivotal icon in the freedom struggle. It is notable that the BJP is indifferent to Jaswant Singh's criticism of Nehru, who it finds guilty of several other ‘wrongdoings,’ including internationalising Kashmir.

On Patel, however, the BJP remains hyper-sensitive to any criticism. He is described as the Iron Man of India, credited for the amalgamation of hundreds of princely states with the Indian union. Indeed, Patel didn’t hide his majoritarian streak of politics. He had serious political differences with his colleagues. He belonged to Gujarat, a state ruled by BJP’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is alleged to be complicit in an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. (Keeping with character, Modi took no time in banning Singh’s book and termed it as an insult to Gujarat.) Incidentally, the most revered personalities in Pakistan and India, Jinnah and Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, both hailed from Gujarat as well.


By dismissing Singh, the BJP is sending a message that it will not tolerate any critical examination of national icons and question its negative portrayal of Jinnah. The BJP fears that this will impact its reputation as a nationalist political outfit. But the party calculations seem to be out of sync with empirical reality as it underestimates the maturity of the Indian masses. After all, the BJP’s over-simplistic and negative political campaign caused the second consecutive defeat of the party in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The exposure of many Indians to the wide array of work done on Partition through various sources, including the internet and foreign scholarship, strengthens the process of revisiting political history with an open mind. The understanding of historical and social factors that resulted in Partition and the personalities that ushered in a new era is being shaped with the revelation of new facts.

....Jagan Nath Azad was told by his colleagues that that the ‘Quaid-e-Azam wanted the anthem to be written by an Urdu-speaking Hindu.’ Azad believed that Jinnah wanted to sow the roots of secularism in a Pakistan where intolerance had no place. Coincidentally, two days after he asked a Hindu to write the national anthem, Jinnah made his inaugural speech in the Pakistan constituent assembly. Jinnah said: ‘You will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.’

To view the national icons of India and Pakistan in black or white will defeat the pursuit of objective research. There is enough scholarly material on Partition, mostly published by foreign authors, which discusses the social and historical forces that influenced politics and politicians. It is regrettable if we deny the intellectual and academic space to our own researchers to find objective explanations to past events. A grand reconciliation in the history writing of both countries is only possible in an environment free of fear and demagogy.

Anonymous said...

Riaz,

The caricature of Jinnah cannot be painted in black or white, good or bad. In fact, Ayesha Jalal, a Pakistani historian at Tufts University, has gone to an extent of calling the creation of Pakistan a mistake and Jinnah a great lawyer with feet of clay. Jaswant Singh, like Ayesha Jalal, in his book does not exonerate Jinnah for his actions; he is spreading the responsibility of partition across all protagonists of the day. Simple as that!

Anonymous said...

Riaz,

"At his bitterest he never forgot that firm friendship between India and Pakistan was indispensable"

I wish pakistan all the best but it should find its own path and a path that has no simlilarity with India and path guided by its founders vision. Everyone knows the path Pakistan is on today and that is no where near that vision. Infacts it is the very reason why Pakistanis are having tough time today. I would say Pakistan needs to learn to walk first and then try to run. After 60 years, it is still crawling. It should forget confrontation with Indians and start path of reconstruction with its fellow islamic nations and USA. Its very very ridiculous for Pakistanis to seek very close relationship with India after partition as it makes no sense. India will not like to have that nor does Pakistan. The moment you try to do that the identity of Pakistan will perish with any doubt or prejudices here. Lets not take it there. The idea of an Indian is very different from Pakistan ideology and will not be accepted. The root issue is democracies will shun religious societies not because of hatred but because of lack of respect and trust. But I do believe that once Pakistan sets its path right with right attitude and has the will to keep religion outside its affairs, there will be no stopping for its rise and its rise will be quicker than Indias.

Ashraf

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why there is so much soul searching about Partition! Who cares who instigated it? The only thing that matters is that it was a roaring success for India and a complete disaster for Pakistan and Bangladesh!

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

India is a roaring success? You've got to be kidding. Here is the reality of India for you:

About one-third of the world's extremely poor people live in India. More than 450 million Indians exist on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa. India has about 42% of the population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33% of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people, according to a Times of India news report. More than 6 million of those desperately poor Indians live in Mumbai alone, representing about half the residents of the nation's financial capital. They live in super-sized slums and improvised housing juxtaposed with the shining new skyscrapers that symbolize India's resurgence. According to the World Bank and the UN Development Program (UNDP), 22% of Pakistan's population is classified as poor.

There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.

Lizette Burgers, chief of water and environment sanitation of the Unicef, recently said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia. A former Indian minister Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told the BBC that more than 65% of India's rural population defecated in the open, along roadsides, railway tracks and fields, generating huge amounts of excrement every day.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece published in the Daily Pioneer of India by Jamil Ansari:

One point that is often overlooked is that till 1937 Jinnah did not use religious sentiments in order to gain political mileage. Nonetheless, the Congress had used Hindu symbols to arouse the sentiments of Hindus from the very beginning. It was when Nehru refused to acknowledge the Hindu-Muslim question that Jinnah responded with a powerful speech at the Muslim League session in October 1937. Mahatma Gandhi called that speech a “declaration of war”, but Jinnah said “it was made in self-defence”. Jinnah’s speech indicated that all means of persuasion had been exhausted yet the Congress was not willing to address “real issues”. Thus, Jinnah was forced to voice the demand for Pakistan.

When Jinnah was leaving India on August 7, 1947, he appealed to Hindus and Muslims to “bury the past” and wished India success and prosperity. But Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel said, “The poison has been removed from the body of India.” Patel overlooked the fact that Jinnah was not the poison, and that it was Patel’s pro-Hindu sentiments which poisoned Indian polity.

The BJP cannot dilute historical facts. Veer Savarkar formulated his ‘two-nation theory’, whereas the Muslim League demanded Pakistan only in 1940. Jinnah struggled for a united India for 17 years after Savarkar mooted the idea of two separate nations. The Hindu Mahasabha also passed a resolution in favour of the concept of two nations in 1937, much before Jinnah demanded Pakistan in 1940. There is no iota of doubt that Hindu revivalist organisations contributed to the partition of India.

There were some other players too. Little attention has been paid to the role played by powerful Hindu businessmen in the partitioning of the country. GD Birla had written: “Communal representation should go and if possible redistribution of provinces should be made. I do not know whether splitting Punjab and Bengal will be liked by the people, but I would personally welcome it” (Notes of Conversation with Malviyaji). Ayesha Jalal, in her much-acclaimed book, The Sole Spokesman, Jinnah,The Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan, writes: “Much of Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan would seem to correspond with the idea of Birla.” Intellectuals should ponder over why Savarkar, the Hindu Mahasabha, the RSS, and Birla are treated as ‘nationalists’ and Jinnah as prophet of partition. This is because history has been turned into myths by Hindutva propagandists.

As far as Patel is concerned, his role in partition and the hate campaign against Muslims is well-documented. Maulana Azad writes: “It would not perhaps be unfair to say that Vallabhbhai Patel was the founder of Indian partition” (India Wins Freedom). He also painfully wrote: “I was surprised that Patel was now an even greater supporter of the two-nation theory than Jinnah. Jinnah may have raised the flag of partition but the real flag-bearer was Patel.”

Whatever Mr Jaswant Singh has written in his book is based on facts. Even HM Seervai wrote: “Such an account cannot rest content with the popular view in India that the partition of India was brought about by the disappointment, ambition, the vanity and the intransigence of one man, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This view receives no support from the materials now available to students of history.” (Legend and Reality).

Riaz Haq said...

The film Gandhi was essentially a "paid political advertisement by the government of India", says commentator Richard Grenier in a piece titled "The Gandhi Nobody Knows". Here is an excerpt from it:

AS IT happens, the government of India openly admits to having provided
one-third of the financing of 'Gandhi' out of state funds, straight out of the
national treasury--and after close study of the finished product I would not be
a bit surprised to hear that it was 100 percent. If Pandit Nehru is portrayed
flatteringly in the film, one must remember that Nehru himself took part in the
initial story conferences (he originally wanted Gandhi to be played by Alec
Guinness) and that his daughter Indira Gandhi is, after all, Prime Minister of
India (though no relation to Mohandas Gandhi). The screenplay was checked and
rechecked by Indian officials at every stage, often by the Prime Minister
herself, with close consultations on plot and even casting. If the movie
contains a particularly poisonous portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder
of Pakistan, the Indian reply, I suppose, would be that if the Pakistanis want
an attractive portrayal of Jinnah let them pay for their own movie. A friend of
mine, highly sophisticated in political matters but innocent about film-making,
declared that 'Gandhi' should be preceded by the legend: *The following film is
a paid political advertisement by the government of India.*

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal review of a recent book "Great Soul" on Mohandas Gandhi's life by Joseph Lelyveld:

Joseph Lelyveld has written a generally admiring book about Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet "Great Soul" also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals.

For all his lifelong campaign for Swaraj ("self-rule"), India could have achieved it many years earlier if Gandhi had not continually abandoned his civil-disobedience campaigns just as they were beginning to be successful. With 300 million Indians ruled over by 0.1% of that number of Britons, the subcontinent could have ended the Raj with barely a shrug if it had been politically united. Yet Gandhi's uncanny ability to irritate and frustrate the leader of India's 90 million Muslims, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (whom he called "a maniac"), wrecked any hope of early independence. He equally alienated B.R. Ambedkar, who spoke for the country's 55 million Untouchables (the lowest caste of Hindus, whose very touch was thought to defile the four higher classes). Ambedkar pronounced Gandhi "devious and untrustworthy." Between 1900 and 1922, Gandhi suspended his efforts no fewer than three times, leaving in the lurch more than 15,000 supporters who had gone to jail for the cause.

A ceaseless self-promoter, Gandhi bought up the entire first edition of his first, hagiographical biography to send to people and ensure a reprint. Yet we cannot be certain that he really made all the pronouncements attributed to him, since, according to Mr. Lelyveld, Gandhi insisted that journalists file "not the words that had actually come from his mouth but a version he authorized after his sometimes heavy editing of the transcripts."

Although Gandhi's nonviolence made him an icon to the American civil-rights movement, Mr. Lelyveld shows how implacably racist he was toward the blacks of South Africa. "We were then marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs," Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of Indians settled there. "We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a NY Times review of "GREAT SOUL: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India" by Joseph Lelyveld:

Some years ago, the British writer Patrick French visited the Sabarmati ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat, the site from which Mahatma Gandhi led his salt march to the sea in 1930. French was so appalled by the noisome state of the latrines that he asked the ashram secretary whose job it was to clean them.

A sweeper woman stopped by for an hour a day, the functionary explained, but afterward things inevitably became filthy again.

But wasn’t it a central tenet of the Mahatma’s teachings that his followers clean up after themselves?

“We all clean the toilets together, on Gandhiji’s birthday,” the secretary answered, “as a symbol to show that we understand his message.”

Gandhi had many messages, some ignored, some misunderstood, some as relevant today as when first enunciated. Most Americans — many middle-class Indians, for that matter — know what they know about the Mahatma from Ben Kingsley’s Academy Award-winning screen portrayal. His was a mesmerizing performance, but the script barely hinted at the bewildering complexity of the real man, who was at the same time an earnest pilgrim and a wily politician, an advocate of celibacy and the architect of satyagraha (truth force), a revivalist, a revolutionary and a social reformer.
--------
As Lelyveld shows, the outcomes of Gandhi’s campaigns in South Africa were neither clear-cut nor long-lasting: after one, his own supporters beat him bloody because they thought he’d settled too quickly for a compromise with the government. But they taught him how to move the masses — not only middle-class Hindu and Muslim immigrants but the poorest of the poor as well. He had, as he himself said, found his “vocation in life.”

Soon after returning to India in 1915, Gandhi set forth what he called the “four pillars on which the structure of swaraj” — self-rule — “would ever rest”: an unshakable alliance between Hindus and Muslims; universal acceptance of the doctrine of nonviolence, as tenet, not tactic; the transformation of India’s approximately 650,000 villages by spinning and other self-sustaining handicrafts; and an end to the evil concept of untouchability. Lelyveld shrewdly examines Gandhi’s noble but doomed battles to achieve them all.

He made a host of enemies along the way — orthodox Hindus who believed him overly sympathetic to Muslims, Muslims who saw his calls for religious unity as part of a Hindu plot, Britons who thought him a charlatan, radical revolutionaries who believed him a reactionary. But no antagonist was more implacable than Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the brilliant, quick-tempered untouchable leader — still largely unknown in the West — who saw the Mahatma’s nonviolent efforts to eradicate untouchability as a sideshow at best. He even objected to the word ­Gandhi coined for his people — “Harijans” or “children of God” — as patronizing; he preferred “Dalits,” from the Sanskrit for “crushed,” “broken.”
---------
Gandhi is still routinely called “the father of the nation” in India, but it is hard to see what remains of him beyond what Lelyveld calls his “nimbus.” His notions about sex and spinning and simple living have long since been abandoned. Hindu-Muslim tension still smolders just beneath the uneasy surface. Untouchability survives, too, and standard-issue polychrome statues of Ambedkar in red tie and double-breasted electric-blue suit now outnumber those of the sparsely clothed Mahatma wherever Dalits are still crowded together.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed in the News criticizing of Nawaz Sharif's Aug 13 speech at SAFMA:

Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Aug 13 at the Safma seminar “Building Bridges in the Subcontinent” continues to make waves two weeks later. Media attention has focused mainly on some of his observations which seem to question the basis of Pakistani nationhood. These remarks have caused surprise and consternation even among some long-standing supporters of the PML-N, which claims to be the successor of the party which led the Pakistan movement in pre-partition India. Hardly anyone from the top ranks of the PML-N, apart from the newly appointed spokesman, has sought to defend the party leader’s verbal escapade.

Pakistan and India, Nawaz said, had the same culture and heritage, ate the same food, spoke the same language and shared the same way of life. Despite the many things the people of the two countries had in common, he said, they were now separated by “a border”.

Even when allowance is made for the fact that Nawaz was addressing a mixed audience of Pakistanis and Indians on building bridges between them – in itself a totally desirable enterprise – his statement is offensive. And it is untrue because, though the Muslims and Hindus lived on the same soil for centuries, they inhabited two different spiritual worlds. Nawaz was in fact repeating many of the points made by the Congress Party of India – and refuted by the Quaid-e-Azam – during the Pakistan movement.

Almost as outrageous as Nawaz’s assertion about the Indians and Pakistanis having a common culture is his assertion that they worship (pujte hain) the same God. The Quran says something very different in Surah al-Kafirun: The believers worship not that which the non-believers worship, nor do the non-believers worship that which the believers worship. Nawaz should also know that the Muslims do not perform puja, as the Hindus do, but ibadat.
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Nawaz’s political judgment – never very sound, as seen in his selection of Musharraf as the army chief and then in the ham-fisted manner in which he tried to fire him – has been warped further by the trauma of his overthrow in 1999 and subsequent forced exile. That may be understandable at a human level. But such a flaw can be fatal in a national leader. If Nawaz cannot overcome this shock, he should return fulltime to his family business and leave politics to others.

The Indian government and media are delighted, and understandably so, at Nawaz’s Safma speech. But so also is a small section of the Pakistani media and “civil society” which labels itself pretentiously as the “liberals”. The newly coined English word lumpen-intelligentsia would be a more appropriate description for them. One of them, a star TV commentator, claimed last week that 99 percent of the people of Pakistan agreed with what Nawaz said. The remaining one percent, whom this analyst dismissed as the thekedar (self-appointed guardians) of the two-nation theory, were itching to nuke India, as he claimed. So much for objectivity and informed analysis.

Pakistan and India should indeed give up confrontation, learn to live as peaceful neighbours and try to build bridges of understanding. But denying the foundations of Pakistani nationhood, ignoring the threat posed by India and abandoning the Kashmir cause is certainly no way of going about it, as Nawaz seems to think. If he does not retract the unfortunate remarks he made on these issues, it is to be hoped at least that others in his party would disown them.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=65244&Cat=9

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of India's DNA story on Ayesha Jalal's interview in Jaipur:

One of Pakistan's most acclaimed historians, Ayesha Jalal bemoans the fact that history as an academic discipline has failed to grow in her country, a deficiency that needs to be addressed to spawn a new breed of scholars in the subject.

A professor of History at the Tufts University with as many as seven books to her credit, the Pakistani-American who is an authority on South Asia has chosen to return to Pakistan as a visiting scholar to help address the gap in her own way.

In India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, Jalal told PTI during an interaction why she felt that the academic growth of history in India had contributed to the development of a worthy scholarship in this country.

"Of course, there are biases and political agendas too, but India has continued to teach history, as a result of which you have historical scholarship coming from India," she said.

"I was bemoaning the fact that in Pakistan history has suffered as an academic discipline, and is not taught as is the way in India," she said.

Jalal's books include 'The Sole Spokesman' and 'Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia' ?" works that have tried to trace the history of the subcontinent including the origins and the tortured legacy of the partition.

She has also co-authored Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy with her husband Sugata Bose, a book that is considered perhaps the first joint exercise by an Indian and a Pakistani in dissecting the history of modern South Asia.

A grand niece of eminent Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, Jalal returns to Pakistan from her base in the United States as a visiting professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

"In my own modest way, I am trying to address this issue by teaching history in Pakistan," she said.

The author, whose last book 'Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia' traced the discourse on jihad in South Asia over centuries, strongly believes that the Taliban has lost support among the people and that Pakistan is a country that is politically more resilient than many would believe.

"The Arab Spring has reinforced the fact that the people are prepared to take up structures of state. In Pakistan, despite military regimes, no ruler has survived more than 11 years, forget about 30 or 40 years. I think Pakistan is politically more resilient than many people believe, all it needs is a chance," she said.

However, she believes the issues ?"- of pervading injustice and inequity -- that have contributed to al qaeda'a rise will have to be addressed to put an end to violence.

The emergence of Imran Khan on Pakistan's political horizon has made many people take note of the former cricketer's potential, and Jalal feels it has a lot to do with the prevailing disenchantment and yearning for a change.

"There is a lot of disenchantment in Pakistan, there is anti-incumbency what Indians know very well. Imran Khan's popularity has much to do with it. People are looking up to him for a change," she says.


http://www.dnaindia.com/entertainment/report_pakistan-needs-to-breed-more-historians-ayesha-jalal_1641153

Anonymous said...

thank god for partition if you combine the population of India PAkistan Bangladesh Muslims are already at 40% and growing fast so a united India would be muslim majority by 2025.

Thank you Jinnah!Rest in peace!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from London Review of Books of "After Nehru" by Perry Anderson:

Why then has the sheer pressure of the famished masses, who apparently hold an electoral whip-hand, not exploded in demands for social reparation incompatible with the capitalist framework of this – as of every other – liberal democracy? Certainly not because Congress ever made much effort to meet even quite modest requirements of social equality or justice. The record of Nehru’s regime, whose priorities were industrial development and military spending, was barren of any such impulse. No land reform worthy of mention was attempted. No income tax was introduced until 1961. Primary education was grossly neglected. As a party, Congress was controlled by a coalition of rich farmers, traders and urban professionals, in which the weight of the agrarian bosses was greatest, and its policies reflected the interests of these groups, unconcerned with the fate of the poor. But they suffered no electoral retribution for this. Why not?
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Congress had failed to avert partition because it could never bring itself honestly to confront its composition as an overwhelmingly Hindu party, dropping the fiction that it represented the entire nation, and accept the need for generous arrangements with the Muslim party that had emerged opposite it. After independence, it presided over a state which could not but bear the marks of that denial. Compared with the fate of Pakistan after the death of Jinnah, India was fortunate. If the state was not truly secular – within a couple of years it was rebuilding with much pomp the famous Hindu temple in Somnath, ravaged by Muslim invaders, and authorising the installation of Hindu idols in the mosque at Ayodhya – it wasn’t overtly confessional either. Muslims or Christians could practise their religion with greater freedom, and live with greater safety, than Muslims could in Pakistan, if they were not Sunni. Structurally, the secularism of Congress had been a matter not of hypocrisy, but of bad faith, which is not the same: in its way a lesser vice, paying somewhat more tribute to virtue.
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A leading test of these professions is the condition of the community that Congress always claimed also to represent, and the Indian state to acquit of any shadow of confessionalism. How have Muslims fared under such secularism, equidistant or group-sensitive? In 2006, the government-appointed Sachar Commission found that of the 138 million Muslims in India, numbering some 13.4 per cent of the population, fewer than three out of five were literate, and a third were to be found in the most destitute layers of Indian society. A quarter of their children between the ages of six and 14 were not in school. In the top fifty colleges of the land, two out of a hundred postgraduates were Muslim; in the elite institutes of technology, four out of a hundred. In the cities, Muslims had fewer chances of any regular job than Dalits or Adivasis, and higher rates of unemployment. The Indian state itself, presiding over this scene? In central government, the report confessed, ‘Muslims’ share in employment in various departments is abysmally low at all levels’ – not more than 5 per cent at even the humblest rung. In state governments, the situation was still worse, nowhere more so than in communist-run West Bengal, which with a Muslim population of 25 per cent, nearly double the official average for the nation, many confined in ghettos of appalling misery, posted a figure of just 3.25 per cent of Muslims in its service. It is possible, moreover, that the official number of Muslims in India is an underestimate. In a confidential cable to Washington released by WikiLeaks, the US Embassy reported that the real figure was somewhere between 160 and 180 million. Were that so, Sachar’s percentages would need to be reduced....


http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n15/perry-anderson/after-nehru

Riaz Haq said...

The film Gandhi was essentially a "paid political advertisement by the government of India", says commentator Richard Grenier in a piece titled "The Gandhi Nobody Knows". Here is an excerpt from it:

As it happens, the government of India openly admits to having provided one-third of the financing of Gandhi out of state funds, straight out of the national treasury—and after close study of the finished product I would not be a bit surprised to hear that it was 100 percent. If Pandit Nehru is portrayed flatteringly in the film, one must remember that Nehru himself took part in the initial story conferences (he originally wanted Gandhi to be played by Alec Guinness) and that his daughter Indira Gandhi is, after all, Prime Minister of India (though no relation to Mohandas Gandhi). The screenplay was checked and rechecked by Indian officials at every stage, often by the Prime Minister herself, with close consultations on plot and even casting. If the movie contains a particularly poisonous portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, the Indian reply, I suppose, would be that if the Pakistanis want an attractive portrayal of Jinnah let them pay for their own movie. A friend of mine, highly sophisticated in political matters but innocent about film-making, declared that Gandhi should be preceded by the legend: The following film is a paid political advertisement by the government of India.

Gandhi, then, is a large, pious, historical morality tale centered on a saintly, sanitized Mahatma Gandhi cleansed of anything too embarrassingly Hindu (the word “caste” is not mentioned from one end of the film to the other) and, indeed, of most of the rest of Gandhi’s life, much of which would drastically diminish his saintliness in Western eyes. There is little to indicate that the India of today has followed Gandhi’s precepts in almost nothing. There is little, in fact, to indicate that India is even India. The spectator realizes the scene is the Indian subcontinent because there are thousands of extras dressed in dhotis and saris. The characters go about talking in these quaint Peter Sellers accents. We have occasional shots of India’s holy poverty, holy hovels, some landscapes, many of them photographed quite beautifully, for those who like travelogues. We have a character called Lord Mountbatten (India’s last Viceroy); a composite American journalist (assembled from Vincent Sheehan, William L. Shirer, Louis Fischer, and straight fiction); a character called simply “Viceroy” (presumably another composite); an assemblage of Gandhi’s Indian followers under the name of one of them (Patel); and of course Nehru.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-gandhi-nobody-knows/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excepts of Nisid Hajari's NPR Fresh Air interview promoting his book "Midnight's Furies":


"This rivalry between India and Pakistan has been going on now for nearly 70 years and it seems like a feature of the landscape ... as if it has always existed, and once you created two countries out of one that it was inevitable," Hajari says. "I don't think it was inevitable and a closer look at what happened in 1947 teaches you how the seeds of this rivalry were planted. It was obviously worsened over the years by various actors, but this is where it all started."

They (Hindus) controlled the schools, they controlled the educational curriculum, they oversaw the police and they gave out jobs and patronage to their own followers. And Muslims could see, particularly professional Muslims, Muslims who would otherwise have perhaps won these jobs, could see that they would have very little power in a democratic system, a parliamentary system after independence.

On that (Direct Action) day (1946), the speeches that were given were fairly inflammatory, and some of the Muslim listeners of these speeches went out and started burning and looting in Hindu areas. At the same time, Hindus in different parts of the city were also throwing bricks and stones at Muslim marchers. It's very hard to say exactly how it started or who started it [but] both sides behaved violently.

The Sikhs really were the accelerant to the riots in August 1947, which is, when people talk about partition, this is what they're talking about. These are the massive riots that broke out around the time that the British withdrew from India, and anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million people were killed.

As independence was approaching, all sides were forming militias, which they claimed were for self-defense. The Sikhs, because so many of them had served in the army, were the best trained and the best armed and the best organized of these militias, and therefore the rampages that they engaged in were more effective and bloodier and more damaging.

The Pakistani support for the Taliban had to do with their desire to have an influence in Kabul and to block Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistani strategists have this idea of strategic depth that if they were engaged in a major conflict with India that they would be able to use Afghanistan as a sort of rear-guard area to fall back to. They have a fear of being encircled by Indians and there have always been rumors that the Indians were trying to gain influence with various Afghan governments and that they had spies in Afghanistan and so on. Afghanistan has never fully agreed to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that creates more tensions.

But this fear of Indian encirclement, that's what goes back to partition in 1947. The seeds of that rivalry were planted in these weeks and months of violence and bloodshed back when both countries were still being born and they were exacerbated over the years by further conflicts and by various military dictators and politicians and so forth, but the basic pattern was set very quickly. As a smaller, weaker country, this asymmetric strategy of using surrogates to do your fighting for you seems appealing, but it has very destructive repercussions.

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/09/413121135/indias-1947-partition-and-the-deadly-legacy-that-persists-to-this-day

Riaz Haq said...

Op Ed by Uday Mahurkar:

It is said that to label a patriot as non-patriot is one of the greatest sins. Against the backdrop of this adage there is the curious case of Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first education minister and a nationalist Muslim credited with steering the boat of the Congress and, by that virtue, of India during the most difficult phase of the Pakistan movement from 1939 to 1945 under the shadow of World War II. There is a significant section of responsible Indians who believe that Azad and his ideological friends belonging to the Wahabi stream - the Deobandi Muslim leaders of that period - opposed Partition because they felt territorial nationalism had no place in Islam since the faith stood for converting the entire world and that the division of India would divide Muslim strength and awaken Hindus from a deep slumber under Muslim rule to the dangers of Pan-Islamism.

One of those who thought so was late retired bureaucrat, and a witness to the Partition, Yuvraj Krishen. His landmark book Understanding Partition is a good read on the actions and objectives of the Muslim League on one hand and, on the other, the Deobandis with their favourite Azad - who were in the Congress. Writing a guest column on the Partition for India Today in 2007, Krishen wrote:

"There is ample evidence now to prove that nationalist Muslims like Abul Kalam Azad and the then Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind president Ahmad Hussain Madani opposed Pakistan only because they felt that Partition would affect Muslim domination in the sub-continent and Muslims would heavily lose. Plus they tried to extract a heavy price from the Congress for their patriotism in the name of minority protection. Congress leaders have tried to hide the fact that as Congress president in 1945, Azad even went to the extent of agreeing to a proposal of rotating Indian headship. It meant India would have a Hindu and then a Muslim head of State and army chief by turns. So, eventually Gandhi and Nehru made Congress a hostage to ‘Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost’ which Jinnah skillfully exploited and got more concessions from the Congress to establish parity in numbers between Hindu and Muslim representation."

But a better way to look at Azad is from the eyes of secular and lslamic scholars/leaders of Pakistan. Amongst them the leaders of the Wahabi stream in Pakistan, generally opposed to Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s modernist approach, see Azad with respect while the Jinnah admirers see him as the representative of an unbending, orthodox and even retrograde brand of Islam and question Gandhiji for taking the support of retrograde Islamic forces. This can be gleaned from the writings and speeches of Wahabi stream leaders like late Tanzeem-e-Islami's (an Islamic socio-political body in Pakistan) Ameer Israr Ahmed and Jamat-e-Ulema-e-Islam president and Deobandi leader Fazlur Rehman and pro-Jinnah, liberal scholars like Ayesha Jalal - who teaches history in United States. Among other such supporters include Hamza Alavi, the eminent late Pakistani social scientist, Naeem Ahmad, an expert on the Pakistan movement and Sharif-Al-Mujahid, a well known Pakistani academic and freedom movement scholar.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/maulana-abdul-kalam-azad-partition-pakistan-deoband-indian-muslims/story/1/5223.html

Riaz Haq said...

Faisal Devji's review of Venkat Dhulipala’s book "Creating a New Medina":

Now to say that Pakistan was “insufficiently imagined” as a nation-state is not to claim, as Dhulipala seems to think, that it was unintended or lacked a positive character. Indeed I have argued in my own book on Muslim nationalism that for a number of historical reasons, it took an ambiguous if not contradictory form by founding a state outside the legitimising vocabulary of blood and soil, history and geography, to focus on ideas alone. And it was precisely because this “ideological” way of imagining a new society possessed so little juridical precedent or political context, that it proved so difficult to mould into a nation-state. Dhulipala, however, is not concerned with the novelty of this political vision – and in fact thinks it to be neither very original nor even political – but instead nothing more than old-fashioned religion, which, in an equally archaic notion, he imagines as filling the masses with “enthusiasm” (p. 354). ...
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While Dhulipala is not above suggesting that historians like Ayesha Jalal are disingenuous in their use of sources, if not entirely ignorant of them, his own narrative is full of such evasions. Correctly describing Ambedkar as the great theorist and critic of Pakistan, for instance, Dhulipala offers us one of his extended summaries of the Dalit leader’s book, Thoughts on Pakistan, which serves as an example of his mode of analysis. By having the text “speak for itself” he can report without comment those passages in which Ambedkar deploys the repertoire of colonial scholarship to paint Muslims as a religious and military threat to Hindus, whose exclusion from India can only be welcomed. Instead of accounting for such hyperbolic statements by locating them within Ambedkar’s political rhetoric, where they are arguably meant to frighten upper castes into turning to Dalits for support, Dhulipala merely declares them to be Ambedkar’s “own beliefs” (p. 135). How, then, are we to account for his good relations with Jinnah, whose statement, that Ambedkar wanted Dalits to replace Muslims as the favored subjects of quotas in a partitioned India, is passed over in silence? Or the support Ambedkar enjoyed from the Muslim League before and after his book was published? Dhulipala doesn’t mention this, just as he doesn’t tell us, when describing with horror the “Day of Deliverance” Jinnah declared to celebrate Congress’s resignation of government in 1939, that both Ambedkar and Savarkar joined in the festivities.

In the time-tested way of old-fashioned national history, Dhulipala’s book depoliticises Muslim nationalism by making it out to be a religious phenomenon at the popular level. Of course Shahid Amin’s Event, Metaphor, Memory manages to do the same for Gandhi’s first movement of Non-Cooperation, but without suggesting that Congress and its leaders were therefore depoliticised or in thrall to Hindu “enthusiasm”. The author of Creating a New Medina separates the Muslim League from all other parties and politics in India, as indeed the world, to stand alone as the unique but still inexplicable villain of the story of partition, which has now surely become one of the most boring subjects in Indian historical writing. Having myself written a book severely critical of the idea of Pakistan, I am not caviling at Dhulipala’s political allegiances, but find his argument to be anachronistic in its subject and scope, and therefore singularly unproductive intellectually. Is the kind of history written by young scholars like Dhulipala going to be reduced to waging old wars with equally ageing analytical equipment? Or maybe it is only in the intellectually impoverished field of Pakistani history that a book like this can be published.


http://thewire.in/2015/10/04/young-fogeys-the-anachronism-of-new-scholarship-on-pakistan-12265/

Riaz Haq said...

‘Respect Gandhi If You Will, Don’t Sentimentalise Him’The distinguished professor of history now trains his lens on modern Indian history, discussing his book at lengthPRAFUL BIDWAI INTERVIEWS PERRY ANDERSON

http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/respect-gandhi-if-you-will-dont-sentimentalise-him/282832


Gandhi was gripped by regressive personal phobias, had limited intellectual formation, was impervious to rational argument...

You could say that, very roughly, it advances five main arguments that run counter to conventional wisdom in India today. Firstly, that the idea of a subcontinental unity stretching back six thousand years is a myth. Secondly, that Gandhi’s injection of religion into the national movement was ultimately a disaster for it. Thirdly, that primary responsibility for Partition lay not with the Raj, but Congress. Fourthly, that Nehru’s legacy to Republic was far more ambiguous than his admirers will admit. Lastly, that Indian democracy is not contradicted by caste inequality, but rather enabled by it. This is a crude summary. Obviously, in each case, much more is said than this.

You’ve explained that one of the reasons why, instead of writing simply about contemporary India, you start by looking at the struggle for independence, was your shock at the reception of Kathryn Tidrick’s work on Gandhi, so thoroughly blanketed by silence that most Indians are unaware of its existence. Tidrick concentrates on the relationship between Gandhi’s self-perception as a world-saviour— his religious beliefs— and his politics. She doesn’t really explore his role as a mass leader and tactician of the independence struggle. How far is your own account of Gandhi, which many in India would regard as a savage criticism, based on hers?
Tidrick’s biography of Gandhi is an extraordinarily careful, calm and courageous work. Not just I, but any serious student of this historical figure, would have more to learn about his outlook from her work than from any other extant study of him —the vast majority of Gandhiana being, to one degree or another, hagiographic. The silence covering it in India is an intellectual scandal which reflects poorly on local opinion. The problem here is not, of course, confined to her work. More recently, the reception of Joseph Lelyveld’s much more superficial and not very political, but extremely respectful, book about Gandhi—it’s even entitled Great Soul—tells the same story. Because it dismantles some of the legends Gandhi propagated about his time in South Africa, we have his grandson complaining that it ‘belittles’ him. It’s only in this climate of deference that my treatment of Gandhi could be regarded as sacrilege. Actually, I single out not only his remarkable gifts as a leader, and his achievement in making Congress a mass party, but also his personal sincerity and selflessness—he did not want power for himself, as most politicians do. In his own way he was a great man.


The principal catastrophe of 1947 lay in the Congress folly of not realising that it was, in composition and outlook, a Hindu party.
But that does not exempt him from criticism. He was gripped by a set of regressive personal fixations and phobias, had a very limited intellectual formation, was impervious to rational argument, and entirely unaware of the damage he was doing to the national movement by suffusing it with Hindu pietism as he reconceived it. He is to be respected, with all his blindness. But there is no need to sentimentalize him. The complete latitude he gave himself to declare as truth whatever he happened to say at any time, and then change it from one day to the next, still as the word of God shining through him, set a disastrous example for his followers and admirers.

Riaz Haq said...

The Gandhi Nobody Knows
I had the singular honor of attending an early private screening of Gandhi with an audience of invited guests from…

RICHARD GRENIER / MAR. 1, 1983


HTTPS://WWW.COMMENTARYMAGAZINE.COM/ARTICLES/THE-GANDHI-NOBODY-KNOWS/


As it happens, the government of India openly admits to having provided one-third of the financing of Gandhi out of state funds, straight out of the national treasury—and after close study of the finished product I would not be a bit surprised to hear that it was 100 percent. If Pandit Nehru is portrayed flatteringly in the film, one must remember that Nehru himself took part in the initial story conferences (he originally wanted Gandhi to be played by Alec Guinness) and that his daughter Indira Gandhi is, after all, Prime Minister of India (though no relation to Mohandas Gandhi). The screenplay was checked and rechecked by Indian officials at every stage, often by the Prime Minister herself, with close consultations on plot and even casting. If the movie contains a particularly poisonous portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, the Indian reply, I suppose, would be that if the Pakistanis want an attractive portrayal of Jinnah let them pay for their own movie. A friend of mine, highly sophisticated in political matters but innocent about film-making, declared that Gandhi should be preceded by the legend: The following film is a paid political advertisement by the government of India.

Gandhi, then, is a large, pious, historical morality tale centered on a saintly, sanitized Mahatma Gandhi cleansed of anything too embarrassingly Hindu (the word “caste” is not mentioned from one end of the film to the other) and, indeed, of most of the rest of Gandhi’s life, much of which would drastically diminish his saintliness in Western eyes. There is little to indicate that the India of today has followed Gandhi’s precepts in almost nothing. There is little, in fact, to indicate that India is even India. The spectator realizes the scene is the Indian subcontinent because there are thousands of extras dressed in dhotis and saris. The characters go about talking in these quaint Peter Sellers accents. We have occasional shots of India’s holy poverty, holy hovels, some landscapes, many of them photographed quite beautifully, for those who like travelogues. We have a character called Lord Mountbatten (India’s last Viceroy); a composite American journalist (assembled from Vincent Sheehan, William L. Shirer, Louis Fischer, and straight fiction); a character called simply “Viceroy” (presumably another composite); an assemblage of Gandhi’s Indian followers under the name of one of them (Patel); and of course Nehru.