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", 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


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 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.

Anant Karandikar

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.

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...


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...


"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.


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...


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...

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'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.
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.

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...

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). ...

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.

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

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…



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.

Riaz Haq said...

Gurinder Chadha's "Viceroy’s House" version of #India’s partition brings fake history to screen | Ian Jack #Pakistan\

In an angry piece for the Guardian, the Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto accused the film’s British-Indian director, Gurinder Chadha, of seeming “to take pleasure in laying the bloodshed and brutality of 1947 at the feet of two particular villains: Muslims and Jinnah”. It was, she wrote, the product of “a deeply colonised imagination … [a] servile pantomime of partition”.

Chadha denied the charge of anti-Muslim prejudice – persuasively, I think – but to my mind she and her fellow writers on the film, her American husband, Paul Mayeda Berges, and the English screenwriter Moira Buffini, have committed just as great a sin, which is to take a breathtaking liberty with the historical record.

The film’s Mussolini moment occurs when the unfortunate English lawyer who has been commissioned to draw the new boundaries, the sweating, put-upon Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow), returns from the Punjab to Delhi to say it can’t be done in the few weeks he has at his disposal. It’s all too complicated, he tells Mountbatten’s chief of staff, Lord Ismay (Michael Gambon), who then pulls from his drawer a secret map, prepared under Winston Churchill’s aegis, which has the border already drawn. Ismay, who served as Churchill’s wartime chief of staff, suggests Pakistan was at least partly a British invention as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. Hey presto! All Radcliffe needs to do is adopt the Churchill map’s borders.

Imagine a film about the Holocaust where a character pulls open a drawer, pulls out a document and reveals that 6 million deaths aren’t the fault of Hitler but of … Mussolini.

True, this isn’t a documentary. It’s a Hollywood film like James Cameron’s Titanic, in which fictional characters inhabit a crowded landscape of real people and real events, some of the most dreadful in the 20th century’s history. Sure, you have to cut the director a little slack. Reality is always more complicated than any film has the time to allow. But blaming it on Mussolini! A ripple of distaste and incomprehension crosses the audience at the thought that such a hideous chapter in European history should be so irresponsibly treated, as if it were no more than “material” to be bent to the director’s whim.

In south Asia, the partition of 70 years ago has a similar resonance to the Holocaust in the memory of the two (eventually three) nations that came out of it. Between 1 and 2 million people are thought to have died; about 15 million left their homes to cross the new borders – a great migration of Muslims to the new state of Pakistan, and Sikhs and Hindus into truncated India. Mass violence and death, startling cruelty, hunger, disease, homelessness: all these accompanied India’s liberation from British rule.

Apportioning the blame has kept scholars in work for half a century. Was it the intransigence of the Indian National Congress and/or the All-India Muslim League, and their leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Was it the inevitable outcome of the imperial policy identified by its opponents as divide-and-rule? Did it flow from the politicisation of religious identity? How much of it can be put down to British haste, weakness and incompetence? How much did the characters of the last viceroy and his wife, Lord Louis and Edwina, Lady Mountbatten, play a part?

Riaz Haq said...

Husain Haqqani and journalists like Margaret Bourke-White cited by him who attack Jinnah are like little pygmies trying to denigrate a giant of history.

“Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”

― Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Indians were equally responsible for Partition, not just Pakistan or British: Hamid Ansari

Former Vice President Hamid Ansari said while people like to hold Pakistan or the British responsible for India's partition, no one wants to admit that India was equally responsible for it.

Referring to a speech delivered by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's on August 11, 1947, four days before India got its independence, Ansari said in that speech, Patel had said "he took these extreme steps after great deliberation".

Ansari claimed that Patel in this speech also said that "despite his previous opposition to Partition, he was convinced that to keep India united, it must be divided".

He said these speeches are available in Patel's records.

"But as politics of the country changed, someone had to be blamed. So Muslims became the scapegoat and were blamed for Partition," Ansari said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janta Party has hit out at Ansari. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded an apology from Ansari for his comments.

Riaz Haq said...

The politics of biography: Ram Guha’s concluding Gandhi bio is a familiar exercise in deifying him, reinforcing inequality—a review

The celebrity Indian historian’s refusal to triangulate Gandhi’s own recollections and memoirs and the sources contemporaneous to his times with more recent scholarship leaves us with a biography intellectually thin and long on anecdote. Gandhi’s uncritical internalization of the separation between the political and the social on which the book rests impoverishes Guha’s analysis of both Gandhi and his foremost intellectual and political adversaries like Jinnah and Ambedkar. In the end, an adroit strategy of guilt-by-association clears the space for Guha the moderate biographer to consolidate Gandhi’s towering place in history.


On 22 September 1932, the Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar met Mohandas Gandhi in Yerwada Jail in Pune, Maharashtra. Gandhi was into the third day of his fast unto death against the British colonial administration’s Communal Award that created separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs, and the “Depressed Classes” (as Dalits were then termed). Gandhi’s objection was not to the awarding of separate electorates to Muslims and Sikhs but to Dalits. Since the Depressed Classes totaled about 50 million or approximately 20 percent of India’s population at this time, their recognition as a distinct or separate category would severely compromise Gandhi’s, and the Congress Party’s, claim to speak for all, or at least the vast majority of, Indians. While the separate electorate would greatly strengthen Dalits in their effort to redress their horrendous socio-economic status, one that had endured for centuries if not millennia, Gandhi was against such a political solution to what he regarded as a social or even a moral problem. He considered Dalits to be Hindu and his preference was for ‘Harijan uplift’ or social reform—changing the minds and hearts of Caste Hindus about untouchability. According to the media at the time, the nation was in a frenzy as Gandhi’s health was deteriorating fast. The pressure on Ambedkar to “save the life of the Mahatma” by giving up the separate electorate the Dalits had been awarded, and to settle for a diluted version of it, can only be imagined.

At one point in their negotiations in Yerwada, Gandhi said to Ambedkar, “You are born an untouchable but I am an untouchable by adoption. And as a new convert, I feel more for the welfare of the community than those who are already there.”3 Picture, if you will, President Lyndon Johnson telling Martin Luther King Jr. during the mid-1960s that though he was not black, as someone successfully chaperoning the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act through the US Congress at that very moment, he (Johnson) felt more for the welfare of African-Americans than King possibly could, for after all the latter’s blackness was merely an accident of birth.


Gandhi’s views about indentured laborers were identical to caste Indian views of Dalits back home that, similarly, blamed the victim. The only group even further down the ladder of inferiority in Gandhi’s view was native Africans whom he referred to as “kaffirs” throughout his time in South Africa.

Riaz Haq said...

Jaswant Singh, India’s former foreign minister, who died on September 27 after six years in a coma from a fall at his home, was carrying a history-making sheaf of typed papers in his briefcase on July 16, 2001, in Agra, papers of immeasurable importance to the future history of South Asia.

So powerful were the contents in Jaswant Singh’s draft he had agreed with his Pakistan counterpart that it had the potential to forestall any future war between India and Pakistan. Singh’s far-right colleague and home minister LK Advani torpedoed the draft pact moments before Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf were to accept it.

The sabotaged Agra summit could have saved India and Pakistan an endless need to procure military hardware at prohibitive costs to their poverty-stricken masses. Had history not played truant that day in Agra, there would be a hoard of money available for healthcare and education for both countries – saved from scandal-tainted Rafale jets in India, for example – which in turn would have enabled both to better fight the coronavirus menace, and perhaps even spare precious resources for the less endowed neighbours.

The French Rafales were meant to deal with the military contingency in Ladakh with China, one might argue. Yes and no. Jaswant Singh’s peace deal carried the power, in fact, to vacate the need for even India and China to think of war or to send hapless men to inhospitable climes for guarding their ill-defined frontiers. There would be perhaps no deaths from frostbite or avalanches in Siachen either. There would be no need to interdict the Karakoram Highway.

There is a humanitarian catastrophe brewing in Jammu and Kashmir. An Agra pact would have made unnecessary the subjugation of Jammu and Kashmir last year. True, there were howls of protest from Hindutva nationalists when Jaswant Singh proposed in a subsequent TV interview that India could accept the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as a hard border and thus end a core dispute with Pakistan.

The protests had less to do with the logic of peace between nuclear rivals, rather they were needed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its assiduously nurtured hatred for Pakistan. A worried Arun Jaitley, the late partisan of the RSS, told the Americans in as many words, according to WikiLeaks, that good relations with Pakistan were detrimental to Hindutva’s political constituency in northern India. The instructive core of such an argument can imply that the December 2001 terror attack on the Indian parliament or the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai harmed India but helped the BJP. The logic again came into play with the Pulwama attack last year.

To loosely translate an Indian saying, the horse cannot befriend the grass. That is a likelier reason for the failure of the Agra summit – because peace with Pakistan would destroy the BJP’s plank to win votes. It goes to the credit of Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh that they did not see their politics through the prism of perpetual communal hostility.