The Jinnah controversy- Partition, Independence and Mayhem!

Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan would be turning in his grave. The founding father of our ever so friendly neighbour state must surely not have anticipated that after almost 69 years of propounding that Hindu-Mussalman can theoretically and practically never be ‘bhai-bhai’ and a good 61 years after his demise, he would continue to feature regularly under the intense microscopic gaze of thousands across the border. His ideology, belief in the fact that Muslims can never be united under any Hindu leadership as they will forever be looked upon as the minority community and continue to be alienated, coupled with the burning desire that the Partition was imperative so that the Muslims of the Asian Sub-continent could live according to the tenets of Islam, have all been frequently debated and discussed in various fora over the years. There has been an attempt by various scholars, historians, educationists, from both sides of the border, to analyse his Two Nation theory as minutely as possible so as to derive a solution to the constant skirmishes engulfing the two countries and trace the answer to such irritants from the 1947 episode, the seeds of which were sown in this very theory. Of course all this has produced numerous perspectives, opinions on the same, though none has really impacted the radicals and conservative players well enough for them to book themselves a suite in the Bombay Taj to take a good look at the place, rather than bombing it so that all its glory is visible to every foreign newspaper that exists! The intensive debates have had a flipside too. They have led to the formal vilification of many national leaders of the freedom struggle in both the countries, thereby belittling their role, stature and contributions to the movement. One such leader who has been a favourite with the India-centric perspective and analysis is Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He has been regularly portrayed as the ‘bad man’ and the ‘creator of the menace’ which we are facing today-Pakistan;and projected as the power hungry leader who wanted a vast expanse to rule, all for himself, simply because he knew that with the likes of leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel forming the top brass of the Indian freedom struggle, he would never get any substantial role to play in the political functioning of the newly-born country. The Indian texts have always castigated his views and the Indian populace (most of them) grew up with the notion that Jinnah was a traitor and his avarice has eventually made a mockery of the concepts of peace and mutual co-existence. Rarely has any public figure dared to take a stand on this vilification and almost all have gone with the public tide. The one who dared, paid with a nasty expulsion from an organization, which itself is blamed for playing a lot of double games.

This article is not about the Partition, its causes. It’s not about expounding Jinnah’s credentials and his exquisite statesmanship. It’s also not about the greatness of Nehru or Patel and how Jaswant Singh goes majorly wrong with his comments, in his now infamous book, Jinnah- India, Partition, Independence. There is better literature available for all of that. What it surely talks about is how the BJP just can’t get enough from digging its own grave, periodically. At a time when the party is in tatters owing to its massive drubbing in the recent elections and worst showing in almost 20 years, allowing such a controversy to take shape is unwarranted and uncalled for. The reason given by the party bigwigs for the ignominious expulsion was that Singh’s views were incoherent with the party discipline and ideology and as the main Opposition party; it cannot afford to tamper with its ‘image’ at this critical juncture where recuperating its forces is of primal importance to grapple with the ruling government. Well if the ongoing circus is anything to go by, the BJP is failing miserably on that front. Not only is the party hierarchy in shambles, the anomalous statements we get to hear each day on television and newspaper columns from different members only reveals the shoddy nature of regulation the party members are being subjected to. Singh’s views are his own and being a citizen of the state, he is well within his rights to express them in whichever medium he chooses to. If that is detrimental to the party ideology or so has been claimed, then the best way out of the entire quagmire would have been to issue a unilateral statement that the party seeks to alienate itself from the views expressed in the book. Taking such a step would have entitled it to inviting lesser ire from all quarters and ended up sweeping the entire issue under the carpet for all practical purposes. However the BJP high command chose to take a step diametrically opposite to reasonableness and showed the door to a senior and well respected leader, in a rather despicable manner. Not only has this further re-affirmed the brand of hard line policies which the BJP is known to espouse so fervently but it’s also exposed the facade of unity and oneness which is so essential for any political party to maintain its credibility. The timing of this whole incident could not have been more calamitous. Technically the party should have been closing on its ranks, recouping and readying itself to pose a strong opposition to its old nemesis so that the tactical errors of the 2009 elections can be rectified and people’s faith restored. However it is too busy passing the buck and controlling the infighting within its troops, to effectively play out its role in the democratic system. What is even more appalling is that the bone of contention i.e. the discussion about the role of Jinnah, Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom movement, is being raked up now when so much of water has passed under the bridge and the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan have ceased to be a product of the Partition but because of many other events which shaped both their destinies, post-1947. Nothing to sound impertinent, as Iam all for using debating as a platform to vent out grievances, look into possible answers and jointly arriving at amicable solutions. However when it is amply clear that no amount of arguing is going to convince the Jinnah-haters to respect him and no matter what is circulated, people will continue to respect the Mahatma as the Father of the Nation, harping upon the same issues does not seem like a very impressive proposition.

The script is not going right for the second largest and most prominent party of the Indian political system. It has just been handed a thumping defeat by the Congress which is riding high on its resurgence wave and warm embrace by the electorate; the top brass of the performing guard of the BJP have been disillusioned by the petty politics enacted by the minions of the organization, merely to hold on to their strongholds; there is a strong division between the Byte Generation and the Substantive Generation; the party is already reeling under a weak leadership. Everything put together does not augur well for BJP, Jinnah or no Jinnah. What it needs right now is some semblance of order in maintaining its affairs, bridging the growing divide among various factions within the party and forging a strong front to keep a check on the arbitrariness, if any, exhibited by the present government. India’s democratic edifice has sustained itself for so long only because none of the ruling governments were allowed to become autocratic in nature by an effective Opposition. This foundation is fast becoming fragile due to truant played by the BJP in recent history. Hence it needs to curb the self-destruction it has unleashed upon itself to gain credibility all over again, amidst its ardent supporters; which does not seem plausible if the party is engulfed in a time warp. It’s about time we see some responsible political work from the party which was once seen as the harbinger of modernisation and liberal approach to politics. Jaswant Singh may have been left out in the cold to fend for himself but one can only hope that this step does not come to haunt his erstwhile party later on. Jinnah lives on and just when we thought that India was done dissecting this esoteric lawyer-turned-prominent politician, he has sprung into the limelight once again. And this time, it would be quite a task to erase his montages from the minds of the Indian populace.

Smrithi Suresh

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