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Jinnah, Author of the Partition

Jinnah, Author of the Partition

Author: Dr. Koenraad Elst
Publication: Voi.org
Date: August 30, 2009
URL: http://voi.org/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=221&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=214

The Narendra Modi government's ban on Jaswant Singh's Jinnah book is one sign too many of the Hindutva predisposition to solving debates by means of muzzling. This flies in the face of the ancient Hindu tradition of open debate, and brings dishonour to the heirs of Yajnavalkya, the Buddha, Shankara and other great debaters. However, on contents, Modi was right to disapprove of the book's misrepresentation of history, and this not only regarding the role of Gujarat's hero Sardar Patel.

On one point, though, Jaswant Singh is right: Mohammed Ali Jinnah was truly a great man, -- but for the opposite reason than the one he gives. It was not for his purportedly being a "secular" guardian of Muslim interest (note the Nahruvian-secularist contradiction in terms here: a guardian of one community's interests is by definition communalist, even if he does so by peaceful and cooperative means, as Jinnah did in the 1916 Lucknow Pact), but for being a determined and highly successful Muslim communalist. After all, he achieved the territorial realization of Muslim communalism, viz. Partition. Jinnah was a man of impressive strength, for he forced a political arrangement on an unwilling majority, on his colonial overlords and even on a large part of his own community.

Contrary to what Congress secularists and Hindu nationalists including Jaswant Singh claim, the British did not engineer nor even favour partition. India's numerous white-supremacists, of both the secular and the Hindutva variety, refuse to concede agency to mere natives and insist that anything of consequence must have a white hand behind it. In this case, they have been insisting since 1947 that crafty British divide-and-rule machinations were behind the Partition, which was only superficially the handiwork of their puppet, Jinnah. But in reality, Jinnah was very much his own man, not at all a British stooge, and he pursued the non-white agenda of Islam.

Viceroys Linlithgow and Wavell told Jinnah they would never countenance the division of their neat and well-integrated empire. Their successor Mountbatten only gave in under Jinnah's forceful pressure, which made Partition seem inevitable. As an exiting power, Britain no longer felt motivated to impose its will against the formidable odds of a Muslim wave of violence far larger than the one they had to put down in Kerala during the Khilafat movement (the Moplah rebellion). Additionnally, the changing world situation after WW2 with the incipient Cold War made the British government see emerging opportunities in a partitioned India (viz. to enlist Pak in the Western alliance), so they reconciled themselves to it. But all through, the initiative for Partition was with Jinnah.

In comparison, Gandhi and the Congress leaders were small men, or at any rate very ineffective strategists. They had the majority with them, the British and a section of the Muslims, yet they failed to achieve their objective of keeping India united. They had all the trump cards, yet they lost and Jinnah won. One of their main weaknesses was the one still afflicting Jaswant Singh, Advani and most Sangh people: a complete failure (or refusal) to understand Islam and its political agenda. With that mindset, they had no chance of defeating a determined Islamic offensive.

Of course there is a difference between a failure to outwit Jinnah so as to prevent Partition, of which failure the Congress leaders were indeed guilty, and a deliberate complicity in the Partition, of which Jaswant Singh (along with Nathuram Godse) falsely accuses them. They opposed Partition but grudgingly buckled under Muslim pressure.

As for the massive bloodshed accompanying Partition, here guilt is a bit more evenly divided. At the time, Dr. Ambedkar had floated the suggestion of a complete exchange of population, making India as Muslim-free as Pakistan would (eventually) becomre Hindu-free. Jinnah, who in his young days had rejected Gandhi's mass campaigns because of their capacity for violence, was by then quite willing to shed some blood, but preferably not more than politically useful. So he was willing to consider Ambedkar's proposal, along with Rajaji, Patel, Morarji Desai and others. Nehru, whose focus then was on securing his own PM ambitions, would have gone along, but the man who put his foot down against this lives-saving proposal was Gandhi. Much as I respect Arun Shourie and his veneration for Gandhi, my study of the events only tells me that Gandhi bears an enormous guilt for making the Partition, once accepted, far bloodier than it need have been. Moreover, the non-exchange of population has led to the continuation of Hindu-Muslim violence long after Partition, including the Hindu genocide of 1971 in East Bengal, and we haven't seen the end of it yet. Partition could have made sense if implemented to the full, with the community that refused multicultural coexistence in one state resettled completely in the country of its own making. Not a nice principle and not one that I would advocate for any country today, but it was a logical component of the Partition principle that Gandhi had accepted and forced India to accept. By preventing the lesser evil of an organized and pre-planned exchange of population, which even the much-maligned Jinnah accepted, Gandhiji has a sea of blood on his hands. The Congress leaders are indirectly guilty in that they kept on defering to him and didn't park him in a cave in the Himalaya or at least tell him to keep out of politics.

Except for Ambedkar, few people at the time reasoned: "We'd be better off without the Muslims." Hindus including the Hindu Mahasabha were too multicultural ("secular") for that. Pakistan, by contrast, was built on the Muslim rejection of multicultural coexistence. Imagine what India could have been today for Hindus if the exchange had taken place. No Hindu-Muslim riots, no terror against Hindus in Sindh and East Bengal. No Babri Masjid complications, Hindu sacred places would of course have been under Hindu control. Sanskrit could have taken its rightful place. One modern civil code for all. Bollywood cinema would have Hindi films in actual Hindi rather than Urdu. But far more importantly, issues could have been debated and policies decided on their own merits without always having to be sidetracked by communal considerations.

The late Girilal Jain was of course right to say that Partition gave Hindu society another lease of life, which Muslims in a united India would never have conceded to them. But that window of opportunity doesn't last forever. If they allow power equations to develop similar to those of the 1940s, the outcome may be similar to Jinnah's victory on 14 August 1947. This is all the more likely if Hindu leaders cultivate the same babes-in-the-wood approach of their 1940s predecessors. Of that mentality, Jaswant Singh's book, like Advani's earlier Jinnah comments, is a sad example. Not because he extols Jinnah and depreciates Nehru and Patel, but because his analysis is informed by a total ignorance of Islamic politics.

Most Muslim leaders at the time were motivated by the communal concern for furthering Muslim interests, but this could take very different forms depending on their analysis of the power equation. Jinnah as a modern man estimated that democracy was here to stay, and that consequently numbers were decisive. In this view, Muslims in a Hindu-majority country would be out of power and should secede from it to create a state for themselves or at least one in which they would be the majority. But the religiously orthodox Deoband school reasoned differently: in the Middle Ages, Muslims were a far smaller minority and yet they ruled over the Hindus. Damn democracy and restore the Islamic empire, was the position of Deobandis like Maulana Maudoodi. And of the most famous Deobandi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, often falsely presented as a "nationalist Muslim", but in fact a clever Islamist strategist who exploited Gandhi's and Nehru's eagerness to somehow find a nationalist Muslim somewhere. With his direct experience of the Congress leaders' gullibility regarding Islam, he knew that there was no "Hindu majority" that would oppress the Muslims. On the contrary, Muslims were getting all kinds of priviliges (Gandhi, with Azad's support, even offered Jinnah the option of forming an all-Muslim government as reward for abandoning the Partition scheme), and if they played their cards well, they could become the dominant community with their 25%, percentage which would only grow and become a majority in the end.

Jinnah wanted Pakistan as a secure basis from which a later generation could perhaps conquer the rest of India, Azad wanted to give the Muslim community a strond and eventually dominant position in a united India. Both were cynical and determined Muslim communalists, but their strategies were different. With hindsight, we may judge that Azad was a more far-sighted strategist, for the conduct of Hindu politicians in remainder-India proves that they are no match for any Muslim pressures, not from the one in seven in remainder-India, let alone from a Muslim community that would comprise one in three inhabitants of a united India. Those are the angles from which the Jinnah phenomenon can be understood: the inter-Muslim debate over which scenario would best serve Muslim interests. But no one is bringing them up in the present quarrels over personalized matters such as the relative merits and demerits of Nehru and Patel. Just as the Congress leaders back then failed to weigh the situation in those terms, with the result that their attempts to prevent partition were based on sentiment rather than on a proper facts-based analysis, and were doomed to be ineffectual.

In all the reactions to Jaswant's Jinnah book, this same ignorance and incomprehension of (or at least indifference to) Islamic politics remains in evidence. On this topic, the whole of India seems to be in the dark. Not even "groping in the dark", for someone who is groping at least understands that he lacks something and needs to find it. Most Indians in this debate seem perfectly satisfied with their ignorance.

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