The partition of India, 1947, some call it as vivisection as Gandhi had, has without doubt has been the most wounding trauma of the twentieth century. It has seared the psyche of more than four generations of this subcontinent.
Why did the partition take place at all? Who was/is responsible – Jinnah, the Congress Party or the British? Jaswant Singh attempts to find an answer, his answer, for there can perhaps not be a definite answer, yet the author searches. Jinnah’s political journey began as ‘an ambassador of Hindu – Muslim Unity’ (Gopal Krishna Gokhle), yet ended with his becoming the ‘sole spokesman’ of Muslims in India; the creator of Pakistan, the Quid-e-Azam: How and why this transformation takes place? Writing about the politics of Partition in the right register seems impossible.
Entrenched ideological commitments, the desire for explanations, the need to apportion blame, and a preoccupation with subtexts make the history almost impossible to write. Writing on Partition also suffers from a peculiarly unimaginative take on human agency. How could anyone in the 1930s and ’40s have imagined what the Indian subcontinent would be like? How do such a complicated and brilliant cast of political characters engage in complex political negotiations? How easy is it to read intentions?
What is the relationship between the negotiations of these characters and the complex movements of self and identity brewing on the ground? How do we think of possible counterfactuals: if only Nehru had done “X” or Mountbatten had done “Y”? There has always been a false confidence with which so many historians approach these difficult questions. There is also the wishing away of uncomfortable thoughts. Men acting in good faith can produce unintended consequences; and often two incompatible lines of argument seem to have their own internal integrity.
It is easy to argue that Hindus and Muslims were not two nations. It is far more difficult to suggest what framework would have accommodated all possible aspirations. It is far too easy to take a position on should India have been a strong, central state or a weak federation. But it is more difficult to make a knockdown argument for one position or the other. Yet, we write and argue as if all these judgments are so easy. Certainly, none of the characters central to this drama — Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel or Mohammed Ali Jinnah — ever thought there were easy answers.
Their moments of self doubt, hesitation and frustration are a tribute to their seriousness, as much as our encrusted certainties are a reminder of the laziness of our condescension. This is the backdrop against which a serious book (Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah) must be approached. It is a prodigious work of scholarship, wide-ranging in its references and well documented. It has its own historical judgments to make and sometimes they are too swift. But there is no doubt that the book opens up serious and interesting questions.
It has a narrative of its own. Partition was not the result of an irrevocable religious cleavage between Hindus and Muslims. It was squarely a product of politics. The Congress was unable to handle its own success, as it were. The issue is not whether the Congress was right in its ideological commitments or not. The issue is whether it had the political capacity and sense of judgment to deal with those who might challenge it. The issue is not which theory of nationhood was right.
The real political question is how you handle deep disagreement. In this crucial respect, Singh argues, the Congress spectacularly misjudged Jinnah at many levels: his political tenacity, his tactical adaptability, his single-mindedness, his sense of mission. The roots of these misjudgments are deep. Partly it was overconfidence. After the UP election results, the Congress came to the erroneous conclusion that it did not need to share power with the voices Jinnah represented. Partly it was a question of historical judgment.
Ironically, in Singh’s account, it is the Congress’s commitment to a strong Centre and impatience about taking power that stood in the way of a workable compromise. We can all blame Jinnah for the communalization that rapidly took over politics in 30 years, but that would be too easy. We have to also ask: what was it about prevailing discourses, including that of the Congress, which allowed this to happen? The book has many layers and nuances. It places Partition in the context of the history of Islam in India; it acknowledges the burdens that Partition has psychologically placed on the Muslims of India.
It builds on earlier work that the central paradox of Pakistan and the emergence of religious politics in India is that they were born in the crucible of representative politics. Its central conclusion that Partition was a mistake may seem too swift in hindsight. It is often too easy to focus on the costs of division, but the problem of unity was a genuinely difficult one. If this learned work has a failing, it is this. It sometimes violates its own deeply generous spirit, particularly in its assessment of Nehru. Nehru’s problem, even on the evidence in the book, was not that his positions were not defensible.
His problem, in this instance, seems to have been more his ability to handle people who did not think like him. The subtle message of the book is that nations are made, not only by ideology or virtue, but also by an ability to negotiate with radical difference. No Indian or any Pakistani politician/Member of Parliament has ventured an analytical, political biography of Quid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, about whom views necessarily get divided as being either hagiographical or additional demonology. The book attempts an objective evolution.
Jaswant Singh’s experience as a Minister responsible for the conduct of India’s foreign policies, managing the country’s defense (concurrently), has been uniformly challenging (Lahore Peace process; betrayed at Kargil; Kandhar; at Agra Pease Summit; the attack on Jammu and Kashmir assembly and the Indian Parliament; coercive diplomacy of 2002; the peace overtures reinitiated in April 2003) He asks where and when did this questionable thesis of ‘Muslim as separate nation’ first originate and lead the Indian sub continent to? Why then a Bangladesh?
Also what now of Pakistan? Where is it headed? This book is special; it stands apart, for it is authored by a practitioner of policy, an innovator of politics in search of definite answers. Those burning ‘whys’ of the last sixty – two years, which bedevil us still. Jaswant Singh believes that for the return of the lasting peace in South Asia, there is no alternative but first to understand what made it ‘abandon’ us in the first place. Until we do that, a minimum, a must, we will never be able to persuade peace to return. Chapter – 2 History of that Period
India and Islam carries Jaswant Singh’s confused ideas of the Introduction with some details again questioning his basic point whether or not Muslims were a nation. How could people who came to invade India and settled here thereafter, could become Indian nationals: He is forgetting that those who claimed to be a nation in their own merit, were large number of Muslim converts from Hindu religion to Islam over the centuries, which many Hindu scholars did take notice of, and explained them, with a number of reformatory movements in the Hindu religious, social and cultural system.
Islam or Islamic spirit and culture are difficult for non-Muslims to understand and all the more unintelligible to realize its importance and impact. Islam is what the Holy Prophet did or some of his selected followers and the progeny practiced following his footsteps and not what the Muslim generally does. Muslim political culture and practices have occasionally been wrongly attributed to the religion. It is therefore, Jaswant Singh feels all what is wrong is Islamic. Jaswant Singh rightly suggests that “the Muslims of India’s medieval cultures never thought of themselves as a unit and certainly never acted as one”.
This was so because nationalist concepts were born only in the nineteenth century. Hindus, too, did not presume themselves from a similar national outlook except after the birth of the Indian National Congress. And even then the nationalism of India was restricted only to the feelings of the educated classes of Bengal or other Presidency towns. If then Indian Nationalism was a product of an encouragement from A. O. Hume, rather than being indigenous, then, why should there be a question mark against Muslim nationalism? What, there was the basis of the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the All Indian National Congress and All India Muslim League?
How could the Indian National Congress agree to negotiate which did not have an equal status? Any logical mind will be convinced that the Congress had recognized the Muslims as a nation, while conceding to them the separate electorate; their status as a nation was so predetermined. In fact, the language controversy was also a movement in the direction of nationalistic approach. The extremists from amongst the non-Muslims considered Urdu a hindrance in the progressive development of their national religio-cultural outlook, where it mothered the indigenous cultural roots.
The Muslims were shocked and even Muslim leaders like Syed Ahmad Khan who frequently professed his concern for non-Muslims, had to yield to the Two Nation Theory, in consequence. It may not be an exaggeration to submit that the Congress leader like Gopal Krishna Gokhle also considered Indian Muslims a separate nation. It was he to suggest communal representation to Minto before 1909 as confessed by Marry, the Lady Minto. (p. 53). This was the historical background of the period in short, because if we dare to deal with the history in detail, it will take hundreds of pages.
So, at the end of the day, we came to conclusion that the main reason to propose the ‘Two Nation Theory’ was the absolute disassociation of Muslim community from the political and social scenario by the Congress leaders. Chapter – 3 Social Background Great Britain was at the height of its imperial glory, Queen Victoria reined majestically supreme, the lords, the ladies, and the sahibs who ruled on her behalf of the Queen in India saw not a very small dot of cloud obstructing their imperial vision; not one troublesome dot existed then on the horizon of their future.
How, in such a scenario, a rather poor Khoja socially very far from the ashraf of India, not the inheritor family wealth, standing or name, did this young entrant to the cosmopolitan world of Bombay, etch his name so boldly and so indelibly on the social and political firmament of India? That was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, from Kathiwar. Kathiwar, a fertile part of Saurashtra (literally meaning – a land of hundred kingdoms); inhabited by fine Kathiwari horses; beautiful women; sharp traders and rich business families, both Hindu and Muslim. One of such family was of Poonjabhai lived in the district of Paneli.
His youngest son, Jennabhai, risked leaving Paneli and moved to Gondal for business. Then, he never looked back. This was the first step which resulted in a giant leap to his future. After Gondal, he kept on moving for business, port to port, for e. g. Karachi, Mumbai etc. On 25th October 1876, Jennabhai and Mithibai were bestowed a son, whose name was a mere modification of his father’s, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. His primary education was not formal. A teacher was hired for his studies who taught him in his mother tongue, Gujarati. He then kept on changing his school as his father shifted his business.
He completed his higher education from Christ Mission School, Karachi. He then left for England primarily to learn intricacies in shipping in which his father was engaged. In England, he was very much influenced by Dada Bhai Naoroji. When he saw the statue of Prophet Mohammad among world’s 10 greatest law givers, he decided to choose law as his career. He completed his studies with great difficulties and finally returned back to India in the year 1896 and in the same year, he joined Indian National Congress. In the year 1896 itself, he enrolled in the High Court of Bombay as an advocate.
His early political career was as usual as any new lawyer without a strong family background. He had to face great difficulties. The turning point in his career was the case of his father himself. As he has nothing much to do, he took it upon himself to conduct the cross – examinations and prepare their defense. He won the case and then his political career boosted upon. Work for the Muslim Community Along with his staunch interest in law, he was also interested in religious activities. He had seen the degradation of Muslim Community after the Mughal era. So, he had to work for the welfare of Islam.
For this he also joined Anjuman-i-Islam. There he came in contact with Sayyid Ahmed Khan and Pheroz Shah Mehta. Later, these relations helped him and affected his ideology in rest of his life. As mentioned earlier, he was an active member of National Congress. But when he joined Muslim League he was subjected to suspicions and was blamed for disloyalty in the Congress. The author recalls a very interesting incident from the unseen depth of history which proves that Jinnah was a true patriot, nationalist and was an ‘Ambassador of Hindu – Muslim unity’ as Gopal Krishna Gokhle said. In October of 1906, he took a more serious and assertive political step. He went on to question the very representative status of the delegation led by Agha Khan to the viceroy. He was of the view that the Congress represented the Muslims no less, in fact, was the only ‘true political voice in the country. ’ He also opposed this whole pursuit of separate electorates through a memorandum to Lord Minto by the Bombay Presidency Association”. This incident clearly indicates that theory of ‘separate electorates’ was of Aga Khan’s not of Jinnah’s. In fact, initially, he was against it.
But suddenly there came a change. “In a letter to the editor of The Times of India, dated 20 February 1909, Jinnah took a markedly different stand, he (for the first time? ) accepted that the Muslims were ‘entitled to a real and a substantial representation in the new reforms, but the real question was how this ought to be done; ‘whether to have separate electorate at all stages, from rural Boards to the Viceregal Councils? Or something less or if so, then what level? ’ on the basis of populations, Muslims would become entitled to representation of about 25 %. But if this share could be enhanced to a weightage equivalent to a third then this whole business of communal representation could be dispensed with,’ Jinnah reasoned, ‘otherwise, there was no alternative but to retaining the reservation system’. In addition, at a meeting of a Muslim representation in the Bombay Legislative Council were elections by separate electorates, or selection by nominations, preference should be given to the former – election. ” This indicates that he had only the last option to go for separate electorates for Muslims.
As also mentioned by Sayyid Ali Abbas, in his blog about the book, Jaswant Singh has narrated all this in an ambiguous manner, not letting the reader to obtain a clear picture. So, we could not exactly infer what Jaswant Singh actually wants to say, whether Jinnah supported separate electorates or not? Whether he was compelled to agree with the decision or it was deliberate sudden change of mind. Another thing which we would like to highlight is that Jinnah never had any friends. He never expressed his feelings to anyone. It was difficult for people, even his closest, to predict about his thinking and feelings. The failure of M.
R. A. Baig (his secretary), despite his association with Jinnah in understanding his statements on Islamic State, is no surprise. If we search the literature, we will be ending up with only the official papers, documents and letters of Jinnah, not the one to his dear ones which could reveal his mental and psychological conditions. Chapter – 4 Political Career Three years later, in January 1910, Jinnah was elected to the newly-constituted Imperial Legislative Council. All through his parliamentary career, which spanned some four decades, he was probably the most powerful voice in the cause of Indian freedom and Indian rights.
Jinnah, who was also the first Indian to pilot a private member’s Bill through the Council, soon became a leader of a group inside the legislature. Mr. Montagu (1879-1924), Secretary of State for India, at the close of the First World War, considered Jinnah “perfect mannered, impressive-looking, armed to the teeth with dialectics… “Jinnah, he felt, “is a very clever man, and it is, of course, an outrage that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country. ” For about three decades since his entry into politics in 1906, Jinnah passionately believed in and assiduously worked for Hindu-Muslim unity.
Gokhale, the foremost Hindu leader before Gandhi, had once said of him, He has the true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity: And, to be sure, he did become the architect of Hindu-Muslim Unity: he was responsible for the Congress-League Pact of 1916, known popularly as Lucknow Pact- the only pact ever signed between the two political organisations, the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, representing, as they did, the two major communities in the subcontinent.
The Congress-League scheme embodied in this pact was to become the basis for the Montagu-Chemlsford Reforms, also known as the Act of 1919. In retrospect, the Lucknow Pact represented a milestone in the evolution of Indian politics. For one thing, it conceded Muslims the right to separate electorate, reservation of seats in the legislatures and weightage in representation both at the Centre and the minority provinces. Thus, their retention was ensured in the next phase of reforms.
For another, it represented a tacit recognition of the All-India Muslim League as the representative organization of the Muslims, thus strengthening the trend towards Muslim individuality in Indian politics. And to Jinnah goes the credit for all this. Thus, by 1917, Jinnah came to be recognized among both Hindus and Muslims as one of India’s most outstanding political leaders. Not only was he prominent in the Congress and the Imperial Legislative Council, he was also the President of the All-India Muslim and that of the Bombay Branch of the Home Rule League.
More important, because of his key-role in the Congress-League entente at Lucknow, he was hailed as the ambassador, as well as the embodiment, of Hindu-Muslim unity. Struggle for existence In subsequent years, however he felt that political terrorism was not the pathway to national liberation but, the dark alley to disaster and destruction. Hence, the constitutionalist Jinnah could not possibly, allows Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s novel methods of Satyagrah (civil disobedience) and the triple boycott of government-aided schools and colleges, courts and councils and British textiles.
Earlier, in October 1920, when Gandhi, having been elected President of the Home Rule League, sought to change its constitution as well as its nomenclature, Jinnah had resigned from the Home Rule League, saying: “Your extreme programme has for the moment struck the imagination mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate. All this means disorganization and chaos”. Jinnah did not believe that ends justified the means. He opposed tooth and nail the tactics adopted by Gandhi to exploit the Khilafat and wrongful tactics in the Punjab in the early twenties.
On the eve of its adoption of the Gandhian programme, Jinnah warned the Nagpur Congress Session (1920): “you are making a declaration (of Swaraj within a year) and committing the Indian National Congress to a programme, which you will not be able to carry out”. He felt that there was no short-cut to independence and that Gandhi’s extra-constitutional methods could only lead to political terrorism, lawlessness and chaos, without bringing India nearer to the threshold of freedom. The future course of events was not only to confirm Jinnah’s worst fears, but also to prove him right.
Although Jinnah left the Congress soon thereafter, he continued his efforts towards bringing about a Hindu-Muslim entente, which he rightly considered “the most vital condition of Swaraj”. Jinnah’s disillusionment at the course of politics in the subcontinent prompted him to migrate and settle down in London in the early thirties. He was, however, to return to India in 1934, at the pleadings of his co-religionists, and assume their leadership. But, the Muslims presented a sad spectacle at that time. They were a mass of disgruntled and demoralized men and women, politically disorganized and destitute of a clear-cut political programme.
He continued his struggle for Pakistan and at the end achieved the title for which he was born. In recognition of his singular contribution, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was nominated by the Muslim League as the Governor-General of Pakistan, while the Congress appointed C. Rajgopalachari as Free India’s first Governor-General. Pakistan, it has been truly said, was born in virtual chaos. Chapter – 5 Personality of Jinnah Jinnah was, no doubt a great personality, who cannot be found anywhere in the world. It was Jinnah who created something out of nothing.
There was an interesting incident with the author, which inflated the idea of working on this personality. It was during Prime Minster Atal Bihar Vajpayee’s historical bus journey to Lahore in 1999. Jaswant Singh accompanied PM to Minar – e – Pakistan, returning from where he was struck by the thought that there existed no biography of Jinnah written by any political figure from India. It was then that he decided to fill the gap. As mentioned in the book, the trait which influenced the author the most was him as an exception to all those generalizations of family background and hereditary.
He had no trader’s instincts of conciliation, accommodation or pursuit of profit, not at all. His nature was determined and combative. His nationalism was not born of any self interest; it was by-product of his free spirited nature, his exposure to England, his thriving legal practice, which he had earned on his own merit. He was largely a self-educated, a self-made person, anxious as a youth that his merit should gain recognition and be duly rewarded. He had not the assets of birth, lineage or social status that most other barristers of his time came equipped with.
Having being exposed to English mores he resented greatly the double standards practiced by them, one set in their own country and another, a markedly different one for, and in, India. Like so many others who had been through the Inns of Court, Jinnah upon return became committed to ‘the eradication of British insolence on one hand, and of a feeling of inferiority and mortification by Indian, on the other’. Zealous for reform, his enthusiasm was always marked by his sense of constitutional propriety, for which characteristic his great legal practice was to account.
He was typical of those who earned influence through their efforts, on merit and by remaining committed to their principles. Possessing no other he employed these very attributes and his principles to combat India’s imperial overlords. If we draw a comparison between two great Indians i. e. Mahatma Gandhi and M. A. Jinnah, we will find that Jinnah is much, more realistic and practical, whereas, Gandhi was highly spiritual and charity and social work were his main notions. Even Jaswant Singh felt that it is really damn complex exercise to compare both because of their perfectness in their means to achieve goal. Comparing Jinnah and Gandhi is as extremely complex exercise but important for they were, or rather became, the two foci of the freedom movement. Gandhi was doubtless of a very different mould, but he too, like Jinnah, had gained eminence and successfully transited from his Kathiwari origins to become a London barrister before acquiring a political personality. Yet there existed an essential difference here. Gandhi’s birth in a prominent family, his father was, after all, a diwan (prime minister) of an Indian state helped immeasurably. No such advantage of birth gave Jinnah a leg – up, it was entirely through his endeavors.
Gandhi, most remarkably became a master practitioner of the politics of protest. This he did not do by altering his own nature, or language of discourse, but by transforming the very nature of politics in India. He transformed a people, who on account of prolonged foreign rule had acquired a style of subservience. He shook them out of this long, moral servitude. Gandhi took politics out of the genteel salons, the debating halls and societies to the soil of India, for he , Gandhi – was rooted to that soil, he was of it, he lived the idiom, the dialogue and discourse of that soil: its sweat; its smells and its great beauty and fragrances ,too.
It was also mentioned by Jaswant Singh about a very interesting comparison of Jinnah and Gandhi’s personality by Hector Bolitho in In Quest of Jinnah. “Jinnah was a source of power. Gandhi… an instrument of it…Jinnah was a cold rationalist in politics – he had a one track mind, with great force behind it. Then: Jinnah was potentially kind, but in behavior, extremely cold and distant. Gandhi embodied compassion – Jinnah did not wish to touch the poor, but the Gandhi’s instincts were rooted in India and lifelong he soiled his hands in helping the squalid poor. Chapter – 6 Conclusion “We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation”. These were the famous words of Quid-e-Azam when he demanded for separate nation for Pakistan.
In his speech, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, at All India Muslim League Presidential Address delivered in Lahore, on March 22–23, 1940 said, “It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time.
The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and litterateurs. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Mussalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes, and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other hand, likewise, their victories and defeats overlap.
To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state. ” This was the basic notion of ‘Two Nation Theory’ for which Jinnah is often blamed. People have a mentality that it is only this theory and its propagator, i. e. Jinnah is responsible for the partition of India. But in the book, Jaswant Singh clearly blamed Vallabh Bhai Patel and Nehru for the partition.
The partition was not the result of Hindu – Muslim diversity, but was only the outcome of ‘lust of power’ of Nehru and Patel. Not only Jinnah knew this thing but also Abul Kalam Azad in his work ‘India Wins Freedom’ confessed the fact that Nehru was in demand of centralized politics in India but Gandhi and Jinnah were against it. In order to satisfy his lust for power, he and the First Home Minister of free India, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, inflated the issue of India’s partition and separate nation for Muslims.
Nehru was aware of the fact that if India remains undivided, even with separate province for Muslims, Jinnah will suppress the status of Nehru. Gandhi too was in the opinion to make Jinnah the PM of India. So, in order to clear his obstacle of the way, he improved his terms with Lady Mountbatten and convinced India for partition. Jinnah was a mere an escape goat.