Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why can't Jinnah be secular?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After Lal Krishna Advani, Jaswant Singh is the second BJP leader who has invited trouble from the Saffron Brigade by calling Muhammad Ali Jinnah a secular leader is his new book Jinnah: India-Partition Independence. Jaswant has been isolated on the issue so much so that none of the BJP leaders including those close to him attended the book launch. After all the Founder of Pakistan is certainly not the most loved and admired character among Indians.

The surprising thing is on both the occasions the praise for Jinnah came from leaders of a party which is considered to be 'Anti-Minority' especially 'Anti-Muslim'. The reason for the praise is not to woo the Indian Muslims who any ways have very little to relate with Jinnah. The main motive behind the praise is a chance to take a dig at the Nehru-Gandhi family and their politics. But the question is 'Was Jinnah really a communal leader as has been made out by our historians?'

Many historians especially the Britishers have always believed that the partition of British India into India and Pakistan was not because of different religious beliefs but due to clash of ego between Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Both these men wanted to be the leaders of independent India and none of them was willing to bow in front of the other. Since Mahatma Gandhi had a soft corner for Nehru, Jinnah feared loosing the top job to his greatest rival.

The story that followed was well documented in the history of the sub-continent. Jinnah called for a state of Pakistan. The Britishers gave into his demands the largest millions of people became refugees overnight and the largest migration in human history took place. Both the countries wrote their own history and if Pakistan degraded Nehru as a selfish power hungry leader we returned favours by calling Jinnah as a communal leader responsible for partition.

In his historic speech on Pakistan's first Independence Day Jinnah had said “I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community....Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in 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.”

The fact remains history is what has been told to us by historians and it need not always be the truth. 1857 was the first war of Independence for us but it was a revolt and mutiny for the Britishers. Subhash Chandra Bose was a hero to us but a traitor for the Britishers. If BJP was accused of saffronisation of education the Congress has erased the named of Shyamaa Prasad Mukherjee, Jayaprakash Narayan and Mauli Chandra Sharma from Indian history for their own vested interests.

So Muhammad Ali Jinnah doesn't necessarily need to be the communal evil leader that we have known him being over the years. It is 62 years since partition and high time we bury the hatchet. Jinnah had declared Pakistan to be a secular state so he cannot be termed a non-secular. He wanted to be the supreme leader of a free country very much like our Nehru did. So people like Jaswant Singh and others should be free to interpret history without having to follow diktats.


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