OPINION: Jaswant Singh`s Jinnah

27 Nov 2009

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IN his controversial book Jinnah India — Parition — Independence, Jaswant Singh writes that, 'Jinnah was potentially kind, but in behaviour extremely cold and distant. Gandhi embodied compassion; Jinnah did not wish to touch the poor.' (P.78)


Jaswant Singh's Jinnah appears like a small promontory in a sea of historical rehash and repetition. In the author's
view Jinnah's outlook was all realpolitik, unsupported by any ideological content.


Even his monumental achievement, the making of Pakistan, appears to be tainted with a great compromise at the cost of his demand for a pentagonal Pakistan comprising all the five Muslim majority provinces — an undivided Punjab and Bengal together with Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP.


In Singh's words he 'had to settle for a moth-eaten Pakistan and (in) that too, he failed to mould it into a working state, leave alone a shining example of that implausible theory of Muslims as a separate nation.' (P.484) In other words, Pakistan was a failed state even at it birth.


On page 202 he quotes Nehru 'If I had to listen to my dear friend Mohammad Ali Jinnah talking the most unmitigated nonsense about his 14 points ... I would consider the desirability of retiring to a South Sea island where there would be some hope of meeting people who were intelligent enough or ignorant enough not to talk of the 14 points.'


This is hardly the kind of language one uses for a distinguished contemporary and the 'sole spokesman' of Indian Muslims. Whether Mr Singh used the quote as part of a sober history or to castigate Jinnah by proxy is not clear. However, this not the sort language one would use for someone he wishes to glorify.


It's one thing to speak of Nehru's 'virulent' dislike of Jinnah, but quite another to use it as a double-edged weapon to serve the ends of recorded history and, at the same time, project Jinnah in an unflattering and light.


Nehru's problem was his pathological Anglo-centricism. He is said to have flattered himself with the idea that he would be the 'last viceroy' and the British king's sole plenipotentiary in India. He would talk of a fellow Indian in the imperious and  haughty British idiom.


Reacting to Jinnah's reservations about the constitutional draft tabled at the 1931 Round Table conference in London, Nehru denounced them as an 'amazing farrago of nonsense and narrow-minded communalism.' (P.201)
Jinnah declined to give the conference secretariat a copy of his speech in advance like others had done. 'But Jinnah of course, was always his perfect little bounder and as slippery as the eels which his (Jinnah's) forefathers purveyed in Bombay (fish) market' (P.103).


What kind of language is that for one leader to use for another? Rendered into simple Urdu or Hindi it would be pure billingsgate — the coarse vernacular of the fish market.


Jinnah's one singular trait, his one unpardonable sin, was his stark and unvarnished candour which was little
understood and even less appreciated by others. The first Round table conference 'sharply highlighted Jinnah's many dilemmas.'


'The Hindus considered him a Muslim communalist, the Muslims took him to be pro-Hindu, the princes deemed him to be democratic. The British considered him as a rabid extremist with the result that he was everywhere but nowhere. None wanted him.' (P.182)


It's one thing to speak of Nehru's 'virulent' dislike of Jinnah, but quite another to use it as a double-edged weapon to serve the ends of recorded history and, at the same time, project Jinnah in an unflattering light.

 

Such is indeed the dilemma of every honest person tenaciously clinging to his ideas in the face of unrelenting opposition.


In poetic language the narrow-minded puritan took him to be a kafir (infidel), and the infidel denounced him as a Mussalman.


Gandhi would generally be honest, forthright and soft-spoken. He struck to his Hindu faith as tenaciously as any true Hindu would. He also had no love lost for the Muslims.


Responding to Sarojini Naidu during a discourse about his feelings for the Indian Muslims he confessed, 'I cannot say in truth that I have any feelings of paternal love for Muslims. But if you put the matter on the grounds of political necessity, I am ready to discuss it in a co-operative spirit. I cannot indulge in any form of sentiment.' (P.190)


It appears to me that the author has used Nehru quite unashamedly as a tool to vent his own ire against Jinnah and his 'unsustainable assertion of Muslims being a separate nation. The basic and structured fault in Jinnah's notion remains a rejection of his origins, being an Indian.' (P.496)


For a critique of Nehru's often arrogant attitude towards Jinnah and the Muslim League — which was a factor in paving the way for Partition — Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's India Wins Freedom stands as the pioneering work and is unblemished by personal prejudice.


Stanley Wolpert's Jinnah of Pakistan, Ayesha Jalal's The Sole Spokesman and M. H. M. Servai's Partition Legend and Reality offer some of the most candid observations on Jinnah's role as an outstanding Indian statesman, A statesman who was little
understood.