9.9.09

Jinnah and the Indian Muslim

A look at Jinnah from the 'displaced' Indian Muslim perspective

Separated at Birth?
Jinnah and the Indian Muslim
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, September 8, 2009

There is another 9/11. As his body was laid to rest, he was blamed for the death of 600,000 people and uprooting 14 million. 61 years later, many more people have been killed and uprooted only because a part of the land was divided. Those who stayed put and did not move have been emotionally pulled out of their roots in an attempt to claim a heritage that was always theirs.

It is about land, land as birth-giver. Mohammed Ali Jinnah may be in the news for secularism, and it means several things to different people, but for those of us who have to live with acquired hatred know that you cannot blame or credit one individual with creation. For, creations evolve and destruct with time. They outlive the person’s ideology.

Pakistanis are suspect everywhere they go. They have to carry the baggage of the two-nation theory more than Indians. They are happy to get accolades from Indian politicians who have their own axe to grind and conveniently forget to mention that Jinnah had expressed fears of Hindu domination and these have not been unfounded.

So, why does India not figure among the list of failed states and Pakistan does? There are two reasons. Pakistan is a unified Islamic polity and therefore an easy and recognisable target. India, with its diversity, has the advantage to camouflage its internal diaspora. Where in the world would people kill their own to retain a cultural heritage? It keeps happening in India. The Taliban in Pakistan is a more recent phenomenon.

It is of greater value for the lay person to understand why Jinnah has become a synonym for the Partition. My search for this began after a tiff with a Pakistani, my cousin, a blood relative. She spoke up for the man who made her country and I was critical. It was superficial, for we had no understanding then. It was also a microcosm of our attempts at being different, something that continues to plague the two countries.

How different are we? That question is asked as a result of insecurity. Pakistan is insecure of being seen as too Indian and India is afraid that the lost land has left its residue in the form of the largest minority that would not be considered a minority, given the numbers.

Indian Muslim intellectuals have refused to look truth in the eye. Dr. Rafiq Zakaria had accused Jinnah of destroying Hindu-Muslim unity. “From 1937 onwards, Jinnah changed his tactics and began setting the Hindus against the Muslims. Never in India’s history has even the worst Muslim ruler alienated Hindus from Muslims as Jinnah has done.”

India had several communal riots before that. Before the Mughals, Muslim rulers, as others, were concentrated in principalities. India has never been a nation in the cohesive sense. It is a continent and continues to live with such regional and parochial disparities. Therefore, Dr. Zakaria’s implication that Jinnah’s actions caused the eventual division of the Muslim community into three segments – Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims – is simplistic and untrue. The Indian Muslim is culturally different in every state, and a tribal in Baluchistan cannot claim much affinity with a mohajir in Karachi or a Punjabi in Lahore. With Bangladesh, there were strong linguistic and regional concerns. None of these countries are at peace within themselves even today.

Jinnah’s failure is the failure of a man who tried to change himself to alter history. Such superimpositions tarnish idealism and do not even work as opportunism.

When I met a freedom fighter 15 years ago, a man who had braved British wrath and urinated on the Union Jack, he clammed up. “He was a senior person, I would not like to speak on the subject.” I had encountered many such walls and am therefore both gratified and amused to see the expose of the ‘enigma’ being flashed around these days.

In a dingy old building sat Minoo Masani, a veteran socialist leader. Recollecting his student days and his visits to Jinnah’s house, he had said, “Jinnah had no use for the Muslim League and he denounced its leaders as ‘those dadhiwallas’ (bearded guys).”

Iqbal Chagla, well-known advocate and son of Justice M.C.Chagla, who on returning from Oxford in the early 20s joined Jinnah’s chambers and was an associate both in law and politics, believed that the founder of Pakistan, “was a bad Muslim, he did everything that the Quran proscribes.”

15 years ago these details were in musty shelves only brought out by historians who wrote them and read them. As I sat listening, Jinnah became more real. And fallible. An incident bears repetition. When he and M.C. Chagla were campaigning for a municipal election, they stopped for some tea and Jinnah ordered ham sandwiches. A venerable bearded Muslim entered the restaurant with his grandson and was promptly invited to join in. The little boy was eyeing the sandwiches. “My father debated whether he should save Jinnah’s soul or his elections, and he opted for the latter, handing over a sandwich to the child,” recalled Iqbal Chagla.

However, he did start attending Friday prayers. His PR people made sure to address the Hindus as kafirs, infidels. Sir Stafford Cripps was disgusted: “When I find a person getting louder and more violent in his denunciation of his opponents, I get the feeling that he is beginning to recognise that the extreme case for which he stands is becoming desperate.”

Lord Mountbatten thought Jinnah was a “psychopathic case” suffering from “megalomania in its worst form”.

“The real megalomaniac was Nehru, a Stalinist,” Masani had fumed. “Jinnah would have made a far better PM.” This view was contested by Asgharali Engineer, head of the Institute of Islamic Studies and a reformist-activist. “True, Nehru had a weakness for the prime ministership but Jinnah cannot compare. Nehru stood by secularism not as a convenience but out of conviction. Anyway, the issue was not of who became PM but of the devolution of power. How is it that no one questions why an Islamic scholar like Maulana Azad did not accept Partition? Jinnah did not know the A-B-C of Islam but we must remember the demand was not regarding whether people would be permitted to practice their religion, it was to see that on a secular basis the rights of the minorities were protected. You cannot simply arouse the masses on the basis of religion. People have their own interests in mind. He was quite secular.”

This is borne out by Chagla’s recollection of how Jinnah felt that intermarriage was the best way to promote communal harmony. He said so to Dinshaw Petit, topping it with the question, “Now may I marry your daughter?” He did, but Petit did not have anything to do with him thereafter. Rati, Jinnah’s Parsi wife was the only one who wielded any influence over him.

Iqbal Chagla was told by his father about this scene at a conference. “There, in the midst of all the people, she entered the room dressed in leopard print slacks and sat swinging her legs. Then she interrupted the meeting saying, ‘Jeh, we are getting late!’ She brought out the human streak in him. When she died there were tears in his eyes. Otherwise, my father used to say, he was not a very humane person. As his junior when my father was on the brink of starvation for eight years, he never got any help from Jinnah. Yet he always said he was a bad lawyer but a very good advocate.”

This would be borne out by the Muslim League’s nitpicking regarding the use of the Devnagari or the Persian script when less than 10 per cent Indians knew how to read.

This legalistic attitude made Jinnah a loner. The British did not like him. Indian leaders did not like him. And there was no Pakistan until then. What ultimately got created was an idea expunged.

It was simply a case of No Exit for him.

5 comments:

  1. Farzana ,
    thanks .Very nice post .I read you to understand how others from different station in life think.It makes me lesser lonely .I understand how you can be mad at a hindu for his digression, as you feel as muslim of India your lot is common with him.
    Many of the failings are common among us.Your honesty is refreshing considering who you are (a muslim woman in subcontinent) . It just increases respect and upbringing your parents provided.My Sadar Pranam to them.
    Hope you continue to look not only what is wrong with us but also what is right with us.

    Jinnah!anybody being honest and after little research may form similar opinion as you.Your conversations with Chagla are quite refreshing and brings a personal touch to the discussion .
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  2. This article has more sense than all that one is reading by politicians. Some important quotes there and interesting analysis. I have a question. Was partition good for us?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kul Bhushan:

    Thank you, and my mother and Nani did instill some values...mainly how to be independent. They became my first victims!

    I don't know which Hindu I got mad at here?! If there was anyone I did have a quarrel with it was my cousin...

    Indeed, there has to be better analysis of Jinnah and Partition and I am glad that all those years ago I went out and met people who were closely acquainted with the issue rather than sit with tomes and bring out other people's bile. I got enough of my own :)

    About writing about good things, I see the questioning of the bad as a good thing.

    Ameya:

    Thanks, indeed. Was Partition good? Yes. It was needed. Unfortunately, neither country has used it to its advantage to become what they claimed to want to be at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Farzana, what Jinnah faced was a severe case of value-behavior dissonance.

    Looking from where you view him, you can call him an opportunist-careerist, or an hypocrite. An appropriate understanding of Jinnah was that he was an irreligious person. Largely due to his acquired class-conditioning. But his pre-school Madarasa teachings also seems to have a lingering impact on him. This caused a dichotomy between action and words.

    And the following instance is about the same Jinnah, whom you espouse as a proponent of inter-communal marriage. This guy strictly instructed his daughter to not marry a non-muslim. And in the eventual course of her marrying a parsi, he did go ahead and debar her from his estate – The Malabar hill bungalow – other then his antic of not talking to her for life.

    Marvelous Character ain’t it.

    As for your innocent query about Pakistan being the distinguished member of the failed nations club while India is not; there is a simple answer. That is we are different from them.

    Of the many differences between India and Pakistan, the one most dear to me is the Indian institutional commitment to multiculturalism. Something, which ensures that despite the oft-raging tensions, the state does not discriminate intentionally; and even actively dissuades individuals, who might want to. Not just that, notwithstanding the Indian bureaucratic lacuna and time lag, the institutions are autodidactic and progressive. On the other hand, the Pakistani institutional setup is structured around preserving and perpetuating Feudalism and Religious Supremeism.

    Also, in your enthusiasm to brandish India as a serial-killer, do not forget that the despite the awful record of inter-communal peace management, Indian state has never mobilized its forces to cleanse its religious, linguistic or sexual minorities. I am saying this despite the state heavy-handedness in some situations. And that is because the state has chosen to risk the life and limb of its personnel rather than go for easy solution of Ariel bombardment and artillery firing at civilian stations.

    And no, I am not talking of Pashtun Nationalists here. I am talking of the Baluch, the Sindhis, the Mohajirs, the Balti’s, the bengali’s and the Hindus. Pakistan, other than North Korea, is the best example of things not to do.

    One more thing, India does not depend on the largess of the Videshi Mai-baap. And neither are our political/Military/Judicial appointments, assignments and resolutions determined by Beijing/Oval/Saud /West ministerial offices (depending on the latest sponsor). Point is: “Our sovereignty is not for Sale”

    Finally, the Talibanisation of the ‘Muslim-India’ is a natural development of the Pakistan movement. The lesser quoted vision, rhetoric and the actions of Jinnah and his goons make it clear about the state they desired. A Sharia compliant, Militarist, Atavistic, Intolerant state. Why the wailing now that the delivery has arrived?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Amit:

    If it is pop psychology we are veering towards, then since I have had no madrassa training it is safe to assume that it has had no lingering impact and therefore the basis of your allegations against me do not work! However, I agree with the dichotomy between action and words; I’d add thoughts, too. Sometimes things are left unsaid. There is an inner and outer world, the latter being driven by socio-political forces.

    Yes, Jinnah was a proponent of inter-religious marriage; it was before he had to play Pied Piper. Therefore, he had to keep up the pretence and instruct his daughter to do the same. The fact is that his daughter and her son are not resistant to claim relationship and property that was denied them. I wonder what prompted Nehru to prevent his sister’s relationship with a Muslim, though.

    As for your innocent query about Pakistan being the distinguished member of the failed nations club while India is not; there is a simple answer. That is we are different from them.

    It wasn’t an innocent query at all, and you jolly well know it. It was wicked enough to push the envelope. I said we are different from them, but not all failed states are alike, just as not all ‘unfailed’ states are. What have the US and China got in common?

    Institutional commitment is dear to me too, but multiculturalism on paper is not translated into actual acceptance and understanding of it. That is the reason you have regional parties and you have goon parties that indulge in violence against ‘outsiders’ in cosmopolitan cities. The state does discriminate intentionally. What world are you living in? Riots, and I do not mean only against one minority group, are actively indulged in by the state. The Shiv Sena’s rise to power was solely due to its Marathi maanus spiel.

    I see no reason to compare India and Pakistan, except at the macro level. That country does have severe problems and has to deal with it in a manner befitting its Constitution. We do not need to transpose how it treats its people to learn what not to do. We have several examples in our own backyard.

    despite the awful record of inter-communal peace management, Indian state has never mobilized its forces to cleanse its religious, linguistic or sexual minorities. I am saying this despite the state heavy-handedness in some situations. And that is because the state has chosen to risk the life and limb of its personnel rather than go for easy solution of Ariel bombardment and artillery firing at civilian stations.

    I am shocked. The North East? Kashmir? Mumbai? Gujarat? Bihar? Orissa? It is the job of the state to protect its citizens and to even suggest that they have not gone ahead and bombarded civilian stations is absolutely disgusting. We are not living in a dictatorship, and dictatorships too are routinely pulled up for this by the UN and Human Rights organisations.

    Finally, the Talibanisation of the ‘Muslim-India’ is a natural development of the Pakistan movement. The lesser quoted vision, rhetoric and the actions of Jinnah and his goons make it clear about the state they desired. A Sharia compliant, Militarist, Atavistic, Intolerant state. Why the wailing now that the delivery has arrived?

    It’s arrived by FedEx from the US, feeding us this compete hogwash. The Indian Muslim is not a puppet to any Talibanisation. Where were all of you when Dawood Ibrahim ruled the roost here? Where were you when you saw him with our film stars at Sharjah cricket matches? Where were you when he shifted base and our officials took picnic trips to ‘catch him’ on publicly announced occasions, as though he wouldn’t be expecting them? Where were you then? Please don’t mouth the western idea of Taliban.

    I agree with you that our sovereignty is not for sale to outsiders. We just internalise their ideas and let our minds get colonised.

    I am done with this discussion because my views are here and yours are here. We do not agree. And it’s ok.

    You want to post anything more, your choice. You may also stop by to say thank you!

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.