A recent article in ThePrint, ‘Indian Muslims are silent about Tabrez Ansari because of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’ by Zainab Sikander, does the unthinkable. Besides butchering historical facts, the article, in a very sinister attempt, blames Muslims for their “fate”. It is incredible that such a leap of fancy can even be given space in a serious news outlet. [Zainab Sikander’s response is included at the end of this article.]
Let us consider the historical facts, those stubborn realities that Sikander utterly failed to take into account despite claiming to be a history graduate. None of these following facts are historically disputed. First and foremost, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the only leader before undivided India — not Mahatma Gandhi, not Jawaharlal Nehru, and certainly not Maulana Azad — to be called the ‘best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’.
It was not the Indian Muslim or a Pakistani who called him that. Indian freedom movement leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Sarojini Naidu, others and Gandhi himself conferred Jinnah with this acclaimed title. When Sikander’s favourite patriot Maulana Azad was busy calling India ‘Darul-Harb’ and asking Muslims to migrate to Afghanistan, Jinnah was trying to reason with Gandhi and tell him not to bring religion into politics. Far from putting religion above country, Jinnah’s most famous quote was “I am an Indian, first second and last.” So, what changed?
Get acquainted with history first
By the 1930s, the emerging wave of populist mass politics that Congress was engaging in and the rise of the Hindu Mahasabha convinced Jinnah of the need to have constitutional safeguards for all minorities, amongst which Muslims comprised the most. He repeatedly attempted to come to a compromise but was spurned. However, his demand for the creation of Pakistan was not predicated on the condition of the partition of India. Anyone who reads the 1940 Lahore Resolution with a keen legal eye can see that it envisaged an India above a Muslim majority federation and a Hindu majority federation, bound together by a super-constitution, protecting minorities in both. This consociational vision for a modern independent India was almost realised with the 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan. What Jinnah agreed to was less than a confederation and more a federation.
But these are not novel views. And I am not introducing new evidence. H.M Seervai, one of the greatest jurists of India, stated very clearly that it was the Congress leadership that was to blame for the partition of India. All you need to do is pick up his introduction to the Indian constitution, published separately as “Partition of India: Legend and Reality”. Moreover, Seervai was not the first one to state this. Sikander’s uber Muslim patriot Maulana Azad said as much about this in his own book “India Wins Freedom”. B.R. Ambedkar’s book on Pakistan “Pakistan or the Partition of India” had stated these facts in the 1940s and Jinnah himself recommended his book to Gandhi during their talks in 1944. If only the history graduate had bothered to read these books instead of blaming “Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam” for all that is wrong with India’s Muslims today.
The truth about Jinnah
Let us, however, ignore these facts and assume that the hackneyed nationalist mythology — common place on both sides of the border — is entirely true. Let us assume that Jinnah, the “pork-eating, wine drinking namesake Muslim” as Sikander writes, had somehow in the sixty-fourth year of his life decided to turn his back on everything he stood for and on the city he built his life in, for some sort of personal glory. Let us also assume that the would-be Pakistanis who followed him selfishly wanted to create an exclusive homeland for themselves — again historically untrue even if Pakistan did meander away from Jinnah’s vision of a secular state. But how can these be a valid justification for any lynching in India in 2019? At the core of Zainab Sikander’s argument is that the actions taken by Jinnah and his followers back then gives license to Hindus to act the way they do today.
Far from proving Jinnah’s contentions about Hindu majoritarianism wrong, her article actually proves him right. Jinnah had the prescience to see what unfettered majority rule without any safeguards for minorities would land India in. Even Sikander’s favourite patriot Maulana Azad could realise this when he criticised Congress for not always living up to the ideals of real nationalism.
My advice to Sikander
There was nothing divine or holy about the borders of British India. Before the British arrived in India, there was never ‘one India’. It was always a collection of states. The only time India came closest to one unified polity was under emperor Aurangzeb, the same ruler Indians decry as fanatics and in whose opposition Chhatrapati Shivaji is lauded as patriotic even by Jawaharlal Nehru. Even during the British rule, India was two distinct polities — India under the British and the princely states of India.
In 1937, a major chunk of British India was separated to form the independent state of Burma. Imagine an Indian Buddhist writing about this separation and Burma’s birth in the manner that Sikander writes. This opens up all minorities to blackmail. If Sikander can lend herself to be blackmailed for something that happened so long ago and is part of history, is she also willing to be blamed for the establishment of Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference? Interestingly, it is just not the separatist Kashmiri leaders in jail today but also those Kashmiris who rejected Pakistan in 1947. Farooq Abdullah languishes in house arrest without trial just as his father Sheikh Abdullah did in the 1950s under Nehru.
My sincere advice therefore to Sikander is to reconsider her bias against Jinnah and to stop blaming Pakistan for everything that is wrong with India today. I certainly do not blame India for the myriad of problems that exist in Pakistan today. It is time to stop blaming Jinnah and take responsibility for what India is today at this moment.
Zainab Sikander’s response
If Muhammad Ali Jinnah was called the ‘best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’, then Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was also given the Nobel Peace Prize. Look what happened to the Rohingyas under her rule. A lot of people don’t embody the titles they receive.
As for my “favourite patriot” Maulana Azad calling India “Dar-ul-Harb”, I’ll let my “history grad” skills come in. I don’t cherry pick facts from history to obfuscate the truth. The term Dar-ul-Harb — that a lot of Islamic extremists misuse today — literally translates to “land of strife”. Maulana Azad used these words for British India, not independent India. Moreover, almost all Islamic scholars have unequivocally stated that Dar-ul-Harb, and migrating from such lands, is about the state of security of a land and is not based on religion (Islam and disbelief). I would recommend you to read the works of 6th century renowned Hanafi Islamic jurist, Imam al-Kasani — who authored one of the most authentic reference works on the Hanafi law, al-Bada’e al-Sana’e — to understand Dar-ul-Kufr and Dar-ul-Harb so that next time you use terms from ‘Fiqh’ (Islamic jurisprudence) you do so responsibly.
I am amused that you endorse Jinnah through B.R. Ambedkar, who categorically said, in the very book you mention ‘Pakistan or The Partition Of India’, that he was perplexed by Jinnah’s ‘new-found obsession’ with Muslim nationalism. Ambedkar said he found Jinnah’s argument of Muslims having suffered under the Congress’ leadership flawed. In the chapter ‘Must There Be a Pakistan’, he mentions Jinnah’s unwillingness to persist for a Royal Commission inquiry into the grievances of the Muslims.
You’ve not understood my article because of your bias. I mention the hypocrisy of the wine-drinking pork-eating Jinnah who insisted on redrawing borders and caused history’s largest and fastest human migration based on “religion”. It was completely Jinnah’s, and perhaps even Nehru’s, political ambition that led to the Partition. It has caused psychological wounds that are still festering. Indian Muslims are still paying the price for it under the Narendra Modi government that endorses Hindutva. The generations that lived through partition still carry the hate, and narrate tales about a man who wanted a separate country for “Muslims”, although 86 per cent Muslims never even had the right to vote. Denial of the truth does not change facts.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is an advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan and his biography of Jinnah will be published by Pan Macmillan India later this year. Views are personal
Zainab Sikander is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.