Jinnah : Secular India’s best villain

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

A wind of change is flowing in the Indian subcontinent with growing people to people contact between India and Pakistan. But this bonhomie is shattered when the same old musings of ‘partition’, secularism and Jinnah surrounds us. No-doubt, Pakistani elite suffered from a pang of identity. In the popular Indian secular debates, Jinnah became the official villain, a Muslim fundamentalist who needs to be decried while comfortably ignoring the communal mindset of the Congress Party and the upper caste fundamentalist leadership with in the congress.

The peace with Pakistan will remain fragile as long as we are unable to reconcile with the fact of partition. The paradox of the Indian subcontinent is much bigger than the issue of communalization of a leader and certainly a leader of stature of Jinnah cannot be made a scapegoat for those who want to target the politics of the Sangh Parivar or Hindutva in India. When history and historians become embedded to the Gandhian philosophy, such assassination of character is bound to happen, as has been in the case of Jinnah. In fact, Gandhi has become a tool to rubbish others who disagree with certain brand of politics in India be it secular or Hindutva. Otherwise, the fact of the matter is that Gandhians enjoyed Arun Shourie’s writing on Ambedkar because the author condemns Ambedkar for his disagreement with Gandhi and for a large number of Ambedkar’s statues set up in different parts of the country.

There are many more things before we embark upon the entire historian’s perspective. Are we ready to admit that there were grave mistakes on the part of Gandhi and the Congress leadership? If yes, then we will have to make a comparative criticism of Gandhi and the entire Indian freedom movement. Are we democratic enough to do so and respect the dissent?

Many contemporaries of Gandhi disagreed with him on various aspects of his political thoughts and religious philosophy. These were people of great integrity and perhaps no less then Gandhi and each one of them have their own vast following. One of them has perhaps more followers then Gandhi. Dr Ambedkar never agreed with Gandhi and termed him as most dangerous for the scheduled castes. Jinnah never really appreciated the ‘Mahatma’ culture around Gandhi. Periyar exposed Gandhi’s caste mind on Vaikume temple entry movement while M.N.Roy out rightly rejected his vision as backward looking fascist philosophy. Gandhi was more worried about culture and Roy mentioned that the fascism in India would be cultural fascism and may not be that violent as happened in Europe during Adolf Hitler’s regime. Indeed, if history of India has to be written, one need to take divergent view points of these people who disagreed with Gandhi and his congress party.

It is therefore not ironical to say that Gandhi brought religion into politics and supported the Khilafat movement while Jinnah openly opposed it. In today world when we talk of the dangers of political Islam or political Hindutva, Gandhi’s effort to promote fundamentalist elements would have drawn huge criticism. Jinnah understood the dangers of religious fundamentalism and never ever tried to follow them. In fact, support to the Khilafat movement created a typical situation where Muslims started thinking in terms of their exclusive international identity, an issue which the many in the country including veteran congress leader like Annie Basant feared would isolate them from other communities. Scholars like Ambedkar were opposed to this kind of internationalism which goes beyond the national interest and felt that between nation and religion the community should first consider nation.

Though, the Indian Muslims have proved the above fear wrong. And such testing time came and they were under the constant pressure of the right wing Hindutva forces to prove their loyalty towards India. Unfortunately, their leadership let them down as their socio economic issues were relegated to backstage while religious agenda dominated their world. As a reaction to this, the upper caste Hindu leadership has also identified Pan Hinduism the best way to unite Hindus and use them as a vote bank.

Condemning Jinnah has therefore become a fashion in India. When the Babri Mosque was demolished, a friend wrote an article ‘ Advaniwad is equally dangerous as Jinnahwad’. When Savarkar’s issue came up on the front, the seculars started putting Jinnah and Savarkar together in their common venture of defending ‘secular’ India. Were we really a secular nation or we simply using pluralism, multiculturalism and secularism interchangeably?

History has unique trends. They only need to be properly played and analyzed without any hidden agenda.. One of the most important facts among them is that in 1935, M.A. Jonah out rightly rejected the suggestion of Choudhury Rahmat Ali, to lead Muslim League, and demand Pakistan, terming that it was impossible and unrealistic to have such a demand as Hindus and Muslims have been living harmoniously for centuries. In fact Jinnah reportedly opposed until the last moment to the introduction of the word Pakistan in the Lahore resolution of the Muslim League. Our political analysts have done irreparable damage to Indian polity by not analyzing reasons of Muslim disenchantment from Congress leadership. Did we ever look at the issue of Congress party’s refusal to share a coalition with the League in the United Provinces elections which they fought jointly, which gave the league the much wanted ammunition to cast suspicion on the motive of Hindu Congress.

The League won only 109 of the 482 seats reserved for Muslims, and Congress appeared to be justified in viewing it as little more than an irritant. This was a mistake, for during the late 1930s Jinnah was able to turn it into a serious political force. He was extremely effective in attracting, recruiting and motivating wealthy, bright, well-educated younger Muslims such as Liaquat Ali Khan from the United Provinces, the Raja of Mahmudabad, whose family were the largest landlords in Lucknow, and Mirza Abul Hassan Ispahani of the financial family of Calcutta. None of these men was a religious communalist, yet all were in favour of using religious nationalism as a means of safeguarding the Muslim position.

Jinnah is not our flavor of tea as he demanded Pakistan and spoiled the great ‘secular’ party. Yet one cannot deny the fact that Jinnah never considered Hindu and Muslim issue as a religious one. He always opined that it is a political issue. Secondly, much before Jinnah could begin to think about a separate nation Veer Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha had certified that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations. In his book “Pakistan or Partition of India”, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, extensively quotes Savarkar as supporting this view. Muslims can have separate flag, a personal law exclusively relating to their problems and have every right to preserve their culture, he said thus opposing the demand for partition of the country. They could stay in India as equal partner of this country but not at the cost of division of the country. Dr. Ambedkar rejected Savarkar’s theory as impractical and doublespeak. All those who consider this country as their fatherland are Bharatvasi. Sanskrit is “Dev-Bhasha and Sanskritised Hindi should be the national language of the country” opined Savarkar.

The question is who were responsible for creation of Pakistan or Partition of India? Was Jinnah solely responsible for it or Congress wanted it? Noted jurist late H.M.Seervai tried to bring out the fact in his much applauded work “ Partition of India-Legend and Reality” :

In considering whether Jinnah and the League were responsible for the partition of India by raising the cry of Pakistan, it is necessary to ask, and answer, to questions; First, were the fears of the Muslim community that it would be permanently dominated by a `Hindu Raj’ genuine? If so, was the community entitled to effective and not mere paper safeguards against such permanent domination? That the fears of the Muslim community were genuine is beyond dispute. The Desai-Liaquat Ali Pact, the Sapru Committee Report, Azad’s letter to Gandhi, as well as his interview with the Cabinet Mission, and the interview of the Nationalist Muslims with members of the Mission, all recognized that those fears were genuine. The Cabinet Mission was also satisfied that those fears were acute and genuine, and underlay the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan. But the Sapru Committee, Azad, the Nationalist Muslims and the Cabinet Mission whilst recognizing those fears, nevertheless rejected Pakistan as a solution for removing them. All the witnesses before the Cabinet Mission, except the Muslim League, had supported a Constitution for a United India. Equally, most of them had recognized that the fears of the Muslims of being dominated by a `Hindu Raj’ required effective safeguards, and `”parity”, or near `parity’, with a minimal federation appeared to furnish effective safeguards. The Cabinet Mission Plan, as intended by the Mission, if worked in the spirit of goodwill, supplied effective safeguards, and Jinnah recognized this when he accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. However, the Hindu Mahasabha, and eminent Hindu leaders of the Congress, like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel (disregarding the views of Sapru, Azad and the Nationalist Muslims) considered parity as `undemocratic’ because they took democracy to mean `one man, one vote’. They forgot that if, as they firmly held, the unity of India was the paramount object to be achieved in framing a new Constitution, theory would have to yield to the need to provide effective safeguards for a community of 9 crores.

The post Mandal India has learnt to live in the age of federalism though the governors still call shot.. Gone are the days when a central government had brute majority to crush the rising demands of the regional people. Even regional parties are having a strong say in the federal government and getting proportionate representation. Unfortunately, this issue of parity was not recognized when the congress party was speaking to Jinnah and Muslim league..

Interestingly, Congress’s upper caste brahmanical leadership came under attack from Maulana Azad also who narratively described in his book “ India wins Freedom”,( 1988 edition) how a senior person like Dr Sayed Mahmud, General Secretary of All India Congress Committee, was sidelined.. When the Congress secured an absolute majority, it was taken for granted that Dr. Syed Mahmud would be elected the leader and become the first Chief Minister of Bihar under Provincial Autonomy. Instead, Shri Krishna Sinha and Anugraha Narayan Sinha who were members of the Central Assembly were called back to Bihar and groomed for the Chief Ministership. Before referring to the grim conclusion which Azad draws from the Nariman and the Syed Mahmud episodes, there is one new passage in the 1988 edition which, in my view, gets linked to Azad’s conclusion. Azad expressed the view that Dr. Rajendra Prasad had no political life before Gandhi appeared on scene, and R. Rajendra Prasad was “entirely the creation of Gandhiji” Azad added: “I have heard from a reliable source that Dr.Sachchidananda Sinha arranged a dinner where many of the more prominent Hindus were invited to meet Gandhiji. They told Gandhiji that the Hindus of Bihar would join the Non-cooperation movement provided Gandhiji elected a Hindu as the leader. Gandhiji said that he could not grant leadership to anybody at his own sweet will, but he promised that if a Hindu of caliber and character came forward, he would offer him necessary support. Babu Rajendra Prasad’s name was then suggested to Gandhiji and in the course of a few years, he became an all India figure with Gandhiji’s help and support “.

( H.M.Seervai in his book : Partition of India : Legend and Reality)

The entire Congress leadership had thus become Hinduised where the Muslims were looked down upon and their leadership with in the congress which was pitiably termed as ‘nationalist Muslim’ turned guilty for inflicting wounds of partition on India. This has been reflected in the debates on reservation in Constituent Assembly. While the Muslim members vehemently protested against granting any reservation to Dalits and Muslims, Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister openly accused them of helping partitioning India. Patel termed reservation for SC/ST as casteist approach harmful for the country.

The Muslim League dominated by the Zamindars of United Province had little time to think that there are many disenchanted group especially those of SC/ST and other classes, who ignorantly had Hinduised themselves, were sore up with the Brahmin led upper caste leadership of the Congress Party. Even Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, was one such person requested Jinnah to lead such a front. Unfortunately that did not happen and Jinnah went to Pakistan which he wanted as a secular, progressive nation. Speaking in the constituent Assembly of Pakistan, on August 11th,1947, Jinnah expressed the following :

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan…You may belong to any religion or caste or creed---that has nothing to do with the business of the State…We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.

If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belonged, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what his color, caste, or creed, is first, second, and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make....We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. 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 principles of justice and fairplay without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill-will , in other words, partially or favoritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartially, and I am sure that with your support and CO-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest Nations of the World.

( Times of India, August 12th , 1997).

The leaders of India and Pakistan have not learnt anything from the catastrophe of partition. In `democratic India’, every institution was kept safe for Brahmins and upper caste Hindus, in the Punjabi dominated Pakistan, people of Bengal were discriminated. The Mohajirs, the migrants from Bihar and UP, are still not treated as Pakistani citizen. In 1971 the issue of Bangla identity and Pride rocked Pakistan forcing its partition. Today, the same Bangladesh is facing a cultural onslaught by those who opposed its freedom. This has interesting co-incidence that in India the votaries of Hindutva become the protector of Indian identity though they never fought for its independence very similar to that what Jamat-E-Islami has been doing in Bangladesh.

The Pakistan of today is not what Jinnah dreamt of and India does not follow to Gandhi for whatever Gandhi claimed in his life, the Gandhian leaders have killed. Every act of vandalism in India has been described as an aberration as if such things did not happen. Actually, we suffer from a myopic vision of our past and make things look very simple. The post independence rigid ideologies have easily divided people into this or that camp without understanding the real meaning of federalism and democracy. It is simple that we have to quote Gandhi and Nehru to prove ourselves secular. Today, it is more in terms of condemning Hindustan. For Muslim, they have to attack Jinnah to prove more secular and nationalist. I think it is the defeat of Gandhi and democracy that we continue to chant. We have still not developed democratic values of pluralism and respecting the dissent. The fifty years of history of both India and Pakistan can prove both demand for partition and against it wrong, hence it is no point of debate. Brothers differ on issues and live separately and yet remain close as ever and some time they live together and yet far away from each other. It is no point playing the blame game that Muslims are better in India. This kind of silly argument will take us no where like those who consider that India could not provide security to Muslim. Bhivandi, Maliayana, Moradbad, Bhagalpur, Kanpur, Malegaon, Mumbai, Ahemedabad, Babri Masjid were not isolated incident. The continuous isolation of Muslims in India’s government and bureaucratic circle is reflection of a greater reality of how secular we are. Similarly, condition of Mohajirs, Ahmedis, women, minorities and division of East Bengal prove amply in which direction Pakistan is going. It is worth understanding that our symbolic secularism and their politics of Islamic identity have not been able to resolve the crisis our nations. Indian secularism could not contain the majoritarian fundamentalist forces and nor could it stop misuse of laws which make minority a suspect while Pakistani Islamic identities could not prove anything to Mohajirs and Bengalis.

We live in different times and perhaps now time has come when we will have to stop make villain of certain people just to target our political opponents. I have on various occasions opined that as democratic and open societies India and Pakistan have to realize that they are two different entities. It is equally important for Pakistanis to understand that Gandhi fasted unto death for the cause of Pakistan. That Pakistan must get its due for which he was killed by a fanatic Hindu. Similarly, Indians must understand that Jinnah was a thorough secular whose was termed as Ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity by none other then Sarojini Naidu. It was Jinnah who tried to get Bhagat Singh lawyers in Lahore when his case was to be heard. It was Jinnah who termed Bhagat Singh as secular nationalist while Gandhi failed to do so.

Our political leaders must have the courage to differ and admit it. All those who differed with Gandhi do not therefore become villain of independent India. Therefore people like Ambedkar, Jinnah, Periyar, M.N.Roy stood taller despite their differences with Gandhi. Just because they differ with Gandhi cannot belittle their contribution to the society and intellect. We must get rid of the kind of jingoism where Gandhi and Jinnah become two symbols of Hindu secularism and Pakistani Islam. It will take us nowhere and it cannot bring peace in the subcontinent.

(Vidya Bhushan Rawat -Working as a full time human rights defender. Have made several documentries and also written books on the issues of human rights, Dalits, women and minorities. He could be contacted at vbrawat@gmail.com )


  1. Listen, we are here and present. None of us know what went through leaders' minds; let us assume they all had the best interests of the people.

    While we do not want to compare, what happened to jinna's vision? how did that vision completely turn upside down? How did PAkistan became close to a "failed state".

    Inda is moving along , improving its living standards, uplifting people. yes, there are problems and issues; but nobody can deny the significant progress made in ensuring everybody a piece of the pie. It is always an easy target to"beat up Brahmins:, but they do not hold financial or political power anymore. Even 60 years ago, the so called Brahmin power was just a coverup; a harijan Amabedkar would not ahve been appointed leader of drafting constitution. So, shut up and go with the program.

  2. Though there is no point responding to people like Ashish who respond to questions without any reasoning. Does he want to bulldoze me like a Sangh Parivar's element.

    What I want to say is that partition was a reality and we should not think on it much and just Jinnah can not be one person to have contributed to it.

    Yes, Pakistan today is not what Jinnah had visualised. There are lot of lessons to be learnt. The division was basically a conspiracy of upper caste Hindus and upper caste Muslims to capture leadership. Nehru never wanted an equal relationship with Jinnah. The upper elite, feudal leadership of Pakistan never really treated the Muslim from East Bengal as equal to them.

    We are a society of hypocrite. India is growing and If I may ask, why not at the pace of China.. Why you always compare yourself with Pakistan.. why not with South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan which got independence at the same time and were equally feudal states.

    India can not strengthen its secular credentials just by showing Islmaic fundamentalists and their misdeed. Secularism is a [positive thought and we have to show.

    Your ignorance is reflected in your utter contempt for Dr Ambedkar as the chairman of drafting Committee. You did not gift this to him as a 'quota' to be filled but on his pure merit.

    A debate has to be done on rational basis and you do not ask the author to shut up. You disagree and that is your right. I am not forcing myself into you. As far as work is concern, you do not know what I am doing.. I also do not know what you do ? The matter end here.. how do you know that I am only writing articles sitting in board room.. Hope disagreeing to a view point does not mean questioning the basic integrity of a person. I am not questioning you, who you are..

    It is here that Indian society is still in the primitive age despite claiming itself in the 'big' company of Americans and Europeans, we have still not learnt basics of respecting basics of differences of opinion. Hope you will do that.

    I do not know BJP's fascination for Jinnah. The pain for their leadership is the indictment of Patel by Jaswant Singh. If he had just bashed Nehru, the Sangh would have been happy but since he has held both Nehru and Patel responsible for partition along with Jinnah, all this hue and cry.

    I am not here to defend Jaswant Singh and company. I wrote this piece long back in 1995 and it was published in 2005. It was to be a chapter of my book when some of my 'friends' felt offended and hence I decided to redo it in the article form.

    Finally, a close society will be a failed society. Whether India or Pakistan. If you feel that Islamic Fundamentalists are your ideals and that India should have their Hindutva counter parts deciding about our morality and issues then India will also turn like that..

    Also India faces grave challenges.. please go to tribal areas, work with hungry people and you will see the gap between India and Bharat.. I am working with them and if you want to see reality, come with me, I will show you that.

  3. i think ashish is being childish. we all should really grow up.i think it is a superb article by sh. rawat and defitely deserves an A plus assessment.

  4. history will spare none. parts played by the heroes will be subjected to intense scrutiny under the microscope of history.for advancement of the democratic forces of india it is most necessary to dilute the haloness that has been put around the figures of certain historical persons such as gandhi and nehru. they must be brought down from the high pedestal and put in place at par with other historical persons.while the upa 2 under the lead of the congress party is busy naming one government scheme after another after the name of members of nehru-gandhi family, jaswant singh has opened a pandora box bringing nehru in the dock for his accountability in the partition of india.unlike l k advani, arun jaitley and others who prefer to adopt short course of political action to target the congress, jaswant singh has taken the long path of a seasoned intellectual politician to take on the congress.kudos to jaswant singh who has sharpened the contradiction among the india's ruling upper caste elites.


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