The Distortion of Jinnah’s Vision and His Legacy
The Hegemonic Tendency and Political Discourse of the Regime is Devastating
Syyed Mansoor Agha
In India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a former full time ‘RSS Pracharak’ the portraits and the temples to honor Nathu Ram Godse, the killer of Gandhi Ji, are not an issue. Friday Salat, Azan on the loudspeaker, Salat in congregation even at a private place, Cow and beef, historical monuments like Taj Mahal, former Muslim rulers like Tipu Sultan and Alauddin Khilji and a portrait of MA Jinnah are the issues to be racked up. Apparently, the objective is to divert public attention from their real issues of bread and butter, falling public health educational systems, unemployment of educated youth, the safety of women, even girl-child and senior citizen, running late of trains and devastating micro and agro-economy etc. Therefore irrelevant issues are being racked up to create communal trouble and craft a context for the Hindutva organisations to spread their wings inconvenience with the rulers.
Same is the case of racking issue of Sardar Bhagat Singh by Hon. Prime Minister. On May 9, at an election rally in Bidar (Karnataka) he asked, "When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, B. Dutt, (and) Veer Savarkar were jailed fighting for the country's independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them?" "But the Congress leaders meet the corrupt people who have been jailed”.
He added Savarkar’s name also though he cannot be bracketed with the heroes like Bhagat Singh, B. Dutt and others who were jailed and hanged in the 1920s and 1930s in their youth in Lahore while Mr. Savarkar (82) died in peace in 1966 in Bombay. We will not ask him the names of Hindutva leaders who stepped out from their houses to save Shaheed Bhagat Singh, B. Dut, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Ram Prasad Bismil, Asfaqulla or Roshan Singh, who fought and gave their life for our independence. Let him know that the history books refer to Jawahar Lal Nehru visiting Singh and Dutt in Lahore Jail and praising them especially Bhagat Singh. Jinnah was also one who profusely admired and showed immense love for the freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and others in the Lahore prison.
Jinnah’s picture had been hanging in AMU Student’s Union Hall since 1938 when he was honoured with life membership of AMUSU. Jinnah’s portrait is not alone but with the pictures of many others leaders of different shades including MK Gandhi, JLNehru, Dalai Lama, Moulana AK Azad, CV Raman, C Rajagopalachari etc. It has been a tradition of conferring lifetime memberships to those who have contributed significantly to the AMU or elsewhere in the world so was Jinnah. Jinnah was not only a prominent leader of India but also a founder member of AMU, who financially also contributed. These pictured also do not mean AMU approves their philosophies also.
Jinnah was honored in AMU before the Lahore resolution (23 March 1940) demanding, “That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of (British) India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.”
As American historian and Indologist Stanley Wolpert, wrote: “this was the moment when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the former ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, totally transformed himself into Pakistan's great leader.” (Jinnah of Pakistan: Oxford University Press.)
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one eminent leader of his time who called Jinnah the “The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” after his nationalistic achievement in the form of ‘Lucknow Pact’ for Hindu-Muslim unity in 1916. It was a statement of INC President Nehru who destroyed the pact.
History of Indian Independence makes it crystal clear that Jinnah was not a traditional or even practicing Muslim leader of the community before 1940. He was acknowledged as a renowned nationalist leader. It was why Gandhi Ji also called him “Qaid e Azam”(The great leader). Until 1930’s the efforts of Jinnah and other Muslim Leaders were to ensure genuine political safeguards for Muslims after independence within the framework of Federation of India. They were seeking internal autonomy for Muslim majority regions and proportionate representation with some safeguards in Federal Government. The Government of India Act, 1935 granted some safeguards to the minorities through a system of separate electorate. After elections were held under this Act and interim governments were installed, in 1937, the Indian National Congress (INC) made majority governments in six out of eight states. It is unfortunate that these governments indulged in Muslim biting. Under the 1935 act, the state Governments of INC (1937–39) brought in Hindu revivalist agenda which created apprehensions among Muslims and other minorities. Inspite of serious objections by party’s Muslim leaders, Congress introduced singing of Bande Mataram in valedictory sessions of party meetings. In some states Muslim culture was attacked, Vidya Mandir and the Wardha schemes of education were launched and so on. These acts spoke a lot of INC intentions after full independence. Oral assurances remained only assurance and atrocities continued. The INC continued incapable of safeguarding and representing Muslim interests. (Jalal, Ayesha: The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan. The Cambridge University Press)
On September 28, 1939, Mr. Jinnah said at the annual dinner of the Old Boys of Osmania University, “I have always believed in a Hindu-Muslim pact, but not a pact that will mean the destruction of the one and survival of the other.” And this was his sin that he did not agree for “destruction of the one and a survival of the other” as INC under the patronage of Gandhi Ji, Patel and others envisaged.
As Wire noted, “Even after 1940 and up to 1946 Jinnah did not quite give up his vision of a politically united, federally loose, culturally pluralist, secular, democratic India. It has been argued that he used the demand for Pakistan as a negotiating tool.”
The INC Rule
The atmosphere created by INC state rule gave Muslim League excuse to demand of the separate state. Several Congress leaders including Nehru and Maulana Azad resisted the demand but Vallabhbhai Patel made Gandhi Ji agree to ‘two nation theory’. After Gandhi agreed Nehru and others followed barring the Muslim leaders who did not agree to the partition scheme till last.
Historical facts also show that Jinnah is not the first proponent of infamous ‘two nation theory’. It was brain-child of Hindu Maha Sabha founder Shri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. In 1923 in a book, he coined a new term ‘Hindutva’ and said Hindu and Muslims are two nations. However, he was against creating separate nations. His party even went in coalition with Muslim league in Sindh and another Muslim Party in W. Bengal in 1942.
Jinnah’s first address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 (four days before the creation of Pakistan) makes amply clear that Jinnah was the least communalist politician of the time. Invoking Britain’s history, he said, “Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all equal members of the Nation. 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 stalwart leaders of BJP like Shri L. K. Advani and Jaswant Singh have rightly acknowledged that in the eyes of M. A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, there was no discrimination with any citizen on the basis of his religion. As Mr. Singh pointed out the burden of India’s division goes to INC’s wrongly enthused leaders.
When we look into the political background, without any prism, putting Jinnah’s portrait in 1938 in AMU Students Union Hall was not and is not a “communal” or “anti-national” act, as seen by saffronites. False propaganda made many things coloured or blurred as done in the case of Babri Masjid etc. This is very strange that at one hand these elements want “Akhand Bharat” and contrary to the spirit of United India, leave no stone unturned to malign the leaders of the other part and un-restricted hate mongering. Targeting and taunting Indian Muslims as Pakistani is quite absurd. Actually, their aim is to establish psychological and physical hegemony in this part of undivided Hindustan and over the other parts. The Kashmir policy of the present government is the witness. As Dr. Mohammad Farooq Abdullah pointed out in private conversation during our recent visit to Abu Dhabi, the mistreatment meted out with Muslim in any part of India complicates the Kashmir situation. I have no hesitation to say that policy of coercion and lust for domination is destroying the spirit of democracy and spirit of the friendly neighborhood. That is also damaging the democratic values and the rule of the law. This is not service of the Nation but an utter disservice.
Mr. Satish Gautam, the BJP M.P. from Aligarh sowed the seeds of this ugly controversy. He wrote a letter on May 01, 2018 to the VC objecting the portrait of Mr. Jinnah adorned on the walls of the AMUSU office Hall, (which is known as Siddons’ Debating Club, named after Henry George Impey Siddons, the first principal of Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO) Aligarh, the forerunner of AMU) along with several other eminent personalities who were awarded life membership of the Students Union. Consider the precious timing of the letter. It was sent a day before the former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari was scheduled to be conferred at the life membership of AMUSU and a lecture in Kennedy Hall. It was in public knowledge and the administration was also informed. As a local MP and former EC member of AMU Court, Mr. Gautam was surely in the know of the program.
Next day (May 02), after Mr. Ansari had arrived in the University, 10-12 members of RSS affiliated group (Hindu Yuva Vahini - HYV) barged into the AMU campus from “Babe-e-Sir Syed”, just 100 meters from the guest house where Mr. Ansari was staying, and aggressively started raising routine hegemonic slogans. After AMU students confronted them, Police intervened and took them in the safe custody to the Police Station of the area (Civil lines). However, within minutes a bigger group, more furious and more violent, reached to PS and police let them go with the bigger group. Police may have instructions to let them go. Now this larger group of the Hindutva activists reached the same gate and entered in raising highly provocative slogans. Police did not stop them at a distance. After the commotions, the AMU students came out in substantial numbers, confronted the trace passers and demanded the Police to arrest the unauthorised intruders. UP Police used brutal force and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the AMU students. Many were injured and taken to the hospitals. As a result of the event to honor Janab Hamid Ansari, who was humiliated by Mr. Modi on his last day as Vice President of India, was cancelled. So the short term objective seemed to have been fulfilled. It is not prudent to guess who assigned him the act.
The long term objective
It started on 26th January this year from Kasganj with a ‘tiranga’ rally, under the wings of local BJP M.P. and fomented violence and communal tension. Same was done in West Bengal and Bihar at the occasion of Ram Navami. Processions with arms and abusive slogans destroyed the piece at many places. Same slogans were raised in Gurgaon to disturb Friday Salat in the open. In Sambhal (UP) a four-century-old active Mosque is being targeted. And now in Aurangabad, the script is the same.
Previously major communal riots were used to polarize the communities as was done in Muzaffar Nagar and Shamli districts of UP. Now the tactics have been changed. No extended violence, no curfew and no shut down of business. Raise local issues as Jinnah portrait and spread venom in the public. This is well observed and well-known tactic to befool the voters and get their votes in the elections. The government has no achievement in last four years to show and impress the voters, so localized tensions and spreading false and fabricated stories in the garb of ‘history’ are new tools. Same is the case of Jinnah portrait controversy. Professor Tariq Mansoor, VC of AMU has rightly said in his appeal to the students, “We should not fall into the trap of certain forces that are hell-bent on destroying the image of our Alma mater and are playing with your bright future. The assault on the university from different quarters, calls for a rational response and thoughtful action without being swayed by emotions.”
This attack is not only upon our Alma mater but on the whole right thinking community of Indian. Should we allow the ill-informed youngsters and their leaders to destroy the age-old fabric of humanity and humbleness that is the distinctions of Indianness? Please consider how we react emotionally and physically after such incident! Should our response help them or defeat the real enemies of Indian Nationalism or make them delighted? I am sorry to feel that our reaction is not as mature as the political wisdom in present situation demands. Keep your cool and defeat the provocative misdeeds of those who are bent to destroy the AMU and make it a hub for Shakhas. Don’t let them succeed. How to defeat the ill-will of anti Indianness elements? Let us recall the advice of Nawab Mohd Ismail Khan, the first VC of AMU after partition. His appeal is still relevant:
“We shall have to create an atmosphere of goodwill and fellowship so that their doubts and suspicions as to our aims and objects may be dispelled. It is my firm conviction that politics should be altogether divorced from this university and it should now revert to its primary role as a seat of learning pure and simple with no political leanings or affiliations.”
We must be intellectually and emotionally ready to avoid a situation which may be used as an alibi to defame you and your university, and hell-bound to snatch the Inheritance we begot from Sir Syed and our other ancestors. AMU is not only an educational institution but an India in itself. These elements did not even spare the founder of AMU who believed in, “Hindu and Muslims are two eyes of India” and his portrait was clandestinely removed from Khair Guest House. We the old boys of AMU and students at present have a duty to preserve our Alma meter and defeat every provocation with the boldness, we inherit for Sir Syed Ahmad Khan RA.
(Writer is an old boy of AMU and a free-lance journalist)