Unmaking of Jinnah (Secular and Nationalist)
1116, Main Market, New Delhi-110055
Pages 392, Price Rs. 295
Irony often takes queer twists and turns. The persona of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the most known Muslim in the sub-continent, has been a very unfortunate victim of history’s manufactured ironies. Post-1947, historians on both sides of the Wagah border have worked assiduously to paint this man in colours that Jinnah would have extremely despised, had he been alive. India’s post-independence generation reviles him as an arch communalist, votary of a theocratic state who was solely responsible for the partition. In Pakistan, the portraits of the man decorating Government offices show him robed in sherwani and salwar and put him under a cap that he wore on few occasions. Much worse, his name has been sullied with charges of being a collaborator with the British imperialists, a man of few scruples, an architect of Muslim nationalism and harbinger of Pan-Islamism.
History had been most unkind to the man who was in reality a modernizer beyond his age, a patriot, a staunch advocate of unalloyed secularism, cherisher of liberal values, a mature politician who hardly ever brooked Gandhiji’s spiritual mumbo-jumbo even while the entire Congress establishment appeared keen to surrender reason to the dictates of the ‘Mahatama’s inner voice’. Facets of secular Jinnah began to be evident in post-Emergency India when a lot of liberal historians began to unshackle themselves from the fast fading Nehru-Gandhi halo. History of independence came for much critical review and role of several other prominent actors came to be recognized. Old prejudices began to melt and journalists and historiographers donned the neo-liberal ethos.
But even then, those who recognized Jinnah as an advocate of secularism, laboured hard to dredge deep into his private life and banked on the personal traits. Jinnah’s Western dress, Havana cigars, brimmed hat, lack of felicity in Urdu, marriage with a Parsi girl after courtship, shunning away religious practices, Anglicization of name (from Mohammadali Jinnahbhai to ‘M. A. Jinnah’), drinking and accounts of relishing ham sandwiches, came handy to be flaunted as secular credentials. They indeed were part of Jinnah’s persona. But they do not essentially translate him into a secular character. All that could be said is that Jinnah was irreligious and was irreverent of religious shibboleths. He became sensitive to Muslim religious sensitivities only towards the fag end of his political career.
Author, Ajeet Jawed has attempted exploration of the tumultuous history and personality of Jinnah from an angle that has become taboo in India. The book under review is outcome of the labour and a firm repudiation of all that has been said of him. Jinnah’s career in and contribution to national politics was much longer and illustrious than Gandhiji with whom he shared the objective of national freedom. But nothing beyond that. In ethos, they were poles apart. It remained obscured under layers of myths at best and falsehoods at the worst. Having begun his career as a lawyer in 1906 under Dadabhai Naoroji (the only Indian elected to British Parliament), he enjoyed camaraderie with great patriots like Gokhale, Tilak, Tej Bahadur Sapru (Nehru’s cousin), Sarojini Naidu (who gave him the title of ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’), Madan Mohan Malviya, Bhulabhai Desai, M. C. Setalvad, Kanji Dwarkadoss, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar et al. At no point of time, they suspected Jinnah’s patriotism. Chroniclers are unanimous that accolades from these worthies constantly highlighted Jinnah’s unimpeachable and incorruptible character, his love for the nation and commitment to India’s unity (he opposed even Burma’s separation from British India). Both his utterances and activities bore ample imprint of these characteristics.
In his long legislative career—least talked about now in India—as a member of the Central Legislative Assembly (he used to be elected from Bombay), he forcefully pleaded for Indianisation of ‘Indian’ Army, opposed division of Bengal (then considered to be recipe for development of Muslims of East Bengal), and above all pleaded for joint electorate as opposed to the then in vogue Hindu-Muslim separate electorate. He boycotted Simon Commission which Hindu Mahasabha supported. He disagreed with Gandhiji on Khilafat Movement but still cooperated with him in freedom struggle. He dubbed the movement as ‘borne out of false religious frenzy’ and pure obscurantism.
Jinnah joined the Muslim League in 1913 on the condition that it would not impinge on his commitment to national freedom struggle. League was seen as an adjunct to the Indian National Congress those days and there was a lot of fraternization between the two for decades together inasmuch as the two held their annual sessions in a single city. He brought Muslims under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (better known as Sharada Act) and would not brook ulema’s plea against it. British Government’s secret reports rued the fact and acknowledged that under Jinnah’s influence, League had become less representative of conservative Mohammedan opinion.
Jinnah loved Bombay’s life and spent considerably on his house on Malabar Hill in the hope that his plea for Pakistan would prove to be only ‘a tactical move’ to earn more political benefits for Muslim minority and would not be conceded as a reality. Demand for Pakistan rose as a response to public humiliation suffered by Jinnah in the Nagpur session of the Congress Party and at the hands of Gandhiji at a public meeting in Gujarat. Jawed cites ample sources to link Jinnah’s obstinacy to Congress’ refusal to accede to certain demands of the Muslim minority and its chicanery and political gimmickry in keeping out the League from partnership in the coalition government in United Province (now UP) despite the pre-poll tacit understanding on this score. Refusal to see Muslims or the Muslim League as a party to the negotiations with the British and self-styling itself as the ‘sole spokesman’ of all Indians led to severe heartburn among several sections. As Congress grew in its obstinacy, so did Jinnah’s resolve to opt out of the Congress scheme of things. Rifts widened into chasms. Nehru and Patel made solid contributions to Jinnah’s annoyance. Back-tracking on Cabinet Mission Plan drove the last nail into the coffin of a United India and partition became a sad reality. Jinnah walked into the trap he had laid for others. He became a victim of his own politics to rue it for the rest of the life he devoted to the new Islamic state of Pakistan.
But Jinnah was firm on making Pakistan a secular state. He rebuffed all proposals to turn it into an Islamic state. His proposal to turn Muslim League into National League earned wrath of the cadres and leaders.
Jawed has done a marvelous job in collecting the rich fund of information through original quotes from diverse sources. Jinnah’s sterling qualities and career as a lawyer, his spitefulness, his impatience with men of religion, his dislike for Mullahs and covetousness for life of Bombay and his abandoned home on Malabar Hill etch the Quaid e Azam Jinnah’s personality to broad relief.