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Jaswant Singh Book on Jinnah
Revisits the 1947 Partition
|by K. Gajendra Singh|
Why are Indians Afraid of Faulting the Imperialist British
BJP acquired power mainly through Advani's divisive and Hindu-Muslim polarizing Rathyatras (chariot rides), demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and subsequent Hindu Muslim riots, pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat under BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other anti-national acts . Perhaps realizing that the people cannot be misled any more , Advani used his 'discovery' of a secular Jinnah while visiting Pakistan to attract Muslim votes in India, who are now determinedly opposed to BJP and its policies. One can never put anything beyond a politician's quest for power.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar refused to make any direct comment on Singh's book, but made it clear that the party did not agree with the contention that Jinnah was not responsible for partition and said the party stood by its June 2005 resolution on Jinnah, which holds him as one of the most important politicians responsible for the partition of India. Narendra Modi's BJP government in Gujarat banned the book. Jaswant Singh has petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the ban. India like many other nations even democracies is showing Orwellian tendencies.
In a panel discussion after the book release, maverick Lawyer Ram Jethmalani, inimical to Nehru-Gandhi family, described Jinnah as a true secularist and blamed the partition on Nehru. He said Jinnah had been a great collaborator of Gandhi in achieving freedom for India and regretted he had been demonized by a people who idolized Nehru.
A British citizen Lord Meghnand Desai exposed his ignorance of history by declaring that "the division of the country became inevitable around April, 1947 and not before that". He termed Lord Mountbatten the "father of Pakistan" and added that Jinnah had been turned into a villain through complete fabrication of facts, and claimed the Partition happened because of Nehru's individualism and crude Marxism. He said the Congress had no right to represent Muslims and accused Nehru of mindlessly rejecting Jinnah's genuine demand for a guarantee about Muslim rights.
It is irritating that a British loyalist and proxy like Desai is given undue importance in India, his vacuous articles and chatter fill Indian media and corporate channels. It may be recalled that Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused of selling knighthoods to some shady characters in exchange for money for his Labour party. Desai is doing a pretty good job at defending the British in India.
Noted journalist M J Akbar did not agree with Jaswant apportioning blame on Nehru for the Partition. "It was the Congress Working Committee which accepted the Cabinet (Mission) Plan...Nehru was not the dictator of the Congress," he said, adding, "while Gandhi wanted a secular nation with a Hindu majority, Jinnah wanted a secular nation with a Muslim majority." Akbar derided the claims that Nehru was responsible for the partition and that Jinnah was secular. But he praised Jaswant for lifting history from the trap of passion.
Senior journalist B.G.Verghese questioned the premise that Jinnah was secular. He likened Jinnah's threat of direct action with the tactics of the Taliban and accused the then Muslim League of communal blackmail. He defended Nehru and the Congress for rejecting Jinnah's two-nation theory.
CEO of Pakistan's 'The Dawn' newspaper Hameed Haroon said Jinnah's image remains wrongly portrayed and unexplored in that country. He said Jinnah's pictures wearing Western dresses and smoking cigarettes were suppressed in Pakistan "...and he became a two dimensional cardboard of (General) Zia's ideals." According to Haroon, Jinnah's speech on religious freedom was "censored by the information hierarchy of Pakistan before even the state came into being."
Haroon, wondered why India did not explore the true Jinnah. Pakistan, he said, avoided doing it because Jinnah was too liberal and progressive for the bigoted rulers who succeeded him.
Jaswant at Book Fair
"Unless we understand Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a man and as a statesman, we cannot understand Bangladesh, Pakistan and our relations with the two countries. Nobody has written about Jinnah - whom Mahatma Gandhi described as a great man - the way I have," Singh told a packed audience comprising writers, journalists, publishers and bureaucrats at the Pragati Maidan on the inaugural day of the Delhi Book Fair on 29 August.
"Partition has been the most damaging event in modern India. Though I was born in a village far away from Lahore and Sindh, I always wondered how could they ever become foreign lands... and (how) the man (Jinnah) who had so assiduously worked for the 1916 Lucknow Pact could divide the country," he said. [The 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress had pressured the British government to give Indians more authority to run the country.]
Incidentally, another instance of the Congress'Muslim League amity, the Khilafat movement (1919-1924), although mainly a Muslim religious movement, to protect the Caliphate when the British troops occupied Istanbul, became a part of the wider Indian Independence movement. The Caliphate was abolished by Kemal Ataturk, founder of the staunchly secular republic of Turkey in 1923 , fashioned out of the ashes of the Ottoman empire. So when Indian leaders visiting Turkey talked of the Khilafat movement, it made little impact during the secular regimes in Ankara. The money to fight occupation forces sent from India to Ankara was used later by Ataturk to build a Parliament house and a Bank.
Writing about the politics of Partition with entrenched ideological commitments and the desire for explanations and the need to apportion blame, makes it almost impossible to do so. Commented an Indian scholar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta;
Professor Irfan Habib, a noted historian, commented, "One must remember that the priority before them was Independence. The partition was a secondary concern. They probably felt that once the British were out of the way, differences could be resolved, that Pakistan would not be a sustainable entity. There was a bit of misreading of the British imperialist agenda. Also, people forget that, over the years, the wars and wrangling over Kashmir has re-imposed the divide rather than dissolve it."
Riposte by Narendra Singh Sarila, Ex-Indian Diplomat & ADC to Mountbatten
Writing in 'The Tribune' of 19 August, 2009, that 'Jinnah pursued Pakistan for power; Jaswant disappoints; ignores British designs,' retired Indian diplomat, Narendra Singh Sarila, who he was ADC to Lord Mountbatten and wrote a few years ago 'The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition,'said;
'I am disappointed with Jaswant Singh's 660-page book on Jinnah and Partition, released earlier this week." At the end he says: 'I still fail to understand why India was partitioned in 1947? Or the manner in which it was done.' If even after his massive research and hard work, he did not get to the bottom of his subject, there is a reason for it. It is because he has ignored the most important element that was responsible for Partition, namely British strategic interests that required the creation of Pakistan. The British top secret documents on Partition have now been unsealed and there was no excuse for ignoring them. I myself showed these to him some years back. The whole story is there in those documents.
'The Labour government that came to power in Britain in mid-1945 was willing to grant independence to India but was worried about losing its 60-year-old military base here from which the British controlled the whole Indian Ocean area, including the eastern Middle-East that contained oil wells ' The Wells of Power ' of increasing importance in war and peace and which Stalin, with his rising ambition after his victory over Germany, the British feared, might seize. In the last two great wars it was from their Indian base that the British deployed Indian and British forces in Iran and Iraq and the British Chiefs of Staff were adamant on keeping a foothold in India. But Atlee, the British Prime Minister, knew that the government of a free India under the Congress party's rule would neither give them a military base nor join their team against the Soviet Union in the fresh Great Game. What were they to do?
'Towards the end of 1945, Field Marshal Wavell, the Viceroy of India, came up with a possible way out of their quandary. After the Congress party had refused to cooperate in the war effort in 1939, unless Britain announced that it would give freedom to India after the war, Wavell's predecessor, Lord Linlithgow, had encouraged Jinnah to formulate the Pakistan scheme, informing London that Jinnah was in his pocket. 'He represents a minority and a minority can only hold its own with our assistance,' the Viceroy told London.
' Wavell now suggested that they use Jinnah's demand to create a separate state in the north-west ' not give him all he wanted in the west but territories along Iran, Afghanistan and Sinkiang with the port of Karachi ' and Pakistan would cooperate with them on defence matters. On being asked by London to give them a clear picture of the areas that could go to Pakistan, Wavell in a historic dispatch on February 6, 1946, sent a map delineating the boundaries of Pakistan he had in mind, which were exactly the boundaries that Radcliff drew 18 months later.
'So, what Pakistan was going to be was already decided in early 1946 and the time between then and August 15 was used by Atlee, Cripps and Wavell and later Mountbatten to make Jinnah accept the smaller Pakistan and the Congress party to accept Partition, while Atlee kept proclaiming from housetops that they were working to preserve India's unity. All the British maneuvering can be discerned by studying the British top secret files. It is a myth that Jinnah founded Pakistan. President Roosevelt had posted his representative in Delhi after1942 and his dispatches in the US archives also tell us much.
' Some of the assessments in the book are also mistaken. To believe that the Cabinet Mission Plan would have resulted in a united India is moonshine. After 10 years Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP had the option to break away on one side and Bengal and Assam on the other side. That would give the League a much larger Pakistan after 10 years and certainly, in the meanwhile, it would fan the flames of communalism to prepare the ground for the above. And what about the princely states? They had the option to break away too. So, possibly Hyderabad would join Pakistan and would help reach Tripura and Manipur, which would be swallowed up. The Plan would have balkanized India and Nehru, despite the many mistakes he made, was correct in striking it down.
[ As for an Indian federation, look at what has happened in Christian 'Muslim Cyprus or divided Palestine-author of the article]
'The Congress made many mistakes in the struggle, but Gandhiji united a heterogeneous and largely uneducated people, without which Independence was not possible.
'I agree with Jaswant Singh that Jinnah at heart was a nationalist and a secularist. And he remained so for the first 60 years of his life ' a long time. Jinnah opposed satyagrah, calling it an extreme programme that would lead to disaster. He was shunned by Gandhiji. And Motilal Nehru feared that this brilliant man would eclipse his son, Jawaharlal. In 1928 Jinnah proposed to convince the Muslims to give up separate electorates ' that were preventing Hindu-Muslim political interdependence and unity ' suggesting in return that Muslim representation in the Central Assembly be raised from 27 per cent to 33 per cent ' a very minor concession compared to the possibility of ending the pernicious separate electorates. But he was pooh-poohed, and virtually driven out from the Congress party.
'After the Congress refused to cooperate in the war effort in 1939, the Viceroy sought out Jinnah. The doctors had earlier the same year told him that he had terminal TB. Jinnah had always wanted to be the first in every thing. There are many instances in history of people abandoning their principles to achieve power and glory. So, for him it was now or never. His Pakistan scheme, launching Direct Action ' the precursor of today's terrorism ' and mobilizing Muslims against the Hindus, were all in the pursuit of power and glory. He did not believe in what he was doing. After Pakistan had been achieved, he spoke in Karachi advocating secularism. But he quickly retreated when opposed by his followers.
'Chagla, who worked with him in his law firm in Bombay, once told me that he was a man of great integrity. But it was tragic that at the end he lost it. And no man can be great without integrity. I also feel sympathy for Jinnah, for his humiliation and suffering. But at the end of his life he did many bad things, and inflicted incalculable harm. To believe that he was great just because he fought the mighty Congress party is nonsense. Do we call Hitler great because he fought the mighty Allies?'
US historian Stanley Wolpert in his book -- Shameful Flight -- revisits Partition, and blames Louis Mountbatten squarely for one of the most horrific episodes of the 20th century. Undoubtedly the arrogant and unrealistic Mountbatten is the central villain in the book. Although the British cabinet gave him a longer time, but Mountbatten never had any intention of using it.
'Mountbatten had resolved to wait until India's Independence Day festivities were all over,' Wolpert writes, 'the flashbulb photos all shot and transmitted worldwide, Dickie's medal-strewn white uniform viewed with admiration by millions, from Buckingham and Windsor palaces to the White House. What a glorious charade of British imperial largesse and power 'peacefully' transferred
"The rapid departure of the British from the region was the catalyst for over half a century of violence, a legacy that lives on today," says Wolpert, discussing why Partition still holds interest '
Why did Nehru listen so much to Mountbatten --Nehru unfortunately came too much under the influence of Mountbatten, accentuated by Nehru's education in England. Nehru was charmed by the English upper world, he thought he could trust and work with Mountbatten. "Mountbatten's royal blood appealed as much to the rulers of princely states in India," Wolpert continues, "as his radical views and social charms did to Nehru. His charm was so much that Nehru was blinded by it." Asked if Nehru's relationship with Mountbatten's wife Edwina played a role, the historian says, "It helped him cloud the danger of what Mountbatten was doing."
Years after Partition, Mountbatten would whisper now and then how he had botched up the Independence process. Nehru 'finally awakened,' and admitted in a letter to the Nawab of Bhopal, a friend, 'Partition came and we accepted it because we thought that perhaps that way, however painful it was, we might have some peace.
'And yet, the consequences of that Partition have been so terrible that one is inclined to think that anything else would have been preferable,' Nehru added
Comment by Dr. Niloufer Bhagwat , an eminent international jurist
'The restructuring and reorganization of territories and boundaries of existing states/countries is one of the main instruments of Imperial control of resources and strategic territories ;for this purpose some political and fascist organizations are set up and used . The killings which took place using so called religious parties /cultural organizations on both sides , was both a preparation and a justification for the divide.
'In Iraq as soon as the withdrawal of US troops is a part of the parliamentary agenda with the possibility of referendum being held , the killings once again are stepped up . When an Imperialist power is on the decline it is even more blood thirsty and ferocious , -- To-day it is not one power alone , it is the Banks , financial institutions and financiers at the core of the dominant system .
'There are familial and individual loyalties to the Raj and to the Empire even to-day , which extends into several political parties of the right and left and into institutions and organizations overt and covert . Let us see how the narrative unfolds .The biggest threat to the unity and integrity of India continues to be from the same stream of finance capital operating from more than one capital.
'It appears that Mumbai is once again to be targeted for attacks , the FBI was here inspecting railway stations and other regions duly escorted by policing agencies . The "War of Terror" along with Swine flu are the new instruments of control even as the tatters of the economic policy of neo-liberalism or the ' Washington Consensus ' emerges globally.
'In the context of India I was told by an intelligence operative that the decision making of the 'dirty tricks' department for the country has its headquarters in Mumbai . Now we can add New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bangalore though earlier they were not as important.
'It is a matter of immense satisfaction that those who make policy should directly witness its consequences and its impact on diverse sectors , institutions and on society as a whole.
'The book and the controversies raised are diversionary , the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru assisted by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, with the best will in the world could not have defeated partition, the decision was already taken, Pakistan would be the instrument of Anglo-American policy in the region and for better control it would have either proxies or military governments as an adjunct of the Empire.'
An important reinforcement to Chomsky's conclusion (that US and Israeli interests coincide in the Middle East ) has been clearly brought out in a well researched book by a retired Indian diplomat Narendra Singh Sarila, 'The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition.' Sarila, who was briefly ADC to the last British Viceroy to India, Lord Lois Mountbatten, in his book documents how the British leadership across the political spectrum, Conservatives and Labour , intrigued, told lies, divided the Indian subcontinent and created the state of Pakistan. Because Mahatma Gandhi with this opposition to violence and war, and emphasis on peaceful means to resolve all disputes and Jawaharlal Nehru with his non-real politic idealism and vision of creating friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of Asia, Africa, Middle east and elsewhere , would not join Western military pacts to protect from the Soviet Union, the oil resources in the Middle East dominated by Western powers .
On the question of dominion status and independence for India in 1942, during the second world war, US President Franklin Roosevelt's envoy Harriman was informed by the British that approximately 75% of the Indian troops were Muslims but only 35% of the troops were Muslims as Lord Wavel , British Military Commander had cabled London the same week). Later British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told Roosevelt in another context that "in war every truth has to have an escort of lies" a hoary western tradition over centuries. They have excelled themselves in the US led illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The escort of lies is so numerous that there is little truth left.
The book sends out a cautionary signal to present-day Indians; to avoid misplaced idealism, superciliousness and escapism, to which some of their ancestors fell prey. New Delhi is now being seduced by Washington ( ask US allies Turkey and Pakistan , how they have been let down in post cold war period) into an nuclear agreement to enmesh India into US spider's web , which would adversely affect the security of billion plus Indians . Throughout history barring a few , the last one being Indira Gandhi, navel watching Hindus have shown little strategic acumen .
Then there is another fine book by another retired Indian diplomat C. Dasgupta.
C. Dasgupta's War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48
US, which claimed to be a hyper power and the new Rome till 2003, after its illegal invasion of Iraq is now struck in a quagmire. It has strengthened enemy Iran, a regional power throughout history, which Washington must now engage to find solutions to its failure in Iraq and even Afghanistan. US proxy Georgia was beaten back by Russians last year with the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Another proxy President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine, brought to power by US franchised street revolution in 2005 has seen his popularity plummet to less than double figures. Shanghai Cooperation Organization is gearing up to stop NATO inroads into Eurasia. At home US banksters have destroyed US economy, now in fast decline.
Under Devputra Kanishka's rule from Peshawar in present-day Pakistan, traders and preachers moved freely and flourished in his empire, which covered most of Central Asia and Xinjiang down to central and east India. During the 16th century AD, traders moved freely in the empires of the Moghuls of Hindustan, and the Uzbek Shaybani Khans of Khawarizm on the Aral Sea, the Shia Safavids of Iran and the Ottomans of Turkey right into central Europe. A hundi (based on the hawala - trust - system still in existence today) issued in a Delhi bazaar was valid in Istanbul or Bukhara.
K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author.
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