• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence: Jaswant Singh

Book by Jaswant Singh, The former Foreign Minister of India

An Excerpt from the book, “Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence” by Jaswant Singh,the former Foreign Minister of India

Urdu Translation by: Muhammad Mashhood Qasmi (Urdu Murasla)

Jaswant Singh-Book
Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence

With the kind of views that he then held, the great distance that he had travelled, in experience, in growth as a civic being, in evolution as an independent-minded and a thinking Indian; his success after the initial years of struggle, as a reformist with Islam sitting lightly on him, Jinnah, to start with, could hardly follow any other politics than that which he did. His thought was for freedom from the insolent might of the ruling British; his political arena had to be, indeed could only be, national. His thinking could not, seldom did, in fact, adjust to the provincial milieu. It is here that he faced all his significant political disjuncts: how to ride the national scene without there being any province wholly behind him? Further, he faced the quandary of how to relate to this newly established Muslim League while being a committed member of the Congress? He could scarcely ignore the League and yet to adopt it, as his chosen political vehicle, at this stage of his life (still in his thirties) was to bind himself to a very narrow sectarian focus. Attending the27 meetings of the Muslim League as a member of the Congress party was clearly a way out. To this decision Jinnah added a caveat, his statement in the autumn of 1913—`loyalty to the Muslim League and the Muslim interest would in no way and at no time imply even the shadow of disloyalty to the national cause to which his (Jinnah’s) life was dedicated’. Was this to enable him to straddle this chasm on a bridge of apparent principles?

But was it principles? or a baser calculation of having a foot in both camps? There exist advocates of both views.

The other, and entirely understandable, was the all-important matter of a political constituency. Here again, Jinnah was clearly disadvantaged. He faced a complex dilemma. For one, he was not an oratorically theatrical or pulpit-bashing rabble-rouser. His whole persona was of a self-reserved man who worked on reason, clarity of thought, and by the incisiveness of his expression. ‘As long as politics was consultative, his position was not to be questioned. With increasing politicisation, democratisation and the trend becoming more participatory, it became important that a ‘national level politician be connected with the provincial and local political trends’, too. And it is here that Jinnah lost his inclusive, all-India platform; he had to overcome far too many handicaps, amongst which was the unmatched impress of Gandhi on India’s masses. Let us spend some time trying to understand the dynamics of the interaction between these two titans of India’s freedom movement. It is a daunting venture but vital for our enquiry.

Comparing Gandhi and Jinnah is an extremely complex exercise but important for they were, or rather became, the two foci of the freedom movement. Gandhi was doubtless of a very different mould. But he too, like Jinnah, had gained eminence and successfully transited from his Kathiawari origins to become a London barrister before acquiring a political personality. Yet there existed an essential difference here. Gandhi’s birth in a prominent family—his father was, after all, a diwan (prime minister) of an Indian state—helped immeasurably. No such advantage of birth gave Jinnah a leg-up, it was entirely through his endeavors. Gandhi, most remarkably became a master practitioner of the politics of protest. This he did not do by altering his own nature, or language o discourse, but by transforming the very nature of politics in India. He transformed a people, who on account of prolonged foreign rule had acquired a style of subservience. He shook them out of this long moral servitude. Gandhi took politics out of the genteel salons, the debating halls, and societies to the soil of India, for he, Gandhi, was rooted to that soil, he was of it, he lived the idiom, the dialogue, and discourse of that soil: its sweat; its smells and its great beauty and fragrances, too.

Some striking differences between these two great Indians are lucidly conveyed by Hector Bolitho in In Quest of Jinnnh. He writes: Jinnah was a source of power. Gandhi…an instrument of it… Jinnah was a cold rationalist in politics—he had a one-track mind, with great force behind it. Then: ‘Jinnah was potentially kind, but in behaviour extremely cold and distant’. Gandhi embodied compassion. Jinnah did not wish to touch the poor, but then Gandhi’s instincts were rooted in India, and lifelong he soiled his hands in helping the squalid poor.

Not so Jinnah: for having been uprooted repeatedly in his childhood, then moved too frequently, he neither easily belonged nor did he relate with comfort. Besides being the quintessential constitutionalist, he had to follow a different course; for him to adapt to the changing times, to the dusty trails of rural India was not at all easy. That is why he found it so difficult, by around 1920, to maintain his position at the national level given Gandhi’s arrival and rapid ascendancy. Besides, there was no province, not one, not then, not later, that he could rely upon totally as his exclusive parish. His lack of ability to adapt to the integrative politics of the masses always remained a problem. Where after, his status as a Muslim, It must be accepted, further handicapped his position at the national level, or in nationalist politics the scene had already got crowded: as a Muslim, yes , there was a role for him to play but only in the second rank. For Jinnah, a secondary status was galling, what he had always sought and mostly attained was the Centre stage; yet, now how could he, when so many factors constantly kept pushing him to the periphery of it?

Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, professors of political science, emeritus, University of Chicago, in correspondence with me have shared thoughts, briefly, on the same theme. They hold: ‘Jinnah couldn’t stand Gandhi but his reasons I believe were markedly different from those driving his “hatred” of Nehru. Almost from the beginning of Gandhi’s entry into national politics in the 1915-1920 era, Jinnah thought of him not only as a rival but also as “a poseur, a fake, and a demagogue”. They shared an English experience that included common mentors, patrons, and admirers for and becoming a barrister. And they shared the common and studying patronage in India of Gokhale, a “moderate” and a liberal.’ Jinnah acquired the style of an English gentleman and the views of a liberal. Gandhi did too, for a time, as photos of him as a successful barrister in South Africa and as his efforts to secure the rights of British subjects for the Indian minority in South Africa attest. But by the time Gandhi returned to India from twenty-one years in South Africa he had begun to shed his identity as an English gentleman and to add to his liberal creed a commitment to be a man of and for the people, the ordinary people of India’s towns and villages.

Jinnah remained committed to his three-piece suits, his lorgnette, his cigarette holder, and the King’s English. No Gujarati for him, and no political language that invoiced religion. Jinnah excelled in parliamentary politics, the kind of politics that the moderate Gokhale was good at and that the extremist Tilak scorned. Gandhi combined a liberal concern for deliberative, non-violent politics evident in the politics of satyagraha with the extremist tactics of direct action. His was an out of doors politics of the public sphere and of public opinion rather than an indoor politics of the halls of parliament and the corridors of power. When Gandhi donned the clothes and style of the common man, then later shed even these for the bare minimum of the poorest villager, Jinnah was progressively repelled and increasingly convinced that Gandhi was a demagogue and a fake. For decades Jinnah resented and resisted Gandhi’s common man Politics until, on 16 August 1946, he called for direct action to defend Islam, and in support of Pakistan. Jinnah then became the demagogue he deplored and detested in Gandhi. He had come to fight fire with fire but doing so didn’t bring him closer to Gandhi. At the same time, he had, over the years, developed a wary respect for the man who, for most of his political career, outshone and outgunned him. Toward the end, he practised the highest form of flattery, imitation. He, too, [like Gandhi in reality was of the Congress, the final arbiters] would be the sole spokesman.

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