This debate is not about Jinnah or Advani

I AM no apologist for Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He may have been a great statesman, but the Partition spawned by him managed to wipe out in a single stroke all that Muslims contributed to India over a millennium.

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

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Published: Thu 23 Jun 2005, 10:23 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:16 PM

The division of India obliterated the community’s harmonisinig role in turning the country, a behemoth of disparate kingdoms, provinces and principalities, into a great world power stretching from Kabul to Rangoon and Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Indian Muslims — at least some of them — were forced to give up this great political and historical legacy for a little moth-eaten state split into two.

Whether Quaid-e-Azam was forced into the proposition by Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru or he himself wanted a separate homeland whatever the price, the issue has long been debated and will continue to be debated for a long time to come. One thing is certain though. The Partition — whoever is responsible for it — was the worst tragedy to have happened to Muslims as it had been for Hindus and other communities of undivided India. The minority community paid a monumental price for that historic blunder and continues to do so even today.

But this is not about Jinnah or Partition. This is not even about Advani or his so-called metamorphosis from Hindutva’s greatest hawk into a liberal dove chanting the mantra of secularism. This debate is about India and the ongoing battle for its soul. This debate is about accepting the unique richness and fascinating multifaceted character of India as a nation that is home to all — Hindus, Muslims and everyone else.

This is about the pathological hatred of the saffron brigade for all things even remotely related to Muslims and accepting their contribution to, and place in India. It’s this disconcerting intolerance for a worldview different from its own that provided people like Jinnah with the cause of separate Muslim homeland.

It is this mindset that cannot tolerate even fleeting praise for Pakistan’s founder by Advani following a regulation protocol visit to Jinnah’s mausoleum. And the BJP leader, in spite of his immense contribution to the Hindutva cause is condemned by fanatics like Praveen Togadia as a "traitor". If this is how the saffron brotherhood and its sympathisers treat their own, imagine the plight of religious minorities living amidst them?

Even after Advani and his acolytes offered an elaborate explanation, apology rather, about the circumstances in which the BJP chief had acknowledged Jinnah’s concern for secularism, the VHP-RSS firebrands, and many in BJP, simply refuse to forgive or forget the BJP president’s qualified remarks. And look at the way BJP’s own young Turks — men and women groomed by Advani himself — have made their leader a laughing stock by ripping apart his comment on Jinnah.

The man, easily the tallest grass root leader of Hindutva, who riding the Ram Janmabhoomi wave took his two-member party in parliament to the seat of power in Delhi, was forced to eat his own words and made to look like a clown laughing at his own bad jokes.

This debate, therefore, is not about Jinnah and his belief in secularism or otherwise. This is about the outlook and ideology of Sangh Parivar that just can’t tolerate dissent, and any viewpoint that is at odds with its own blinkered worldview. It’s this intolerance for an alternate worldview that drives the brotherhood to cast itself in the mould of sole champions of patriotism and nationalism painting everyone else as traitors and villains. Again, it’s this extremist approach to Hindu nationalism that offered raison d’etre to Muslim League and claimed the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence.

This mindset is at work yet again. In baying for the blood of Advani, the fallen prophet of Hindutva, the Parivar is trying once again to fan the dormant flames of anti-Muslim sentiments. Advani, by being magnanimous about Jinnah, may have made a bold attempt to position the BJP as the centrist, inclusive party reflecting India’s plural character.

However, the BJP chief erred spectacularly in expecting the Sangh to compromise on the question of its USP: Muslim bashing. Advani was wrong and Sangh is right. The great Hindutva family just cannot survive without the oxygen of demonising the Other. By his attempts to accept the reality of Pakistan and giving Jinnah his due, Advani may very well have asked his Parivar to give up on its right and reason to exist.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times

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