WASHINGTON DC, June 24, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Advani's Stand on Jinnah Asks for Re-Writing History of Indo-Pak Partition

By Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor
Special to the South Asia Tribune

LONDON, June 24: LK Advani's surprising statement at the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah has not only signaled his country's acceptance of what Jinnah achieved in 1947, but may also help change the perceptions about the two-nation theory propounded so far by mainly Hindu historians.

The history of partition has been mostly written by those Indian and British authors who were associated with the Colonial power by employment and who despised the Muslim leadership for their efforts in mobilizing their co-religionists for the demand of a "Safe homeland" for Muslims.

Many historiographers have tried to put the record straight in order to unravel the real drama behind partition. However, the history of partition is still misrepresented to millions in India, who are led to believe that Jinnah wanted to create an Islamic empire based on Sharia, where there would be no place for non-Muslims.

Many Indians including the Hindu leadership regarded Jinnah as the mastermind of the two nation theory that broke India up, whereas Congress was fighting for Indian nationalism and striving to keep India united under the principles of equality, freedom and secularism.

Advani's statements will certainly do a lot to make people think again about partition and delve into the history books to find out the reality of Indian partition. When a leader of the party whose edifice stands on the ideology of "Hindutva" says that Jinnah was secular, people have good reason to ask why, for the last six decades, were they forced to believe that Jinnah had played the role of a devil in destroying the unity of Indian nationalism.

What then is Advani's objective to put history in its correct perspective or does he now want Hindus and Muslims to forget the past and move forward? The answer to this question is difficult because only time will tell whether Advani's words are followed up by a change in Indian thinking towards Pakistan.

Many revisionist historians such as Stanley Wolpert, Asim Roy and Ayesha Jalal have stressed the fact that Jinnah was not wholly responsible for the division of the Subcontinent, and that the Indian National Congress leaders were equally responsible. The revisionists believe that Jinnah wanted the safe homeland within the boundaries of the united federal India.

The Congress leadership could not accept the proposal because of many apprehensions about the future of this arrangement. The Congress leadership was fully aware about the role played by Muslim religious leadership during the Khilafat movement which was looking for the wider Indian Muslim Community to unite together at a universal level. The Hindu leaders thought the sentimental involvement of Muslims with Turkey would create problems in a post-colonial India, where the loyalty of Indian Muslims to their motherland would forever be suspect.

The relations between Hindus and Muslims during the pre-partition period became strained due to Congress's Wardha scheme of education, the anti-cow slaughter movement of the Hindu Mahasabha and the exclusion of Muslim Leaguers from the Congress-led government of the United Province.

These confrontations led the Muslim League to pass the Lahore Resolution demanding an independent Pakistan. Some historians think that this Resolution was not so much a resolute demand as a compromise tactic intended to force Congress to come to terms with the League, so that they could find a way out of their disagreement. The name "Pakistan" did not exist in the Lahore resolution but Congress did not leave any stone unturned to project it as a declaration of a separate Islamic state based on the demarcation of the boundaries on communal lines.

Jinnah had to deal with two forces at a time. Fighting with the Congress was not as difficult as tackling the "Ulema" of the Jamait-ul-ulema-i-Hind and Deoband. He had to tackle the Ulema who had no problem in accepting the Congress nationalism but had serious reservations about throwing their lot in with Jinnah's Pakistan movement.

Even the post-partition champion of Islamisation in Pakistan, the Jamaat-i-Islami, was most vocally opposed to the demand for a safe homeland for Muslims. The Ulema and Muslim Leaguers were always at loggerheads with each other and many Ulema joined or supported the Congress's mass contact program with Muslims.

Jinnah was a visionary leader - an eloquent English-educated barrister who had no time for mullahs. He did not demand a homeland for Muslims on a religious basis but on a cultural basis. For him Muslims were a "cultural group". The Muslim republic which he envisioned, although inspired by the principles of Islam, would not be based on a strict application of Sharia.

He followed the philosophy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who wanted to eliminate the sufferings of Muslims by "putting the Quran in one hand and Science in the other" so that Muslims could compete with non-Muslims in all fields of public life. Jinnah was afraid that in a United India, Muslims, who had already lost their political authority, would have to live in subjugation to Hindus for generations to come.

The Muslim clergy issued fatwas advising Muslims to come into the fold of Congress instead of joining the Muslim League. Rumors were spread among the Muslim masses that the Leaguers were propagating an Islamic Nation.

On the other hand, the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah was demanding the safe homeland within the Subcontinent without seceding from the motherland. However, Jinnah was portrayed as the divider of India when Congress itself was engaged in much communal activity and had committed many acts conducive to partition.

The Muslim League was left with no option but to mobilize the masses by rallying them around the Islamic symbols which not only turned the party into the savior of Muslims but exposed the so-called religious leaders of their double standards in the eyes of their co-religionist masses.

The most ardent Muslim supporter of Congress nationalism, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad did not acquit Congress from its share of responsibility for partition. If after 60 years of partition, Advani has taken the bold step of correcting his party's perceptions about Jinnah, who according to Anil Seal was agnostic in his personal life, it is time that historians looked back into the events of 1947 and tried to paint a more accurate picture than has hitherto been painted.

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