Friday, January 14, 2011

Advani, Jinnah and the question of secularity

LK Advani has again indicated that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Father of Pakistan, had wanted a secular state with Muslim majority. He did this at the launch of the veteran journalist MJ Akbar’s book ''Tinderbox - The Past and Future of Pakistan'' on Jan.12 at New Delhi.

Advani had made a similar statement in 2005, in Pakistan. He was the BJP President then. The comment that Jinnah was a secularist upset his party colleagues and the RSS which he had joined at the tender age of 14. As a result Advani had to step down from the top spot in the BJP. It was only by December 2007 that his party condoned him.

How will the BJP and the RSS react this time?

Perhaps Advani is right. There is enough evidence in Jinnah’s speeches over the years to indicate that he was not against other communities. One cannot say that he was a prejudiced man. His paternal grandfather was a Rajput who converted to Islam. He had a Parsi wife, again converted to Islam. He dressed like a Britt. He drank whiskey, ate ham sandwiches and smoked heavily. At one time he was hailed as the icon of Hindu Muslim unity.

Three days before Independence Jinnah said in a public speech, ‘You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques…. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.’

That doesn’t sound non-secular at all.

But what about us? Mahatma Gandhi’s Ramrajya can be explained away as a concept of a perfect state where all are well and happy. But Advani’s Ramjanmabhoomi certainly added a particular hue to the picture.

There is an argument that Jinnah did not really want Pakistan. Those with this view claim that he had brought up the question of a Muslim State only as a bargaining point and was surprised when Britain agreed to it.

Kanji Dwarkadas in his book Ruttie Jinnah: The story of a great friendship says that Jinnah cried only twice in public all his life. First was at the burial of his beautiful wife Miriam (Rattanbai "Ruttie" Petit), “the flower of Bombay”. The second time was at Miriam’s grave, in August 1947 just before leaving for Karachi. It was the final goodbye to his wife and to India. Whether he liked it or not, he had to go.

Perhaps Jinnah would have set Pakistan on the right path if he had the time and the health. There are claims that he was upset with the great tragedy which followed the partition and was depressed after that. All the while, tuberculosis was gaining on him.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah died in Karachi on 11 September, 1948, officially of a heart attack. And the country of which he was the Governor General for a little over a year steadily slipped away from the concept of secularism to the ignominy of being a failed/failing State.

The sad story has gone to the extent that Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States said on Jan. 13 that Pakistan was the epicentre of global terrorism.

I wonder if the Admiral is aware of the role of his country in Pakistan’s tragic journey into the wilderness.  

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Jazzie Casas said...

The sooner a person seeks medical attention for symptoms of an impending heart attack, the more likely it is that the person will survive. Do not try to tough it out, or wait and hope that the discomfort that you are feeling will go away. There is never any harm in seeing the doctor, and having her tell you that you are fine. However, if you don’t see a physician, there is a fairly good chance that the heart attack will kill you. Don’t risk it.

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