Aug 242009

I am, on most days, a centrist moderate who has a 10 degree oscillation on issues to the left and right. I believe in a safety net, i believe in strong national security. I believe in inclusive politics and I believe in one law for all. Corruption bothers me, uber nationalism makes me uncomfortable, the pandering to the religious right (of all religions) gets to me, and I find the whittling away of our constitutional rights dangerous.

I find all parties to be complicit in the stuff that ails this country. I vote for the Congress because I have not been able to find any other alternative . This is despite the fact, that given who I am and my background- I should be part of the BJP”s natural vote bank. Yet, for those reading this blog for a longish time, you would know that I am not a fan of the BJP.

I find their identity politics dangerous and repulsive. I find their use of my most sacred religious symbols hypocritical -given their parent organization’s atheist roots. (note: i don’t have issues with atheists and their world view, except when they try to use religion to create identity) . I find their focus on the urban, inexplicable – especially given that 70%+ of the electorate lives in villages; I find their fascination with big business dangerous; and i find the ability of their minions to take to the street and cause violence – if things don’t go their way – frightening.

Yet, I don’t find their fascination with Jinnah, problematic. He – if he was an Indian – would be their role model. He was a pork eating, alcohol guzzling man who created a Muslim identity – something that he would not have labeled him self as -out of thin air and partitioned a people. I dare say the 5 times a day devout namaazi would have irritated Jinnah, as Maulana Azad did !! His party represented the elite Muslim – not the deprived, marginal tiller; and when he didn’t get his way – he unleashed hoards to commit violence !

So why did Jinnah do what he did – was it because he wanted to be PM? I really don’t think so. Jinnah knew that he was dying. He also seemed to be ruthless enough not to be mawkish about the top job. I think that Pakistan was about ideology – and that ideology was not Islam.

If you go back and re read the history of that era you will see that there were two major ideologies prevalent. The first was Socialism – and the rights of the tiller, the labourer, the worker and the dispossessed – and the second was Capitalism – and the rights of the owner, the zamindar, the rich. By the 1930’s it was very clear that India was going down the social democratic route – socialist in terms of Centralised planning, agrarian reforms, the whittling down of the zamindari system to give more rights to the tiller; and Democratic in the sense of Universal Franchise.

Yet, the landowner – thought small in numbers – was a formidable power base to be reckoned with. As Prof.Mushirul Hassan points out in his book Legacy of a Divided Nation India’s Muslims since Independence :

The landlords had a common benefactor in the British Government. Men with socialist and communist leanings were, on the other hand, their chief adversaries out to destroy their source of livelihood – so much so Nawab Muhammad Yunus of Jaunpur was willing to negotiate with the Hindu Mahasabha but not the Congress. “The community of interest between the League and the Mahasabha”, he told Jinnah “can be created by the Zamindars through their full weight in favour of such an understanding” (pg. 75)

He continues:

“…. Hindu landlords suspicious of Congress intentions….. turned to the Hindu Mahasabha, their Muslim counterparts courted Jinnah. In August 1936, the Raja of Jahangirabad, a ruler with vast estates, met Jinnah and decided to contest the Assembly elections as an Independent and not as a member of the National Agriculturalists’ Party; in return the League agreed not to put up a candidate. Soon afterwards leading rais, zamindars and taluqdars became more closely aligned with the League ”

Landlords formed the largest single group in the League council. Of 503 members, there were as many as 163 landlords – with Punjab contributing the largest share of 51 followed by UP and Bengal”

He continues :

“The landlords were by no means a unified or cohesive collectivity, yet their overriding concern was to safeguard their future in a Congress dominated Government, which they thought was inspired by Bolshevik ideas. Such anxieties reinforced by the administration’s paranoia socialist stirrings in the colonies, were echoed time and again in response to peasant movements some parts of UP and Bihar. The spread of Bolshevism, Syed Ali Raza had warned Hailey, was fraught with dreadful consequences. It meant that ‘the whole society would have to be reconstructed on lines repugnant to the people’ (page 76)

So, if you take religious identity – as opposed to religion – out of the equation what remains is the rights of those who owned property. And, therein lay the major difference between Nehru and Jinnah. The former an ardent socialist, the latter – a person who was backed by the collective might of the landowning class, not. Sardar Vallabhai Patel – the other major player in this story – too believed in the rights of the poor and dispossessed. Whatever else their differences may have been – Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru were united in that.

If only Jinnah was honest about his intentions – and declared a capitalist state as opposed to a state based on dividing people based on how they pray – history would have been different. Pakistan would have been a rich, stable and well governed state. But, he didn’t -capitalism may not have won him votes -so he used the bogey of an Islamic identity – pray what does a Baluchi Muslim and a Punjabi Muslim have in common apart from religion – to create Pakistan. He had the opportunity to create a Singapore – he created a feudal state – that is low on education, industrialization, human rights – and that is still battling the genies that he let out of the bottle.

I said in the begining, that i am not surprised with the BJP fascination with Jinnah – be it Advani or Jaswant Singh – he stood for what they stand for – both in terms of constituency and in terms of agenda. Jinnah’s Direct Action has a parallel in Ram Janmabhoomi, his use of Islam a parallel in Hindutva, His representation of the landowners a reflection of the BJP’s core constituency. But, the whole story of Jinnah and partition is a lesson for the BJP – read history, but read between the lines. Do not divide us in the name of Hindutva, or religion. We have recent history that tells us what will happen. Broaden your reach – Stand for something that makes us reach the stars, not take us to the depth of despair. If you don’t believe me, peek across the border.

worth reading :
Nehru, Bose, Jinnah correspondence – here
Gandhiji’s scheme of offering Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947 – here

on the Jaswant Singh Drama :
Great Bong on Power of History