Saturday, September 05, 2009

Qatil-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah

[Review article on Jaswant Singh’s book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence. It appears as a full-page in Sunday Pioneer. Photos are of Jinnah's Direct Action Day, Calcutta, 16 August, 1946.]

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, we are told, cried in public only thrice in his life. The first occasion was at the grave of his wife, Ruttie, the day she died. The next time he was spotted weeping was on the train from Calcutta after Congress refused to countenance the Muslim League’s objections to Motilal Nehru’s 1928 report (known as the ‘Nehru Report’) proposing dominion status for India with a Constitution that provided for a unitary system of governance and equal rights for all citizens. The last time Jinnah was seen shedding tears, or so his friends recall in their memoirs, was during a visit to a Hindu refugee camp in Karachi in January 1948. Moved by the plight of the refugees, he is believed to have hoarsely whispered, “They used to call me Quaid-e-Azam; now they call me Qatil-e-Azam.”

It is possible that Jinnah, who is not known to have ever smiled, grieved over Ruttie’s grave. It is also believable that he wept bitter tears of rage after being given the short shrift by the Congress over the Nehru Report (he was to later come up with what is known as ‘Jinnah’s 14 Points’ which, under the guise of proposing that the “future Constitution should be federal with residuary powers vested in the provinces,” demanded that “in the Central Legislative Assembly, Muslim representation shall not be less than one-third”). But it’s rather hard to believe that the man who was unmoved by the blood-letting that followed his call for ‘Direct Action’ in August 1946 and continued till he had attained his “moth-eaten Pakistan” a year later would be moved by the sight of wailing women and orphaned children at a Hindu refugee camp in January 1948. If at all Jinnah was distressed it was because his vanity had been hurt — the ‘Quaid’ was being spat upon as a ‘Qatil’.

Like Jaswant Singh, I am neither a scholar nor a historian. But unlike him, I am the child of parents who suffered the horrors of Partition; my father arrived in India from East Pakistan with his widowed mother and four younger siblings, penniless and virtually with nothing more than the clothes on his back. He didn’t have the privilege of growing up in princely Jodhpur, nor did life afford him the luxury of pondering over the minutiae of the politics of Partition in the amiable surroundings of Nehru Memorial Library. Yet, I do not recall him ever expressing either rancour or regret. Even if he wanted to, my mother wouldn’t have let him. The struggle for survival rode rough-shod over any emotional struggle that might have peeked hesitantly in their minds.

And unlike Jaswant Singh, as well as many others who believe that Partition was a blunder, that India would have been one large happy family had the Radcliffe line not been drawn, that the Congress should not have persisted with its idea of India as one nation with a unitary system in which power would be concentrated at the Centre, that the Muslim League had a case when it argued for proportionate representation if not more for Muslims to compensate them for the loss of the power they wielded before the British took charge of India’s affairs, I belong to the minority which believes that Partition was the second best thing to have happened to us. The first was the failure of the ghazis to prop up a dissolute badshah in 1857. In his literally weighty tome Jinnah: India - Partition - Independence, Jaswant Singh obviously disagrees with this contention: “It was here in the middle of the 19th century that the symbol of our sovereignty was finally seized and trampled underfoot by British India.” Not everybody mourned that event, just as Hindus in Bengal were not terribly upset when Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah was given the boot in 1757.

But that defeat of presumed Muslim supremacy in 1857 was not without significance. Rudely stripped of their status as a minuscule minority ruling over India’s vast majority, Muslims discovered salvation in separatism in the subsequent decades — first in terms of faith and culture, and later with the formation of the Muslim League in 1906, in Muslim identity politics. Jinnah did not gravitate towards the League then, but it was his natural home and he couldn’t possibly stay away for long. The “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” thought he could bargain for a slice of power through exclusivist constitutionalist politics, which he thought was his forte, but when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi steered the Congress to mass politics, Jinnah, clad in Savile Row suits, scoffing whisky and munching on ham sandwiches, couldn’t quite see himself mingling with the unwashed masses.

Ironically, this is the man, who had little knowledge of Islam and even lesser respect for its core beliefs, who would emerge as the ‘sole spokesman’ of undivided India’s Muslims, or so he would insist on being known as; that was a platform he found convenient so as not to get pushed out from national politics by the Congress and its stalwarts, namely Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Yet, for all his rancid denunciation of Hindu majoritarianism, of Congress’s emphasis on centralisation of power, of everything that together shaped India and the Indian identity, he could never command cross-country Muslim support. Or else the Muslim League would not have to look for proportionate representation.

Much of Jaswant Singh’s book covers territory that has long been charted by scholars and historians, although its documentation is truly rich: Potted history is useful for non-historians and as a ready-reckoner for dates and events. Nor is there anything startlingly new about Jaswant Singh’s thesis spun around the idea of Jinnah as the ‘sole spokesman’ of India’s Muslims. Ayesha Jalal expounded this theory many years ago in her book, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan which, in a sense, provides the most comprehensive explanation for Jinnah’s politics. True, Ayesha Jalal’s is a Pakistani’s perspective; but is Jaswant Singh’s the Indian perspective? If yes, then which India is he speaking for? That which revels in lighting candles at Wagah border even as more lives are laid to waste to satiate the lust ignited by Jinnah’s rhetoric that became the recurrent theme of Muslim League politics after the Lahore Resolution of 1940? Would Jinnah have ever recanted had Nehru toed the line of least resistance? Jaswant Singh writes about the Cabinet Mission Plan, of the divergence in the responses of the Congress and the Muslim League, but that alone cannot be evidence of ‘majoritarian’ perfidy.

Nehru talked of conditional participation in the Constituent Assembly, of reserving the right to modify the Cabinet Mission Plan. Jinnah spoke a sharply different and sinister language: He recalled the Lahore Resolution and reiterated the demand for Pakistan; he threatened “direct action”. Thus was conceived, in the dark labyrinths of his mind, and given shape to in consultation with his Faustian colleagues, ‘Direct Action Day’ to be observed on August 16, 1946. “We shall have India divided or we shall have India destroyed,” Jinnah thundered. Did the Quaid-e-Azam feel any sense of remorse when he saw vultures feasting on the dead after the Great Calcutta Killing? He didn’t. That is the Jinnah which Jinnah: India - Partition - Independence white-washes and presents as a man who was deeply wronged by Nehru and Patel.

Jaswant Singh’s book revolves around the contention that if only Nehru had been farsighted, had he and Patel not colluded to pass the March 8, 1947 Congress resolution asking for the partition of Punjab (and keeping the option of partitioning Bengal open), had they been more accommodative towards Jinnah, there would have been no Pakistan, no Bangladesh today, but a “magnificent edifice of a united India”. Jinnah’s opposition, Jaswant Singh argues, “was not against the Hindus or Hinduism, it was the Congress that he considered as the true political rival of the Muslim League, and the League he considered as being just an extension of himself”. Jaswant Singh oversimplifies the case for the Quaid-e-Azam when he says, “The Muslim community for Jinnah became an electoral body; his call for a Muslim nation his political platform; the battles he fought were entirely political — between the Muslim League and the Congress; Pakistan was his political demand over which he and the Muslim League could rule.” The recrimination is equally sweeping: Nehru was “one of the principal architects, in reality the draftsman of India’s partition” who “began questioning himself, his actions, his thoughts soon enough”. Does Jaswant Singh really believe that had the Congress accepted Jinnah’s conditions and created within an undivided India six separate ‘Pakistans’ — what the Muslim League called the “six Muslim provinces” (the Punjab, the NWFP, Sindh, Balochistan, Bengal and Assam) with near-total autonomy — there would have been a “magnificent edifice of a united India” today?

Jaswant Singh regrets that Jinnah died too soon “to re-examine what he had done… but he too had begun to recognise the enormity of this partition… His pre-1947 statements and the often quoted 11 August 1947 speech are in reality but indicators of his thoughts, not any definition”. This by no means detracts from the fact that Jinnah, who died 13 months after ensconcing himself as the Governor-General of Pakistan, sowed the seeds of his country’s break-up before he discovered that even ‘sole spokesmen’ are but mere mortals. On his first and only visit to Dhaka, he pompously declared that Urdu would be the state language; the Bengalis could either like it or lump it.

Bangladesh chose to lump it. So much for Jinnah’s ‘Muslims first’ identity politics.


Dhruv said...

Not sure why any of this politicians will find anything good about Jinnah ...

Instead of delving into the complexities of finding minor/insignificant good things about people like Jinnah (even Ravan had some good things about him) ... lets keep it simple ...

Lets focus on the karma of this person , the one which impacted people's lives .... Jinnah wanted a country based on religion .. he got it ... his actions leading to lakhs of people getting killed and displaced ....

Jinnah is the real villian , others like Nehru may be responsible but not to that level !!

Let no one in India try to make a hero of such a communal and hate-filled person !!

Anonymous said...

Kanchan Da,
Following your article for a long time, like them to the core, I blog in lk advani forum, few days back wrote a similar article as yours, to clarify many misinformation in BJP supporters. I am pasting some of my comments on it.

Why I say United India would have been Plato’s Utopia? For that we need to understand the core idea which lead to partition, it was “Hindus and Muslims were separate nation because of their differences and cannot stay together”.

Though this idea neither existed nor was practiced in the proletarian class and was rather forced upon them by self serving Muslim bourgeoisie, which constituted of educated Muslim / influential Muslim clergy/ erstwhile rulers/ feudal lords etc. The idea is a result of the psyche of the this class, which was basking in the lost glory of Muslim rule in India and no way would have allowed or accepted Hindu.

The origination of this psyche can be found in Fall of Mughal Empire in 18th century and with rise of Marathas. Many may not know, buts it’s a fact that the rise of Maratha and their dominance on mughals was so much hated by muslim elites that they invited “Ahmad Shah Abdali” to invade their own country against their own Emperor to get rid of Maratha dominance.

After 1857 sepoy mutiny and complete annihilation of Mughals, this class saw Hindus gaining prominance in British Empire and they were getting marginalized. It was then Sir Syed Ahmed Khan the founder of Aligarh Muslim University perpetuated the idea that Muslims should align with British to marginalize Hindus. His efforts lead to various communal awards to Muslims of India by British, who were using their divide and rule policy to fullest success. Later the same psyche was found in Aga Khan, Alma Iqbal, Rahmat Ali and later espoused by Jinnah for his own political and personal gains.

It was the fear of Muslim elite that in a Hindu majority country, Hindus will use their majority to treat the Muslims as though they were Second-class citizens in an alien State. They had the guilt feeling that Hindus will treat them same as they treated Hindus for 800 years. It was the insecurity of the Muslim elite class who could not imagine being ruled by a Hindu Prime-Minister/President and wanted their own share of lost glory which lead to partition and ultimately creation of Pakistan.

S. Chatterjee

harish said...

Truly sir,
Partition was the best thing that happened to India. But I still believe BJP was wrong in expelling Jaswant singh without even reading his book.

Hari Shanker Deo said...

Jinnah wanted to lead. Since his chances were dim in India he opted for Pakistan. To get Pakistan, he instigated communal riots in the name of 'Direct Action' which led to the Great Calcutta killings. To stop further bloodshed Nehru agreed to partition. Jinnah can never be a hero in India. BJP was right to remove Jassu, who later called it the Ku Klux Klan. This after enjoying the fruits of Ministership while in BJP!

Swabhimaan said...

Well said ..we do lament the lives lost, the torture poeople had to bear, but Partition was a good thig to happen. Ask the people who crossed over..would they have liked to live there in 'Pakistan' today? Ask their children..the answer is a clear NO.

The KKK hater is sticking to the position KKK gave him! Where is his honesty, ideology and pride? Or is it just another WEAKNESS?s

Swabhimaan said...

God rewarded Jinnah with TB. Let us see what his supporters will be rewarded with.

Indian Nationalist said...

Mr. Kanchan Gupta, like you my Grandfather was killed by Muslims in Punjab. 50% of my relatives were butchered, my female relative Gang raped by Muslims and killed by Multiple rapes simultaneously.

Some people in India like English educated people or some people in Southern India will never never understand the pain of partition what we had to go through. My eldest uncle too came penniless from Pakistan(we were among the richest in Peshwar) but came back to India since we were Hindus.

When we came to India, we thought that we will finally be safe since we are coming to a country for Hindus and Sikhs only.

Little did we know that we were again stabbed on the back by Gandhi and Congress by allowing a large chunk of Muslim population to remain in India.
Our family was distraught at this news as we had suffered a lot.

Those people sitting in India today and supporting Muslims or Congress will realize their mistakes when a similar Direct action day will repeat in their families. Then they will realize why we oppose Muslims.

I pray to god that never happens but increasingly that is looking to be the reality.

Indian Nationalist said...

Why do we have to goto future. Are we not seeing with the Kashmiri Hindus?. In post divided India, with a Hindu majority, Hindus were kicked out of Kashmir after 1990 for no fault of theirs.

Those who do not learn from History are condemned to repeat it.

Today Muslims make up anywhere between 200 Million to 350 Million (depending on whom you ask), If you ask the Delhi Jama Masjid Maulvi he will say 400 Million.

Anyway, the point is that there is a big chunk of Muslims in India which easily could be the largest in the world.

What if (and there is a real possibility) - , that the Muslim population becomes a Majority in India (quite possible in the next 2-3 decades), what then?......will repeat repeat itself.

Then perhaps we would not even be left with an option for seperate homeland for Hindus. We might all go under the sword or get converted.

india15august said...

I am not in the group of people who go against the BJP philosophy (whatever that is). As you will now note, I do not talk about hannij. None of my post have discussed him.

There is a land called the United States of America, with a President named Barrack Obama. He is bent on providing health care to all Americans, irrespective of caste, creed, color and religion. Their entire country is now involved in discussing the merits and demerits of his health care proposals.

In India, we do not care about such silly things as health care for everyone. Since all politicians can get VIP health treatment free of cost, this is a non-issue here. We care for our prestige. Therefore, in full majesty of our respective posts, we pass diktats that show how powerful we are. If anyone talks about hannij. off with his head. Obsessed, really.

I blog almost every day on the BJP at

Gypsy King said...


Excellent post. Jinnah was a qatil and no two ways about it. JN was proabbly a Qatil but too a lesser extent. Sad no one took the wisdom of BR Ambedkar seriously.

Off Topic, Why is your colleague Swapan suddenly sounding so 'Secular'. Also maybe you should do an investigative piece on why the Indian media is so Congress friendly. It will be good to see the largesses that have been given to the media

Anonymous said...

Kanchan , i think with two Pakistans on either side and one inside we will be busy for next 40 years.

M. Patil said...

Gypsy King said:

"Why is your colleague Swapan suddenly sounding so 'Secular'. Also maybe you should do an investigative piece on why the Indian media is so Congress friendly. It will be good to see the largesses that have been given to the media"

Govt doles out Padma Shrees, Padma wthatevers and plots in post Journalists colonies. Growing up I used to wonder why they have Journalists colonies, now I know.

As if all this is not enough there is advertising revenue from quazi govt agencies. To top it off, there was stimulus for media in the budget.

Is is any surprise that the media especially electronic like NDTV and IBN act like the PR arm of Congress party?

Common Hindu said...

Hello Blogger Friend,

Your excellent post has been back-linked in

- a blog for Daily Posts, News, Views Compilation by a Common Hindu
- Hindu Online.

Inquiring Mind said...


We need not care about Jinnah any more. He got what he want, and went away with it.

The important thing for india is first to expose those coward stooges of congress right from independance.

The people should know, if jinnah created pakistan for muslims, what the hell were the gandhi and nehru doing?

The myth of the gandhis and nehrus and the congress should be exposed as much as possible.

The real culprits of the indian problems should be exposed.

M. Patil said...

Right Angle said:

"The people should know, if jinnah created pakistan for muslims, what the hell were the gandhi and nehru doing?

The myth of the gandhis and nehrus and the congress should be exposed as much as possible."

Exactly, what did the Nehru after Gandhi dies about the Hindu population in Pakistan? Should'nt he be morallly held responsible for the genocide of Hindus in PAk?

M. Patil said...

Kanchan da,
Since you have access to the BJP leaders, can you explain why are they on the defensive?

I do not understand why BJP is quiet. They should come out and have a press conference and present the following facts

1. Congress rules Manipal, Maharashtra and AP top the country in encounters. Why is the Congress and establishment(read media) quiet?
2. Raise serious doubts about Tamang report.
How does the judge know that the 2 terrorists whose bodies have not been claimed are Indians?
Did Guj police kidnap them from Pak? or were they kidnapped by UFOs?
If they were kidnapped on June 12, why did no one, not one of the families lodged a complaint till the encounter 2 days later?
Don't these police officers have alibi that they were home or close to home on June 12? It is not just Ishrat who has a family, these officers have families too.
3. Denounce the centre for playing politics with regard to terrorism. State that by doing so, they are putting the aam citizens life in danger and blame the Sonia-MMS govt squarely for India being the second most terror attack victim after Iraq. Charge them with gross continuing negligence and vindictiveness towards honest upright officers for speaking the truth.
"Meanwhile, the Centre on Wednesday axed its legal officer who failed to point this fact out to the Home Ministry, which had filed an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court.

According to highly-placed sources in the Law Ministry, a decision was taken on Wednesday to remove the Standing Counsel of the Centre in the Gujarat High Court, who vetted the affidavit, dated August 6, 2004 filed in response to a petition filed by Ishrat’s mother in the High Court."

The inside story said...

Well everyone has been asking Swapan and Kanchan to write on what happened in the 2 day RSS conclave. I can confirm that not only Swapan or Kanchan will maintain silence but all the 30 who attended the meeting would do so.

This post about is based on the interpretation of the conversations I had with few attendees of the conclave

1) Everyone I spoke to was very uncomfortable to discuss on the nuts and bolts of the meeting.

2) All claimed that no leaks & secrecy is the success of the conclave

3) All the attendees were asked not to disclose the details of the meeting

4) None of the attendees were allowed to give their road map for the future of BJP;there was one presented by Mohan Bhagwatji and everyone was asked to debate on the same.

5) There was no discussion on who would be next president or who would be next PM candidate.

6) There was an expression of guilt from the RSS for the Advani-Jinnah episode of 2005 (recall Sudharshan meeting with Advani earlier this month). RSS feels Jaswant expulsion was done to second guess it and feels sorry about the incident.

7) RSS did not favor Jaswant reinstatement as it felt it would create another news controversy. As Jaswant is in the end of his career it prefers Manvendar over Jaswant.

8) RSS preferred discussing the Institution over Individuals

9) If everyone is puzzled about who is taking over Atal-Advani era, it appears that it is Shourie-Bhagwat. There seems to be an attempt to marry the organisational skills of the Bhagwat & brain of Shourie

10) Finally, RSS favors complete autonomy of the BJP and roadmap contained details on how and when BJP will get its autonomy.

The inside story said...

Mr. Shourie did not attend the meeting deliberately.

Anonymous said...

Sacking of Jaswant was good riddance. He was on the take probably for various reasons. Another example to prove that senile people should adopt Vanaprastha. They all handed over all the power of PM to Mishraji who played babu giri to the hilt. To-day BJP has to swallow hard and keep quiet because of the antics of these old people who were already compromised people. Vajpayee's recorded indescretions was his achilles heel. So he plied the country with the euphoria of a dud bomb along with Kalam. The missile man could not produce one flawless missile. They can fool only the public not India's enemies. No wonder Pak or China or even Bangladesh and Srilanka takes liberties with us.

Unknown said...

This is very well written. Like you, I believe Partition was a good thing for Pakistan. I also wrote about the Creation of Pakistan recently. Do go through my article if you get a chance.