ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Making Sense of Jinnah Today

It is high time we moved beyond seeing Partition largely along lines of religious affiliation with clear villains.

Jaswant Singh, former foreign minister of India and a long time leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been summarily expelled from his party for writing a book on Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence, Rupa & Co, New Delhi, 2009), the founder of Pakistan. In this book, Singh appears to have argued that the intransigence of Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel practically forced Jinnah to demand Partition of Britishruled India and the creation of a sovereign Pakistan. Singh terms him the leader of Muslims in undivided India and apparently argues that Jinnah was merely trying to protect his constituency from a Hindu majoritarian democracy.

Apart from the extraordinary irony of such a statement coming from a senior leader of the very party which has aggressively pushed the Hindu majoritarian agenda, such a position also goes against a widespread national consensus over the historical assessment of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his role in the creation of Pakistan. Whatever the other political and academic differences among the entire spectrum from the far left to the far right, Jinnah has been the universal villain of Partition in independent India’s historiography. While there may be substantial differences of opinion over the role of the Congress as a party and of individual Congress leaders in contributing to the Partition of the country, there has been unanimity over the destructive political role of Jinnah, especially in the last decade of British rule. Therefore, it is quite surprising and unexpected that the revision of this position has come, not once but twice in quick historical time, from political figures placed firmly in the far right of the Indian spectrum.

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