Battling Hindutva By Bashing Jinnah: Shashi Tharoor’s Contradictory Argument
Yasser Latif Hamdani responds to Shashi Tharoor’s article in The Print India where the Indian National Congress leader, according to Hamdani, stuck with his contradictory strategy of fighting BJP’s Hindutva by conforming to their worldview.
As the mask of Indian secularism has come off exposing the unsavoury reality beneath, the irate, politician and former UN representative, Shashi Tharoor has lashed out at Jinnah and Pakistan. The reality of Nehru and Gandhi and their Indian exceptionalism project is so disturbing that a person like Shashi Tharoor is left with no choice but to attack Jinnah because not doing so would challenge his own social privilege for whose benefit Indian democracy exists.
I had responded to his questionable assertions in the Indian Parliament about Jinnah by stating a few facts in my piece in The Print, India. Everything I argued in this piece is backed by fact. I ended my article with this appeal:
“There is no reason to make Jinnah versus Gandhi/Nehru a zero-sum game. Jinnah stood for a secular Pakistan and the tragedy is that Pakistan has rejected his idea and become a theocratic state. Meanwhile, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru stood for majoritarian democracy but they did not expect it to be reduced to blatant majoritarian communalism, which India is seeing. My appeal to people like Shashi Tharoor and Barkha Dutt is to stop dragging in Jinnah and Pakistan into every debate or discussion. Make secular liberals of Pakistan your allies, instead of making it an egoistical match of whose country is superior. The fact is that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill offends the very ideals Jinnah cherished all throughout his life, whether from when he was in the Congress or when he championed the Pakistan demand. It is about time both Indians and Pakistanis realised that Jinnah and Gandhi being humans could make mistakes and did make mistakes, but they were moved by the noble values of humanity and egalitarianism. Jinnah’s heirs and Gandhi’s heirs should be allies in the fight against extremism, intolerance, and religious bigotry.”
It seems however that such sentiments are not reciprocated. I regret suggesting this because the response was typical Hindu chauvinism thinly veiled by a pretension of secularism – same kind of stuff that one expects from a genuine Nehruvian or Gandhian. In response to this, Shashi Tharoor naming me repeated long exploded myths about Jinnah and ended up calling him a hypocrite and a communal bigot. He further claimed that Jinnah had given a confessional basis for Pakistan. Had he read my article, I had stated precisely that Jinnah had not argued for a confessional basis for Pakistan and I backed it up with facts as well as existing Pakistani law.
It is also a fact that Jinnah died barely 13 months into independence and therefore Pakistan’s multiple failings, its horrible laws etc really cannot be laid at his feet. Jinnah, for example, said that anyone who professes to be a Muslim is a Muslim and that Ahmadis were Muslims. Pakistan of today has nothing to do with Jinnah.
If the ruling ideology is what Mr. Tharoor has a problem with, those who admire Jinnah know that the ruling ideology of Pakistan vitiates Jinnah’s ideals much more than anything India has done. So pointing out Pakistan’s flaws today is neither here nor there.
Tharoor goes on to call Jinnah a hypocrite because he drank and ate pork. Neither I nor Asad Rahim Khan, the other Pakistani named, raised the issue of Jinnah’s dietary habits nor do we think it is relevant to the issue at hand. It tells us more about Mr. Tharoor’s own ideas about Muslims and what kind of leadership should be acceptable to them. Perhaps Mr. Tharoor would like to know what Dr Ambedkar, the father of Indian constitution, said about Jinnah – unlike Mr Tharoor I will produce both the good and the bad for after all Ambedkar was both a merciless critic and an admirer of Jinnah (as the quote will show):
“Secondly, it forgets that Mr. Jinnah, who represents this ideological transformation, can never be suspected of being a tool in the hands of the British even by the worst of his enemies. He may be too self-opinionated, an egotist without the mask, and has perhaps a degree of arrogance which is not compensated by any extraordinary intellect or equipment. It may be on that account he is unable to reconcile himself to a second-place and work with others in that capacity for a public cause. He may not be overflowing with ideas although he is not, as his critics make him out to be, an empty-headed dandy living upon the ideas of others. It may be that his fame is built up more upon art and less on substance. At the same time, it is doubtful if there is a politician in India to whom the adjective incorruptible can be more fittingly applied. Anyone who knows what his relations with the British Government have been will admit that he has always been their critic if indeed, he has not been their adversary. No one can buy him. For it must be said to his credit that he has never been a soldier of fortune. The customary Hindu explanation fails to account for the ideological transformation of Mr. Jinnah.“ (Emphasis mine)
So Ambedkar may not have had a high opinion of Jinnah’s intellect but Ambedkar believed that Jinnah was absolutely incorruptible, the opposite of a soldier of fortune. In Ambedkar’s view, Jinnah was no hypocrite and he goes on to explain why in the rest of the book. In comparison, I would rather not remind Mr. Tharoor of what Ambedkar had to say about Gandhi, Nehru or the Congress Party.
Needless to say Ambedkar’s denunciation of the Congress Party was way more caustic and severe than anything Jinnah might have said. To Ambedkar, the Congress Party was a blue-blooded Hindu chauvinist Party under Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru.
So why did the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity – Jinnah – turn against all he did till 1940 and champion the cause of Pakistan? There were many reasons for it, but foremost is the fact that Jinnah wanted a consociational solution to India’s problems. As HM Seervai shows so clearly in his book Partition of India; Legend and Reality, it was Nehru and Gandhi who partitioned India and not Jinnah who had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. This is an inconvenient fact that a privileged Indian like Mr. Tharoor would hesitate to address. Well here are a few other facts about the Pandit and the Mahatma:
Prodigious Pandit Nehru:
- In 1928 Pandit Nehru aided with Hindu Mahasabha to scuttle the original 4 amendments that Jinnah had asked for and would have gotten Muslim support for the Nehru report. At the time even his father had sided with Jinnah because the original 4 amendments would have delivered an agreement on a secular constitution for India based on joint electorates. Pandit Nehru (jr) however chose to side with Hindu Mahasabha and reject those amendments.
- Pandit Nehru in 1937 went back on his alliance with the Muslim League in UP and chose instead to play up Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. Surely you must know what Majlis-e-Ahrar was up to in Lucknow vis a vis Shias and in Punjab vis a vis Ahmadis. Majlis-e-Ahrar had approached Jinnah first but Jinnah had refused to accede to their demands about Ahmadis.
- I can point out various things that Panditji did vis a vis Hyderabad (where he presided over a genocide) and his own Muslim friend and ally Shaikh Abdullah in Kashmir (who he jailed for more than a decade) but let us leave that for another time.
The Magnificent Mahatma:
- In 1915 when he came back to India Jinnah presided on a reception in his honour in which he paid tributes to Gandhi’s leadership and his wife’s courage welcoming him with open arms. What did Gandhi do? He began by pointing out that Jinnah was Muslim. What may I ask was Muslim about Jinnah except for his name?
- Against all counsel by Jinnah, Gandhi supported the Khilafat Movement and tried to use the Maulanas to undercut secular Muslims like Jinnah.
- Gandhi also was the prime mover of the idea of Ram Rajya and Cow politics in India.
- Gandhi continuously undermined the Dalit and Muslim positions at the Roundtable conferences.
And then there was the Cabinet Mission Plan. So bizarre was the position taken by Gandhi and Nehru, that even Wavell who hated Jinnah was forced to call both the Mahatma and the Pandit – blackmailers. This is all recorded. The dialogue between Wavell, Gandhi, and Nehru is part of history. Even Jaswant Singh produced it in his book.
Mr. Tharoor engages in special pleading when he says this in his article: “So Pakistani liberals, in their anxiety to defend Jinnah, unwittingly give aid and comfort to the political cynicism of Amit Shah, the president of a party that expelled the redoubtable Jaswant Singh for hailing Jinnah as a hero.”
So Mr. Tharoor please make up your mind. What is your argument here? That we defend Jinnah and that gives comfort to Amit Shah – who then you say turned out Jaswant Singh for hailing Jinnah as a hero? I have never been a fan of your debating skills. I saw right through your performance at the Oxford Union. However, one would expect that at least when writing something, you will not contradict yourself.
Finally, I have a word for my Pakistani compatriots. Your insistence on having a theocratic constitution and bigoted laws is essentially the only argument commentators like Shashi Tharoor have. Yet it is a very strong argument against us. Perhaps it is time to make Pakistan the secular state Jinnah envisaged it to be.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.