Debating India


Did Advani really praise Jinnah?

Thursday 9 June 2005, by GUMASTE*Vivek

Advani’s travel itinerary and his accompanying remarks have naturally evoked a barrage of criticism from the VHP, not speak of the ideological consternation that it has engendered within the rank and file of the BJP.

What else can you expect when the high priest of Hindutva ostensibly capitulates and extols the virtues of his nemesis?

The scene is perplexing and the questions numerous. Was Advani really acting against the diktat of his ingrained conviction? Was this a calculated machination to garner political reward?

An analysis of his conduct and an assay of the fine nuances of his speech reveal a different story. It depicts a strategy that is brilliant in its concept and perfect in its execution; too subtle for a cursory appraisal to comprehend. Let us critically examine what he did and what he said before passing an adverse judgment in haste.

Issue One: "The emergence of India and Pakistan as two separate, sovereign and independent states is an unalterable reality of history," he clarified that he made this statement because: "There are still some misconceptions and false propaganda about what the BJP thinks of Pakistan. The propaganda has no legs to stand (on) now because it is the BJP-led NDA government that kick-started the peace process and continued it for the six years when it was in office. Even now when we are in the Opposition, we have been supporting it vigorously. Both Indians and Pakistanis have to recognize and respect each other’s desire for sovereignty, security, prosperity, unity and territorial integrity of their respective countries. No solution to any of the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, can work if it erodes the sovereignty, security, unity and territorial integrity of the two countries."

The emotional hurt of partition spawned in Indians a yearning for reunification; a vision of a Greater India or Akhand Bharat. Fortunately or unfortunately it is a concept whose time has passed and whose practical purpose at this juncture of history is uncertain. Geographical and political amalgamation by military prowess is a chimera that best be forgotten. And even if this dream can be carried out to fruition by some method or the other, it may prove more detrimental than beneficial considering the baggage of an impoverished Bangladesh and a violently fundamentalist Pakistan.

Acceptance of this fait accompli is for our long term interest. It is time to let go of this notion as a goal to be accomplished. It best be preserved as a memory to deter further attrition of our nation. When viewed in this context, Advani’s surmise makes plausible sense.

Issue two: Did Advani really praise Mohammed Ali Jinnah? I am not too sure. Read this statement carefully: "There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history. But there are a few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah was one such rare individual." There is not a single phrase or word that unequivocally defies Jinnah. The choice of the adjective ’rare’ to describe Jinnah is deliberate; it can be interpreted either way. There is no mention of greatness. Further creating history is not a credit per se. German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler too created history.

Advani also indicated that Sarojini Naidu had deemed Jinnah as an "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity" in his early years. The emphasis on early years suggests that in his later years he was otherwise. Again when he characterizes Jinnah’s speech in Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11,1947 as "a classic exposition of a Secular State, one which guarantees every citizen’s freedom to practice his or her religion but the State shall not discriminate between one citizen and another on the basis of religion." Is he really extolling his virtues? Or is he reminding Pakistanis that they have strayed from the path laid out by their founding father in their treatment of minorities. The sophistication and the adroitness with which Advani has conveyed this message should evoke admiration rather than censure.

The only question I have is: Was it necessary at all for Advani to visit Jinnah’s mausoleum? Maybe it was done in deference to the sensibilities of the host.

Issue three: Indian history is replete with destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic rulers. The pledge given to Advani by the Pakistan government to restore the Katas Rajas temple is probably the first instance of such an act by an Islamic State. Advani deserves a modicum of credit for this.

Finally, his visit underlined another important aspect of India as a nation. On issues of national importance all Indian political parties are of one mind. The peace process would continue regardless of the party in power. This exhibition of political maturity of the Indian State is sure to stand us in good stead in our quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. By embarrassing a leader of Advani’s calibre, the Sangh Parivar has done great disservice to itself and to the nation as a whole.

Note: Views expressed here are those of the writer and not necessarily those of

See online : The Indian Express

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