Debating India


Ready for debate: Advani

Tuesday 7 June 2005

Special Correspondent

Remarks on Jinnah evoke protests from Congress too

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FRUITFUL VISIT: BJP president and Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani addressing newspersons at the airport in New Delhi on Monday on his return from Pakistan. Photo: PTI

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party president L.K. Advani said here on Monday that there should be a "debate" vis-?-vis his remarks on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and that he welcomed it. "I have no objection to it," he told the media here on Monday on his return from a weeklong visit to Pakistan.

The BJP leader described his visit as a substantial effort in promoting India-Pakistan relations.

Mr. Advani’s remarks on Jinnah being a secular leader had created a furore and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad openly expressed their ire.

A week ago, Mr. Advani was given a warm send-off by party leaders, and he also carried the good wishes of the RSS. His return saw an angry Sangh Parivar wanting to know why he had "heaped praises" on Jinnah and distanced himself from the Sangh’s concept of "Akhand Bharat" (united India).

Asked to go back

Though senior BJP leaders were present at the airport to receive the BJP president, Hindu Jagran Manch activists had put up an anti-Advani poster, which resented his support to Jinnah asked him to "go back."

"I have come to know that my remarks have triggered a debate. I have no objection to it; the matter should be debated," Mr. Advani told reporters.

Mr. Advani had said that Jinnah, in his speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, had favoured a secular and non-theocratic state and was of the view that there should not be any difference between Hindus and Muslims as all were its citizens.

Ironic, says Congress

This one speech of Jinnah’s, according to the Congress, did not make him "secular." Stating that it was "truly ironic and astonishing" that Mr. Advani should consider Jinnah secular, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the former Deputy Prime Minister should explain to the nation his "new definition of secularism."

"For Mr. Advani as for Mr. Jinnah as was for Veer Savarkar, secularism justifies a two-nation theory and electorates divided on the basis of religion. Perhaps, Mr. Advani wants Jinnah’s brand of secularism for India, which cannot be compared to the secularism of Gandhi and Nehru," Mr. Singhvi said.

Apart from the sentimental values attached to the country of his birth, Mr. Advani said the objective of his visit to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi was to promote the peace initiatives taken by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government.

Pakistani leaders, Mr. Advani said, had appreciated that the peace process started by the NDA Government was being carried forward by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government.

He said that since the India-Pakistan problems were decades-old, it required "patience" to arrive at solutions. Besides Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Mr. Advani also met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

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