Debating India


Advani read up on Jinnah before his trip

Wednesday 8 June 2005, by SAMANTA*Anjali Dhal

NEW DELHI: When L.K. Advani endorsed Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s secular credentials during his recent trip to Pakistan, was the Leader of the Opposition making an unrehearsed, off-the-cuff remark? Or was he echoing the views of an Australian academic whose book on the founding father of Pakistan had been purchased by his office a few days before his visit?

The introduction to the book - Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity: Jinnah’s Early Politics, written by Ian Bryant Wells and published by Permanent Black a few months ago - quotes the very same lines from Jinnah’s August 1947 speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that Mr. Advani did in Karachi last week. It was these lines about Jinnah’s vision of a country where Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims in the political sense that the BJP leader invoked in support of his argument that the Quaid-e-Azam was secular.

Mr. Advani’s staff bought a copy of the Jinnah book before the BJP leader’s trip to Pakistan. "The book was purchased by some members of his staff before the trip," Anuj Bahri Malhotra of Bahri Sons Booksellers in Khan Market told The Hindu on Tuesday. ``I don’t know whether it was picked for Mr. Advani or for someone else but his staff did buy it.’’

If the Sangh Parivar is upset by Mr. Advani’s remarks on Jinnah, part of the explanation perhaps lies in the fact that Wells’ book deals with the politics of the man, who went on to become Pakistan’s founder, only until 1934. This was well before he had begun to articulate the ``two nation theory’’ and his vision of a separate homeland for India’s Muslims.

Like Mr. Advani, Prof. Wells quotes the August 1947 speech. But he also mentions how the words and vision of Jinnah are subject to differing interpretations, including that Pakistan’s founder offered the prospect of a secular state, a theocratic state and a democratic state based on `Islamic ideals’.

``Whatever the truth,’’ he concludes, "it is quite evident that the issue is not as clear-cut as many scholars would argue, or as successive Pakistan governments may prefer us to believe."

Mr. Advani’s holiday reading list included several other books on the subject of Islam and Kashmir that were also picked up by his staff from Bahri. "Earlier, Mr. Advani used to come and buy the books himself.

He has been coming here for years. But in recent years, since he became actively involved in day-to-day politics, he has stopped coming himself. However, members of his staff come regularly to pick up books. I recognise them," he said.

See online : The Hindu

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