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13 May, 2018 10:39:38 AM

Much ado about something

Jinnah could be the trigger but it does indicate a dangerous mindset which is trying to vitiate the atmosphere
Kumkum Chadha
Much ado about something

Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah could be turning in his grave: maybe; maybe not. Irrespective a storm has raged in a country he wanted partitioned:  India.Revered in Pakistan as Quaid-e-Azam, or a great leader, Jinnah is no hero to India and Indians. Seen by the majority as the man who divided the subcontinent and split India into two, any praise of Jinnah in India is nothing short of treason. It was not so long ago, less than fifteen years that BJP’s longest serving President L.K.Advani was in the eye of a storm for praising Jinnah.
It was a hot summer in June when during a trip to Pakistan, Advani heaped praise on Jinnah. Not only did he call him a great man but said that Jinnah was a secular leader. And these were not words that were spoken and forgotten. They were there in black and white written in the visitor’s book in his mausoleum in Karachi that Advani had visited.
Back home there was a furor and by the time Advani landed home, he was asked to make amends by eating his own words. A refusal cost him his job as BJP chief but Advani preferred to step down than go back on what he had said.

Few years down the line, another leader, Jaswant Singh, too suffered. Unlike Advani, he was expelled from the party for praising Jinnah.  He was axed for the contents of his book on Jinnah wherein he said that Jawaharlal Nehru was responsible for the partition of India and Jinnah has been "demonized" in India.

For the BJP, then as now, Jinnah remains a hate figure. Therefore it fits in when his ghost is resurrected and members of the same party spew venom at him and orchestrate a denounce Jinnah movement.

The voices may vary, the words may be different but they rally around one thought about Jinnah being a traitor and anyone glorifying him is one too; he divided the country and thus has no place in India. Even in death, he remains India’s enemy number one.

Therefore, it fits in when no less than an MP from the ruling party demands that Jinnah’s portrait that adorned the walls of Aligarh Muslim University be brought down; it fits in when another MP, also from the BJP, says that there is no place for the portrait of a man who played a divisive role in the partition of India and ensuing violence. Equally, it also fits in when a Chief Minister, also BJP, declares that no Jinnah eulogy is acceptable in India: “Jinnah divided the country. How can we celebrate his achievements?”.

Even though the University has justified Jinnah’s portrait on grounds that it has been hanging there for decades, since he was founder of the University, the argument does not cut ice with nationalists.

Despite the controversy and divergent views about whether Jinnah was responsible or not for the country’s Partition or whether he was secular or communal, the issue has to be seen in a wider context and taken beyond the persona of Jinnah. It has to be viewed from the India-Pakistan prism. Only then will the no-Jinnah argument hold ground. A nationalist Indian has to and he must object because Pakistan’s hero has found a place of pride in India; the anger should not be confined to Jinnah but to the fact that a country that spends all its energies in destabilizing India, its icons, Jinnah or any other, can never be accorded a place of pride on any inch of Indian soil. In other words, our enemy’s heroes are nothing but our enemies.

It is against this perspective that the current agitation and the unrest must be seen: from a national angle rather than narrowing it to a petty communal one. Were this the case, the Jinnah portrait would never have ignited communal passions and pitched Hindutva elements against students of the Aligarh Muslim University.

They errant students would have then seen sense rather than justifying Jinnah’s existence in the annals of AMU’s history. Even if that is a stated fact, the current situation demands a change in view of Pakistan’s nefarious designs on India.

The issue is therefore purely nationalistic and one between India and Pakistan. Therefore, it should be dealt with the contempt it deserves and India, under no circumstances, concede any space  either on its soil or on its wall to Pakistan’s icons. Anything to do with Pakistan has to be shunned and banished by every nationalist and patriotic Indian.

Having said that, the BJP should refrain from giving communal color to the issue. The methodology and route to an absolutely justified demand was erroneous. For starters, it triggered a reaction because it was a BJP MP that demanded bringing down Jinnah’s portrait. Also within no time, fringe elements barged into the University and ignited passions. That upped the ante and the situation got out of control with the Police swooping on protestors and using canes and tear gas shells to disperse agitators. With both sides hardening positions, conciliation seemed a distant dream.  The situation was nothing short of being volatile and threatened to disturb peace not s a one-off.

While it is a fact that since the BJP assumed power, anti social elements have got a free hand but this in no way justifies Jinnah being accorded a place of pride in India. A line must be drawn in how far anyone can be allowed to go and if this means diluting the ethos of India or honoring those who have caused it damage then they must be dealt with a strong and heavy hand. Jinnah could be the trigger but it does indicate  a dangerous mindset which is trying to vitiate the atmosphere and  dilute the very concept of nationalism. This is less about Jinnah and more about India and therefore cannot be dismissed as much ado about nothing.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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