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Freedom Without Malice

- Ramanjit Singh

A view of Lahore. Photo: Adam Cohn/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Partition of India was more harmful for Pakistan than it was for India. A country based on a false pretense that "Islam is in danger" and that Muslims cannot live with Hindus, Sikhs and other religious communities in United India has proven to be disastrous for the people of Pakistan. I say this objectively, dispassionately and without malice.


Creation of Pakistan was not a Muslim idea, it was Jinnah's idea, financially backed by feudal lords, viciously executed by the Muslim League, fueled by an unrelenting politics of hate that spread like cancer in every part of India from 1940s onwards. The Lahore resolution that laid out a false and deliberately calculated rationale that we are two-nations, was the trigger that to this day, we as people of India and Pakistan, are paying the price for it.


To compare this with contemporary situation prevailing in Pakistan, I sometimes compare (maybe falsely) the present day Imran Khan with Jinnah of the 1940s. Unrelenting, stubborn, playing with fire and destroying the very foundation of the country. Good luck dealing with a narcissist that has a cult like following. Now you also get the sense of what undivided India had to go through when it was dealing with a similar personality in Jinnah in the 1940s.


I wish back then that Muslims, especially in the western part of undivided India which is now Pakistan, had listened to the sane arguments of one of the greatest academic India has ever produced, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and not to the peddler of communal hatred, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. As if by pure genius, Azad knew even before Partition that the future of Pakistan would basically be a slow, painful journey from one crisis to another.


Azad's rousing speeches to the Muslims, his emotional persuasion that the future of Muslims is in united India was rubbished by a narcissist who claimed that he alone can decide for the entire community. India was indeed in your palms and you rejected it. As a Pakistani, if you have any doubt as to what Azad was arguing during those fateful years, please read his book "India Wins Freedom" available here https://archive.org/details/india-wins-freedom/page/n1/mode/2up


Azad was right on how to deal with Jinnah. In the summer of 1944, Gandhi had several meetings with Jinnah at his residence in Bombay. Excerpts from his book:


I think Gandhiji's approach to Mr. Jinnah on this occasion was a great political blunder. It gave a new and added importance to Mr. Jinnah which he later exploited to the full. Gandhiji had in fact adopted a peculiar attitude to Jinnah from the very beginning. Mr. Jinnah had lost much of his political importance after he left the Congress in the twenties. It was largely due to Gandhiji's acts of commission and omission that Mr. Jinnah regained his importance in Indian political life.
In fact, it is doubtful if Mr. Jinnah could ever have achieved supremacy but for Gandhiji's attitude. Large sections of Indian Musalmans were doubtful about Mr Jinnah and his policy, but when they found that Gandhiji was continually running after him and entreating him, many of them developed a new respect for Mr. Jinnah. They also thought that he was perhaps the best man for getting advantageous terms in the communal settlement.
I may mention here that it was Gandhiji who first gave currency to the title 'Qaid-i- Azam', or great leader, as applied to Mr. Jinnah. Gandhiji had in his camp a simple but well-intentioned woman called Miss Amtus Salam. She had seen in some Urdu papers a reference to Mr. Jinnah as Qaid-i-Azam. When Gandhiji was writing to Mr. Jinnah asking for an interview, she told him that Urdu papers called Mr. Jinnah Qaid-i-Azam and he should use the same form of address.
Without pausing to consider the implications of his action Gandhiji addressed Mr. Jinnah as Qaid-i-Azam. This letter was soon after published in the press. When Indian Musalmans saw that Gandhiji also addressed Mr. Jinnah as Qaid-i-Azam, they felt that he must really be so. When in July 1944, I read the report that Gandhiji was corresponding with Mr Jinnah and going to Bombay to meet him, I told my colleagues that Gandhiji was making a great mistake.
His action would not help to solve, but on the contrary aggravate the Indian political situation. Later events proved that my apprehensions were correct. Mr. Jinnah exploited the situation fully and built up his own position but did not say or do anything which could in any way help the cause of Indian freedom.

You cannot argue reason or logic with a narcissist that is hell bent on destroying the very country that was about to gain freedom. The sense of utter disbelief that set on Mahatma Gandhi and the rest of the people of India is probably the saddest chapter in our entire history. Gandhi above anyone else wanted freedom without malice. Every Indian, whether Muslim or a Hindu, wanted freedom and peace. What we got instead was nothing short of a mistake, a blunder that could never be undone. It must be said that Jinnah wanted to come back to his residence in Bombay after Partition. If this is not insanity, I don't know what is.


Maulana Abul Kalam Azad went on to become India's first Minister of Education and under his leadership, India's premier institutions for higher learning such as the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) were established in the 1950s. One leader gave us the future, the other gave you chaos.


In this article by Pervez Hoodbhoy "Muslims aren't this way elsewhere", he describes how Pakistan failed as a country. Rather than imbibing a moral sense that the country belongs to all, creating secular institutions, creating a secular constitution that gaurantees freedom to all, instead the state mutated into a macabre religious experiment where everything was judged through the prism of religion. Rather than creating genuine academic institutions that would have molded new generations of Pakistanis with a progressive and liberal outlook, instead the state encouraged "hyper religiosity".


Everything was judged through Islam. "Hum Musulmaan hain aur woh Kafir". And all the negativity that stems from that fundamental mindset is clear to all of us. This is the psychology of the majority of the people in Pakistan. Not all but the majority. Indeed Muslims aren't this way elsewhere, including in India, and we are proud of that fact. Tragedy for Pakistan is that it can never be like India. If it mirrors India then its very purpose has failed. It has to be in continuous conflict with India, and by this very token it is in conflict with itself.


Author Farzana Sheikh, in her article "Attempting a 'Grand Synthesis' of Pakistan's History and Present", writes about American Photojournalist Margaret Bourke White's interview of Jinnah right after the creation of Pakistan. During the interview, she sensed in Jinnah a profound sense of sadness, a 'spiritual numbness concealing something close to panic underneath'. Excerpt:

She (Margaret Bourke White) suspected that the sources of his anxiety lay deeper. “Jinnah,” she wrote, “knew what he had done. Like Doctor Faustus, he had made a bargain from which he could never be free. During the heat of the struggle, he had been willing to call on all the devilish forces of superstition, and now that his new nation had been achieved the bigots were in the position of authority. The leaders of orthodoxy…had the final word and…were seeing to it that the people were held in the deadening grip of religious superstition.”
Bourke-White’s suggestion that Jinnah had instrumentalised the language of religion to service his political cause continues to resonate to this day, fuelling controversy among his followers. Those who regard Pakistan as the modern expression of the prototypical Islamic state remain convinced that Jinnah’s appeal to religion reflected his desire for a homeland where Muslims would be governed by the laws of Islam.

I think the cause of his sadness is similar to when we come out of a theater after watching an epic movie. The excitement of talking to Jawaharlal or Gandhi or Mountbatten. Spending most of his life in cosmopolitan cities like Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay, that very backdrop of India that was energizing his life was no longer part of his existence. For him, the Partition, was like an end of an epic movie and the curtains finally dropped. He felt alone, cutoff, left with his own motley of incompetent yes-men who didn't have the calibre or the intellect that his cohorts in India had.


I sincerely believe that Jinnah realized his mistake but it was too late. He was left with Karachi and Lahore, the former being a relatively small town mostly used for refueling of planes headed to the interior of India, and the latter a regional city but not as prominent as the ones that remained in India. He was cutoff from the India he knew. And when this dawned on him, it took an emotional toll on his health (he was also suffering from Tuberculosis).


No country built on hate can survive for long. You can try your level best but sooner or later hate will destroy your very own. Once you separate from the other there is no coming back and don't expect any warm reciprocity from the other. Religion cannot hold a country together, it's your people and how they treat each other that holds the country together.


And this is a lesson for Indians also, as we are seeing the rise of communal politics being played in front of our eyes. But the difference in India is that its people are secular, and hate does not stick to us for that long. We may not be perfect, but our union rests on our diversity. One's idea of religious or social norms in one part of India is not the same in another. Uniformity cannot be imposed from above and that is the essence of being an Indian.


It is India's diversity that saves us from our own demons.


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