Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel

This is Version I of the post - Proof Reading to be done later.

This post exclusively deals with Leader of the Opposition - Shri L K Advani's recently concluded visit to his roots in Pakistan and his speech at the function organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs & Law - which also formed the last leg of his trip. Different reactions from different sides - Sangh Parivar is angered, Mr. Jyoti Basu slams the remarks, Congress tries to make the best use of the situation to raise the internal disarray between the long time friends - BJP and the Sangh Parivar - further it speaks on the definitions of Secularism - as though the definition that they gave is sacrosanct, Mr. Sharad Yadav comes to the rescue of Mr. Advani against the remarks of Mr. Laloo Prasad who as well tries to target creating rift between Mr. Advani and RSS/VHP - all this and more.

In the midst of the political cacophony that we find instances of the moment you open any newspaper over the trip - I wish to present a viewpoint which I find is the way in which we should understand the dynamics of the points raised by Advaniji. What were the controversial parts of his statements? (Earlier his description of Babri Masjid's demolition as "saddest" moment in his life is another thing that caused sparkles)

a) The I point which made everyone in India go ga-ga was The Founder of Pakistan Mohd. Ali Jinnah suggested to be a Secular.

b) The II point was about making a statement that the "nationhood" of Pakistan and India is an inevitable reality and an irreversible historic occurrence. (virtually dismissing the "Akhand Bharat" concept which BJP subscribes to owing to its allegiance with the RSS- but is it so? - See the following argument)

About a)
Before going any further - let me quote Quaid-e-Azam Mohd. Ali Jinnah (I added a prefix to his name - but in reality he hated anything but calling him simply - Mr. Jinnah) as quoted by Mr. Advani -

“Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and specially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot overemphasise it too much. We shall begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and Muslim community,… will vanish. Indeed, if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long ago.

Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free, you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State.…You will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

Prior to this, Mr. Advani quoted Ms. Sarojini Naidu as havin pointed out that "Jinnah was once a secular" - this what has caused the trouble. Now has Mr. Advani misquoted both the leaders - Ms. Sarojini Naidu or Mr. Jinnah? Let's take a look.

At the Katas Raj temple which is said to have Historic significance as a temple which was referred to in Mahabharata - Advani was requested by the Govt. of Pakistan to lay the foundation stone to restore the temples. Surely, a positive act from an Islamic State. Added to it, we also have Mr. Advani visiting the Memorial of Quaid-e-Azam Mohd. Ali Jinnah. And in that respect - he put it in as subtle manner as possible to the people of Pakistan as well as the Government authorities there - that the Founder of their Nation was in fact a person who believed in raising a Non Theocratic - Secular Society - and this was done in a tone where he appreciated the Govt.'s move one side and at the same time reminding of their own Founder's ideas to look beyond an Islamic State which rakes up fundamentalist notions - and spoils the atmosphere. Yes, "fiza zaroor badli hui hai" - understanding Advani in the context he made these comments is possible only when we look at the whole issue without any prejudices. As Mr. Advani made those comments - there was a news channel and its corresponding newspaper which went for a poll - What is your opinion on Mr. Advani's comments on Jinnah? And approximately above 70% of the people gave a reply that it was wrong on Mr. Advani's part to comment that Jinnah was secular. Why are we prejudiced against Jinnah?

Thanks to our text books - be it State Syllabi or the CBSE syllabi, the textbooks of History never ever teach alternate viewpoints of Indian Freedom Movement. They never deal with the realities/ complexities involved with the partition. They never tell you about the role of Muslim League in the same for that might create problems and might create tensions among the different religious groups - Hindu and Muslim for the thing is not easy. So, the best thing to do is to find a villain - and make him the cause- thankfully we have Jinnah, to show. So our job of teaching people becomes easier by making Jinnah a wicked person. If Jinnah has demanded for a separate State for Muslims - what were the reasons? What were the complexities? All these questions do not have any boolean answers. There is no way to paint black or white and call - this is right and this is wrong.

But unfortunately for us Indians - we do not have politicians/leaders (whatever their background) who are "educated" and who are "intellectually competent" for their knowledge is limited and their scope of thinking is limited by various reasons. Viewing the whole issue in the multiple dimensions associated with it has been long forgotten. Our Country, despite being the largest democracy never witnessed vintage debates on issues/ issues of concern, issues that matter, issues that enlighten the nation, on ideologies that matter and .... Debate is THE thing for a positive way of understanding various viewpoints.

About b)

I am reminded of this thing which happened a few years ago. I guess it was Mr. Tahir Mirza - the Editor of The Dawn, the newspaper founded by Mr. Jinnah, who came to India - and for some reason - he said more or less this thing - "I generally hear from a lot of Indians that why can't Pakistan and India reunite and form into a united India - then I have only one thing to say - why can't it be the other way - why can't they reunite and form into a united Pakistan?" - By all counts - The Dawn is one of the most popular newspapers of Pakistan and can be considered one that reflects the mindset of Pakistani Intelligentsia. I do not wish to comment on the merits or demerits of the statement but to point out that there are differences of opinions, and at the same time this gives us a glimpse of the sensitive nature of the issue of talking about the reunification. Once tasted, it is very difficult to give up sovereignty unless there is a strong will from amongst the members who wish to give it up for something better. We find something of that kind happen in Germany where the East Germans went ahead to join West Germany resulting in the fall of Berlin Wall. The conditions were favorable for that, then. In the case of India and Pakistan - such a thing is not looking to be possible in the near future - there is terrible misunderstanding about one another. People of India do not really trust People of Pakistan and vice-versa. A general notion that Pakistanis are bad is also ingrained in the thoughts. Development of mutual trust is a must for any kind of confidence building measures to continue. In that respect, look at the visit of the Leader of the Opposition, BJP Chief - Shri Advani - talking of the sovereignty of Pakistan and talking of Partition as an unalterable thing which needs to be accpeted. The BJP chief by saying that his party is of the view that India and Pakistan and they being independent sovereign countries is a reality - he has dispelled the myth about a strong section in India which would be against the Pakistanis and hated Pakistan. He assured that the WHOLE of India is together on a better relation and this is a trust which is necessary to be built in people for getting closer to them. The closer you get, the greater is the possibility of dreaming of "AKHAND BHARAT" or a United Pakistan (I am not sure of the phrase in Urdu) - a possible reunification - which otherwise is going to remain a distant dream. In fact, in this sense, the RSS/VHP should be happy at the success of Advani's trip to Pakistan and stop their hue and cry over his reflections on Jinnah - but unfortunately they seem to have missed the whole point. Winning the confidence of the people of Pakistan is a very necessary thing to be done given the progress in the peace efforts between India and Pakistan and Mr. Advani has clearly spelt out the ways in which Pakistan can reciprocate by moving towards a Secular State as envisioned by its founder.

There are many people who leave an irreversible stamp on history. But there are few who actually create history. Qaed-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. In his early years, leading luminary of freedom struggle Sarojini Naidu described Jinnah as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 is really a classic and a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion. The State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man"
- Comments in the visitors' book at Jinnah's mausoleum, on June 4

These comments by Mr. Advani, the Leader of the Opposition are written in what can be described as a careful selection of words to convey the sense that has been explained above in this post, IMHO.

This raised a huge uproar - and his only comment was - let there be debate. Yes - there is surely a light at the end of the tunnel - for - as I mentioned earlier - Debate is what shall bring out the long buried different points in History - and thereby clear us of any preconceived, baseless prejudices about any one on earth - Jinnah in this case and in that sense there is a sure need to take a relook at each person - including Veer Savarkar - let the people of India join the fray for an open debate with an open mind, and let's look at the multiple dimensions of problems/issues and that shall surely enhance our capabilities as humans to understand complex matters - and appreciate them rather than despising without adequate knowledge.

(At the time of writing this post, Mr. Advani has resigned from the post of BJP Chief and the author considers it one of the best ways of getting his party toe his line of understanding - and hopefully he has the energy left to explain the point to all - I sincerely wish that he remains the leader of the Opposition - for his resignation as the Leader of the Opposition would mean the failure of the whole effort that he could convey in Pakistan. If he remains the Leader of the Opposition - then that would mean that Pakistan can still be sure about the fact that the Indian Parliament has all its leaders who are for a betterment of relations as has been demonstrated in the past as well )


Blogger agastyabhrata said...

As I carefully follow the news, Advani withdraws his resignation and BJP sticks to its views on Jinnah - of course it clarifies the mistaken identity that the media has projected in reading what Advani said - that Jinnah was "secular" - if one takes a look at the quotes - which I have highlighted, it does never suggest that Jinnah was secular - whatever that might mean. Anyhow the sad thing for me is - what could have been a good DEBATE is now gone - we need to DEBATE and these are issues regarding ideologies hence it makes more sense to do so. Sadly this did not happen.

True, it is difficult to have an intellectual understanding of real life situations - appears as though the days are gone where there can be both sides of the coin sit together at the same time.

Saturday, June 11, 2005 1:08:00 AM  

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