The Jinnah debate

Sangh Parivar and Partition

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was born basically to counter Pakistan where Mohammad Ali Jinnah was considered Qaid-e-Azam or father of the nation, a position Mahatma Gandhi enjoyed in post-Partition India. While Gandhi was assassinated in the backdrop of the RSS’s opposition to Partition as he was seen as an abettor of that process, the right-wing organisation took up a massive campaign against Jinnah.

The RSS and its front organisation, the Jana Sangh, that was established as its political arm, campaigned against the formation of Pakistan (West and East) and more systematically against Jinnah. In later years, the Jana Sangh was transformed into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has so far had a chequered political life. The changes that the BJP has undergone has not left the RSS, the mother organisation, untouched. Wittingly, or otherwise, Jinnah has become the source of the tumultuous changes within the BJP and the RSS.

Historically, the survival of the RSS and the BJP is based on their agenda of Akhanda Bharat, which essentially means reuniting Pakistan and Bangladesh with India and subjugating the Muslim population to the political and cultural suzerainty of Hindu majoritarianism. But the two organisations do not have any agenda to accord equal rights to all castes within the Hindu spiritual realm. In essence, the Brahminical forces have grandiose plans to rule over the larger nation with Hindu Varnadharma as the cornerstone. Quite surprisingly, the BJP failed to learn a lesson during the time that it led the NDA government at the Centre that the notion of Akhanda Bharat is not only unachievable within the framework of the Constitution. The hard reality was further driven home by the fact that the Hindutva forces cannot come to power without harping upon its anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan campaigns.

Some of the non-Brahminical forces within the BJP have realised this stark reality and one among them is none other than the stalwart L K Advani. To become a globally acceptable prime ministerial candidate, he said in 2005, following his memorable visit to Pakistan, that Jinnah could not be held responsible for the Partition of the sub-continent. Advani’s comments at the time stirred a hornet’s nest within the party. He had to step down as BJP chief but it was his stature within the party that safeguarded his position as its prime ministerial candidate.

Sudden shift
In the midst of all this, Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah has shifted the blame on the sub-continental Partition to Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel. This has caught the BJP with two problems: Exonerating Jinnah from the sin of being the catalyst for Partition and holding Patel responsible for it. Patel is the only Congressman whom the RSS has treated as its hero in spite of the fact that he banned the organisation once Gandhi was assassinated. Long believed to be the only pro-Hindutva Congress leader, Patel has been positioned to have taken a tough stand against the Muslim question as also against the Muslim princely states within the Indian union. No wonder Patel’s proximity to the Sangh’s ideology has been used to describe Advani as Abhinava Sardar Patel.

Jaswant burst that ideological balloon by making a positive statement about Jinnah and a negative statement about Sardar Patel. Though the party, backed by the RSS, expelled him, the Parivar is caught up in an ideological cobweb. Its theory of Akhanda Bharat stands demolished by its own leaders now. The existence of Pakistan and Bangladesh as independent countries cannot be made an issue within their organisations as both Advani and Jaswant validated their existence by taking a stand on Jinnah’s role in Partition.

The RSS and Sangh Parivar wanted to work for a long-term strategy by sustaining the campaign of Akhand Bharat. But Advani, as the first home minister of that party and Jaswant Singh as the first external affairs minister, seem to have realised that such a slogan is unsustainable.

One must appreciate Jaswant Singh for the simple reason that he thought of writing a book with a position on Partition. Now that he has put fourth a point of view on Jinnah’s role, it has become a troublesome issue within the Parivar. We know that earlier Parivarites wrote vituperative tracts against Jinnah and were richly rewarded. For example, when Arun Shourie sought to curry favour with the RSS, he wrote a series of articles against Jinnah. He did succeed in getting close to the organisation and could manage a Cabinet berth.

But the credit must go to Jaswant Singh for having tread a path that is anathema to the BJP and RSS. His work will, hopefully, go a long way in playing a damage control role in relation to Pakistan and Bangladesh. For this, his bold effort is laudable. By all accounts, the theory of Akhanda Bharat ought to be jettisoned by the BJP and the other constituents of the Sangh Parivar.

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