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Jinnah: A Secularist among Jihadis

L K Advani landed in trouble among his own protagonist for having hailed late father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as ‘A True Secularist’. The wrath he had to face from the Sangh Parivar was just too much for him. It is fact that Jinnah was a secularist at least until 60 years of his life. Is that looking to be a fiction? Trust me, it’s a fact. M A Jinnah whose portraits dominate the offices of Islamic government of Pakistan, but General Pervez Musharraf must be a very relieved man that Mr. Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, is not alive today – or he would have to be flogged publicly for his personal habits. Jinnah not only chain smoked Craven – A cigarettes but also liked whiskey and was not averse to pork! His was the life of an upper class liberal-which indeed Jinnah was for most of his life.

To take a look at his personal life is important, considering the assumption with which youths, both in India and Pakistan, looked at him. The celebrated author and journalist of the 60s and 70s M J Akbar defines Jinnah in his book ‘India: The Siege within’ as “The man who eventually destroyed Gandhi’s dream of a free and united India…

Born on 25th December 1876 he spent his early days in Karachi. At the age of sixteen Jinnah was sent to England for further studies. However he was married before his journey to the alien land at the insistence of his mother, as she didn’t wanted her son to be seduced and captivated by an ‘English Miss‘. As a dutiful son he agreed and was married to a 14-year-old girl he never saw.

In London Business studies bored him and at one point of time he even thought of joining the stage and eventually signed a three-month contract with a theatre group. But then he decided to concentrate on a degree in law, entering Lincoln’s Inn; it was a wise decision since Jinnah was to become one of the ‘Best Lawyers of his Generation‘.

Reminisces Rafique Zakaira in his book ‘The Man who divided India‘ “While Jinnah was abroad his father’s health began to fail and he started to plead with his son to return and take over his business. Jinnah stayed in London till he finished his legal studies. By the time he could return, both his mother and wife had died. Instead of staying with his ‘unwell’ father Jinnah decided to come to Bombay to start his law practice. With him came his sister Fatima, who was devoted to him.

It’s also astonishing to know about Jinnah, a ‘confirmed bachelor’ until 39 years of age, falling in love with daughter of his friend Sir Dinshaw Manockjee Petit. While with him to a hill resort in Darjeeling in 1916. The Parsi friend’s daughter, Ruttie, was interestingly just 16, no doubt she was a girl of great liveliness and courage. It’s said that though Ruttie’s father tried his level best to stop the marriage she eventually on her 18th birthday walked out of her home to marry the man she loved. As she belonged to the professional and entrepreneurial upper class of Bombay, this couple was a great hit in Bombay society. But the marriage did not last long. After 7 years when Jinnah was 48 and Ruttie was 25, they separated. The only time Ruttie’s father spoke to Jinnah, after the marriage, was when he telephoned to inform Jinnah that his wife was dying. Ruttie died in 1929 of an overdose of Morphine taken to ease the pain of chronic coltis. Jinnah wept like a child when he buried her. The last thing that Jinnah did before leaving Bombay on his way to the new country in 1947 was to visit her grave. The stern, unflappable Jinnah, who rarely displayed any emotion in public, broke down again.

The only person who accompanied him to Pakistan was his sister. His only daughter Dina, refused to go to Pakistan. The Jinnah who had married Ruttie had changed; he was now the ‘commander of the forces of Islam‘ Dina wanted to marry a Parsi, and Jinnah became furious when he heard this. There were millions of Muslim boys, he told his daughter, from whom she could choose. Dina replied that there had been lot of Muslim girls yet Jinnah had chosen to marry a Parsi. The only answer Jinnah had was to disown his daughter; he never called her ‘Dina‘ again, referring to her whenever necessary as ‘Mrs. Wadia’.

Jinnah was able to ‘represent’ the Indian Muslims” states Akbar “thanks solely to the British. When the second World War broke out in Europe, the Congress refused to support the British effort and asked all its provincial government (elected in 1937) to resign. For Jinnah, who could not hope to come to power through elections, this was an’ Allah-sent’ opportunity. The Muslim league had decided that the only way it could get Pakistan was through the grace of the British and so in decade between 1937 and 1947 it played an active pro-British role.”

On February 1947, Prime Minister Clement Attlee finally declared the end of the British resolve, removed the last imperialist, Lord Wavell, and announced that by June 1948, Lord Mountbatten would preside over closing ceremonies. There was more than a year still left to the deadline; if anything, given the implications, Lord Mountbatten might have feasibly asked for a small extension. Instead, he got into hurry, which has still not been explained. Lord Mountbatten excuse had been that if he had not handed over the power as quickly as he did, the price would have been much higher. But that is only an assumption. It has been suggested that the British hurried transfer of power because they were aware of something, which no one else, apart from Jinnah, knew that ‘Father of Pakistan‘ had terminal TB, and if he died before the plans for Pakistan could be announced the whole campaign for a separate country might have collapsed.

Jinnah died on 11 September 1948 due to TB. But Jinnah’ doctor in Bombay Dr JAL Patel had diagnosed the problem in June 1946, says Collins and Lappire in ‘Freedom at Midnight’. This was perhaps the best-kept secret of Partition. Interestingly, it is acknowledged by many, Jinnah gave no public indication of this reality continuing with his usual ration of Cigars, and attributing his cough to bronchitis. Lord Wavell’s diary talks of this, giving testimony to the fact that British were well informed about the illness of Jinnah.

Little known is also Jinnah’s answer to a Journalist, who once questioned him after the formation of Pakistan. The question was ‘would Pakistan be a theocratic state.‘ Replied Jinnah “you are asking a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.” On 11 August the day he was elected President of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly and the flag of the new nation was adopted, he told the House, “We are starting the state with no discrimination… we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims. Not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as the citizens of the nation.

Notes Ian Stephen in his book ‘Pakistan, Old country/New Nation’ “In 1934, Mr. Jinnah came back to India from a spell of law practice in London, and he soon found himself the leader of Muslim League. Like the Indian Liberal party but unlike congress, it had as yet scarcely attempted ‘mass contacts’ and remained little more than a discussion society of the upper class persons interested in particular brand of politics.

Poet-Philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal made the same point in his letter to Jinnah sent on 28 may 1937 (which Tariq Ali quoted in ‘Can Pakistan Survive?‘). Said the Poet Politician: “The League will finally have to decide whether it will remain a body representing the upper class of Indian Muslims or Muslim Masses, who have so far with good reason, taken no interest in it. Personally, I believe that a political organization which gives no promise of improving the lot of average Muslim cannot attract our masses.” So, considering this, we return to the basic question: In whose interest was Pakistan created? It can never be for the Muslims. History acknowledges the fact that “Jinnah was able to ‘represent’ the Indian Muslims thanks solely to the British.

Jinnah’s secular Pakistan was brought down to ashes by the Power of the Mullah, who reins the country even today. On June 4 Mountbatten held only the second Press conference addressed by the Viceroy of India, and announced that power to be transferred by 15th August. There was just two months left, and most of difficult task was yet to begun – drawing of boundaries. The lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliff was summoned from his chambers in London to run a scraper through the heart of the subcontinent he had never seen. This is when Mullah had won their country.

Less than five years from here Jinnah’s secularism was dead, with the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, in a decade Jinnah’s democracy had been destroyed. So what did Jinnah prove on 14 August 1947 except that he really never understood what he had done in the last decade of his life? The Mullah’s had to struggle for a while after 1947 to establish his domination over Pakistan, but that was what finally happened. How long will this phase last, however, is yet another story.

What more? Gandhi had appealed to let Jinnah to assume power in a united India. But who would listen? And why should they amidst of butchery and mayhem? And that too which was one of worst ever.

Before I forget: Did you know that Pakistan’s Constitution of 1956 could have been in Guinness Book of World Records as constitution with shortest life span in the world? That’s right! It was scrapped within two years.

U Mahesh Prabhu | August 15, 2007 | indiamahesh@gmail.com

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