People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 06, 2009

Jaswant�s Book on Jinnah


Three Issues That Merit Discussion


Sitaram Yechury


APART from everything else, the RSS/BJP have ensured the booming sale of Jaswant Singh's 669 page book Jinnah, India -- Partition Independence (JIPI). There are three issues raised in the book that merit a discussion -- the two-nation theory, the role of Sardar Patel and if partition was supposed to be the solution for communal tensions in India, why does communalism continue to impose grievous harm even sixty years later today.


Before we come to discuss these issues it is necessary to note that the convulsions currently rocking the RSS constellation shows that the BJP  is in the grips of an irreconcilable  contradiction.  During the last two decades, while Advani's `rath yatra' brought aggressive  Hindutva to the fore mobilising  its hardcore support base, the experience of the thirteen-day Vajpayee government in 1996 made them realise that such support alone is not sufficient to capture power.  They needed allies and, thus, was born the NDA and the 1998-2004 Vajpayee government.  The need for allies, however, meant  putting  hardcore Hindutva agenda on the back burner.  This, in turn, made the RSS uncomfortable apart from  alienating its hardcore support base.  The BJP functions as the political arm of the RSS  and this  umbilical cord can never be severed. 


When Advani attempted  to broaden the BJP's appeal  by speaking favourably about Jinnah's secular credentials, the RSS, ensured that he remit  office as the BJP president.  Advani's presumption, expecting support from Indian Muslims on this count, is  itself outrageous.  In the first census after partition, 1951, India had 374 lakh Muslims while West Pakistan had 337 lakh Muslims.  More Muslims stayed back in India because this was their place of birth and this is where they chose to live and die a la Bahadur Shah Zafar's heart rending poetry from Rangoon jail.  It is simply preposterous to expect them to be enamoured  by Jinnah's two-nation theory that caused colossal human misery which left nearly 10 lakh  people dead,  nearly 150 lakh moving across borders, lakhs of families divided whose agonies continue to haunt us even today. 


It is the unfolding of this irreconcilable  contradiction that repeatedly forces the RSS/BJP to resurrect Jinnah and the two-nation theory in order to consolidate  their `Hindu vote bank'. If portraying Jinnah in favourable light leads to expulsion because it goes against �the core ideology� of the RSS/BJP on the grounds of the two-nation theory, then what does BJP have to say about Savarkar, who, three full years before Jinnah's Muslim League  advanced the two-nation theory at Lahore in 1940, said in his 1937 presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha, �India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary, there are two nations, in the main, the Hindus and the Muslims�. Later in 1943, Savarkar emphatically says, "I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah's two nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations."  Jinnah after all was only carrying forward the �cherished mission� of Savarkar, whose portrait was so ceremoniously located in parliament by the Vajpayee government. 


In fact the entire ideological basis of the RSS rests on the foundations laid by Golwalkar in his "We or Our Nationhood Defined". It was chillingly argued here that India can only be a "Hindu rashtra" where those not subscribing to the Hindu fold will only live as `foreigners' at the mercy of the Hindus. This fascistic religious theocratic state is what the RSS continues to seek replacing the modern secular democratic republic of India.


Clearly, the ideological battle between the three visions that emerged during the course of our freedom struggle in the decade of the 1920s continues to impact upon  the consolidation of the modern secular democratic Indian republic.  The main stream vision, represented then by the Congress, envisioned independent India to be a secular democratic republic.  Distinct yet not antagonistic on this score of a secular democratic polity, was the Left vision which seeks to carry forward the mainstream vision to transform the political independence of the country into the economic independence of our people, i.e., establishment of socialism. This naturally requires the intensification of the struggle against the policies of the ruling classes which prevents such a transformation. The antagonism with the Congress arises in this context where the prevention of such a transformation, in itself, will weaken and eventually undermine the secular democratic foundations of the Indian polity. The experience of post independence decades is testimony to this fact.


Distinct, antagonistic and  conflicting was the right-wing vision which envisaged independent India to be a country whose character was defined by the people's religious denomination.  This vision found a twin expression -- the RSS that advocated its fascistic "Hindu Rashtra" and the Muslim League  which advocated a separate Islamic state - twins separated and antagonistic at birth.


It is this continuous pursuit of replacing the modern Indian republic with a rabidly intolerant fascistic "Hindu rashtra" that continues to foster communal hatred and tensions. This is ably aided and abeted by the Muslim fundamentalist forces particularly by cross border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.


The territorial disputes with Pakistan instead of being treated as disputes between two sovereign nations is always enveloped by the communal flavour, thereby enlarging the problem into a multidimensional one. Once again, it is the battle between the three visions that continues to influence the consolidation of the modern secular democratic India.


The fact that Jinnah tragically succeeded and the mainstream vision prevailed in India rejecting the RSS vision created conditions that culminated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. In order to obfuscate the role of the RSS and its political arm, today's attempt is to appropriate Congress's iconic `man of steel' Sardar Patel and also try to `steal' a link with the freedom struggle where there is none. 


The appropriation of Sardar Patel was reflected in the fact that L K Advani chose to model himself as the Loh Purush while being the Home minister in the Vajpayee government. Narendra Modi has christened himself as the chota sardar and kicks off all his election campaigns from Karamsad in Gujarat, the birthplace of Sardar Patel. The whole exercise is to forge a link with the freedom struggle which the RSS studiously stayed away from. In order to do so, it becomes necessary for them to draw a wedge between Nehru and Patel.


It is precisely this attempt to separate these two leaders during the freedom struggle that Jaswant Singh has effectively disproved in JIPI. On page 418, he suggests that the formal adoption of the resolution partitioning the country by the Congress party was done in the absence of Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Azad on March 8, 1947, "Nehru and Patel had known (they) would oppose the resolution". Jaswant goes on to quote Patel explaining the resolution to Gandhi later as "that you had expressed your views against it, we learnt only from the papers." A strong suggestion is made here that Nehru and Patel acted as one in changing the long held position of the Congress of opposing partition and agreeing to it overnight. Jaswant concludes that within a month of Mountbatten's arrival, the Congress's view on partition had changed.


It is precisely the diabolic role played by the British in partitioning the country that the RSS/BJP seek to obfuscate in order to drive the wedge between Nehru and Patel to achieve their political objectives. That the British left behind problems that continue to plague millions of people through partitioning of their countries when the British colonial empire collapsed is deliberately overlooked. Even today there are four unfortunate countries, including the Indian sub-continent that continue to bleed thanks to the British policies of partition. The most unfortunate of these are the Palestinians who continue to be denied their right to a homeland. Ireland and Cyprus are the other divided countries who are plagued by violence and prolonged agonies.


In their preoccupation to establish their version of a "Hindu rashtra" the RSS required an enemy external to the Hindus against whom the Hindus could be mobilised. The Muslims were thus the `chosen enemies'. In the freedom struggle, Hindus and Muslims alongwith other Indians together fought the British. An anti-British sentiment was not conducive for the RSS to achieve their objective. Hence their complete absence from the freedom struggle.


Whenever we from the Left raise this issue, the RSS counters by spreading falsifications regarding the communist role in the Quit India movement. To set such calumny at rest, recollect that on the 50th anniversary of the Quit India movement, at a special midnight session of the parliament, the then president of India, Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma addressing the nation said "After largescale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a despatch from Delhi dated September 5, 1942, to the secretary of the state, in London, reported about the Communist Party of India: "The behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries." As opposed to this, there was a despatch by the Home department during the Quit India movement that noted, "The Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law and in particular has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942." In fact, Savarkar as president of the Hindu Mahasabha issued an edict in September 1942, "I issue this definite instruction to all Hindu Sabhaites  in particular and in all Hindu sanghatanists in general ...holding any post or position of vantage in the government services should stick to them and continue to perform their regular duties." This was the attitude of both the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha to the Quit India movement in particular and the freedom movement in general.


It is in this background, desperate to find some link with the freedom struggle that the RSS seeks to distort history and appropriate Patel. As the union Home minister, Sardar Patel  penned a government communique dated February 4, 1948 announcing the ban on the RSS by stating �the objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims.  The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself�. 


Advani says that this was done at the behest of Nehru.  Even so, how they can appropriate Patel  remains inexplicable.  On November 14, 1948, Patel's Home ministry issues a press note on the talks that were held with then RSS chief, Golwalkar who made many deceitful compromises.  This informs that the �professions of RSS leaders are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of its followers� and refused to withdraw the ban.  A further request by Golwalkar for a meeting was refused by Sardar Patel who ordered his return to Nagpur.  It was only on July 11, 1949 that the ban was withdrawn when the RSS buckled  and accepted all the conditions set by the government including that it shall remain a �cultural organisation� �eschewing secrecy and abjuring violence�.


Following this the RSS was in the search for a political arm to continue with its diabolic project of transforming secular democratic India into its version of a fascistic Hindu rashtra. It found its first opportunity when Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (who incidentally supported the partition resolution) resigned from the Nehru cabinet and was seeking to form a political party. In order to assist him, Golwalkar had sent some pracharaks amongst whom the prominent were Deen Dayal Upadhaya, Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani and S S Bhandari. Thus was formed the Jan Sangh in 1951, the earlier avatar of today's BJP.


How the BJP will get out of its current identity crisis and organisational quarrels is its problem. Every political party has its own set of rules and moral standards by which it decides on internal matters including discipline. However, the fact remains that the increasing control of the RSS and the pursuit of a hardcore Hindutva agenda will continue to pose grave challenges for India's secular democratic fabric that need to be squarely met and defeated.