Saturday 01 October 2016
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The View Across: A Welcome Refresher

Jaswant, in part, concurs with the Pakistani nationalist narrative. Sympathy, appreciation follow.
Jitender Gupta

As the summary expulsion of Jaswant Singh from the bjp began to burn news wires, his stock in Pakistan soared even higher from the enviable perch he had come to occupy ever since the controversy over his book on Jinnah broke out. It was evident on the day following his expulsion—newspapers ran stories on his fall (or rise) with colour photos, and eminent personalities showered accolades on him.

The secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid), Mushahid Hussain Syed, told Outlook, “Expelling Singh from the BJP has exposed the true face of Indian democracy, which appears to be worse than dictatorship. His book should be published in Pakistan; the civil society here is surprised over this expulsion.” The consensus here is: his expulsion has uncovered the BJP’s obscurantist, fascist visage. It has also whetted the hunger for Singh’s book. As columnist Sarah Humayun wrote in Daily Times, “I must be among countless readers waiting to get hold of it. Not so much, though, to learn the truth about Jinnah.”

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True, few in Pakistan believe Jaswant’s book will reveal facts about Jinnah not known before. But what people here consider exemplary is that Singh, in defiance of the BJP, has chosen to correct the fallacious arguments about the Qaid-e-Azam that have always held sway in India. Even the launch of the book made it to front pages, inspired editorials and elicited letters from readers. Applauds leading historian Dushka Syed, “Jaswant has shown tremendous intellectual honesty and also academic integrity in stating the facts in his book. Since 1947, the Congress has demonised the Qaid as well as the Muslim League. While the actual historical facts are that the Mission Plan of 1946 advocating a confederation was accepted by the Qaid and even the Congress, it was Nehru who rejected it. This was the last opportunity to retain a united India.” From at least newspaper reports, it seems Jaswant has endorsed Dushka’s arguments in his book.

The controversy has prompted many newspaper readers to write in and participate in the debate. One of them, Ehsan Mehmood, writes, “In reality, Indo-Pak relations suffer from the pitfall of historical memories of Partition and, more so, by the conjured description of the events by pseudo-historians, intellectuals and self-seeking politicians....” Jaswant’s book seemingly seeks to set right these conjured images. Pakistan’s leading English daily, The News, wrote in its editorial, “Any fresh look at history and the characters who played a part in its making is always welcome. This is specially true in the case of Jinnah. Jaswant Singh’s book will, undoubtedly, create some balance. This offers an opportunity to break free of uniformity and reach conclusions after examining various possibilities. For this reason the book is a significant addition to material on Partition.”

Official Pakistan has kept away from the controversy. A senior official, though, told Outlook, “No doubt the Qaid was a great leader. It’s good that the Indian elite are being realistic about it.”

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