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Ashutosh Varshney in the Indian Express examines the counter-factual and the claims of Nehru's critics:
The current debate over partition is radically incomplete. The debate has been framed around Jinnah’s desire for a federal but undivided India, in which the states would have been more powerful than Delhi. In contrast, Nehru’s preference is said to be for a centralised polity, with Delhi given more powers than the states. It has been argued that the latter was responsible for India’s partition.
Jaithirth Rao in the Indian Express:
It has been wrongly argued by some that Nehru and Patel favoured centralisation while Jinnah and others preferred decentralisation. The centralisation debate was secondary. The issue was secession. Nehru and Patel were willing to live with a one-time secession but, like Lincoln, refused to countenance an ongoing “right of secession”. If the Cabinet Mission proposals had been accepted (as advocated by Seervai, Jaswant and others, who refer to it as the “last chance” for preserving a united India), one can be reasonably certain that in 1957 there would have been a partition and not just Lahore and Dacca but Jalandhar, Rohtak, Hisar as well as Calcutta, Asansol and Darjeeling would have separated from India leaving us with a husk of a country. In retrospect, rejecting the Cabinet Mission proposals which would have at best given India an illusory, unstable unity for a mere 10 years was among the smartest and most practical things that the Congress leadership did. The US had a civil war eight decades after independence. We may have avoided one 10 years after independence by agreeing to Partition.
Read the full article at the Indian Express
If Major Jaswant Singh (retd), the old conservative with truth, can sing hosannas to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, surely some Pakistanis might want to literally sing out in fulsome praise?
Courtesy Pakistan's Express News channel
Bankay mian ki qawaalii sab se niraalii
koii sun-e yaa Naa sun-e ham to gaayeN ge qawaalii
koii to hai jo wahaaN hamaare taraane gaa riyaa hai
hamaare baRoN ko wahaaN yaad kiyaa jaa riyaa hai
naam hai uskaa Jaswant Singh
aur fan hai wo Quaid-e-Azam kaa
Quaid-e-Azam ke piichhe
usne wahaaN phatta bol le liya hai
isii chakkar main uskii party ke thekedaaroN ne
use ghar jaane kaa nyotaa de diyaa hai
to Jassu bhaiyya zaraa Bankay miaan ki aap sun leN
mere Quaid ke mazaar pe aaiyeN
aur apne apne naam kii 21 topoN kii salaami sun leN
Rohit De in the Indian Express:
The fatal obsession of BJP leaders with Mohammed Ali Jinnah is symptomatic of two things: the problems, historically, with a particular, “anti-Congress”, model of politics and the pitfalls of interpreting history through the deeds of “great men”.
Jaswant Singh’s and L.K. Advani’s fascination with Jinnah is best explained, actually, by the BJP’s similarities to the Muslim League. Both parties faced the Congress behemoth, which claimed to represent every social group and political opinion; it was thus dismissive of demands for autonomy, it had national presence, a popular base and a large grassroots cadre.
Ashis Nandy in the Times of India:
Jinnah demanded a looser, federal polity built around powerful provinces as a way out of partitioning the country. The Indian National Congress first accepted the idea and then ditched it. Paradoxically, the power that Jinnah demanded for the provinces was in many ways less than the power the chief ministers of some Indian states have exercised in recent years.
This background explains why, 60 years after the event, partition and the roles in it of individual leaders haunt our political culture. We are still debating in our hearts our birth trauma. We cannot accept that our midwives, too, were children of their times and spoke from within the colonial world in which they lived. We use them as archetypes to battle our fears, anxieties and self-doubts. We are what we are, we suspect, because of their choices, not ours.
Read the full piece where he says he looks "at the future with apprehension and fear that we may have already lost a part of our selfhood" at the Times of India
Yasser Latif Hamdani in The News, Pakistan
In the 1930s and the 1940s, the Hindu bourgeoisie was not nearly as mature -- though much more so than its Muslim counterpart -- to look up to a successful and secular barrister from the minority community as its leader. Things are different today though. The new middle-class in India finds itself alienated from its heroes -- if only subconsciously...
Jinnah stands in contrast to all of the traditional founders of India. He was from the middle-class and was entirely self-made. Through sheer hard work and some luck he reached the top of his game both as a lawyer and a politician. Though a Muslim, he was entirely westernised -- perhaps more modern in every sense of the word than most Indians and Pakistanis even today -- and knew the ways of the world. He carved out his space in cosmopolitan Bombay through his own efforts and this is something that most in the Indian bourgeoisie have always admired about him even if they disagreed with his post-1937 politics. He was part of the Congress when Gandhi was still in South Africa and when Nehru was in boarding school in England. His legislative contributions to India are second to none. He might well have been the founding father of an independent India -- as Sarojini Naidu had predicted -- had Gandhi not arrived on the scene and pulled the rug from under him. Jinnah's support for Bhagat Singh is also increasingly underlined. The latter is seen -- despite his Marxism -- as an icon of a new Indian youth. Now free men and finally successful, the Indian middle-class is doing what free men are known to do -- questioning officially sanctioned views of history. It is to this class that Jaswant Singh has spoken.
HT: CM Naim
R. Jagannathan in the DNA argues it was:
...despite frequent lip-service to the idea of an undivided India by the Sangh Parivar and even secularists, the bitter truth is that it was the best thing to happen to us. An undivided India on Jinnah's terms would have reduced the whole of the region to Pakistan-like chaos. We would have had not just three countries, but more than 20 of them, allowing none to survive as secular nations. By agreeing to Partition, Nehru and Patel saved the rest of the nation from the mess Jinnah created. They did the right thing.
The real tragedy is not that Indians have been unable to see Jinnah differently, as some secular historians would have us believe, but that we still hold rose-tinted notions about undivided India. It is time to abandon the idea.
Read the full piece: Partition was good
Sugata Bose in the Indian Express
I am not in agreement with those who say that the parties are obsessed with a non-issue, 62 years out of date. The issue which revisiting partition brings to the fore is full of contemporary relevance. It is the search for a substantive rather than procedural democracy that protects citizens from majoritarian arrogance and ensures justice in a subcontinent where people have multiple identities.
Majoritarianism, whether in secular or saffron garb, continues to be a potential threat to Indian democracy. Regional rights were once thought to be a counterpoise to the anti-democratic tendencies of an over-centralised state. Regional parties run by petty and insecure dictators are proving to be as ruthless as the all-India partiepression of internal dissent. In such a scenario freedom of speech and expression remains the best guarantee of the future of Indian democracy.
I am not a big fan of Jaswant Singh. Ever since he made a big noise during the Kargil conflict about the torture-murder by the Pakistani army of Lt. Kalia and his company, only to quietly drop the matter altogether soon after, I have felt that there more rhetoric than reality in his carefully-cultivated image as an officer and a gentleman.
And I have no expectation that his current revisionist work about Jinnah breaks any useful new grounds of scholarship or insight, judging by the contents of this interview . While it is good that he urges a cessation of the caricaturing of Jinnah as a demon in India, he, like many others, focuses too much on rehabilitating Jinnah, and dwelling on the what-might-have-beens of Partition itself, and exhibits little interest in advancing a useful critical understanding of the huge problem that Jinnah's creation Pakistan has grown into today.
Nevertheless, the publication of his book presents an opportunity to initiate a debate that could just possibly lead to such an understanding, if only through the process of questioning its underlying thesis.
In expelling Jaswant Singh, the BJP and its parent RSS have, once again exhibited an unwholesome haste to miss just such an opportunity. (The last significant time was in 2002 when, after the Gujarat violence, they spent more time making excuses for the lawlessness than in examining and clarifying their own attitudes towards Muslims, and law and order) Taken together with the other players on the political scene, the BJP's decision is a sad commentary on the state of Indian political thought today. In the Congress party, we have apparatchiks toeing the high-command's line in offering incoherent explanations of the government's incomprehensible Pakistan policy. The Communists are caught up in a group-hate of the United States. And here we have the alleged leader of nationalistic politics, the RSS, shutting the door to an open discussion of what Jinnah and Pakistan have come to mean, and what to do about it.
The upshot is that policy gets made in India by a small group of de facto dictators on high, who will brook no check or dissent even among their own peers. Quite Stalinist ( except of course for the imprisonment and killing). For the people of India as a whole, this spells trouble, since these people are usually egotistical, smug and overall intellectually ill-equipped (their inabiity to tolerate dissent is itself evidence of this). This way of doing business leads to ill-considered policies that will culminate in disaster. And disaster takes on a whole new meaning in the current nuclear-armed scenario.
To survive, let alone see their dreams come to fruition, it seems that Indians have little choice but to stop outsourcing their thinking to self-styled political thinkers and leaders.