To call Mohammad Ali Jinnah a secularist is like calling Shri Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, a secularist or Pervez Musharraf a democrat. L K Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has only himself to blame for the violent reactions in the Hindutva Parivar to his characterisation of Jinnah as a secularist and to his mea culpa before a Pakistani audience on the Babri Masjid demolition issue.
It indicates a total lack of sensitivity on his part to the feelings of those members of the Hindutva organisations in the North, whose families suffered cruelly during the pre-Partition massacre of Hindus in what now constitutes Pakistan. They have always held Jinnah responsible for the brutalities inflicted on their families.
If the reactions to Advani's remarks are not that violent in the South, it is because there are very few Hindus in the Hindutva Parivar in the south who had migrated from Pakistan and had been witness to the massacre of the Hindus.
Advani's remarks indicate a surprisingly poor knowledge of Pakistan and poor understanding of the feelings of people on the part of someone, who aspires to be the next prime minister of India.
Jinnah was not a fundamentalist Muslim. He did not want the Muslim clerics to have any say in the governance of an independent Pakistan or in the formulation and implementation of the laws of the country. However, he was not secular. He was responsible for the polarisation between the Muslims and the Hindus, the consequences of which the Indian subcontinent continues to witness even today.
Anyone, who had studied the British archives of the period before 1947, would have known how Jinnah let himself be used by the British colonial administration before 1947 in order to divide and weaken the independence struggle of Mahatma Gandhi. Periodic Hindu-Muslim riots in different parts of India were not the creation of Jinnah. They were an unfortunate occurrence even before Jinnah made its appearance in Indian politics.
But Jinnah, with the quite encouragement of the British, imparted to them a virulence which they did not have before he started demanding the Partition of India on the basis of his two-nation theory that the Hindus and the Muslims could not live together in the same nation. The British used the aggravated communal tension and violence as a result of Jinnah's policies to try to deny independence to India on the ground that the Indians would not be able to govern themselves and that the people belonging to different religions would be at each other's throat if they left the country.
When, despite their machinations with the help of Jinnah, Gandhi's independence struggle continued to gather momentum, they cunningly encouraged Jinnah's demand for the partition of India. After having opposed it initially, Gandhi had to ultimately agree to it. It was the British fear that a largely Hindu India might not serve the Western interests that led them to encourage Jinnah's demand for Partition. Their calculation that an independent Muslim nation would serve the Western interests proved right.
Jinnah's two-nation theory was supported by the Punjabi, Bengali and Sindhi Muslims, but not by the Pashtuns and the Balochs. The Pashtuns led by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, who came to be known as the Frontier Gandhi, and the Balochs led by their tribal sardars, strongly opposed the policies of Jinnah and supported Gandhi. There was a time when Jinnah could not set foot in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan because of the strong local support to Gandhi and opposition to him.
Even the Muslims in other parts of India refused to support Jinnah. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind strongly opposed the demand of the Indian Muslim League headed by Jinnah for the partition of India on the basis of the two-nation theory because it feared that the coming into existence of Pakistan could endanger the position of the Muslims in the rest of India.
Gandhi believed in a non-violent independence struggle. Non-violence had no appeal for Jinnah. He used violence to push forward his struggle for a separate Muslim nation. He instigated communal clashes, which resulted in bloody massacres of Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress leaders condemned these massacres, Gandhi went on a fast unto death and they repeatedly toured the affected areas in order to calm the communal passions.
Jinnah rarely condemned the communal riots and used them to advance his cause for an independent Pakistan. His first statement calling for inter-religious amity, from which Advani has quoted, came after Jinnah had achieved Pakistan and felt that continuing his communal politics in an independent Pakistan could prove counter-productive.
But, by then, it was too late. The communal poison injected by him into the civil society of the areas which now constitute Pakistan and Bangladesh acquired a virulence which could not be eradicated. He found himself marginalised by his colleagues in the Muslim League. The Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties came to the forefront.
This set in motion the train of events, which ultimately led to the proclamation of Pakistan as a theocratic state and an Islamic republic and the inclusion in the preamble to its constitution of the principle that the State shall be governed according to the will of Allah. This gave an exalted position to the mullahs as the only people competent to interpret the will of Allah.
Jinnah has always been a controversial leader in the subcontinent's history and he does not command even today much respect among the Sindhis, the Balochs and large sections of the Pashtuns. While the Balochs and the Pashtuns opposed the creation of Pakistan, the Sindhis supported it and their leader the late G M Syed was a co-sponsor of the famous Lahore Resolution, calling for the creation of Pakistan. Even he got disillusioned by the post-1947 evolution of Pakistan as a nation dominated by the Punjabi Muslims. Before his death in the 1990s, he admitted that he had committed a Himalayan blunder by co-sponsoring the Lahore Resolution.
By praising such a controversial leader as Jinnah in the kind of language used by him, Advani not only shocked the members of his own Hindutva Parivar, but also caused bewilderment among large sections of Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun nationalists, who constitute the only genuine friends of India in Pakistani civil society.
He allowed the cunning Punjabi leaders to take control of his agenda. His interactions in Pakistan were confined to the Punjabis and the Mohajirs. He hardly had any interaction with the Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun nationalists. When Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders come to India, they do not hesitate to interact with the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders and others, whom they look upon as the objective allies of Pakistan in the Indian civil society. Why do our leaders, during their visits to Pakistan, fight shy of similarly interacting with our objective allies in the Pakistani society?
Advani's supporters have always projected him as the second iron man of India after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He came to office projecting himself as the man who would stand up to Pakistan and teach it a lesson. He did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, the BJP-led government under his influence became as confused, as flip-flop in its handling of Pakistan as previous governments.
One would have developed a respect for Advani as a man with the courage of his conviction if during his stay in Pakistan he had drawn the attention of its people and of the international community to the fact that Pakistan continues to shelter the 20 terrorist leaders wanted for trial in India, that Dawood Ibrahim and other perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, continue to flourish in Pakistan, and that the Babbar Khalsa leaders sheltered in Pakistan by its Inter-Services Intelligence have been trying to revive Khalistani violence in India and if he had shown the courage to interact with the Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun nationalists as a mark of India's solidarity with them.
He did nothing of the sort. Instead, he let himself be carried away by the attention and flattery heaped on him by the Punjabi leaders of the Muslim League (Quaide Azam) led by Shujjat Hussein, whose idea it was to Musharraf to invite Advani and exploit his naivete and weakness for flattery in order to soften his hard stance on Pakistan and made one controversial statement after another forgetting that he was in the territory of an adversary State.
Advani was in Pakistan not just as an individual intellectual on a voyage of re-discovery of Pakistan and the virtues of its leaders. He was there as leader of the BJP and the Hindutva Parivar and as leader of the Opposition of India. As leader of the BJP and the Hindutva Parivar, he had an obligation to ensure that he did not make any statement, which could embarrass his party back home. He failed in that obligation.
As the leader of the Opposition, he had a responsibility to ensure that he did not say or do anything which could weaken the role of the Opposition as a watchdog and critic of the government's policies relating to Pakistan, whenever they tended to go wrong. He failed in that responsibility too.
Even before his visit to Pakistan, I had serious misgivings in my mind about the wisdom of his decision to go to Pakistan at this time and had given expression to them in an interview to rediff.com
The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment had in the past looked upon the BJP and the Hindutva Parivar as the main hurdle in its efforts to achieve its strategic objective of grabbing Jammu and Kashmir. Till 2003, the military-intelligence establishment followed a policy of demonising the Hindutva Parivar. This proved counter-productive.
Musharraf then changed the policy and embarked on a new policy of trying to soften the BJP and its Parivar by showering attention on its leaders. What they could not achieve through their demonisation before 2003, they have achieved through their flattery now. In fact, they have achieved even something which they never even dreamt of.
They have achieved the sowing of the seeds of dissension and confusion in the Hindutva movement. I find it difficult to get rid of a gnawing feeling that Advani has walked into a trap laid for him by the Pakistani military-intelligence leadership.
Musharraf, whom even his detractors acknowledge as a commando par excellence and brilliant tactician, must be having a hearty laugh over a large peg of Scotch in his presidential palace as he watches the Hindutva Parivar fighting among themselves.