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Only Speech Secular, Not Jinnah

By Dina Nath Mishra
June 10, 2005 13:07 IST
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L K Advani's visit to Pakistan has startled both Pakistan and India, barring some jarring notes from one person of the Sangh Parivar. Everybody felt happy until the Karachi chapter. The claimant of the largest circulation in the capital, the English Daily, gave a screaming banner on June 5, 'Advani: Jinnah great, secular.' As if it was a godsend opportunity, almost every television channel made it a mission to confuse and dishearten the Hindutva camp.

As has been happening for the last seven years, the media is playing the role of the political enemy of Hindutva, celebrating false cases like the Jhabua nuns case and the Graham Staines case to half truths like the Gujarat riots. The media has never missed the stick with which it could hit hard the Hindutva camp.

Advani in Pakistan: The BJP in Crisis

Massive propaganda had colossal impact on the Hindutva icon, for he allegedly certified Jinnah a secular person. Jinnah's image in India, in general and in the Hindutva camp in particular, is one who partitioned the country on the basis of his two nation theory, resulting in a bloodbath of two million people.

The dispossession of Hindus

Naturally, people were unhappy and angry with Advani. The RSS behaved in a remarkable restrained manner against the backdrop of grave provocation from across the media. In a developing situation Advani penned down his resignation in Karachi itself, before his departure for India. After his arrival in Delhi, I contacted him on the phone and asked if "During your entire visit of Pakistan, did you say anything absolving Jinnah of the hated two-nation theory dividing the country, in any manner directly or indirectly?" His response was, "the question does not arise."

I read the full text of his speech. I started searching whether or not he called Jinnah secular. I read it twice, thrice; it was nowhere to be found.

There were two paragraphs where the word secular appears: 'Swami Ranganathananand passed away in April this month. The last time I met him was in Calcutta last year. He was 96 but still very agile in mind and radiant in spirit. Our talk, among other things, turned to his years and my years in Karachi. He asked me, 'Have you read Mohammed Ali Jinnah's speech in Pakistan's constituent assembly on August 11, 1947? It is a classic exposition of a secular State, one which guarantees every citizen's freedom to practice his or her religion but the State shall not discriminate between one citizen and another on the basis of religion.'

This speech of Jinnah has a special significance, for during the martial law regime of Zia-ul Haq it was removed from the collection of Jinnah's speeches. Newspaper articles on the occasion of Jinnah's birth anniversary omitted the key secular phrases of the speech. This censorship was the result of Pakistan's self-perceived commitment to preservation of its ideology and the Islamic character of the State.

In this context it was more important that a leader of Advani's stature reminded Pakistan's new generation of what the father of their nation had dreamt of about Pakistan in the constituent assembly. It caused discomfiture to the Pakistani establishment as was expected. But it caused havoc for Advani on his home turf.

First, let us see what was there in Jinnah's classic exposition of a secular State which Advani quoted from: 'Now, if you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work in a spirit that every one, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. I cannot overemphasize it too much. We shall begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and Muslim community will vanish.'

RSS vs Advani: Who will blink?

I could not find Advani calling Jinnah secular anywhere. Then I turned to his remarks in the visitor's book kept at Jinnah's mazar (tomb) where he had written, 'There are few who actually create history. Qaid-e-Azam is one such rare individual. In his early years, Sarojini Naidu described him as 'an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity'. His address is a forceful espousal of a secular State in which every citizen will be free to pursue his own religion. The State shall make no distinction on grounds of faith. My respectful homage to the great man.'

Here also, he did not say that Jinnah was a secular person. He merely noted Jinnah's forceful espousal of Pakistan as a secular State, which is quite different from certifying Jinnah as a secular person.

Advani's Jinnah never existed

In his speech at the Karachi Council, Advani says, 'I hope that this ideal is implemented in letter and spirit. The restoration of the Katasraj temple is a good beginning'. Can anything more be said by a person on a diplomatic mission?

Did the ISI lay a trap for Advani?

A lot of media commentators have alleged that his speeches in Pakistan were an exercise in image building. What he said in Karachi about Jinnah, he also said at a largely attended book release event, hosted by the India First Foundation, in New Delhi on February 28, 2004. He repeated the same thing on four more occasions.

Et tu, Advani?

Before writing this column I listened to his February 28, 2004 speech. It was word by word, para by para, the same thing what he said in Karachi. In fact, he has not said anything which he has not said in India several times before. Still, there is a charge of ambitious image building which is totally false. Many people do not know Advani pressed for resignation several times during NDA rule but Atalji somehow managed his continuance. I think it is cruel to charge a person like Advani of cut-throat ambition.

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Dina Nath Mishra