Book Review :"Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence" by Jaswant Singh
Jaswant Singh is a prominent member of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). He is also one of its founders. Jaswant Singh has held prominent positions in both the party and the government. During the days of the Vajpayee government (1998-2004) he was the Foreign Minister of India. Jaswant wrote a book titled 'Jinnah: India, Partition, and Independence’. This book which was deemed critical of Nehru and a paean for Mohamed Ali Jinnah resulted in Jaswant being suspended from the BJP.
Life of Jaswant
Jaswant hails from the Indian state of Rajasthan. He joined the Indian army and rose to become a Major. But he called it quits to devote time to politics and his love for Hindutava. He was a founder member of the BJP and quickly rose in the hierarchy. He became a member of the BJP central committee and when the BJP led alliance, the NDA came to power he served as foreign minister and finance minister. He was a prominent member of the government from 1998-2004. However after publication of his book he was expelled from the BJP, but after a lapse of 4 years was re-inducted back.
Background to the Book
The book covers the tumultuous events leading to partition of British India into Pakistan and India. To say the least it is a scholarly work. The period covered by the book are events leading to partition. In particular he dissects the role of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
Jinnah is widely credited with the creation of Pakistan. He is referred to as Quadi-e-Azam and widely respected in Pakistan. But to most Indians Jinnah is a villain who insisted and created Pakistan. Jaswant points out that Jinnah was not a communalist as painted by most Indians. He in fact was only allergic to the Hindu leaders of the Congress namely Nehru, Gandhi and Patel.
Jinnah till 1942 had not asked for Pakistan, but subsequent events forced him to chart a separate path. He then propounded the two nation theory and said that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations and the Muslims should be given a separate state. Jinnah did achieve Pakistan, but expired just after the creation of the Pakistan state from tuberculosis.
Jaswant brings out some cogent facts about Jinnah He points out that Jinnah was opposed to the Khilafat movement. This movement wanted the restoration of the caliphate in Turkey. Gandhi supported the Khilafat movement in the hope that the Muslims would accept him as their leader.
Jaswant analyzes the period wonderfully. He makes an attempt to understand the mind of Jinnah. There is no doubt that Jinnah himself was a very liberal man. He was fond of his scotch whiskey and had married a Parsi girl from Bombay. But he was allergic to Gandhi in particular and his life style that included starting his day with prayers and Hindu Bhajans.
Jinnah was out Manoeuvred
Jaswant brings out the fact that Jinnah who was a leader of the Congress party in his own right, before the advent of Gandhi had to cede ground to the Hindu leader. In a way the Hindu leaders of the Congress party Patel, Nehru and Gandhi saw to it that Jinnah was sidelined.
Once this happened, Jinnah slowly turned to leading the Muslims for a place in the sun. Jaswant gives an excellent account of the events that changed Jinnah’s mind. Jinnah at one time had not thought of Pakistan, but the force of events and his isolation in the Congress party led him to join the Muslim League and ask for Pakistan at a very late stage in the freedom movement.
The Seeds of Partition: Greed of Nehru
As per Jaswant, Partition of India need not have taken place. Till 1945, Jinnah was reconciled to a united India. He dreamt of being the Prime Minister of a united India. Gandhi was willing, but Nehru in his greed to become the prime minister sidelined Jinnah. This was a momentous point in time. Nehru was also able to make Gandhi accept that partition was inevitable.
Jinnah thus accepted Pakistan. Jaswant does bring out that but for Nehru’s intransigence; partition may not have taken place.
Jaswant writes with flair and authentic knowledge. He creates a vivid picture of that period. Jaswant had to pay a heavy price for writing this book. The BJP expelled him for giving a clean chit to Jinnah, which went against the ideas of Hindus.
Jaswant was however after a couple of years admitted back into the BJP fold. All said and done Jaswant’s book is a treasure house of information and people wanting to know about India and partition will find it interesting.