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S Asia In the Dock of Ideology - Jaswant Singh and the View from Pakistan

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Aug 25, 2009.

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    In The Dock Of Ideology

    Jaswant Singh tried to be historically objective, but Partition is still not a distant event. Today’s politics still thrives on the past

    EJAZ HAIDER Senior Pakistani Journalist

    [​IMG] Across borders Shahid Malik, Pakistan High Commissioner (left) at the launch of Singh’s book
    Photo: AP
    IF THERE is a moral to the Jaswant Singh story, it is that academic objectivity and politics, especially the exclusivist kind, do not make happy bedfellows. Even so, Singh’s Wednesday expulsion from the BJP at the party’s chintan baithak in Simla is not a simple affair. It also goes beyond the party’s defeat in the May elections, its post-election troubles and leaked letters. It is begotten of the conflict between the BJP’s desire to mainstream itself while being anchored in the Sangh Parivar’s communal ideology.

    One reading in Pakistan of Singh’s book and his interview to Karan Thapar was that he had managed to write something that, besides being historically objective and therefore credible, would also help his party. The reason: it showed that the Congress party was largely responsible for India’s partition. Given India’s current political configuration, if the charge could be made to stick, so much the better for the BJP.

    But issues are not so simple for the BJP. Hate it might Partition and the Congress party, but it is also bound by the anti-Jinnah, anti-Pakistan ideology that informs its politics. So, how could one of its veterans decide to write a book that showed Pakistan’s Quaid-e Azam as a great, self-made man who resolutely followed the goals he had set himself?

    It didn’t help Singh that he was not blaming anybody in the book, simply recording the fact that “we needed to create a demon” and found one in the person of Jinnah. Ideologies are not about facts. And when the process of “othering” is as vicious as it is in the case of India and Pakistan, they quite often are not even about selective facts but plain lies and propaganda. It doesn’t help the BJP to have an account that shows the Muslims were forced to get Pakistan because the Congress (largely Hindu) would not give them constitutional and other guarantees. Muslims are supposed to have got Pakistan because they are perfidious.

    [​IMG]‘Jaswant Singh should be commended for his courage. The Quaid-e- Azam’s true leadership has been recognised. I’m disappointed India can’t face up to the truth about him. Is this India's secularism? No Pakistani has lost their job for praising Gandhi’
    Mushahid Hussain, senator and chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee

    [​IMG]‘Singh’s expulsion is more about internal politics than about India-Pakistan politics. Indian liberals surprise me – why can’t politicians have freedom of speech and thought? Pakistanis respect Gandhi and Nehru and aren’t penalised for this, so why isn’t it reciprocal?’
    Sartaj Aziz, former Pakistan foreign minister

    [​IMG]‘The BJP’s reaction of denial and confusion is like the statements by Pakistani religious leaders and right-wing politicians after a deadly suicide attack: “Islam doesn’t teach killing for God.” The BJP can’t accept that a Brahmin (Nehru)’s egoistic political rigidity could divide Bharat’
    Arshed Bhatti, youth activist
    It is funny how collections of people manage the process of exclusion. The Congress party and its large secular pool of Indians have always demonised Jinnah because he was presumably communal and Pakistan was formed on the basis of a religious ideology. The BJP hates Jinnah and his Pakistan because it believes, at its core, in Hindutva – an ideology that first blames the Muslims for communalisation of India and then attacks them on the basis of its own particularistic ideology.

    It’s not exactly the kind of atmosphere where a politician, even one of the stature of Jaswant Singh, can put out a book that says Jinnah did not hate the Hindus, that his problem lay with the Congress.

    The BJP might hate Partition and Congress, but it’s also bound by an anti-Jinnah, anti-Pakistan ideology The fact is that Singh has not really broken new ground. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s India Wins Freedom said much the same. Azad’s narrative about the Cabinet Mission Plan and what happened thereafter leaves one in no doubt about when, where and how the real movement towards Partition began. Of course, that goes against the grain of what we are taught in Pakistan about the “Pakistan” (Lahore) Resolution. But that is part of the Pakistani meta-narrative!

    HISTORIAN AYESHA Jalal has an even more elaborate thesis on this, and Singh’s account, from what has been reported so far and what he said in his twopart interview to Thapar, seems to corroborate it. I rely on that because I have yet to read the book. But Azad has passed on and Jalal is an academic. Both are away from the political controversies that dog Singh and his (perhaps former) party.

    When LK Advani came to Pakistan and described Jinnah as a secular leader, even visiting his mausoleum in Karachi, the Sangh Parivar raised Cain and AB Vajpayee himself had to rise to Advani’s defence, and in fact asked for a debate on the issue. But he too had to retreat in the face of the Sangh tail that always wags the BJP dog. As for Advani, he relied on the textbook “I was misquoted” technique to wiggle out of the situation.

    Singh can’t use the defence used by Advani previously, since he couldn’t have misquoted himself! It remains to be seen how Singh will get out of his predicament considering that he could not have misquoted himself! What is deeply ironic, however, is the fact that while he might get good reviews in Pakistan of his book for praising Jinnah, questions will be raised about his attempt to situate his thesis in India’s nationalist discourse – i.e., Partition could be avoided because it was bad. It doesn’t cut much ice to say that Jinnah was a nationalist and, but for the Congress party, he would not have asked for Pakistan.

    As Singh said in his interview, Pandit Nehru realised his mistake of emphasising central control post-Partition but by then it was too late.

    Is it? From what has happened to Singh, Partition may not be a distant event. It seems that today’s politics still thrives on the past and Singh, by writing what he has, has acted as an equal opportunity offender, that being the necessary condition of ‘objectivity’.
    The writer is op-ed editor of Daily Times, consulting editor of The Friday Times and hosts a political television show in Pakistan

    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 34, Dated August 29, 2009
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