M. A. Jinnah is not to blame
‘’Look into the eyes of Muslims that live in India
and you truly see the pain with which they live.
We treat them as aliens.’’
The partition – the inconceivable division of Indian subcontinent into two separate and sovereign countries is normally associated with tragedies of mass murder, looting, plundering and forced migration of hundreds of thousands of people in the name of religion and identity politics. Such stories are substantially based on factual events and it is estimated that about 2 Million people killed and over 10 Million displaced during partition. From Karachi to Bengal and from Amritsar to Peshawar, millions suffered and had to flee the lands where they had been living for centuries. The tales of ferocity are spine chilling ranging from countless incidents of savage sexual violence to setting off villages aflame. Witnesses of those dreadful crimes describe how neighbours who coexisted peacefully for decades suddenly turned into sadistic enemies based on their politico-religious differences.
As much as these stories are heart-wrenching, the assessments that suggest that the idea of Pakistan and an unprecedented struggle of All India Muslim League under the leadership of Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to protect the rights of Indian Muslims was somehow to be blamed for all the bloodshed and mayhem during partition are absurd and misleading. Mr Jinnah was surely the architect of Pakistan and led the Pakistan movement on ideological grounds; however, he was strenuously against the partition of Bengal and Punjab. On several occasions before the partition he warned the Congress leaders and the British authorities that dividing these provinces could lead to anarchy but his advice was always ignored. Renowned historian, Stanley Wolpert describes that when Lord Mountbatten met Mr Jinnah in April, 1947 to discuss partition, Jinnah furiously responded ‘’Bengalis and Punjabis were united by their common languages and history.’’
Moreover, in May, 1947, Jinnah again tried to clarify his idea of Pakistan and opposed the partition of Bengal and Punjab in strongest terms. ” I should like to point out that there is a great deal of confusion created on purpose. The question of a division of India, as proposed by the Muslim League, is based on the fundamental fact that there are two nations- Hindus and Muslims- and the underlying principle is that we want a national home and a national state in our homelands which are predominately Muslim and compromise the six units of the Punjab, the N.W.F.P., Sind, Baluchistan, Bengal and Assam. This will give the Hindus their national home and a national state of Hindustan, which means three-fourths of British India. Now the question of partitioning Bengal and the Punjab is raised, not with a ‘bona fide’ object but as a sinister move actuated by spite and bitterness ..’’. In order to save India from the horrors of partition, Mr Jinnah went out of the way and even agreed to the idea of a separate and sovereign Bengal saying ‘’What is the use of Bengal without Calcutta; they had much better remain united and independent’’. Similarly, he strived hard to stop the partition of Punjab and promised the Sikh Leader, Tara Singh of ‘’whatever he wanted’’ if he could convince the Punjab’s Sikhs to join Pakistan.
The acclaimed Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal argues that: “Jinnah was from a province where Muslims were in a minority. He wanted to use the power of the areas where the Muslims were a majority to create a shield of protection for where they were in a minority. The possibility that the areas that became Pakistan would offer a kind of protection for Muslims living in areas which have remained in India …” Perhaps, he was able to foresee the rise of Hindu nationalism and potential issues for Muslims in the Hindu majority areas. The barbaric incidents of Gujarat in 2002 proved Jinnah’s fears were not baseless. It is estimated that some 1,000 Muslims were brutally killed in the Gujarat riots along with 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worships were destroyed. A large number of Indian Muslims hold Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat and present Prime Minister of India, responsible for the Gujarat massacre who failed to perform his duties with due diligence to protect the Muslim community of Gujarat.
Gujarat is just one example of the state supported violence against Muslims in India. The Babri Mosque attack in Ayodhya in 1992 claimed over a 1,000 lives, the killing of Muslims in the state of Assam after some BJP leaders incited violence against Bangladeshi immigrants and more recently a wave of barbarity in the name of cow slaughter across India by Hindu extremists reiterate that Jinnah’s concerns about the safety and security of Muslim minorities in India were realistic. As the former foreign minister of India, Mr Jaswant Singh pointed out in his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence: ‘’Look into the eyes of Muslims that live in India and you truly see the pain with which they live. We treat them as aliens.’’
So, Mr Jinnah is not the one to blame for the tragedies of partition. He, on the other hand, strived hard to somehow protect the communities of India from chaos and destruction by opposing the partition of Bengal and Punjab. Sadly, the arrogant and selfish leadership of Congress could not understand the complexities of partition and even ignored the advice of Mr Gandhi who was also against the partition of those provinces. To make matters worse, Mountbatten was more inclined to the prejudiced Congress leadership instead of listening to sane advice from Jinnah and Gandhi. He implemented his ruthless ‘’cut and run’’ partition plan pushing India to a deadly communal violence.