Thursday, February 23, 2006

Partition & Gandhi-bashing

Gandhi-bashing: rather crude, don't you think ? Something like 'maligning the Mahatma' would perhaps sound much more fancy. However, irrespective of what term be used, the fact remains that being anti-Gandhi is fashionable nowadays. I mean, the poor man, ironically enough christened the father of the nation, has been accused of undermining Muslim rights as well as bending over backwards to appease Muslims ! For chrissakes, have some sense of perspective, folks - how could he have done both?

Now, one of the biggest criticisms leveled against MKG is his inability to prevent Partition. In fact, there are some vociferous critics who insist that Gandhiji fostered and indeed, abetted Partition; but to such intentionally agnostic folks, I have nothing to say.

A brief look at the events of 1947 makes it pretty clear that, after shaping the events of the previous two decades in India almost single-handedly (note that I do say 'almost'), circumstances finally overcame Gandhiji when it most counted. A note to the uninformed: before one places the blame of Partition squarely upon the shoulders of the much-reviled Jinnah, please be aware that Veer Savarkar had proposed the two-nation theory much earlier than Jinnah. Jinnah's embrace of Partition was due to tactical and political reasons, rather than due to the religion card. He feared, rightly, that in the new scheme of things being drawn out by Viceroy Mountbatten, Nehru and Gandhiji, his own role was likely to be diminutive.

It is quite interesting to look at Nehru and Jinnah; both of them possessed eminent but essentially similar personalities and backgrounds, but found themselves on opposite sides of the table most of the time. In fact, both of them regarded each other with considerable suspicion and mistrust. The clinching factor was, perhaps, Viceroy Mountbatten's close friendship with Nehru (I am not even veering toward Edwina Mountbatten here!) - historians even suggest that Mountbatten was not favorably disposed toward Jinnah at all. Given these circumstances, it is fairly clear that Jinnah took a decision that he felt he had to, and did all he could to make sure that his demands were met, at least partially.

Was Jinnah wrong in putting his foot down, and demanding a seperate country? IMO, It's a 50-50 answer. Undoubtedly, a lot of bloodshed on both sides would have been avoided then if the two-nation concept had not been pursued so doggedly. On the other hand, given the current strain of militant, even vitriolic, Hinduvta running through the country, it is hard not to harbor at least a sneaking admiration for Jinnah, who somehow foresaw that this could happen. I mean, if I were asked the question 'Is an average Pakistani Muslim more content than her/her Indian counterpart ?', I would find it very, very difficult to give a monosyllabic answer - let's leave it at that.

However, right or wrong, I completely fail to understand how Gandhiji could be blamed for Partition. It was he, more than anybody else, who opposed Partition. The Congress, for one of the few times in its history since its association with Gandhiji, chose to ignore Gandhiji's abject wishes and accepted the two-nation proposal. Unfortunately, at this juncture, Gandhiji did not put his foot down; instead, under Sardar Patel's persuasion he grudgingly accepted that partition seemed inevitable. Indeed, that fact that while the rest of India was celebrating independence Gandhiji was in Calcutta appealing for peace, speaks volumes of how much he hated the partition-scarred independece.

The reason for this post, seemingly out of the blue ? Ever since reading the awesome 'Freedom at Midnight' and 'The Life of Mahatma Gandhi' by Louis Fischer (which is really one of the best biographies I have ever read), I have come to admire the hell out of this frail little man who managed to capture the imagination of the entire country. I mean, just think: since independence, can you tell me the name of one person the entire country blindly believed in even for a day ? However, for the last several years, there have been quite a few instances of Gandhiji's name being sullied (in particular, Gandhiji was portrayed as a wimpish, calculating politician in Raj Kumar Santhoshi's take on Bhagat Singh). I do not understand why one needs to hate/denounce Gandhiji to admire revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Bose - their philosophies co-existed and non-violence has been almost as successful a tactic against tyranny as civil war, to say the least. In fact, it is almost ironical that Bhagat Singh opted for Gandhiji's favourite weapon, the fast, to protest against the inhumane stuff meted out in the jails, as Gaurav points out here.

You may not agree with the man's policies, but you sure can stop the Gandhi-bashing, folks.


redrajesh said...

'Is an average Pakistani Muslim more content than her/her Indian counterpart ?'

The answer is "No". Not only according to me, but also according to Azim Premji. His father was offered the post of the first Finance Minister of Pakistan, but he refused to go and stayed in India...and according to Mr. Premji, that was probably the best decision made, because all said and done, what he achieved was possible in India because India is a true democracy unlike Pakistan(according to him). And Mr. Premji is also of the opinion that India is more secular and fair to people of all religions unlike Pakistan. In fact, an interesting thing about Wipro...other than Mr. Premji, everyone on the board is a Hindu...I really don't know how many such companies you can find anywhere in the world...espescially in any Muslim country.

Actually, the question that should be asked is 'Is the condition of Hindus in Pakistan as good or better than that of Muslims in India'...and of course, the answer to that is an obvious, resounding "NO"

Charu said...

I found your blog just when I was surfing to get info on why is Gandhiji blamed for Partition.

Nice post, very aptly written and loved it at a few places like when you said ''being anti-Gandhi is a fashionable nowadays'' and the similarities between Jinnah and Nehru. Also, the way you've put forth the points to defend Jinnah!

All the best!