I was nine when my city crumbled under the surge of religious fanaticism that paid no heed to age or gender. Faith had hypnotized the people who otherwise domiciled this city that endorsed cultural syncretism. The use of the covert weapon of mass destruction called religion, in the shadow of politics slaughtered more than 1000 people that bled the same shade of red. The Bombay riots introduced me to an unusual disparity between two identical but invisible divinities. The Hindu killed in the name of Ram, the Muslim killed in the name of Allah and in the name of gods, humans perished.

Identity Crisis

I always wondered what triggered the identity crisis between the Hindus and Muslims in India. Why and what is that point which stimulated animosity between the two doctrines. Looking for the source for number of riots and instances of sheer hostility will never tell me to what I want to know. I am not even sure how much veracity the school textbooks reveal. In school I was taught that Christopher Columbus came to India as an explorer. It was only with time I learnt that Columbus invaded India and had a character of raping and pillaging. Never in our British education we were told that Columbus forced young women into sexual slavery and used nine-year-old girls as currency.

Does the truth always lie beyond the said and given? A question if put to every strand of history and politics would infallibly deliver at least few ounces of awkward unknown authenticity. Before I sat to write this article I questioned a few informed people of my country about the provenance of Hindu Muslim spite. And it seemed not very difficult to most to recall a name from history. A name that is barely uttered from mouths of Indians, a name that shaped the history and at the same time shook the geography of this part of the continent. This man, father of the nation, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

A number of questions flooded my mind when I encountered so much despise for this man. Gandhi and Jinnah seemed the two perpetrators who caused the displacement of millions of Indians as Hindus and Muslims. Nehru too had a significant stake in the political conclusions. Will a Muslim prime minister of a majority Hindu nation be accepted? But in that case what was in for the influential Nehru? Nobody could have told the ramifications of a miscalculated adjudication. However, it was politically imperative to take chances by rolling the dice in this game of thrones that was set on the destinies of millions in turmoil. But how much was Jinnah responsible for this fire of hostility? Did we hear his story as it happened, or have we heard it as it was told?

You are an ignorant fool. I fought for your mother, your sister, your children’s children. Islam doesn’t need fanatics like you. Islam needs men of vision who would build the country. These are some powerful words spoken by Jinnah in the biographical film named after him as “Jinnah” when he responds to a Muslim fanatic who accuses Jinnah of harbouring non-Muslims and women. And this is where I think; Jinnah’s political intentions coincide with his personal opinions.

1937 was the year very significant in the political realm of pre-independent India. Unlike the rest of the world, India perhaps was the only nation to have sheltered the most religious plurality in the world. Consequentially therefore, religion has always been a cause for bitterness between all. However, when it came to national unity, this same diversity changed its meaning. Hindus and Muslims have always had a love & hate relationship between them. It is a little difficult but yet not very arduous to tell that line, that moment when Indians of British India became Hindus and Muslims.

But something happened after 1930 when Mohammad Iqbal, the leader of the Muslim League seeded the idea of separation. It is also interesting to see how two Indians, two Muslim chauvinist intelligent Indians, chose different ideological paths hereafter. I would like to mention Maulana Abul Kalam Azad of the Muslim League who went against the idea of creating a separate Muslim state and Mohammad Ali Jinnah who aspired one. However later, Jinnah lost in a difference of opinion in the province of Punjab where the Muslim league lost elections terribly.

Understanding Jinnah’s idiosyncratic ideas becomes important here. Jinnah spent a couple of decades in England and as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. His western education had a fine influence on his largely secular conduct. Religion barely had an influence on his western lifestyle. On that account it is quite evident that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had no qualms with the non-Muslims and his decisions were entirely political. It is also important to know that Jinnah had been the Hindu – Muslim unity ambassador until the 1920s.

Go back to India and shape a new country. How? Where do I start? Jinnah said to himself and that was perhaps the turning point or rather a prominent time in history that was changing its course. The brilliant barrister Jinnah maneuvered the use of the word Islam instead of Muslims and carved the Two-Nation Theory in Lahore a few years later. He banked upon the religious and cultural differences between the two communities, their socio economic stature, and their distinction in history, god, faith and so on. And this was the beginning or the threshold where Muslims in India stepped out of their homes being Islamic. Jinnah fought for the rights of his people, under an Islamic hypothesis wherein it wasn’t the Muslim of the minority that was denied his rights but the idea of Islam that was implicitly subjugated.

We in India still ask questions to long departed Gandhi. If Christians had asked for their part, if Zoroastrians wanted theirs, and so on, would have Gandhi and his political associates obliged? The question then again turns to same statement that Jinnah speaks to the Muslim fanatic who was summoned. If he was of the secular mindset, why did he just didn’t speak for the Muslims and why for Islam? Could religion ever be the base for nationalism? Pakistan is the first nation to be created on the basis of religion and religion alone. It was a nation that had no past but ruptured roots of a constitutional government. Pakistan was born out of India that was ruled over by the British that had nothing common between the two biggest religions of India.

I once heard of how democracy makes a lot of sense today than whatever it meant 60 years back. The idea of democracy then, was new to each in the political arena. Jinnah was a wealthy lawyer who had spent a good time in London, Gandhi who was a barrister who had spent some time in a colonial South Africa and ofcourse the British themselves ruled as a Monarchy in India. Amidst all this, Jinnah was definitely a courageous shrewd politician who prognosticated the emergence of a new Islamic state that had no understanding of democracy per se. He might not have had tremendous faith in the formation of this new state but considering the political aspirations notwithstanding personal convictions, it became consequential to concentrate on a large minority that seemed indebted for equal rights over the rest of the country that also deserved the same.

I don’t blame Jinnah. He fought a war asking for the rights of “his people”. However his chauvinism and his idealist approach to the want of Pakistan under the credence of Islam itself is hypocritical. I wouldn’t get into the idiosyncrasies of his personal life here as I am too inspired by his reply to Liaqat Ali Khan on misusing clandestine letters of Nehru and Edwina where he says “History is made by the wills and wounds of millions of people. Not by letters and blackmails.” 

Moving ahead towards the climax I would present Massimo’s famous political quote, “We have made Italy and now we have to  make Italians.” Something precisely Jinnah thought after Pakistan’s identity with a new diversity was sought. A lot of conflict was witnessed in identifying Pakistan as a consolidated singular unified reverent Islamic state that has to contrast with India’s largely secular identity.

Often we have seen that when legends die, the dreams come to end. The identity crisis between Hindus and Muslims could have finished after the creation of Pakistan. But the identity crisis of a Muslim in Pakistan began subsequently after the death of Jinnah. If you take note, it is more or less history repeating itself, when the prophet passed away and a few years later Muslims were split politically into Shia and Sunni. The death of Jinnah perhaps marked the political instability in Pakistan that gave rise to Islamization. Despite his desire for a Muslim state of Pakistan, his ideals for equality amongst other religions, gender were thoroughly misinterpreted by his political descendants.

If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we must concentrate only and solely on the well-being of the people. You’re free to go to the Mosques, free to go to your temples, and to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan.” If only these words reminded the people of Pakistan the sole idea of their existence, Pakistan would have been a twin to India in every aspect of its functioning. I don’t claim India’s democracy is the epitome of ruling governance. But certainly we have mastered the art of overpowering fundamentalism, time and over. And this we learnt only by practicing what Jinnah preached for Pakistan.

Hitler once said that democracy undermined the natural selection of the ruling powers and is nothing but a systematic cultivation of human failure. Had he been alive today, would have been thoroughly embarrassed to see about 167 functioning democratic constitutions in the world. Hindus and Muslims are an integral part of this democratic system and I believe this burden of proof lies with the people of our countries together world over, for time and eternity.

When asked in the context of partition if “most of the blame lies with Mountbatten” Jinnah replied, “Only as much as he is guilty of.” The emergence of identity crisis of Hindus and Muslims too has a similar response. Civilization cannot be held hostage under the siege of faith. The progress of a society lies in the hands of not those who pray to the gods but those who invoke the spirit of mankind in themselves. Today the blame should not be on who seeded the conflict but on the one who nurtures it.


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