Saturday, April 17
'India got divided because of Congress'
Former Indian external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, while urging the people of Pakistan for peace between New Delhi and Islamabad, has maintained that both the countries should forget the past and look forward for the betterment of the poverty-stricken people of the Subcontinent.
He was speaking to an audience here at a local hotel on Friday evening. The senior politician and former central leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party is in Pakistan to promote his controversial yet popular book ‘Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence’, which had raised a furore when it was released in August 2009, and soon became the subject of controversy, which led to his expulsion from the BJP due to its positive portrayal of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Jaswant Singh, who also served as finance and defence minister, maintained that India and Pakistan had born from one womb, and their births were through caesarean (section). He retraced his childhood days of pre-and-post independence. “When I grew up, I realised that the most traumatic event of the 20th century was the partition, and when Punjab and Bengal also stood divided. Ensuing tragedy and wounds are still painful, and one can see scars on both sides of the boundary,” he said, adding that if the neighbours could not be changed, then filth should not be thrown on each other. He equated both Pakistan and India as neighbours of one street.
He was of the considered opinion that both countries would be devoured by poverty, and they should meet this challenge first, and if it was not done, then they would be condemning their future generations. “I urge and plead you to change the infectious climate into a peaceful one, so that the ultimate beneficiaries, that is, the masses can benefit from it. It is an attempt to do away with common past so that we do not repeat same mistakes,” he observed.
Without mincing words, veteran Indian politician maintained that both countries should forget the past to meet the challenges of the future. “If we will remain in the narrow alley, then we will not see the sunlight,” he succinctly averred.
While reasoning out the change in the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah from being a secular to the spokesperson of the Muslims, Jaswant Singh mentioned that the Quaid was called an ambassador of the Hindu-Muslim unity. To him, the Quaid was a great secularist, constitutionalist and committed to logic. Mr Singh was of the view that the Quaid had maintained that religion should be separated from politics, and he was against the Civil Disobedience Movement. Mr Singh said the Quaid started parting ways with the Congress Party in the late 1920s – when Gandhi came back from South Africa – even though the Congress and Muslim League contested the Utter Pardesh election of 1937 jointly. “The Congress violated the agreement and did not give ministerial posts to the Muslim Leaguers,” he said, adding that disappointed Quaid left India to be invited back and become sole spokesperson of the Muslims.
About the responsibility of the Congress, Mr Singh went back to 1857, and maintained the year amply demonstrated that the Hindu-Muslim unity could achieve huge tasks. “The British never forgot this, and were of the view that if the Hindu-Muslim unity forged again, then they would not survive in India for even three days,” he averred, while maintaining that the Congress could have thought of centrality, but it did not.
About dialogue between India and Pakistan, Jaswant Singh said Pakistan and partition were realities, and hoped that Pakistan be progressive, political stable, which was good for India-Pakistan relations. He quoted the Quaid saying that he wanted to have the Monroe Doctrine between India and Pakistan to help each other. “We have forgotten the Quaid at some point of time,” he added.
While saying ‘our tears and joys are mutual’ in Urdu, Jaswant Singh pleaded for moving forward by forgetting the past.
Senior Indian politician was seriously unhappy over the Partition and maintained that it was tragic, since in only 37 days, the whole process was finalised, while parts of provinces, especially Punjab and Bengal, did not know in which country they would fall. He remarked that he would not answer questions about Viceroy Lord Mountbatten since Mr Singh considered him ‘Mount blank’. “The Viceroy had the power of law and order, but he did not do any thing when massacres took place. Secondly, Mountbatten deliberately delayed the announcement of the Radcliffe award,” opined the former Indian Minister.
Speaking in a mix of English, Urdu and Hindi, Mr Singh, while brushing aside the criticism on Indian political parties especially the BJP, opined that the parties were not tailor-made for particular scenarios.
Senior journalist Rashid Rehman put various questions to the author, and concluded the function. Earlier, Managing Director Oxford University Press introduced the books and its author. She was of the view that other Indian scholars such as AG Noorani, H M Seervai, and Ajeet Javed, have also written about Jinnah objectively, but Jaswant Singh’s voice is being heard by the larger public. She mentioned that Mr Singh had tried to find answers for the questions: why did Partition take place and who was responsible for it? He has tried to evaluate Jinnah’s role in the politics of united India leading to Partition. He has attempted to discover how Jinnah who was once called ‘an architect of Hindu-Muslim unity’ came to believe in a separate state for the Muslims of India. He suggests in his book that Jinnah’s hand was forced by some of the Indian leaders of the time, who left him no option but to ask for a separate Muslim homeland.
Intelligentsia of the city, former ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and other notables including ex-foreign ministers Sartaj Aziz and Khurhid Kasuri, Moin-ud-Din Haider, celebrated writer Bapsi Sidwa and others. Jaswant Singh’s son and latter’s wife were also present among the audience. Mr Singh appreciated both ex-foreign ministers for their services.