Jaswant Singh – the reluctant fundamentalist?

Raza Rumi

Jaswant Singh’s right-wing worldview can be partially pardoned for he has made an attempt to set the record straight. The vilification of Jinnah to the extent of presenting him as a demon in mainstream Indian discourse has received a severe blow. Singh also blames the stalwarts of Congress for Partition and this has been the independent view held by many historians. It is shameful that a right winger had to condone Jinnah but then someone had to take the first step in the popular domain. The earlier voice of H M Seervai was drowned in the cacophony of nation-state jingoism and because he was from a fringe community, his dispassionate views did not receive much attention. In fact many in India and Pakistan have no clue about Seervai.

So much for historiography and history in the bitterly divided and acrimonious South Asia. But things will change. As we move away from the horrors and traumas of Partition, many more voices will emerge that will look at the way history should be recorded – with evidence, dispassionate analysis and sobriety.

A reluctant fundamentalist in India has spoken. Good job that he was expelled. His tears were rather shocking for he should have known better for the thirty years he tagged along the Hindutva ideology.

But for us Pakistanis we need to take things with a pinch of salt – praises from BJP-RSS wallahs are at best double-edged.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Jaswant Singh – the reluctant fundamentalist?

  1. YLH

    Raza bhai,

    I think many of the anti-BJP people will nevertheless disagree with this characterization of Jaswant Singh.

    I followed him closely during my stay in the US and he was never a Hindutvist. He is more like what Colin Powell is to the Republican Party.

    Strobe Talbott’s text is now an article of faith as an evidence of a self confident secular and modern India …but many people forget that it was the author’s personal friendship with JS that led to book.

    What you say may have been true about Advani but not JS. JS is in the BJP because of entirely different reasons, not the least of which is that the Congress is too occupied with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to allow middle class liberals to make inroads in it in a substantial manner.

  2. Gorki

    Advani on Advani:

    Many people have wondered aloud about Advani’s 2005 comments about MAJ.
    I post below Advani’s own words from his blog regarding those now famous comments. It seems many other learned personalities in India from a cross section of the political and social spectrum have held MAJ in high regard.

    “…Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was one of the most internationally renowned Indian philosophers and educationists of the twentieth century. He was the first Vice President of India (1952-62), and the second President of India (1962-67).

    I left Karachi in September 1947, whereas Swamiji continued living there until it became impossible to carry on the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission in the city. With a heavy heart, he closed down the Mission and left Karachi in August 1948. My association with him continued almost till the time he passed away in February 2005, at the age of ninety-eight.

    I would meet him regularly when he was the head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi in the 1960s, and also when he headed the mission in Hyderabad for a long time thereafter. My last meeting with him was in 2003, when I had gone to Kolkata for a function, and Swamiji, after having become the all-India President of the Ramakrishna Mission, was living at Belur Math, the mission’s headquarters in the city.

    Our conversation at this last meeting centred on our days in Karachi, the tragic developments triggered by Partition and the role of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Swamiji, in particular, lauded Jinnah’s historic speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947 and said, ‘The true exposition of the meaning of secularism can be found in this speech.’ In a subconscious way, this last conversation with Swamiji was to play a decisive contributory role in my own remarks about Jinnah when I went to Pakistan in May-June 2005.”
    By L.K. Advani

    Regards.

  3. Gorki

    On re-reading my own post I realized that due to a hasty cut and paste job I had mistakenly selected and posted a part of an unrelated passage as well which changed the entire context. (Dr. Radhakrishnan was indeed a great man but Advani ji was not talking about him; the reference to him got pasted from an unrelated box) The error is regretted.

    The corrected quotes from Advaniji’s blog are as follows:

    “During the last three years of my life in Karachi, I was exposed to another life-transforming influence. Every Sunday evening, I started going to the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram to listen to the discourses on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Ranganathananda. I was as fascinated by Swamiji’s personality as I was by his elucidation, in clear, direct and profound manner, of Lord Krishna’s mesmerising philosophical dialogue with warrior Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata war.
    I left Karachi in September 1947, whereas Swamiji continued living there until it became impossible to carry on the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission in the city. With a heavy heart, he closed down the Mission and left Karachi in August 1948. My association with him continued almost till the time he passed away in February 2005, at the age of ninety-eight.
    I would meet him regularly when he was the head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi in the 1960s, and also when he headed the mission in Hyderabad for a long time thereafter. My last meeting with him was in 2003, when I had gone to Kolkata for a function, and Swamiji, after having become the all-India President of the Ramakrishna Mission, was living at Belur Math, the mission’s headquarters in the city.
    Our conversation at this last meeting centred on our days in Karachi, the tragic developments triggered by Partition and the role of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Swamiji, in particular, lauded Jinnah’s historic speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947 and said, ‘The true exposition of the meaning of secularism can be found in this speech.’ In a subconscious way, this last conversation with Swamiji was to play a decisive contributory role in my own remarks about Jinnah when I went to Pakistan in May-June 2005.
    Swami Ranganathananda was one of the brightest spiritual lights that shone upon Indian society in our times. He was an evolved soul, a seeker who began his life by working as a cook and dishwasher in the Ramakrishna Math, and rising to become one of the most revered propagators, both in India and abroad, of the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. He was not a conventional spiritual preacher concerned predominantly with an individual’s quest for self-realisation. His inspiringly crafted motto was: ‘Godward passion transmuted into manward love.’ His was a lifelong mission to tell the world that the myriad problems and challenges confronting it can be addressed only through a radical spiritual reorientation to human affairs”.
    L.K. Advani.

  4. stuka

    The Ayesha Jalal thesis patently ignores the communal environment that existed prior to the CMP being rejected.

    http://qalandari.blogspot.com/2006/03/khizr-tiwana_30.html

    It isn’t hard to see why history has been unkind to Tiwana, who managed to find himself on the wrong side of virtually all the principal currents of late-Raj era Indian politics: his staunchly loyalist stance to the Raj did not win him any friends in the Congress, while his deep skepticism of the two-nation theory and his horror of the logic of partition won him pride of place in the Muslim League’s pantheon of traitors. Talbot’s book is useful in highlighting the sheer scale of the hysteria whipped up by the Muslim League against Tiwana personally after the breakdown of the Tiwana-Jinnah talks in 1944, and unlike much recent writing on Jinnah — from Stanley Wolpert to Ayesha Jalal — Talbot stresses Jinnah’s own complicity in and encouragement of political hysteria, manifested in the context of Punjab in the attacks on Tiwana (including a shameful speech replete with Quranic quotations, to the effect that when God would destroy a people he has them led by a “boy-leader”). Jinnah, of course, won– the Unionists were rendered irrelevant by the rising tide of Pakistan, and many in the party crossed over to the League to save their political futures– though one is left with a bad taste in one’s mouth. Here too (as elsewhere in India), Talbot seems to suggest, a “winner takes all” approach, or better yet the absolutist approach championed by the Muslim League under Jinnah, was precisely the wrong kind of approach in the context of a fractious society already subject to communalist pressures. From the time Khizr Tiwana resigned the premiership in March 1947, communal blood baths became the order of the day in Punjab, and Tiwana was unable to save the Hindu and Sikh peasants even on his own estates in Shahpur.”

  5. YLH
    your analogy with Collin Powell is spot on. But I hold no brief for Powell either – he did participate in the decision making that was deterimental for millions across the globe. Whether liberal or not, I don’t care.
    JS was silent when he needed to speak – he was colluding when Babri Mosque was demolished by goons and when innocent people were being targetted in Gujerat pogroms.
    Now he wants to wash away his sins we should welcome that but with caution.
    what good is a ‘personal’ view when politics is jaundiced.
    Having said that I do like his sense of history..

  6. Akash

    I agree with you Raza. I wonder where his conscience was when Modi was carrying on his butchery in Gujarat. Same for Vajpayee as well. I have never been too impressed with his intellectual depth. Any man who speaks in grave tones is somehow quickly assumed to be of great intellectual calibre. It’s nothing to do with his book about Jinnah. His explanations about the Kandahar fiasco when he escorted three psychopaths to their freedom was laughable.

  7. Hayyer 48

    Well, he was under orders.

  8. YLH

    Stukay,

    I don’t quite recall that “shameful” speech. I would like to see more of it because it seems to be totally out of character and I have never seen it in any primary sources.

    I love how apologists for the Congress turn around and champion the Unionists when such propaganda was in both directions and Jinnah himself had nothing to do with it.

    Here is th other side of the story:

    the Muslim supporters of the Unionist party were trickling towards the Muslim League. Some leading Sajjada Nasheens and Pirs 34 joined the Muslim League and later on they appealed to the Muslims to support the Muslim League’s Pakistan Movement 35 because by doing so they will be supporting the cause of Islam. 36 The Punjabi Muslims were advised not to have a division on the basis of tribal or Biradari networking (David Gilmartin and Ian Talbot have mentioned religious appeals of the Muslim League in details). In some cases, while preaching in mosques, some Imams had gone to the extent of branding those Muslims who will not vote for Muslim League as Kafirs and
    Traitors. Some Fatwas were also issued. It was not only the Muslim League, the Unionist party also used religious appeals in their propaganda against the PML candidates also implying that the Unionist party candidates were in fact better Muslims. The Unionist party hired some Ulama from anti-Muslim League parties like JUI, Ahrar and Khaksars who were openly opposing the creation of
    Pakistan. In fact, Chhotu Ram had made a comprehensive plan before his death to employ religious preachers to campaign for the election of Unionist Party’s candidates. Even Khizr Hayat Tiwana was using verses from the Holy Qur’an to support his party’s election campaign.

    http://pakistanblogzine.blogspot.com/

    Ofcourse hatemongers would not tell you this Stuka. Also if you read Ayesha Jalal’s book you would know that she discusses Muslim League’s use of Pirs and Barelvi Muslims in detail. What is important to realize that even here there was the high church and low church divide.

    High Church was the JUH…. low church were the pir fakirs and sufi mystics … the popular Islam if you will. Muslim League managed to outwit the Unionists because Unionists used the High Church mostly.

  9. Majumdar

    Yasser,

    Between 1940-46 Unionists did start trickling into ML, so much so that they practically got control of the Punjab League. MAJ had to accept that becuase without it he wud have never got Punjab. But in the process, it ensured that once Pakistan happened, Pakistan wud be controlled by the feudals.

    Regards

  10. Objective pointer

    YLH says in the last line

    ‘Congress is too occupied with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to allow middle class liberals to make inroads in it in a substantial manner.”

    this is an absurd allegation who are the ministers and pms in india from congress, are they the scions of nehru-gandhi family.

    YLH may correct his or her view