By Rafig Zakaria
Mumbai, Popular Prakashan, 2001.
276 pages. Hardback.
Reviewed by LAXMAN D. SATYA
This book is written for popular audiences in India, the West, and in the United States. It became a bestseller in India probably because of its secular overtones and nationalist bias. This critical biography analyzes the condition of Muslims in Pakistan after Jinnah’s death (1948), while giving a historical background to the formation of the state. According to Zakaria, Jinnah began his political career as a messenger of Hindu-Muslim unity, but ended as ‘communalist’ whose ultimate aim became to divide the Indian subcontinent on the basis of religion. This, contends Zakaria, Jinnah achieved by injecting fear of ‘Islam in danger’ among the Muslims.
Jinnah was an English-educated lawyer who stubbornly believed in a strict constitutional path to politics. He utterly loathed and despised Gandhi’s leadership and the agitational approach of his Indian National Congress (hereafter the Congress). He singlehandedly rebuilt the Muslim League in the 1930s and 40s and made it his objective to achieve parity with the Congress. This he did by siding with the British in their opposition to the anti-imperialist Gandhian nationalist movement. He constantly hammered into the minds of Muslims that Gandhi and the Congress party represented the interest of Hindus and that a Hindu Raj (rule) would replace the British Raj and Muslims would be reduced to slavery. This was the plank on which he raised the bogy of ‘Islam in danger’ if the Muslims did not act to demand a separate state of Pakistan. This was also the basis for his Two-Nation Theory, which stated that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations and that they could never live together as one (totally negating the fact that they had lived together for over a thousand years before the advent of British rule). So apparently Jinnah was playing a political game by using religion as a tool to claim for himself the leadership of the entire Muslim community of South Asia. In his personal life Jinnah never really cared much about religion or God. He had no interest in Islamic principles, the Quran, or even Muslim culture. He lived the life of a wealthy English gentleman, openly ate pork, consumed whiskey, wore expensive European clothing, and married a non-Muslim. In fact he was even ignorant of Urdu, the language of the majority Muslims. Why then did the Muslims overwhelmingly support him?
According to Zakaria, more than Jinnah’s success, it was the failure of the Congress and its leadership to develop a sustained nationalist strategy to counter communalism. Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel not only ignored the warnings of Maulana Azad, but also kept Gandhi in the dark while making secret deals with the British to fulfill their own greed for power.
However, while being critical of the Congress leadership, the book fails to be critical of Gandhi. In fact, the author displays a blind admiration for Gandhian nationalism. He fails to notice that Gandhi himself never seriously tried to weed out Hindu communalists from within the rank and file of the Indian National Congress while publicly preaching harmony between the two communities. Some of the veteran leaders of the Congress, such as Sardar Patel and Madan Mohan Malavia, were openly sympathetic with Hindu communalist groups like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This gave credence to Jinnah’s charge that the Congress was a Hindu organization and that Muslims should stay away from Gandhi and his strategy of popular agitation. In fact, as Gandhi launched one mass nationalist movement after another against the British Raj—Non-cooperation (1919–22), Civil Disobedience (1930–32), and Quit India (1942)—the Muslims became increasingly frightful and distrustful of his approach that progressively proclaimed the end of British rule as a pre-condition for Hindu-Muslim unity. Jinnah not only played upon this fright and distrust but also transformed it into a movement against Hindus to satisfy his own political ambition and ego by carving a state for himself using Islam and the Muslims. Who paid the price for the enormous carnage that followed the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan? More then one million lives were lost and over twenty million people were permanently displaced.
The failure of Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory became obvious with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The bloodbath that followed this crisis was no less tragic than the Partition itself. Military dictators and corrupt political regimes that care little about the plight of the people have ruled Jinnah’s Pakistan to this day.
The failure of Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory became obvious with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The bloodbath that followed this crisis was no less tragic than the Partition itself. Military dictators and corrupt political regimes that care little about the plight of the people have ruled Jinnah’s Pakistan to this day. According to Zakaria, Jinnah was responsible for the threefold division of South Asian Muslims into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It is because of his misguided ego that Muslims continue to suffer social, economic, and political oppression. Towards the end of the volume, the author traces the roots of Islamic militancy in Kashmir and Afghanistan (Taliban) to Jinnah, who misled Muslims, and later, to American support for brutal military dictatorships in Pakistan, the Mujahideen, and Taliban in Afghanistan.
This book is well suited for an upper level Asian or South Asian undergraduate or a survey level graduate course. Very well written, lucid in style, and easy to read, it serves favorably in generating a good discussion on the subject. It is also full of very interesting, catchy anecdotes that are often hilarious while at the same time educational. The reader does not need to have a deep background to enjoy the colorful sketch of the nationalist movements as they evolved and led to partition and beyond. A book report assignment followed by a critical analysis of Zakaria’s Jinnah worked really well for a class of twenty students. At a slightly more advanced level though, the subjective bias of the book can be compared with the more scholarly works in this field by Ayesha Jalal, Mushirul Hasan, T. N. Madan, and others.