Monday, August 24, 2009

Freedom of Expression, anyone?

                 advani on jinnah


  So, Jaswant Singh was expelled from the BJP. Well, the ‘Party with a difference’ did not seem to appreciate the fact that Jaswant’s book claimed that Nehru and Patel were also responsible for the Partition of India. Quite contrary to the dominant Indian historical narrative that Jinnah, the conspiratorial figure, in cahoots with the British brought about the Partition of India. In most historical accounts of the Freedom Struggle, he is shown as the obstinate villain who is coldly bent on partitioning India while Gandhi and Nehru as portrayed as the true leaders. In the rest, he is completely ignored.

                     The truth, however, is more complex. For the first two decades of his political career, Jinnah was a secular politician. He was a natty westerner with Victorian manners who showed himself as a true liberal who believed in education, rationality and democracy. In 1916, he was called as the ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’ by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He moved away from the Congress around 1925 after differences in strategies with Gandhi over the ways to attain freedom. It was only in the 1940s that Jinnah demanded a separate homeland for Muslims after all his attempts for a loose federation failed.

                What many are unaware of is the fact that it was not only religion that led to the division of India. Religion was merely a front, it was mostly politics. Or the lure of power, perhaps. We squabbled like cats over a piece of cake. Moreover, the British tactics of ‘Divide and Rule’ and of exploiting the communal divide in India was the perfect catalyst. All these are forgotten in order to lynch Jinnah. India was always the land of a thousand warring kings and as Indians, we always were the quarrelling lot, be it on basis of religion, caste, language or region. As Maulana Mohammad Ali rightly said to the British once, “We divide, and you rule.”


                 I was never a great admirer of Jinnah nor is this post to be considered as my justification of the Partition. Jinnah, for all his secular nature, had a communal streak as well. His claim that the Muslim League was the only voice of the Muslims was plainly communal. While Pakistani historians blame the Congress for being too rigid to make compromises in a diverse democracy, Indian historians blame Jinnah and Liaquat Ali for sabotaging any chance of a unified India. Still, we need to do away with the myth that the British partitioned India and accept the fact that it was always the ‘We divide, you rule.’ syndrome.

         As for Jaswant Singh being booted out of the BJP for writing the book, it is the price he paid for telling the truth. What’s worse is that the Book was banned in Gujarat and soon other states will follow suit. Freedom of expression, anyone?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Rakhi on the table...

As Indians, we have some festival or the other everyday. After all, we have 33 crore Gods to appease not to forget a Jesus and an Allah. There have been so many instances where someone walks upto to me and says that today is So-and-So festival.
And all I can manage is a bewildered, ‘Huh?’ And this expression does little to hide my ignorance.
Living in Bombay, or ‘The Great Ruined Metropolis’ as Salman Rushdie would say, has it’s own pitfalls. Festivals have lost their zing. Many have been reduced to mere holidays. Tomorrow is one of the most beautiful festivals – Raksha Bandhan!
On the day of Raksha Bandhan, the Sister ties a Rakhi (Holy thread)on the wrist of her brother. The Brother, in return, gives her a gift and vows to protect her. It is one of the few festivals in India that transcend the boundaries of religion because people of every religion seem to have siblings.
My memories of Raksha Bandhan will always be special. I remember, as a Kid, my sisters used to wait till I woke up and bathed fresh. They would then tie beautiful Rakhis and in return, I would give them 10 Rupees each. (Dad used to leave them on the table for me.) All day, I would strut around brandishing my Rakhis.
           Raksha B
         What made me blog about Raksha Bandhan today was the fact that Mum had gone to my Sister’s place and She came back with a Rakhi which I am supposed to tie on my wrist tomorrow. By myself. My Sister lives in Bombay, which incidentally happens to be the city that I live in!  My other sister is settled abroad, She sent me a Rakhi by post once. I doubt if she would even message tomorrow. She wouldn’t even know that it is Raksha Bandhan tomorrow. We are bound by our personal commitments which has led the once inseparable siblings lead disjointed lives.
      As I write this, I see my Rakhi for tomorrow lying on the table in it’s plastic wrapping. Mum will tie the Rakhi.I am reminded of how my sisters used to hide the Rakhis so that I could not see what they looked like. I am reminded of all the fun and all the silly jokes we cracked at 1.00 in the morning. I wish life had a rewind button..! I so wish.. :(