Jinnah and his defence of Bhagat Singh
Storm created by BJP President L.K. Advani,s comments made about Jinnah, while laying wreath on his mausoleum in
In this context, first and foremost fact is that most leaders of Indian freedom struggle had contradictions in their personality, whether it was Mahatma Gandhi , Netaji Subhash Bose or Mohammad Ali Jinnah or some other leaders.Political leaders of free India are no less free from contradictions including LK Advani, who, at one time , to create communal tension, takes on Rathyatra, expresses joy at his volunteer’s demolition of Babri Mosque on 6th December’ 92 and at another time describes 6th December 92 as ‘the saddest day of my life’.Even the so-called secular Congress has no less contradictions, which has a big vision of Gujrat massacre of Muslims in 2002 as fascist specter, but which conveniently does not look at the thousands of Sikhs crushed under the weight of ‘A Big Tree’s Fall’ in 1984.
Mahatma Gandhi used to say that ‘ Pakistan will be built on my dead body’ Creation of Pakistan did not cause his death, but the extreme form of Hindutva took with life, ironically Gandhi was trying to resolve the caste and religions contradiction of Indian society within the frame work of a ‘tolerant and liberal Hinduism; Neta Ji Subhash Chander Bose got stuck in them whirlwind of world politics, where on one side were British imperialists, from whom he wanted to liberate India, but on the other side were Fascist Hitler/ Mussolini/Tojo, on whom he was depending for help, ultimately leading to his tragic end. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was once ideal of Madan Lal Dhingra like revolutionary nationalists, because of his book in 1857 revolt, turned out to be spokesman of extreme Hindutva and apologizer to British imperialists. He also became an accused in Gandhi murder case, though acquitted by the court, his image did not get acquitted of communal personality. In fact his extreme Hindutva ideology had led to the counter extreme Muslim separatist ideology of Jinnah.
After all what is the root cause of all these contradictions? For any political personality, to gain political power is the ultimate reality and the highest ambition of his life. This reality is not limited to
Facts have rightly been brought to light about Jinnah’s personal conduct, which was never of a communal of fundamentalist Muslim or Mullah. Coming from a upper middle class family, as a successful Barrister, Jinnah was sufficiently liberal in thought and gentle in behaviour. He was never committed to ‘Namaz’, took ‘drinks’, was sensitive towards literature-culture. That is why poetess Sarojini Naidu called him ‘apostle of Hindu Muslim unity’. Birender Kumar Barnwal in his recently published book in Hindi ‘Jinnah: a Relook’ has narrated in detail, Jinnah’s love for Parsi girl Rattan Bai, who left her family to marry Jinnah and who was truly devoted to him. In fact her death in 1929 and Savarkar’s Hindutva turn made Jinnah a broken and bitter man and in later thirties he took turn towards Muslim separatist politics. But one should be aware of interesting facets of Jinnah’s personality, prior to this turn. Jinnah was close to Bal Ganga Dhar Tilak brand of politics before his turn around.
On 12th and 14th Septeber 1929, in Central Assembly, Jinnah made a long speech in context of Bhagat Singh and his comrade’s hunger strike and British imperialist design to hang these patriots with the sham of a trial ‘in absence of the accused’. It was the time, when even many Congressmen in assembly had condemned Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt for throwing bombs in assembly on 8th April 1929, for which they were ‘transported for life’, within one month in May 1929. When they went on hunger strike in jail in protest against misbehavior with them by jail staff and to demand status of political prisoner and human behavior with them in jail, British came with an amendment in criminal procedure code waiving the condition of presence of accused or their pleader in the court, thus by a sham trial convicting them in hurried manner.
The Tribune’s special correspondent for Shimla reported that while participating in the debate in central assembly on British bill, on 12th Sept. 1929, Jinnah said, The man who goes on hunger strike has a soul. He is moved by the soul and he believes in the justice of his cause’. The Tribune report mentioned, ‘Mr. Jinnah created a profound impression by the excellent form in which he argued the case. xxx Mr. Jinnah was proceeding in this strain winning applause after applause from the spellbound house’. (Quoted by A.G. Noorani in his book ‘The Trial of Bhagat Singh’) The Tribune on 14th July 1929, published the full statement of Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt as red out by Diwan Chaman Lall in the house.
Jinnah referred to Punjab in his speech by saying that’ the
Crerar not only damned Bhagat Singh and Dutt, he condemned 1915-17 first
Jinnah challenged law member of the assembly to starve himself a little to know the impact of hunger strike on human body by saying-‘ it is not everybody who can go on starving himself to death. Try it for a little while and you will see’.
To Mr. Crerar, he rebutted by giving an example of Mr. Cosgrave, Prime Minister of Ireland, who was under sentence of death, a fortnight prior to getting invitation to form Government. Jinnah said in so many countries, not only youth, but even grey bearded persons have committed serious offenses, moved by patriotic impulses.
Jinnah asked British Government that after all what these youth were demanding from government, by going on hunger strike-‘Do they want spring mattresses? Do they want dressing tables? Do they want a set of toile requisites? No, Sir, they asked for bare necessities and a little better treatment. I ask you in all decency, why cannot you concede this small thing?’
Jinnah’s speech began on 12 Sept. and was concluded on 14th Sept. He put the British Government on mat by his brilliant exposure of British design-‘ Don’t you think that, instead of trying to proceed with an iron hand and pursuing a policy of repression against your own subjects, It would be better if you realized the root cause of the resentment and of the struggle, that the people are carrying on?’
Jinnah even warned the government in this context-‘ Money of the tax payer will (must) not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for the freedom of their country.’ According to A.G. Noorani, Jinnah had high esteem for Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Jinnah also said that if this amendment was passed then the trial would be just ‘ a travesty of justice’.
Jinnah was supported my Moti Lal Nehru, Jaykar, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai etc. Amendment was carried through by 55 votes against 47. Jinnah had voted against. Even in February 1929 speech in assembly, Jinnah had condoled the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, with whom he had cordial relations. Also he pleaded for the release of Sikh leaders gaoled in connection with Sikh Gurdwara Act and opposed the detention of many nationalists like Vallabh Bhai Patel, Anne Besant, Ali Brothers, Hasrat Mohani etc.
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were tried under the amended act and after a sham trial, were hanged on 23 March 1931, ‘ A travesty of justice’, in the words of Jinnah.
The question arises after looking through the fiery nationalist role of Jinnah prior to 1930, that having such rational (and national) views, why Jinnah played a fundamentalist communal separatist politics?
To search the answer, look at some examples from modern world politics- Mao- ‘Political power grows out of barrel of a gun’, Deng- ‘It hardly matters whether a cat is black or white, it should catch mice.’ 1967 – United Front Governments in eight states comprising Jansangh, Akalis, Socialists and Communists; 1977- Janta Party Government consisting of Jansangh and Socialists, supported by CPM; 1989- V.P. Singh Government, supported by BJP on one hand and by left on the other.
Few other instances of short cut communal politics in free India- Amrinder Singh resigning from Congress and Parliament in 1984 against Blue Star Operation, then getting readied to lead Akali Government in 1986, courtesy Governor S.S. Ray, just loosing the chance in nick of time, signing Khalistani declaration submitted to U.N. Secretary General Boutres. M. Ghali along with brother in law Simranjit Singh Mann, again joining Congress and leading Punjab Government in 2002, threatening Mann of arrest for raising Khalistani demand now. Same is the case of Savarkar, Advani, Vajpayee. To garner majority Hindu vote bank, the politics of blind prejudices against minorities. By riding the Ram Rath in 1990 to power in
- Writer is Professor at J.N.U.
and editor of ‘Bhagat Singh’s Complete Documents’ in Hindi. New Delhi
Professor Chaman Lal
Centre of Indian Languages (SLL & CS)