Saturday, 19 January 2008

Jinnah and his defence of Bhagat Singh

Jinnah and his defence of Bhagat Singh

Chaman Lal

Storm created by BJP President L.K. Advani,s comments made about Jinnah, while laying wreath on his mausoleum in Karachi, is being tried to be buried now by making some excuses in the name of resolution. However this controversy has again brought into centre-focus the role of different political personalities during Indian freedom struggle. Though historians of modern India and journalists continuously keep on commenting upon or evaluating the role of political characters of national freedom struggle , yet the need remains that this debate should not be based on sensation created by a statement of a political leader, rather it should be based on facts and events and it should be objectively analyzed in a complete dispassionate manner. It should not take the shape of ‘A storm in a Tea-cup’.

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 India or Asia, this is true for any country of the world. That is why seeing the occasion of gaining political power in 1947, when British imperialist power has declared its intention to transfer power by June 1948, neither Gandhi-Nehru-Patel nor Jinnah could resist the temptation of gaining early power, whereas the one year period was meant for an orderly and bloodless transition, in view of the high tensions of communal divide among Hindu and Muslim community. Without making any administrative and political preparation, power was transferred in great hurry in Aug. 1947, the worst rainy season for population exchange; resulting in massacre of six lakh innocent lives, displacement of more than one crore people and subjection of lakhs of women to worst crime of rape and maiming of limbs. Had this whole operation been planned in a patient and orderly manner, it would have exposed the incurable disease of Jinnah and may be by the passage of little more time, the division of country could have been avoided. But British imperialism in order to weaken the newly independent nations and for creating a permanent tension in the area, conspired to divide the country through an early operation of power transfer. Under the circumstances, Nehru’s address to Central Assembly on 14th Aug. night-‘ Tryst with Destiny’ became ‘historic’ for India and Jinnah’s address quoted by Advani became ‘historic’ for Pakistan.

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 Punjab seems to be a terrible place…..’. He questioned the British Government, while discussing the amendment proposed by Home member James Crerar, ‘Do you wish to prosecute them or persecute them?

Crerar not only damned Bhagat Singh and Dutt, he condemned 1915-17 first Lahore conspiracy case and 1925 Kakori case prisoners as well.

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 Delhi in 1998; allowing Gujrat massacre of Muslims by Modi Government in 2002; now under American pressure, singing the song of Indo-Pak friendship and to gain political power again, to lure Muslim votes- Jinnah drama. Jinnah also did the same, but in reverse order, first liberal then fundamentalist, same was with Savarkar. But Advani, Vajpayee are first fundamentalists, then trying to be ‘liberal’. Is not repeating the history called – A Farce!!


  • Writer is Professor at J.N.U. New Delhi and editor of ‘Bhagat Singh’s Complete Documents’ in Hindi.

Professor Chaman Lal

Centre of Indian Languages (SLL & CS)

J.N.U. New Delhi- 110067



Burhan Khan said...

I dont know why most writers of India skip Jinnah's involvement while commenting on Bhagat Singh case.... I browsed lot of sites on Internet and they hav not mention Jinnah... Even in movies, Jinnah was not there.... see Indian Movies about Bhagat Singh...

I m sorry for Pakistan also where pll are so ignorant about there heroes.... I live in Laylpoor(now faisalabad)..I know Mananwala...but very few ppl here know about this irony of the history......

Thank u so much Sir for briging forth the truth....

த.சிவக்குமார் said...

Dear Prof. Chamanlal,
I'm Sivakumar of Tamilnadu.
I have compiled and translated more than 40 letters and writings of BhagatSingh into thamil and published it in the year 2006. As it is well received by tamil readers it's second editition came in january 2009.

At the time of 2nd edition i want to add in the annexure the excerpts of debate of Jinnah in the Assembly on Cr.PC amendment Bill in 1929 September in defending Bhagatsingh. In the year 2006 i found the text of that debate in But unfortunately when I searched for it in 2009 i could not find it there. Because of that without any update 2nd edn came.

I think you are the right person who can help me. Please send me a text of Jinnah's speach on Cr.PC amendment Bill made in 1929 September in defending Bhagatsingh or give me a link to that.
Thanking You
with regards
Cell: 0 94430 80634

Writer Gautham Kashyap- Film Script Writer, Hyderabad, India. said...

Dear sir
I am astonished to see all this work great great great keep it up. I pray for your health wealth and peace of all your family members. I am doing a film on Mahathma Gandhi can you help me out in this connection sir?

I am interested in knowing the relations between Bhagath Singhji and Gandhiji
Dr Kumar KVS
Hyderabad-500018 Andhra Pradesh.

Chaman Lal said...

Gandhi and Bhagat Singh is recent book by V N Datta.My review of the book is published in EPW and also posted on the blog

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Anonymous said...

Possibly the best topic I read all day!

-Sincerest Regards

lonelyplanet said...

Thanks a lot! Being someone from Lahore & Punjab, I had always believed Bhagat Singh as a true Punjabi hero of Pakistan (also India)!! Its such a shame that, except for Gen (rtd) Khalid Maqbool, the last governor of Pakistani Punjab, who announced a monument in his name in Lahore city, no one has ever cared to give this great Pakistani hero the due attention. Even in India, he has been used more as a "good selling brand" for cinema ticket sales but i do not see anything that either Islamabad or New Delhi has ever done to promote the true spirit of Shaheed Bhagat Singh & his fellow Shaheeds! May Allah bless their souls!!

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Digrajsinh Gohil said...

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universal said...

Thanks very Much