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A Forgotten Comradeship

K.P. Fabian

Edited by A.G. Noorani
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2010, pp. 465, Rs.795.00


The book under review by the eminent scholar-cum-advocate A.G. Noorani was published in Pakistan and it will attract much attention and debate in India. Noorani’s thesis, argued with formidable skill and compelling documentary support, is that Jinnah started as a secular nationalist. The British considered him one of their most formidable opponents. Gandhi did not treat Jinnah courteously. Jinnah was opposed to Gandhi’s political philosophy and importing of religion into politics. Yet, Jinnah showed remarkable tact and patience and tried hard to work with the Congress till the Hindu fundamentalists in the Congress made it impossible for him to remain there with dignity. Even after leaving the Congress, Jinnah did his utmost to avoid partition. After the Congress declined to share power with the League in UP in 1937, Jinnah accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in order to keep India undivided, but the Congress did not want to share power with him at the Centre. This, in a nutshell, according to Noorani, is the true account of the partition of India in 1947. It is Gandhi and Nehru who were much more responsible for dividing India than Jinnah. He asked for Pakistan only for bargaining purposes and would have settled for much less. The preface starts with a quotation from Goethe: ‘The century gave birth to a great epoch; but the great moment found a petty generation.’ A definitive account of India’s march towards freedom still remains to be written. For over sixty years ‘court historians’ have dominated academia in India and Pakistan. State control of institutions of learning, barring honorable exceptions, and misdirected patriotism account for such domination. Partition is one of the ‘ten greatest tragedies in the history of man In the first chapter aptly titled A Forgotten Comradeship’ the author traces Jinnah’s participation in Congress starting from the 1906 Calcutta session where he opposed a resolution ‘urging reservation for the backwardly educated class’, meaning Moslems. The reader might note with interest that the word used is ‘class’ and not ‘community’ and that the All India Moslem League was yet to be born. Jinnah defended Tilak when he was charged with sedition in 1916 for some speeches made in Marathi. Tilak and Jinnah worked together for the reconciliation between the Moderates and the Extremists in the Congress. Jinnah who refused to join the League when it was founded in 1906, joined it only in 1913. Jinnah joined the Home ...

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