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Narratives and Counter-Narratives

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

Edited by Muhammad Reza Kazimi
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2005, pp. xvi 260, Rs. 495.00

By Ajeet Jawed
Faiz Books, Delhi, 2014, pp. xi 392, Rs. 295.00


The price of being the father of a nation is that one’s life must be up to the consequent expectations. And such a leader’s life is retrospectively reconstructed in a manner which puts paint and pasteboard hero worship above true assessment of the life and work of the person in reality. It is therefore not surprising that Mr. M.A. Jinnah has been reinvented. That has happened to many other great leaders as well. The historian’s problem in this instance, however, is compounded by an additional twist. Mr. Jinnah reinvented himself more than once. To begin with, Jinnah (the name he preferred since he changed his childhood name ‘Jinnahbhai’ in 1894, at age 18) was a perfect member of the Indian National Congress. When he attended his first Congress session in Bombay in 1904, many of the members of that body were like him, enlightened gentlemen, anglicized in their life-style, and stout defenders of the idea of self-government by the natives of India within the parameters laid down by the British Indian legal and institutional set- up. Till 1920 Jinnah was a loyal Congress member: the Secretary to the President, Dadabhai Naroji, at the Calcutta session of Congress in 1906; a Congress legislator elected from Bombay in 1910; the valued companion of Gokhale during his trip to England in 1913; and in 1916 one of the authors of the famous Hindu-Muslim Pact of Lucknow. In 1918 Sarojini Naidu wrote a tract on Muhammad Ali Jinnah: Ambassador of Unity.   In 1920 this political personality underwent a drastic change. Was it because this fairly senior member of the Congress felt upstaged by a newcomer, Mr. M.K. Gandhi? Or was it due to a well-known incident when in the Congress session Gandhi exhorted him to speak in Gujarati which he was unable to do? Or was it because of a deeper-seated reason, his conviction that Gandhi and the Khilafat movement brought into the Congress a religious tone which Jinnah could not approve of? Historians have speculated about the reason but the outcome was clear. Jinnah’s exit from the scene which was his natural habitat till 1919 or 1920. He had already joined the Muslim League at the Bankipore session of the Council in 1912. Jinnah was in fact instrumental in scheduling the 1915 session of the League with the Session of the Indian National Congress to make the negotiations leading to the Lucknow Pact of 1916 possible. From about 1920 he became a more ...

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