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No, Jinnah was Never Communal

Vinod K. Jairath

By Ian Bryant Wells
Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 269, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

In recent years, scholars in India have started to study and analyse the partition of India with the hope that the raw wounds from that traumatic experience would have healed after more then fifty years. Various issues and problems can now be approached dispassionately. But those passions have not disappeared yet as is evident from the recent controversy surrounding the evaluation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) by Lal Krishna Advani during his Karachi visit in June this year.       India and Pakistan continue to live with stereotypes of Jinnah, ‘seen by supporters and critics alike as the politician solely responsible for the creation of Pakistan, having virtually “wrested” this new state from the British at the eleventh hour.’ The recent controversy in India suggested that the ‘two Jinnahs’ theory – ‘one for the period leading up to 1934 as ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, the other of the late 1930s and 1940s as the father of Pakistan’ - is still intact and influential. In India, Jinnah the ambassador of unity becomes Jinnah the communalist in 1940s. An evaluation of this formulation is the major objective of the fascinating book by Ian Bryant Wells.       In Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity, Wells examines the evolution of Jinnah’s political career from 1910 until 1934. He takes the reader on a complex journey of twenty-five years, with many twists and turns, interacting with so many actors and groups who play a crucial role in forcing the direction of his journey. Despite all the pressures, Wells concludes that ‘The Intransigence of the Hindu Mahasabha and the disunity within the Muslim community had forced him to shift from the role of intermediary between the two communities, that he had filled from 1910 until well into the 1920s, to that of advocate for the Muslim community, but he was by no means a communalist’ (p.245; emphasis added).       Wells meticulously constructs the story of how this change came about. Asserting that Jinnah was ‘essentially a Congressman’ and a nationalist, he shows how he was gradually alienated from Congress party. He saw Hindu-Muslim unity as a prerequisite to political reforms towards self-government for India and successfully brought Congress and Muslim League together with the Lucknow Pact of 1916. However, Jinnah declined ‘from the pinnacle of nationalist politics in 1918 to political obscurity in 1921’ within Congress and this is explained by several factors.       Firstly, decline in the importance of Jinnah’s constitutionalism and his faith in the British government ...

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