Archive for August, 2009

I expected this to happen. The controversial book at last made the BJP to expel veteran leader Jaswant Singh from the party membership. Not just the membership, the 71-year-old leader, who has held the portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs in BJP-led governments, has also been stripped of all the party posts, thanks to the praises on Jinnah in his new book — Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.

Without even reading the book, how can the party come to a conclusion that Singh has done something wrong? A writer has full freedom to express his views and many have even done so. And this is not the first time Singh’s writings have created controversy. In his previous book A Call to Honour: In Service of Emergent India in 2006, he alleged that there was a mole in the prime minister’s office in the 90s during the tenure of P.V. Narasimha Rao, who leaked information to American sources.

Party president Rajnath Singh informed the leader, who arrived in Shimla Tuesday afternoon for the three-day ‘chintan baithak’ (introspection session) of the party, Wednesday morning not to attend the baithak.

The former Union minister has not only earned the ire of party leaders for his book, but also majority of countrymen who think very conventionally about Jinnah and Pakistan.

If thought practically, what’s wrong in eulogising Jinnah? Jaswant Singh has done a five years of research and has come out with the book. It might be true that Jinnah was ‘demonised’ by India, while it was actually India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru whose belief in a centralised polity had led to the partition of the subcontinent.

Jaswant Singh has been a member of the BJP since it was formed in 1980. It is very unfortunate that the party put an end to his 30 years of service just because he wrote a book. Instead of calling him and informing about the expulsion, the party president could have gone in person and informed him. Else, he could have asked Singh to step down from the party.

It is ironic that India Today magazine had portrayed Jaswant Singh as Hanuman and the BJP considered him as Ravana! It is really sad that taking a non-conventional view on Jinnah and writing a book on him can destroy a veteran’s political career.

He’s not the only person being targetted like this for his views. There have been several writers facing such expulsion and humiliation for making their views and opinions public across the world.

Time and again political parties have showed their true colours and bared their enemosity towards muslims in general and Pakistan in specific. Why are we so paranoid and consider every Pakistani as an enemy? We are not ready to accept the fact even Ravan had some good qualities. Expressing views regarding any individual is his/her personal opinion. You go with it or not is your choice. If Jinnah has good points, why not accept them? Why not congrtulate Jaswant Singh for being true to his conscience?

I always thought the BJP has several men with good academics and who have been allowed to air their views openly compared to other parties. I often admired the integrity of the top few leaders in the party since my school days. But the action of expelling Jaswant Singh for merely writing a book and airing his views, which may not be historically wrong, makes me feel very bad. I still wonder how can a person who cannot even win an election on his own is a president of BJP and can easily expel a veteran like Jaswant who has many more commendable deeds to his credit.

Democracy without dissent will be very dangerous for the country as it will stifle genuine and frank opinions, which may not always be palatable to the majority, be it in the BJP, Congress or any other party. It is a question of the mindset. Parties should have an open mindset to welcome a dissent or a different opinion from members. Parties should help members to express their contrarian views without any fear.

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A TV channel aired the interview with Jaswant Singh, discussing the book. Here’s the excerpts:

Jaswant Singh

Jaswant Singh

Q: Mr Jaswant Singh, let’s start by establishing how you as the author view Mohammed Ali Jinnah? After reading your book, I get the feeling that you don’t subscribe to the popular demonisation of the man.
JS:
Of course, I don’t. To that I don’t subscribe. I was attracted by the personality which has resulted in a book. If I wasn’t drawn to the personality, I wouldn’t have written the book. It’s an intricate, complex personality of great character, determination.

Q: And it’s a personality that you found quite attractive?
JS:
Naturally, otherwise, I wouldn’t have ventured down the book. I found the personality sufficiently attractive to go and research it for five years. And I was drawn to it, yes.

Q: As a politician, Jinnah joined the Congress party long before he joined the Muslim League and in fact when he joined the Muslim League, he issued a statement to say that this in no way implies “even the shadow of disloyalty to the national cause”.Would you say that in the 20s and 30s and may be even the early years of the 40s, Jinnah was a nationalist?
JS:
Actually speaking the acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim unity and that’s why Gopal Krishna Gokhale called him the Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.

Q: In your assessment as his biographer, for most if not the predominant part of his life, Jinnah was a nationalist.
JS:
Oh, yes. He fought the British for an independent India but he also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India.

Q: Was Jinnah secular or was he communal?
JS:
It depends on the way you view the word ‘secular’ because I don’t know whether secular is really fully applicable to a country like India. It’s a word borne of the socio-historical and religious history of Western Europe.

Q: Let me put it like this. Many people believe that Jinnah hated Hindus and that he was a Hindu basher.
JS:
Wrong, totally wrong. That certainly he was not. His principal disagreement was with the Congress party. Repeatedly he says and he says this even in his last statements to the press and to the constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

Q: So his problem was with Congress and with some Congress leaders but he had no problem with Hindus.
JS:
No, he had no problems whatsoever with the Hindus. Because he was not in that sense, until in the later part of his years, he became exactly what he charged Mahatma Gandhi with. He had charged Mahatma Gandhi of being a demagogue.

Q: He became one as well?
JS:
That was the most flattering way of emulating Gandhi. I refer of course to the Calcutta killings.

Q: As you look back on Jinnah’s life, would you say that he was a great man?
JS:
Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single-handedly he stood up against the might of the Congress party and against the British who didn’t really like him.

Q: So you are saying to me he was a great man?
JS:
But I am saying so.

Q:Let me put it like this. Do you admire Jinnah?
JS:
I admire certain aspects of his personality: his determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man — Mahatma Gandhi was a son of a Dewan.

Q: Nehru was born to great wealth.
JS:
All of them were born to wealth and position, Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved out in Bombay a position in that cosmopolitan city being what he was, poor. He was so poor he had to walk to work. He lived in a hotel called Watsons in Bombay and he told one of the biographers that there’s always room at the top but there is no lift and he never sought a lift.

Q: Do you admire the way he created success for himself, born to poverty but he ended up successful, rich?
JS:
I would admire that in any man, self-made man, who resolutely worked towards achieving what he had set out to.

Q: How seriously has India misunderstood Jinnah?
JS:
I think we misunderstood because we needed to create a demon.

Q: We needed a demon and he was the convenient scapegoat?
JS:
I don’t know if he was convenient. We needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the entire subcontinent was the partition of the country.

Q: I’ll come to that in a moment but first the critical question that your book raises is that how is it that the man, considered as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity in 1916 had transformed 30 years later by 1947 into the ‘Qaid-e-Azam’ of Pakistan? And your book suggests that underlying this was Congres’ repeated inability to accept that Muslims feared domination by Hindus and that they wanted “space” in “a reassuring system”.
JS:
Here is the central contest between minoritism and majoritarianism. With the loss of the Mughal empire, the Muslims of India had lost power but majoritarianism didn’t begin to influence them until 1947. Then they saw that unless they had a voice in their own political, economical and social destiny, they would be obliterated. That is the beginning. That is still the purpose.

Q: Let me ask you this. Was Jinnah’s fear or anxiety about Congress majoritarianism justified or understandable? Your book in its account of how Congress refused to form a government with the League in UP in 1937 after fighting the elections in alliance with that party, suggests that Jinnah’s fears were substantial and real.
JS:
Yes. You have to go not just to 1937, which you just cited. See other examples. In the 1946 elections, Jinnah’s Muslim League wins all the Muslim seats and yet they do not have sufficient number to be in office because the Congress party has, even without a single Muslim, enough to form a government and they are outside of the government. So it was realised that simply contesting election was not enough.

Q: They needed certain assurances within the system to give them that space?
JS:
That’s right. And those assurances amounted to reservation, which I dispute frankly. Reservations went from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. And then from reservation that became parity, of being on equal terms. Parity to Partition.

Q: All of this was search for space?
JS:
All of this was a search for some kind of autonomy of decision making in their own social and economic destiny.

Q: Your book reveals how people like Gandhi, Rajagopalachari and Azad could understand the Jinnah or the Muslim fear of Congress majoritarianism but Nehru simply couldn’t understand. Was Nehru insensitive to this?
JS:
No, he wasn’t. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a deeply sensitive man.

Q: But why couldn’t he understand?
JS:
He was deeply influenced by Western and European socialist thought of those days. For example dominion status would have given virtual independence to India in the 20s (but Nehru shot it down).

Q: In other words, Nehru’s political thinking and his commitment to Western socialist thought meant that he couldn’t understand Jinnah’s concerns about majoritarianism? Nehru was a centralist, Jinnah was a decentraliser?
JS:
That’s right. That is exactly (the point). Nehru believed in a highly centralised polity. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity.

Q: Because that would give Muslims the space?
JS:
That even Gandhi also accepted.

Q: But Nehru couldn’t.
JS:
Nehru didn’t.

Q: He refused to?
JS:
Well, consistently, he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.

Q: In fact, the conclusion of your book is that if Congress could have accepted a decentralised federal India, then a united India, as you put it, “was clearly ours to attain”. You add that the problem was that this was in “an anathema to Nehru’s centralising approach and policies”. Do you see Nehru at least as responsible for Partition as Jinnah?
JS:
I think he says it himself. He recognised it and his correspondence, for example with late Nawab Sahab of Bhopal, his official biographer and others. His letters to the late Nawab Sahab of Bhopal are very moving letters.

Q: You are saying Nehru recognised that he was as much of an obstacle.
JS:
No, he recognised his mistakes afterwards.

Q: Afterwards?
JS:
Afterwards.

Q: Today, Nehru’s heirs and party will find it very surprising that you think that Nehru was as responsible for Partition as Jinnah.
JS:
I am not blaming anybody. I’m not assigning blame. I am simply recording what I have found as the development of issues and events of that period.

Q: When Indians turn around and say that Jinnah was, to use a colloquialism, the villain of Partition, your answer is that there were many people responsible and to single out Jinnah, as the only person or as the principal person, is both factually wrong and unfair?
JS:
It is. It is not borne out of events. Go to the last All India Congress Committee meeting in Delhi in the June of 1947 to discuss and accept the June 3, 1947 resolution. Nehru-Patel’s resolution was defeated by the Congress, supported by Gandhi in the defeat. Ram Manohar Lohia had moved the amendment. It was a very moving intervention by Ram Manohar Lohia and then Gandhi finally said we must accept this Partition. Partition is a very painful event. It is very easy to assign blame but very difficult thereafter. Because all events that we are judging are ex post facto.

Q: Absolutely, and what your book does is to shed light in terms of a new assessment of Partition and the responsibility of the different players. And in that re-assessment, you have balanced differently between Jinnah and Nehru?
JS:
All vision which is ex post facto is 20/20. It is when you actually live the event.

Q: Quite right. Those who have lived it would have seen it differently but today, with the benefit of hindsight, you can say that Jinnah wasn’t the only or the principal villain and the Indian impression that he was is mistaken and wrong?
JS:
And we need to correct it.

Q: Let’s turn to Jinnah and Pakistan. Your book shows that right through the 20s and the 30s, or may be even the early years of the 40s, Pakistan for Jinnah was more of a political strategy, less of a target and a goal. Did he consciously, from the very start, seek to dismember and divide India?
JS:
I don’t think it was dismemberment. He wanted space for the Muslims. And he could just not define Pakistan ever. Geographically, it was a vague idea. That’s why ultimately it became a moth-eaten Pakistan. He had ideas about certain provinces which must be Islamic and one-third of the seats in the Central legislature must be Muslims.

Q: So Pakistan was in fact a way of finding, as you call it, ‘space’ for Muslims?
JS:
He wanted space in the Central legislature and in the provinces and protection of the minorities so that the Muslims could have a say in their own political, economic and social destiny.

Q: And that was his primary concern, not dividing India or breaking up the country?
JS:
No. He in fact went to the extent of saying that let there be a Pakistan within India.

Q: A Pakistan within India was acceptable to him?
JS:
Yes.

Q: So in other words, Pakistan was often ‘code’ for space for Muslims?
JS:
That’s right. From what I have written, I find that it was a negotiating tactic because he wanted certain provinces to be with the Muslim League. He wanted a certain percentage (of seats) in the Central legislature. If he had that, there would not have been a partition.

Q: Would you therefore say that when people turn around and say that Jinnah was communal, he was a Hindu hater, a Hindu basher that they are mistaken and wrong?
JS:
He was not a Hindu hater but he had great animosity with the Congress party and Congress leadership. He said so repeatedly: I have no enmity against the Hindu.

Q: Do you as an author believe him when he said so?
JS:
I don’t live in the same time as him. I go by what his contemporaries have said, I go by what he himself says and I reproduce it.

Q: Let’s come again to this business of using Pakistan to create space for Muslims. Your book shows how repeatedly people like Rajagopalachari, Gandhi and Azad were understanding of the Jinnah need or the Muslim need for space. Nehru wasn’t. Nehru had a European-inherited centralised vision of how India should be run. In a sense was Nehru’s vision of a centralised India, a problem that eventually led to partition?
JS:
Jawaharlal Nehru was not always that. He became that after his European tour of the 20s. Then he came back imbued with, as Madhu Limaye puts it, ‘spirit of socialism’ and he was all for highly centralised India.

Q: And a highly centralized India denied the space Jinnah wanted.
JS:
A highly centralised India meant that the dominant party was the Congress party. He (Nehru) in fact said there are only two powers in India — the Congress party and the British.

Q: That attitude in a sense left no room for Jinnah and the Muslim League in India?
JS:
That is what made Jinnah repeatedly say but there is a third force — we. The Congress could have dealt with the Moplas but there were other Muslims.

Q: So it was this majoritarianism of Nehru that actually left no room for Jinnah?
JS:
It became a contest between excessive majoritarianism, exaggerated minoritism and giving the referee’s whistle to the British.

Q: Was the exaggerated minoritism a response to the excessive majoritarianism of Congress?
JS:
In part. Also in response to the historical circumstances that had come up.

Q: If the final decision had been taken by people like Gandhi, Rajagopalachari or Azad, could we have ended up with united India?
JS:
Yes, I believe so. It could have. Gandhi said let the British go home, we will settle this amongst ourselves, we will find a Pakistan. In fact, he said so in the last AICC meetings.

Q: It was therefore Nehru’s centralising vision that made that extra search for united India difficult at the critical moment?
JS:
He continued to say so but subsequently, after Partition, he began to realise what a great mistake he had made.

Q: Nehru realised his mistakes but it was too late, by then it had happened.
JS:
It was too late. It was too late.

Q: Let’s end this first interview there. In the next part I want to talk to you about the relationship between the early Gandhi and Jinnah, the questions you raise about Partition and the predicament of Indian Muslims.

Q: Let us start this second interview with the portrait you paint of the relationship between the early Gandhi and the early Jinnah.You say of their first meeting in January 1915 that Gandhi’s response to Jinnah’s “warm welcome” was “ungracious”. You say Gandhi would only see Jinnah “in Muslim terms”, and the sort of implication that comes across is Gandhi was less accommodating than Jinnah was.
JS:
I have perhaps not used the adjective you have used. Jinnah returned from his education in 1896. Gandhi went to South Africa and was returning finally — in between he had come once — to India it was 1915 already. Jinnah had gone to receive him with Gokhale and he referred fulsomely to Gandhi. Gandhi referred to Jinnah and said that I am very grateful that we have a Muslim leader. That I think was born really of Gandhi’s working in South Africa and not so much the reality of what he felt. The relationship subsequently became competitive.

Q: But you do call that response “ungracious”?
JS:
I don’t know whether I call it ungracious?

Q: You do.
JS:
But I might have. Jinnah is fulsomely receiving Gandhi and Gandhi says I am glad that I am being received by a Muslim leader.

Q: So he was only seeing Jinnah in Muslim terms?
JS:
Yes, which Jinnah didn’t want to be seen.

Q: Even when you discuss the impact of their political strategies in the early years before 1920 you suggest that Jinnah was perhaps more effective than Gandhi, who in a sense permitted the Raj to continue for three decades. You write “Jinnah had successfully kept the Indian political forces together, simultaneously exerting pressure on the government.” Of Gandhi you say “that pressure dissipated and the Raj remained for three more decades”.
JS:
That is a later development, because the political style of the two was totally different. Jinnah was essentially a logician. He believed in the strength of logic; he was a Parliamentarian; he believed in the efficacy of parliamentary politics. Gandhi, after testing the water, took to the trails of India and he took politics into the dusty villages of India.

Q: But in the early years up till 1920 you see Jinnah as more effective in putting pressure on the British than Gandhi.
JS:
Yes, because entire politics was parliamentary.

Q: The adjectives you use to characterise their leadership in the early years suggests a sort of, how shall I put it, slight tilt in Jinnah’s favour. You say of Gandhi’s leadership that it had “an entirely religious, provincial character”. Of Jinnah’s you say he was “doubtless imbued by a non-sectarian nationalistic zeal.”
JS:
He was non-sectarian. Gandhi used religion as a personal expression. Jinnah used religion as a tool to create something but that came later. For Gandhi religion was an integral part of his politics from the very beginning.

Q: And Jinnah wanted religion out of politics.
JS:
Out of politics. That is right — there are innumerable examples.

Q: In fact, Jinnah sensed or feared instinctively that if politics came into religion it would divide.
JS:
There were two fears here. His one fear was that if the whole question or practice of mass movement was introduced into India then the minority in India would be threatened. There could be Hindu-Muslim riots as a consequence. The second fear was that this will result in bringing in religion into Indian politics. He didn’t want that — Khilafat movement, etc are all examples of that.

Q: And in a sense would you say events have borne out Jinnah?
JS:
Not just Jinnah, Annie Besant also. When the Home Rule League broke up — resigning from the League, Annie Beasant cautioned Gandhi you are going down this path, this is a path full of peril.

Q: Both Jinnah and Beasant have been borne out.
JS:
In the sense that mass movement, unless combined with a great sense of discipline, leadership and restraint, becomes chaotic.

Q: As you look back on their lives and their achievements, Jinnah, at the end of the day, stood for creating a homeland for Indian Muslims. But what he produced was moth-eaten and broke up into two pieces in less than 25 years. Gandhi struggled to keep India united, but ended up not just with Partition but with communal passion and communal killing. Would you say at the end of their lives both were failures?
JS:
Gandhi was transparently a honest man. He lived his political life openly. Jinnah didn’t even live his political life, leave alone his private life, openly. Gandhi led his private life openly — (in) Noakhali with a pencil stub he wrote movingly “I don’t want to die a failure but I fear I might.”

Q: And did he in your opinion.
JS:
Yes, I am afraid the Partition of land, the Hindu-Muslim divide, cannot be really called Gandhiji’s great success. Jinnah, I think, did not achieve what he set out to. He got what is called a moth-eaten Pakistan, but the philosophy which under laid that Muslims are a separate nation was completely rejected within years of Pakistan coming into being.

Q: So, in a sense, both failed.
JS:
I am afraid I have to say that. I am, in comparison, a lay practitioner of politics in India. I cannot compare myself to these two great Indians but my assessment would lead me to the conclusion that I cannot treat this as a success either by Gandhi or by Jinnah.

Q: Your book also raises disturbing questions about the Partition of India. You say it was done in a way “that multiplied our problems without solving any communal issue”. Then you ask “if the communal, the principal issue, remains in an even more exacerbated form than before then why did we divide at all?”
JS:
Yes, indeed why? I cannot yet find the answer. Look into the eyes of the Muslims who live in India and if you truly see through the pain they live — to which land do they belong? We treat them as aliens, somewhere inside, because we continue to ask even after Partition you still want something? These are citizens of India — it was Jinnah’s failure because he never advised Muslims who stayed back.

Q: One of the most moving passages of your biography is when you write of Indian Muslims who stayed on in India and didn’t go to Pakistan.You say they are “abandoned”, you say they are “bereft of a sense of kinship”, not “one with the entirety” and then you add that “this robs them of the essence of psychological security”.
JS:
That is right, it does. That lies at the root of the Sachar Committee report.

Q: So, in fact, Indian Muslims have paid the price in their personal lives.
JS:
Without doubt, as have Pakistani Muslims.

Q: Muslims have paid a price on both sides.
JS:
I think Muslims have paid a price in Partition. They would have been significantly stronger in a united India, effectively so — much larger land, every potential is here. Of course Pakistan or Bangladesh won’t like what I am saying.

Q: Let us for a moment focus on Indian Muslims. You are a leader of the BJP. Do you think the rhetoric of your party sometimes adds to that insecurity?
JS:
I didn’t write this book as a BJP parliamentarian or leader, which I am not. I wrote this book as an Indian.

Q: Your book also suggests, at least intellectually, you believe India could face more Partitions. You write: “In India, having once accepted this principle of reservation, then of Partition, how can now we deny it to others, even such Muslims as have had to or chosen to live in India.”
JS:
The problem started with the 1906 reservation. What does Sachar committee report say? Reserve for the Muslim. What are we doing now? Reserve. I think this reservation for Muslims is a disastrous path. I have myself, personally, in Parliament heard a member subscribing to Islam saying we could have a third Partition too. These are the pains that trouble me. What have we solved?

Q:In fact you say in your book how can we deny it to others, having accepted it once it becomes very difficult intellectually to refuse it again.
JS:
You have to refuse it.

Q: Even if you contradict yourself?
JS:
Of course, I am contradicting myself. It is intellectual contradiction.

Q: But you are being honest enough to point out that this intellectual contradiction lies today at the very heart of our predicament as a nation.
JS:
It is. Unless we find an answer, we won’t find an answer to India-Pakistan-Bangladesh relations.

Q: And this continuing contradiction is the legacy of Partition?
JS:
Of course, it is self-evident.

Q: Mr. Jaswant Singh, let’s come to how your book will be received. Are you worried that a biography of Jinnah, that turns on its head the received demonisation of the man; where you concede that for a large part he was a nationalist with admirable qualities, could bring down on your head a storm of protest?
JS:
Firstly, I am not an academic. Sixty years down the line someone else — an academic — should have done it. Then I wouldn’t have persisted for five years. I have written what I have researched and believed in. I have not written to please – it’s a journey that I have undertaken, as I explained myself, along with Mohammedd Ali Jinnah — from his being an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity to the Qaid-e-Azam of Pakistan

Q: In a sense you were driven to write this book.
JS:
Indeed, I still search for answers. Having worked with the responsibilities that I had, it is my duty to try and find answers.

Q: And your position is that if people don’t like the truth as you see it – so be it, but you have to tell the truth as you know it.
JS:
Well, so be it is your way of putting it, my dear Karan, but how do I abandon my search, my yearning and what I have found? If I am wrong then somebody else should go and do the research and prove me as wrong.

Q: In other words you are presenting what you believe is the truth and you can’t hide it.
JS:
What else can I do, what else can I present?

Q: In 2005, when L.K. Advani called Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech secular he was forced to resign the presidentship of the party, are you worried that your party might turn on you in a similar manner?
JS:
This is not a party document, and my party knows that I have been working on this. I have mentioned this to Sri Advani as also to others.

Q: But are they aware of your views and the content of the book?
JS:
They can’t be aware unless they read it.

Q: Are you worried that when they find out about your views, and your analyses and your conclusion, they might be embarrassed and angry?
JS:
No, they might disagree, that’s a different matter. Anger? Why should there be anger about disagreement?

Q: Can I put something to you?
JS:
Yes.

Q: Mr Advani in a sense suffered because he called Jinnah secular. You have gone further, you have compared him to the early Gandhi. And some would say that Gandhi is found a little wanting in that comparison. Will that inflame passions?
JS:
I don’t think Gandhi is found wanting. He was a different person. They are two different personalities, each with their characteristics, why should passions be inflamed? Let a self-sufficient majority, 60 years down the line of Independence, be able to stand up to what actually happened pre-47 and in 1947.

Q: So what you are saying is that Gandhi and Jinnah were different people, we must learn to accept that both had good points.
JS:
Of course.

Q: And both had weaknesses.
JS:
Of course. Gandhi himself calls Jinnah a great Indian, why don’t we recognise that? Why did he call him that? He tells Mountbatten “give the Prime Ministership of India to Jinnah.” Mountbatten scoffs at him, “are you joking?” He says, “no I am serious, I will travel India and convince India and carry this message”.

Q: So if today’s Gandhians, reading the passages where you compare between the two, come to the conclusion that you are more of praise of Jinnah than of Gandhi.
JS:
I don’t think I am. I am objective as far as human beings have ability to be objective. As balanced as an author can be.

Q: As balanced as an author can be.
JS:
Indeed, indeed. How else can it be?

Q: Your party has a Chintan Baithak starting in two days time, does it worry you that at that occasion some of your colleagues might stand up and say — your views, your comments about Jinnah, your comments about Gandhi and Nehru have embarrassed the BJP?
JS:
I don’t think so, I don’t think they will. Because in two days time the book would not have been (read). It’s almost a 600-page book. Difficult to read 600 pages in two days.

Q: No one will have read the book by the time you go to Simla!
JS:
Yes (Laughs).

Q: But what about afterwards?
JS:
Well, we will deal with the afters when the afters come.

Q: Let me raise two issues, that could be a problem for you. First of all, your sympathetic understanding of Muslims left behind in India. You say they are abandoned, you say they are bereft, you say they suffer from psychological insecurity. That’s not normally a position leaders of the BJP take.
JS:
I think, the BJP is misunderstood also in its attitude towards the minorities. I don’t think it is so. Every Muslim that lives in India is a loyal Indian and we must treat them as so.

Q: But you are the first person from the BJP I have ever heard say, “look into the eyes of Indian Muslims and see the pain.” No one has ever spoken in such sensitive terms about them before.
JS:
I am born in a district, that is my home — we adjoin Sind, it was not part of British India. We have lived with Muslims and Islam for centuries. They are part…. In fact in Jaisalmer, I don’t mind telling you, Muslims don’t eat cow and the Rajputs don’t eat pig.

Q: So your understanding of Indian Muslims and their predicament is uniquely personal and you would say…
JS:
Indeed because I think what has happened is that we try and treat this whole thing as if it’s an extension of the image of the UP Muslim. Of course the UP (Muslim) is…Pakistan is a stepchild of UP in a sense.

Q: The second issue that your book raises, which could cause problems for you, is that at least theoretically, at least intellectually, you accept that there could be, although you hope there won’t be, further partitions. Could that embarrass you?
JS:
No, I am cautioning. I am cautioning India, Indian leadership. I have said that I am not going to be a politician all my life, or even a member of Parliament. But I do say this — we should learn from what we did wrong, or didn’t do right, so that we don’t repeat the mistakes.

Q: In other words this is — how shall I put it, a wake up call?
JS:
Wake-up? Shaking….

Q: A shake-up call!
JS:
Yeah (Smiles)

Q: My last question. Critics in your party, allege that you are responsible for the party losing seats in Rajasthan, they allege that you are responsible for asking questions about the sanctity of Hindutva. Now, after this book, have you fed your critics more ammunition against yourself?
JS:
Time will tell (Smiles).

Q: But does it worry you?
JS:
Do I look worried? (Smiles)

Q: With that smile on your face Mr Jaswant Singh. Thank you very much for these two special interviews.
JS:
Thank you very much.

Today, I saw a startling report on how British controlled Indians. How they managed to fool us and keep Indians under their control.

An Indian-origin writer has made a startling claim that Queen Victoria forbade the wife of the only married grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh from having children so that the British Raj could tighten its grip on Punjab.

Peter Bance, a specialist in the history of Sikhs in Britain, writes about the reported instruction by Queen Victoria in his latest book, Sovereign, Squire & Rebel, a biography of Duleep Singh, son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

He also claims that Queen Victoria may have been motivated by the desire to ensure that Britain’s hold over the massive and profitable Sikh kingdom remained unchallenged by any future Sikh royal descendant.

The Sikh kingdom, among the fiercest opponents of the British Raj, is today among the few — if not the only one — of the erstwhile major Indian kingdoms without any direct royal descendants.

Duleep Singh had six children from his first marriage and two from his second. All eight, including four who were married, died without issue, a fact that the writer says fanned his curiosity.

In his book, the London-based Bance says Queen Victoria gave the instruction to Lady Anne Alice Blanche — the aristocratic English wife of Duleep Singh’s eldest son Prince Victor Albert Jay — in the summer of 1898. Lady Anne was the youngest daughter of the 9th Earl of Coventry.

The reported instruction came 12 years after the British army physically stopped a disgruntled and rebellious Duleep Singh from returning to India from England, where he had been taken as a 12-year-old boy king after being converted to Christianity.

Like his father, Prince Victor too had tried to visit India in 1898 — if only to spend his honeymoon with Lady Anne, who had taken the name of Princess Victor Duleep Singh — but they too were stopped by the British in Colombo.

On their return, they attended a ball thrown by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace July 8, 1898, where invitees included Prince Victor’s sister Princess Sophia, younger brother Prince Frederick and several other royals visiting from India.

“The ball was soon followed by a request from Queen Victoria for a private audience with Princess Victor at Buckingham Palace, where she received the most distressing and chilling of orders,” says the book.

“She was told by the Queen that she must not have any children with the Prince and that she must live abroad with her husband. Princess Victor followed that command faithfully all her life.”

Bance, a Sikh, said he obtained the startling piece of information from a close “Coventry family source” of Lady Anne, who died in 1956.

“This person, who told me not to mention his name, asked Lady Anne once, ‘why didn’t you have any children?’ and that was when Lady Anne spoke about Queen Victoria’s instructions.

“Of course Lady Anne, being an aristocrat herself, went by those instructions.”

Bance said the main reason why Queen Victoria would have given such a harsh command was the nascent Indian nationalism that had showed in Duleep Singh — otherwise a thorough ‘English’ country gent — throughout the late 1880s.

Mounting expenses for the upkeep of the family would have been an additional factor.

“There is no doubt that the family was always a thorn on the side of the British establishment,” said Bance, who has being researching the life of Duleep Singh since 1996.

“They (any descendants) would be constantly staking a claim to the Punjab throne.”

After the failed bid to visit India, Maharaja Duleep Singh told a British journalist in 1888: “In less than three years — in less than two perhaps — I and my 250,000,000 (250 million, 25 crore) fellow-countrymen will have driven them (the British) out of India.”

Duleep Singh, who had a legitimate claim to a kingdom whose powerful Sikh army very nearly over-ran the British in 1849, also boasted that 90 percent of Indian princes as well as the Russian government were behind his plan to oust the British.

Although Queen Victoria was very fond of Duleep Singh, he had been increasingly distressed by the failure of British authorities to honour financial and other pledges made to him.

In later years, some of Duleep Singh’s children, particularly his youngest daughter from his first marriage, Princess Bamba, were to show strong feelings for India.

The book goes on to refer to a second startling claim about an alleged British plot to stem the royal Sikh bloodline.

It says Princess Bamba had told members of the Fakir family, who were former ministers in her father’s court, that when they were children their English cooks would put “substances” into their food so as to make them infertile.

“The story seemed a bit far-fetched, but nonetheless not one of the Duleep Singh children had any issue,” says the book.

“But this is really what struck me as being very odd – a man with a big family, eight children, and no grandchildren,” Bance said.

Prince Mohsin Ali Khan, a member of the erstwhile ruling family of the princely state of Hyderabad, said he was shocked by the claim about Queen Victoria’s reported instructions to Lady Anne.

“It is quite shocking, but it is plausible,” said the London-based Khan, who is on the Council of the Constitutional Monarchist Association, a non-government body that supports and defends the British monarchy.

Indian former defence, foreign and finance minister of India and also a former soldier Jaswant Singh released his book Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence on Mohammed Ali Jinnah. I think the conventional notion India holds about Jinnah as a communal leader who caused the bloody partition of the subcontinent will receive a deadly blow.

The book will defenitely attract considerable attention and may be even a fair amount of controversy.  Though Jaswant Singh seems like going one step further than L.K. Advani who made similar remarks three years ago in Pakistan, it is a fact that unlike others, Jinnah created success for himself. Jaswant Singh may have drawn another battleline within the saffron party after releasing his book.

It took five years of research before the book could come out. “If I were not drawn to the personality I wouldn’t have written the book. It’s an intricate, complex personality, of great character, determination,” Jaswant Singh told in an interview to a TV channel ahead of the release of his book.

It was historically not tenable to see Mr Jinnah as the villain of 1947, Mr Singh said. “It is not borne out of the facts… we need to correct it… Muslims saw that unless they had a voice in their own economic, political and social destiny they will be obliterated.”

Mr Singh said the 1946 election was a good example to show the fear held by Muslims. That year, he said: “Jinnah’s Muslim League wins all the Muslim seats and yet they don’t have sufficient numbers to be in office because the Congress Party has, without even a single Muslim, enough to form a government and they are outside of the government.

Jinnah and Nehru

Jinnah and Nehru

“So it was realised that simply contesting elections was not enough… All of this was a search for some kind of autonomy of decision making in their own social and economy destiny.” Mr Jinnah was a great man because he created something out of nothing, Mr Singh said of his newfound hero.

“He single-handedly stood against the might of the Congress Party and against the British who didn’t really like him … Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognise that? Why don’t we see (and try to understand) why he called him that?” Mr Jinnah was as much a nationalist as any leader in India.

“He fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India … the acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

Among the aspects of Mr Jinnah’s personality Mr Singh said he admired his determination and will to rise. “He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these (people) — Nehru and others — were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself.

“He was so poor he had to walk to work … he told one of his biographers there was always room at the top but there’s no lift. And he never sought a lift.”

Jinnah & Gandhi

Jinnah & Gandhi

Demolishing the belief that Mr Jinnah hated or disliked Hindus, Mr Singh said the claim was totally wrong. “His principal disagreement was with the Congress Party.”

Going by his interview shown on CNN-IBN on Sunday, Mr Singh holds Mr Jawaharlal Nehru as more culpable than anyone else for the division of the country.

It is not just Jinnah’s anti-Congressism that Jaswant pays a tribute to in his new book. He also writes admiringly about Jinnah’s elegant dressing and suave lifestyle.

The book reassess Nehru’s role in Partition, and sheds fresh light on the relationship between the Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah.

Will the war over sharing of the Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu end through unveiling of the statues of saint poets Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore and Sarvajna in Chennai on August 9 and August 13 respectively?

The Karnataka government has decided to go ahead with unveiling of the statue of Thiruvalluvar, writer of Tamil masterpiece Thirukkural, on August 9, 18 years after it was installed, amidst protests by pro-Kannada organisations.

Four days later, the statue of Kannada poet Sarvajna will be unveiled in Chennai.

Thiruvalluvar, believed to be born 30 years before Jesus Christ, wrote Thirukkural in the form of couplets (two line poems) expounding various aspects of life.

Sarvajna, believed to belong to the 18th century, is known for his Tripadis (three-line poems) on life, religion, beliefs and problems of daily living.

Pro-Kannada organisations, including Kannada Rakshana Vedike, had stalled the unveiling of the statue of Thiruvalluvar, saying that Tamil Nadu has been unfair to Karnataka over the Cauvery water sharing.

Tamil Nadu’s decision to start the Hogenakal drinking water project to supply drinking water to two of its districts only added to the tension between the two neighbouring states.

Adding fuel to the fire came a petition by a Tamil Nadu advocate in the Madras High Court last year, challenging granting of classical status to Kannada language by the Centre.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who is in Bangalore for the last one week, has been invited by his Karnataka counterpart B.S. Yeddyurappa to be present at the unveiling ceremony.

To placate the agitated pro-Kannada activists, Yeddyurappa has promised to arrange a train journey to anyone from Karnataka wanting to go to Chennai to attend the unveiling of the Sarvajna statue on August 13.

One has to wait and see if unveiling of statues will improve the condition between two states.

Thinking practically, how many people in Karnataka really know about Thiruvalluvar or how many know about Sarvajna in Tamil Nadu? Sometimes, actions and decisions of politicians seem to be mere vote bank politics. If statues could improve ties, why not install statues of other great men of our neighbouring states also? But for an ordinary man, there’s much more to think and worry about. He will not worry about whether it is right or wrong to install the statues, but he’s more concerned about his life and livelihood. If the statue of Thiruvalluvar helps in getting justice to our farmers by fetching the due share of the Cauvery waters, the state will be more than happy and thankful to both the governments for their action!

Though I told Vij that I’m not interested to watch Love Aaj Kal, he was insistent that we catch the movie in a theatre with Rajeshattan and Viji. We really wondered after all, what did the hero and the heroine really wanted? Not just we four, even others present in the theatre screamed when Rahul Khanna screamed at Deepika Padukone and asked her to make it clear what she actually wants in life. Throughout the film, we were confused about what do they really want?

Jai Vardhan Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera Pandit  (Deepika Padukone) strive to be different than run of the mill couples. So when their career takes them away from each other they decide to call it off for practical reasons. One of Jai and Meera’s regular hangout is a restaurant owned by Veer Singh ( Rishi Kapoor). Veer disagrees with the current generation’s outlook on love and relationships. He advises Jai against letting Meera go away from his life. Veer and Jai have polar views on love and relationship. Veer tells Jai about his ardent love for Harleen Kaur (Giselle Monteiro) back in 1965 based in Delhi. Meera and Jai never really get over each other even when Meera starts seeing Vikram (Rahul Khanna) and Jai is dating Jo (Florence Brudenell Bruce). As parallel love stories of Veer and Harleen and Jai and Meera realize that though lovers may speak and behave differently true love culminates into the same end in every era.
love-aaj-kal-8The opening scenes portray how Meera and Jai hook up, establish their relationship.

Meera’s character is well etched out depicting the outlook and approach of a modern day woman. Meera is a girl who carries her relationship with thorough dignity not once imposing her feelings or begging for commitment from her boyfriend. Later, she walks out of marriage, truly coming of age.

Veer and Harleen’s love story is cute with stolen glances, unspoken words and covert gestures.

While we were sure about Jai and Meera’s reunion, we had to wait till the end to know the fate of Veer and Harleen’s love story.

We had seen movies with flashbacks, parallel editing but Love Aaj Kal has parallel stories culminating into similar joyous climax.

For the first time, we saw something of a so called break-up party. Who knows people might throw a party to break up also!

It’s a feast to see some nice locations.