The Tragedy of Jinnah

Simon Kovar in The Liberal:

Jinnah ‘Inexplicability’ is the word attached by one historian to the communal bloodletting that accompanied the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The term suggests a certain exhaustion with an archive that paints a picture of what, in hindsight, appears to combine both political stupidity and popular barbarism. It is easy in such circumstances to search around for a villain of the piece. For many, the character of Muhammad Ali Jinnah fits the bill perfectly: Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi depicts Jinnah as patrician, cold and distant. The ‘Mahatma’ is shown receiving almost as a physical body-blow Jinnah’s (fictitious) threat of civil war unless the demand for Pakistan is acceded to – the saint cowed by the opportunistic politician.

‘Mahattenborough’ (to use Salman Rushdie’s memorable phrase) is certainly guilty of semi-deifying a man, Gandhi, who – in his religious doctrines, abusive personal experiments and response to European fascism in the 1930s – was far from blemish-free. But he is guilty too of libeling Jinnah, one of the sole liberal voices at the high table of Indian politics. It is noteworthy that the Hindu nationalist politician L.K. Advani, an apologist for the slaughter of Indian Muslim citizens in Gujarat, chose the word ‘secular’ to describe Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan in 2005. Advani was criticised for apparently having ‘praised’ Pakistan’s founder; but the Hindu far-right is not noted for regarding the epithet ‘secular’ as a term of praise.

In fact, Jinnah fits quite closely the model of the classic liberal politician.

More here.