OFF the shelf
Jinnah and his politics
V. N. Datta

M. A. Jinnah: Views and Reviews
ed. M. R. Kazimi,
Oxford University Press, Karachi. Pages 260. Rs 550.

M. A. Jinnah: Views and ReviewsTHIS is a collection of 13 essays on Mr Jinnah and his creation of Pakistan. Most of these have been published previously. Some of the contributors are experts on Jinnah; of the13 contributors, nine are British and American and four Pakistani, though one or them, Ayasha Jalal, is based in the US. None is from India.

Jinnah is a fascinating subject, but he poses serious difficulties for a biographer. He wrote no memoir or even kept a diary. His correspondence was formal, mostly official. There is no trace of his correspondence with Ruttie, to whom he gave his heart, and who became, later, his wife. Most of what we know about him is based on what others (the British, the Muslim League leaders and Indians) have written. He was taciturn and reserved, and it was always difficult to fathom him.

In Pakistan, Jinnah is regarded as the father of the nation, who despite many odds against him, finally won the battle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India.

For Indians, Jinnah remains an evil genius, who because of his enormous personal vanity and arrogance, disrupted the unity of India and sowed the seeds of discord between the Hindus and the Muslims for all time to come. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy, thought Jinnah was "psychopath, a lunatic and a bastard" who due to his ego and lust for power proved incapable of playing a constructive rule in the solution of Constitutional problems.

How would history judge Jinnah? Did he do the right thing in carving out a new country or did he go wrong? Jinnah was convinced that he had done the right thing, but he also said that only future would decide whether he was right or wrong.

The Sole Spokesmen (Cambridge) by Ayesha Jalal remains by far the best work on Jinnah, though her approach is elitist. Jalal has made scarce use of Indian archival records, which has resulted in her ignoring the Congress viewpoint.

The book opens with David Pageís perceptive article, Jinnah and the System of Political Control in India (1909-1930). Page shows that Jinnah, endowed with unique knowledge of Indian politics, wanted to play a key role at the Centre, but due to centrifugal tendencies empowering the provinces, he found his ambitions thwarted. He realised that the polarisation of communal relations in the provinces made an all-lndia settlement impossible.

The constitutional issue could not be resolved at the Round Table Conference in 1930. Jinnah lost his chance of high office in British India and chose to settle in England.

Andrew Roberts, while complimenting Prof Akbar Ahmed for his film on Jinnah, castigates India for tarnishing the image of the leader, and not fulfilling Jawaharlal Nehruís commitment for holding a referendum in Kashmir. In Chapter 3, Congress Leadership in Transition, Stanley Wolpert maintains that it was the religious character of Gandhiís Non-cooperation Movement that had alienated Jinnah. He realised that in Gandhiís politics, he had no place, so he felt humiliated, which he took as a challenge to fight back.

Wolpert takes a linear view, overlooking the role of imponderables in the vicissitudes of human affairs. In this connection, B.R. Ambedkarís comment was illuminating: "Jinnah was unable to reconcile himself to a second position."

In a short note, The Lost Jinnah, Syed Jaffar Ahmed regrets that Pakistan today has deviated from the high ideals set by Jinnah. In Pakistan, Jinnah is irrelevant today because of religious intolerance, extremism and divisive tendencies.

In Between Myth and History, Ayasha Jalal, maintains that Jinnahís Lahore Resolution (1940) was designed as a bargaining counter to draw concessions from the Congress, but that is not the complete story. She had also said that Jinnah was firmly committed to the preservation of the national Muslim identity. Jalal asserts: "To suggest that Jinnah used Pakistan as a mere rise against the Congress is as great a distortion not only of my arguments but of the actual history."

In The Jinnah Story, Francis Robinson reviews two books, Wolpertís Jinnah and Ayasha Jalaiís The Sole Spokesman. Robinson finds Wolpertís work "disappointing" because it suffers from factual inaccuracies; he holds a high place for Jalalís book for its scholarship and sophistication.

In Jinnah and the Making of Pakistan, Ian Talbot suggests that the Cripps Proposals (March 1942) conceded Pakistan, which is untrue because the Proposals kept the whole question of the future of the Muslims open from a practical point of view. Talbot is convincing in his view that Jinnah was a brilliant strategist, who took the fullest advantage of the war situation when the Congress leaders lay in prison during the Quit India movement.

The Editorís Introduction is dull; it has not a word on the framework or methodology used by the contributors. In his concluding essay on Indian writers, the author has arbitrarily picked five, forgetting that a number of Indian scholars have discussed Jinnahís politics and leadership.