Lal Krishna Advani's remarks on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, during his recent visit to Pakistan, are merely an instance of interpolating a contemporary debate on secularism and communalism to a period where these terms did not have the same fraught connotations as today.
WEATHERING A STORM: Lal Krishna Advani. PHOTO: V. SUDHARSHAN
THE events following Mr. Lal Krishna Advani's visit to Pakistan would give the impression that the entire controversy was a result of his remarks about Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's secular credentials. While these remarks have, indeed, upset the Sangh Parivar, including sections within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the real reasons for the Sangh Parivar's ire against Mr. Advani lie elsewhere. During his trip to Pakistan, the BJP President commented on two important issues in a manner that repudiates and challenges the very ideological foundation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its auxilliary organisations.
Speaking at a reception hosted by the South Asian Free Media Association in Lahore, Mr. Advani told his audience that Partition was an inevitable fact of history and could not be undone. "The creation of India and Pakistan as two separate and sovereign nations is an unalterable reality of history," he said, and added that despite this immutability, "some of the follies of Partition can be undone, and they must be undone". Indeed, he went further. Speaking at a dinner hosted by the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Mr. Advani mooted the idea of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh jointly celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising "in remembrance of a joint struggle against a common adversary".
Partition and after
The RSS has never reconciled to Partition and has always been a proponent of the ideal of Akhand Bharat (unified India), which would also be a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). The only "common enemy" that the RSS has ever recognised is Pakistan and Islam. The rejection of Partition was clearly spelt out by the founding fathers of the RSS. In his Bunch of Thoughts, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar says: "Our leaders who were a party to the creation of Pakistan may try to whitewash the tragedy by saying that it was a brotherly division of the country and so on. But the naked fact remains that an aggressive Muslim State has been carved out of our own motherland. From the day the so-called Pakistan came into being, we in the Sangh have been declaring that it is a clear case of continued Muslim aggression." Elsewhere in the book, Golwalkar calls Pakistan a "self-declared theocratic Islamic State".
The clearest statement against recognising Pakistan as a sovereign nation comes from a statement issued by the RSS in 1965, which states: "So long as Pakistan exists as at present, she will continue to be hostile and aggressive towards Bharat. Pakistan was born in hatred of Bharat. It was carved out artificially by disrupting the natural, national integrity of Bharat. The K.K.M (Kendriya Karyakari Mandal or central working committee) is, therefore, of the firm opinion that peace and normalcy are inconceivable without the establishment of Akhand Bharat."
Against this background, Mr. Advani's recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign nation is nothing short of heresy for the Sangh.
Talking to the press in Islamabad, Mr. Advani unambiguously termed the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, as the "saddest day" in his life. Further, in an interview to Hamid Mir of Geo TV, Mr. Advani restated this point even more forcefully: "As I said earlier, the demolition of the Babri Mosque was the saddest day of my life. The issue of the Ram Temple must be addressed through democratic ways, through political means. Nobody should be allowed to take law into his hands." This is the same Advani who called the Babri Masjid "an ocular demonstration against the Hindus" in 1997 and rejoiced in the fact that since the provocation was not there any longer, it was not a matter of regret. On November 30, 1992, Mr. Advani had asserted that he could not "give any guarantees at the moment on what will happen on 6 December", and added that he did not "rule out anything". Asked if he would violate court orders in Ayodhya on December 6, Mr. Advani had said that as a political worker, he had violated laws in the past and listed the number of times he had disregarded Section 144.
The RSS has always held the Babri Masjid as a symbol of Muslim aggression and domination over the Hindus. Articulating this idea, the leader of the Sangh, Mr. H.V. Seshadri, has this to say in his book, RSS: A Vision in Action: "Since the day Babar, the Mughal aggressor, first demolished the temple in 1528 and put a mosque at the hallowed spot of Shri Rama Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Shri Rama in Ayodhya, its liberation and restoration has been a constant point of struggle in vindication of national honour ... Since then, 76 fierce battles have been fought breaking down all barriers of caste, creed, language or region and lakhs have sacrificed their lives in the cause of redeeming that common point of national veneration. In a way, it has symbolised the fight for the country's freedom from the enemy's subjugation"(p.348). Mr. Seshadri goes on to describe with unconcealed pride the way "the history of Bharat turned a new and effulgent page on the morning of that day when the obnoxious stain on the holy site of Sri Ram's birthplace standing there for over 400 years was erased as if in a lightening stroke by the fiery Karsevaks." (p.351)
Elaborating the point, Mr. K.P. Sudarshan, the current Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, in a speech in Lucknow in October 2000, castigated sections of the Muslims in India for identifying themselves with Babar. He chides them for calling the structure in Ayodhya as Babri Masjid and blaming the Sangh Parivar for its demolition. The felling of the Mosque was inevitable, says Sudarshan, because a large number of karsevaks had gathered there, and in the absence of an early court order, their fury resulted in the felling of the structure (pp. 14-15, in Sangh Ki Saphalta Ka Rahasya).
After having led the Ram Janmabhoomi movement during the 1980s and the 1990s, Mr. Advani's contrition about the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya is nothing short of apostasy in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar.
Apart from these two compelling reasons, the Sangh also saw Mr. Advani's visit to Pakistan and his pronouncements as a unilateral privileging of politics above ideology. The Sangh has always shown great disdain and distrust for politics as the vehicle for achieving its goal of the Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat. Mr. Sudarshan's recent likening of politicians to commercial sex workers is only an extreme restatement of the traditional RSS position on politics as the least desirable way to their professed mission of uniting India.
Mr. Advani's remarks on Jinnah, therefore, are merely an instance of interpolating a contemporary debate on secularism and communalism to a period where these terms did not have the same fraught connotations as today. The debates leading up to Partition centred around the question of representation, and whether this representation was to be based on a "communal" basis, where communal implied community, or on the basis of a unified idea of all communities.
The current debate on whether Jinnah was secular or not is, then, merely a smokescreen behind which the larger ideological debates within the Sangh Parivar are being fought.
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