Ranjit Devraj

If a single book can ever lay claim to having positively changed the tortuous course of Indo-Pakistan relations it would be the tome ‘Jinnah - A Corrective Reading of Indian History’ by Prof Asiananda, who teaches philosophy at the Inter-Cultural Open University in the Netherlands. He may not match the literary genius of a Salman Rushdie, but his book has a mission — to correct the image of Mohammed Ali Jinnah as the man widely held responsible for tearing asunder an entire civilisation — and it has had remarkable success in achieving its plainly stated aim. Released in India on Apr. 16, the book scored in a matter of weeks going by the dramatic change of heart in one of its readers, Lal Krishna Advani, pro-Hindu hawk and chief accused in a case still pending in a Pakistani court for conspiring to assassinate Jinnah more than half a century ago. Like Jinnah, Advani, now 78, was born in Karachi but ended up being one of the several million people who were uprooted by the partition. And now in the grimmest of ironies, Advani, who built up a brilliant political career in India by opposing everything the partition stood for, found it in him to return to Karachi and pay homage to Jinnah at his mausoleum — even going so far as to call him “secular” and a

“creator of history”.

An editorial in the Times of India on Tuesday characterised Advani’s calling Jinnah secular

“an act of blasphemous revisionism that turns the BJP and RSS historiography on its head”, and wondered how much longer he would retain BJP presidency. Even the left leaders were outraged. “What is he talking about?” was the reaction of Jyoti Basu, India’s best-known Marxist leader and, for a quarter of a century, chief minister of West Bengal state. Politically, Basu is one of the architects of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which brought

together the ideological dissimilar Congress party and the Marxists with the express purpose of keeping the BJP out of power. It fell to another prominent Bengali politician, Indian Defence Minister Pranab Muk-herjee, to release Asian-anda’s book in the Indian capital and hail its revolutionary vision of Jinnah as a secular leader no less than Gandhi.

Speaking to IPS after the launch, Asiananda said, “that was a lot coming from a top Congress leader considering that I had in my book showed that it was Gandhi’s moral dictatorship which really fathered the partition and thus denied Jinnah the chance to become independent India’s first prime minister.” In his view the sub-continent can find its place only after it has

“regained its pre-1947 paramount status and the partition wound has healed and there is real space for India and Pakistan and other South Asian countries in an Indic sub-continent that geo-politically balances the Sinic North Asia and the Arab-Islamic West Asia, and for that a real understanding of Jinnah is the real key.” Yet another cabinet minister and votary of improved Indo-Pak relations, Mani Shankar Aiyar said at the release it is time that relations between the South Asian neighbours cease to be seen as a ‘Hindu-Muslim’ issue’. But these are times when even Advani, the high priest of India’s fundamentalist wave and personally charged with vandalism in razing the Babri Masjid mosque as a symbol of Islamic ascendancy, dares to praise Jinnah. — IPS