IT was more than a storm in the tea cup. Jaswant Singh’s book on Quaide Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah made more news than his expulsion from the BJP for having written the book. I have been a witness to the era of partition and before. I think Jaswant Singh has been unfair to the history. If blame is to be apportioned—a futile exercise after 62 years—all the three parties—the British, the Muslim League and the Congress, in that order, are guilty. It is a subject which academicians from both the countries should discuss across the table to go over the reasons why the two communities, Hindus and Muslims, had got so alienated from each other that something like division had become inevitable in the early forties.
Still it is a fact that both Hindus and Muslims left their home under the belief that they would return once the frenzy subsided. Their hope did not come true because both Punjabs ousted members of the community other than their own. And then there was so much bloodshed and so much destruction wrought that they could not have gone back and start life as if it was all a bad dream. And when the rulers in both countries accepted migration of population, which they had resisted earlier, it was all over.
The thesis that Jawaharlal Nehru, not Jinnah, was responsible for partition did not evoke any discussion beyond the media and the BJP. The reason why the debate really did not take off was because other parties did not participate in it. The attention is increasingly focused on the BJP’s inner fighting. Arun Shourie, an academician-turned-politician, has made the scene more somber by hurling abuses on the BJP’s leadership, naming the party president for all the ills. Shourie has appealed for an intervention by the RSS which has in the BJP its political instrument. The RSS spokesman has said that it can guide, not control. Even this studied remark shows that the boss is the RSS which is an avowed exponent of Hindutva.
The RSS is the same organization which was banned following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. Many BJP members, including L.K. Advani, the party’s top leader, have graduated from the RSS. With all liberal credentials, Atal Behari Vajpayee stood at attention in the khaki shorts whenever the RSS held the rally of its adherents in Delhi to convey that even the Prime Minister (Vajpayee was then heading the BJP-led government) was not outside the party’s discipline.
The RSS has been anti-Jinnah from the day Pakistan came into being because its formation was considered “the cutting of the Bharat Mata into pieces.” That explains why Advani’s praise of Jinnah during his visit to Karachi landed the BJP leader in trouble and he had to resign from the party presidentship at the instance of the RSS.
It is a paradox that when Vajpayee went to Lahore and visited the Minar-e-Pakistan, he wrote in the visitors’ book that the integrity and prosperity of India depended on the integrity and prosperity of Pakistan. Vajpayee got away with his remark because he was India’s Prime Minister. The RSS could do nothing against him because it did not want to lose the power it enjoyed. Any action against Vajpayee would have brought the government down.
Many years ago, soon after the emergency when I shared jail with the RSS men, I was invited to address a RSS shakha—the only time I did. I told them if they wanted to undo Pakistan they should let Muslims in India feel that they were equal citizens and facilitate them to enjoy all that the Hindu majority did in terms of employment, economic betterment and accommodation. My argument was that the Muslims got distanced because they did not get their due.
The RSS has not changed its anti-Muslim philosophy. That is the reason why the BJP does not get the community’s vote, 15 per cent. The Hindutva terminology is explained as nationalist. Yet in all Hindu-Muslims riots, the RSS men have been found involved. What happened to the Christians in Orissa was the doing of the Bajrang Dal, the militant wing of the RSS.
It is a pity that the BJP has never stood on its own. The RSS gives its strength. Therefore, even the liberal elements in the BJP do not speak out against the inveterate hatred of RSS towards secularism. What was once the Jana Sangh became the BJP after it parted company with the Janata. The point at issue was that the latter insisted on the Jana Sangh members to snap their tie with the RSS, an undertaking they had given while merging into the Janata. Jaswant Singh preferred a Hindutva outfit to the liberal Janata. Even today he has not uttered a word against the RSS. He has never questioned the ideology of Hindutva. Nor has he ever challenged the BJP’s role as a political face of the RSS.
Jaswant Singh was found wanting in taking a posture on Gujarat. He was critical of chief minister Narendra Modi and favoured the dismissal of his government. But he never said it openly. He has correctly recalled that while travelling with Shourie to Ahmedabad, Jaswant Singh asked Advani to suggest to Vajpayee the dismissal of Modi government. What Jaswant Singh has not told is the brainwashing of Vajpayee they did. During his speech in Mumbai, after arriving from Ahmedabad, Vajpayee made a virulent attack on Muslims that they were making trouble wherever they lived.
The BJP and its ideology have been uppermost in Jaswant Singh’s mind. He might have huffed and hawed but he continued to be a member of the party’s high command. What struck me the most was his puerile assertion that he stuck to the principles he had imbibed in the military academy. The academy is a crucible where religious identities and communal bias of cadets get melted. There is no Hindutva or Islamic ideology guiding them.
My main disappointment is over the outcome of the party’s three-day Chintan Baithak (brainstorming session) a few days ago at Shimla. I thought the country would know where the BJP was heading. It seems to have lost its way and does not realize this. After the meeting, all that BJP president Rajnath Singh said was that Advani would continue to lead the party for the next five, 50, 100 years. I have nothing against Advani. But the BJP needs to change its image. Hindutva is against the country’s ethos of pluralism. Hindutva excludes minorities. The BJP is losing space because it is going against the nation’s temperament. The party knows too well but can’t change because of the RSS.