Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jinnah: The arrogant achiever

In November 1938, Hassan Ispahani wrote to M A Jinnah about Anwar Hassan, great-grandson of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. "Sir Syed rendered a service to the Musalmans of India that will remain unequalled so long as civilization remains. You will therefore agree with me that a young man and worthy descendant of his who is willing to work for his living should not be allowed to knock from pillar to post searching desperately for employment." Jinnah replied:"I think I did drop you a line from Bombay with regard to Anwar Masood saying that I could not help in the matter."

Ispahani's letter to Jinnah was not out of place. He had turned to a leading lawyer and towering leader of Muslims to help out the great grandson of Muslim visionary Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

But what he got was a cold reply seeped in characteristic Jinnah style. For all his fame and brilliance as a lawyer and politician, Jinnah was not the one to mince words. Which is why I am baffled when some historians say that Jinnah never wanted a separate nation but was only creating a bogey to have more bargaining power for the Muslims.

Well, it doesn't make any difference for the reality is that India got partitioned. Thousands of families were uprooted, friends and relatives had to part ways and the bloodbath that followed was unprecedented.

And unfortunately it did not stop there. The two countries continue to be at loggerheads. Those Muslims who went to Pakistan got the label of Mohajir and the ones remaining in India found themselves numerically and intellectually diminished.

Urdu: Jinnah
and Gandhi

It was the same attitude of mincing no words that made Jinnah declare on his maiden visit to Dhaka after Partition that Urdu was to be the state language of Pakistan (which included East Pakistan). Jinnah himself was well conversant only in Gujarati and English and his knowledge of Urdu was scant.

I do not know if Jinnah made any efforts to learn Urdu or not, but expecting Bengali speakers to grapple with kaaf and gaaf proved costly. Once again it were the Muslims (Bihari Muslims) who bore the brunt when Bangladesh fought for its 'independence'. Caught between the two Pakistans, it was only recently after a court's decision that they got voting rights in Bangladesh.

In his letters Gandhi chided any Urdu-knowing person who wrote to him in English instead of Urdu. Gandhi's dream of Hindustani was a mix of Hindi and Urdu and he always advocated the use of simple Hindi and Urdu in both the scripts. He himself was trying to learn Urdu.

Jinnah moved in elite circles in Bombay in Saville Row suits and was one of the highest paid lawyers. He married Ruttie the daughter of his Parsi friend Sir Dinshaw Petit and gave the best to his sister Fatima. His English education and prominence as a lawyer made him arrogant bordering on the rude.

Once while he was in Shimla, Nawab Hamidullah Khan of Bhopal came to meet him. As he came out of his car, Jinnah told him not to come as he was busy."Try your luck tomorrow."

Gandhi's arrival in India changed the Congress's approach towards the British rule. Before that Jinnah was basking in the attention and praise he got from his mentors Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Dadabhai Nowroji. He famously defended Tilak in the Bombay high court and worked for Hindu-Muslim unity.

After Gandhi arrived most of the leaders rallied behind him. Nowroji, Gokhale, Pherozeshah Mehta and Tilak died. Motilal's son Jawaharlal came under the spell of Gandhi and even though he had differences with Gandhi he accepted his moral and superior authority.

Jinnah the popular leader

Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru remained a moderate all his life and continued to practise law. A liberal to the core and a renowned Urdu and Persian scholar, Sapru never played politics like Jinnah or Gandhi. He opposed the non-cooperation movement and the salt satyagraha. However, he commanded respect among the intellectual class and acted several times as a mediator between the British government and Gandhi.

I often wonder that Jinnah would have made a lasting positive effect if he had played a role identical to Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. He was more suited for it and would have done an excellent job. However, the problem with Jinnah was while his past conduct and vision came close to that of wealthy, erudite and liberal individuals like Motilal, Sapru and Pherozeshah he wanted his popularity, reach and acceptance to match that of Gandhi and Nehru.

Ambedkar was another prominent figure who kept his distance from Congress. He had differences with Gandhi but unlike Jinnah he could identify himself more intensely with his people. Besides, there was no frontline Dalit leader in the Congress. Jinnah and Ambedkar held few rallies together bound by their mistrust of Congress and Gandhi. Unlike Jinnah, who came to London to practise law, Ambedkar never left his people and their cause.

Ambedkar chose to work with the Congress and took active part in deliberations of the Constitution and ensured whatever he could to safeguard the interest of Dalits. The Muslim League on the other hand refused to join the Interim Government of 1946 demanding that only they should be allowed to nominate Muslims in the cabinet. For them Maulana Azad, R A Kidwai, Asaf Ali and other Muslim leaders in the Congress did not exist!

Pakistan at all cost

For any politician it is their goals that matter. Everything else takes a backseat. The economy of the new country was definitely not on the mind of the Muslim League. TIME magazine reports that in September 1947, Pakistan paid a cheque to the British Overseas Airways Corporation which bounced.The company had transported 30,000 officials and their families from Delhi to Karachi. While they were fortunate to get their dues, the list of creditors was fairly huge.

However, as a shrewd politician Jinnah knew that religion and politics should not be mixed. He did not approve of the Khilafat agitation and was against using religion in politics. He should get full marks for his clarity of thought on this aspect. He kept this in mind when he declared that the minorities would get all the security and equality in Pakistan.

But while Jinnah asked for Pakistan, the Congress is also to be blamed for giving in to his demand. The conduct of Congress leaders left a lot to be desired. Their experience with the Muslim League ministers (they joined the Interim government later) made it clear that running a government with them would be a path full of thorns. Agreeing to Pakistan and getting rid of the Muslim League looked better and easier and convenient.

In 1925, Jinnah wrote a letter to The Tiimes of India lamenting that he was wrongly quoted describing Congress as Hindu institution. Yet when Gandhi died he described him as leader of the Hindu community. This in short was Jinnah's reason for Pakistan.

I have referred to books written on Jinnah by Rafiq Zakaria and Akbar S Ahmed

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bapu's effort to get allowance for Prof Mujeeb

Nation building. Going by the current trend it has now acquired altogether different meaning. But here I would like to shed some light on an instance which shows that leaders of a different era did everything in letter and spirit for the progress and well-being of their motherland.

This post is about Prof Mohammad Mujeeb and his association with Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof Mujeeb had joined the Jamia in 1926 and devoted himself to it even as the institution battled a severe financial crisis. To ensure that Prof Mujeeb's stay at Jamia Millia Islamia could be as smooth as possible it was none other than Gandhiji who took the lead.

Prof Mujeeb had studied at Oxford and went to Germany to study printing. There he met Dr Zakir Hussain and Dr Abid Hussain after which he decided to commit himself to Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof Mujeeb, just like Dr Zakir Hussain and Dr Abid Hussain, could have chosen greener pastures instead of confining himself to an institution, still in its infancy and miles away from financial stability so vital for the functioning of any educational institution. The death of Hakim Ajmal Khan came as a severe blow to the institution devoiding it of an active worker and committed funder.

For the staff members the desire to work for the national cause meant financial remuneration took a backseat. For many it would have been difficult to manage their affairs and Prof Mujeeb was no different. The staff had voluntarily taken a pay cut in their love for the institution.
Prof Mujeeb's father Mohammad Nasim was a wealthy man and a well known lawyer of Lucknow. For some reason, Mohammad Nasim had stopped supporting his son which must have made life difficult for the young professor. It was then that Gandhiji himself decided to come to the aid of Prof Mujeeb.

Gandhiji had gone to the Aligarh Muslim University in November 1929. There he met Professor Mohammed Habib (father of historian Irfan Habib) who was the elder brother of Prof Mujeeb. Gandhiji took up Mujeeb's cause with him and raised the issue of his allowance.

In a letter (dated November 7, 1929) to Prof Mujeeb, Gandhiji writes about this meeting. "To my agreeable surprise I found your brother to be most receptive and reasonable. I did not need to argue to with him at all. As soon as I mentioned the matter he said he would do so as I asked him to and he agreed that you should be supported by your father and brothers."

Mohammad Habib was married to Sohaila, who was the daughter of Abbas Tyabji, his close friend. It was only during this meeting that Gandhiji discovered about this relationship. And this helped him to be more open with Mohammad Habib. As he himself mentioned in the letter: "It was there that I discovered that he was Sohaila's husband. And Sohaila to me is like my own daughter...I had therefore much less hesitation to speak to your brother than I would have had without a knowledge of this relationship."

Mohammed Habib also asked Gandhiji to write to their father about the matter. Gandhiji went on to write a long and passionate letter to Mohammad Nasim. "You may know that I dote on Mujeeb. He is one of the purest minded young men whom I have the pleasure of knowing. Mujeeb is an acquisition to the Jamia. The Jamia is passing through a financial crisis. Hitherto you have been good enough not only to give Mujeeb to Jamia but to support him. Mujeeb told me that you had now refused to give him your support. Will you not reconsider your decision and not only bless Mujeeb in his work at the Jamia but also give him all the financial assistance he may need which I was glad to be informed you were able to do?"

I wished I could know what were the reasons that led Mohammad Nasim to stop his son's allowance. Gandhiji made it clear that it was definitely not a case of 'supporting a pampered boy'.

"If Mujeeb was not working in a poor national institution I would fully appreciate your refusal to support him for I do believe in parents not pampering their children. But here it is not a question of supporting a pampered boy but supporting an institution to which he has the spirit of sacrifice enough to dedicate himself without reserve."

Can we even think of any leader/politician going anywhere close to Gandhiji's effort to ensure that the services of a young scientist/academician are utilised for national cause. In recent times it would translate into creating the best possible infrastructure or matching the pay with the best in the industry. Well, let's go back.

An 'anxious' Gandhiji also asked Mohammad Nasim to 'reply as early as you can send it to me'. I do not know what reply Gandhiji got but Prof Mujeeb who had joined Jamia Millia Islamia in 1926 went on to serve it till his retirement in 1973. By that time perhaps both Prof Mujeeb and Jamia Millia Islamia had come out of the financial blues. Hopefully, Mohammad Nasim must have agreed to Gandhiji's request.

Interestingly, Gandhiji who met the elder brother to plead the case of the younger brother came away impressed with the elder one too. In the same letter to Prof Mujeeb, he wrote about Mohammad Habib: "I must confess that by his humility and yet dignified bearing he captured me entirely."