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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jinnah was misunderstood on both sides of the border

ePaper l Headlines l Archives Times of India Home Advani blames media for Jinnah controversy 18 Mar 2008

L K Advani has blamed the electronic media for reporting the Jinnah remarks out of context (TOI Photo) A calculated attempt at shedding his "hawk" tag or a genuine bid to highlight a little known aspect of a controversial historical figure, whichever way you look at it, L K Advani's remarks on Jinnah appear to have been a big political miscalculation. They provoked an outrage in India, isolated the BJP leader within the Sangh parivar and led to his resignation as party president.

Two years after the Jinnah storm, Advani appears unrepentent over the turn of events as he writes extensively on the affair in his forthcoming autobiography, My Nation, My Life . Putting the record straight on what he had put down in the visitor’s book of the Quaid-e-Azam's mausoleum, Advani writes,

"As a matter of fact, I had not called Jinnah 'secular'. I had only referred to a particular speech of his on an important occasion in the history of Pakistan, and stated that it was 'a classic, a forceful espousal of a Secular State'. Similarly, it was not I who called Jinnah an 'Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity'; it was a tribute paid to him by Sarojini Naidu..."

In the book, Advani blames the electronic media for reporting the remarks out of context. "(TV channels) ignore, wittingly or unwittingly, historical context, nuance, explanatory arguments and the innate complexity of the issues and personalities involved in the news." He explains the "context" of the remarks:

"If I had done anything as a conscious act, it was to highlight these two little-known facts of history about Jinnah, and that too from the vantage point of Jinnah's mausoleum, because I wanted people both in India and Pakistan to know about this aspect of our shared history. I also wanted the people of Pakistan to judge the contrast between Jinnah's vision of a secular state and its subsequent transformation into a theocratic state that marginalized the minorities."

The rest of the chapter goes into great detail on Jinnah's personality as seen by various contemporaries and commentators. Through these, Advani tries to bring out the two faces of the Quaid-e-Azam—one, the secular politician who was a nationalist to the core, and the other, the man who split India. As Advani explains at the end of the chapter:

"I have given this rather lengthy description of the two personas of Jinnah just to submit to the readers that we should have a holistic and unprejudiced view of history and historical personalities...."

Interestingly, Advani quotes celebrated Pakistani lawyer and a current PM-hopeful, Aitzaz Ahsan, who has written in the preface of his book, "The Indus Saga: From Patliputra to Partition". Drawing a parallel between Advani and the subject of the controversy, Ahsan wrote that "Jinnah was misunderstood on both sides of the border. So, for once, was Advani." That seem to sum up the BJP leader's arguments as well.

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