New Delhi, June 12: Why are the office-bearers of the BJP poring over copies of the Radical Humanist' Have they become admirers of M.N. Roy' Far from it.
They are reading the May 2005 issue of Radical Humanist which contains an article titled Importance of Jinnah in improving Indo-Pakistan Relations. The author is a certain V.B. Rawat.
Many in the BJP’s top echelons wonder whether this article did not unduly influence their president L.K. Advani before he went to Pakistan. There are others, however, who claim that all parallels are purely coincidental.
Rawat writes: “Time had come to stop making a villain of certain people just to target our political opponents” and goes on to say that “Indians must understand that Jinnah was a thorough secular who was termed the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity by none other than Sarojini Naidu” (Page 16).
Advani too saluted a “secular” Jinnah and wrote in the visitor’s book at Jinnah’s mausoleum at Karachi: “In his early years, Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described Mr. Jinnah as an ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’.”
Paying homage to Jinnah, Advani wrote: “His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practise his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith.”
Rawat quoted approvingly the very same passages of Jinnah’s speech before Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly that Advani did ' both at Jinnah’s mausoleum and in his speech before the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law on June 5.
The quote begins with Jinnah telling Pakistani citizens: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.”
It goes on to say that in due course “Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the principles of justice and fair play without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill will, in other words, partially or favouritism”. (Page 15)
Advani’s quote, however, seems to be from a different source than Rawat’s because his excerpt ends with the following: “You will find that in due course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
Admittedly, this is a famous speech. It could be a coincidence that both Advani and Rawat chose to excerpt it to different lengths. But the core of their argument is the same ' the need to come to terms with the Partition, appraising it critically so that peace between India and Pakistan can be lent permanence.