Why Does Asaduddin Owaisi Indulge in Jinnah & Pakistan Bashing Often?
Partition continues to haunt Indian Muslims because they are seen as the ‘remains of the day’.
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“Listen Pakistan! You can never compete with India.” This wasn’t a BJP leader, but the man who a few believe to be the sole representative of Muslims in India - Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AlMIM).
He was responding to Pakistani minister Sheikh Rashid’s comment after their cricket victory over India: “A minister of our neighbouring country said that Pakistan’s win against India in the #T20WorldCup match was a victory for Islam...What does Islam have to do with cricket matches?”
Owaisi said this in Muzaffarnagar; UP elections, where he hopes to make his debut, are due early next year.
UP Elections & Resurrection of Jinnah
When Akhilesh Yadav recently stated, “Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Jinnah studied at the same institute and became barristers…and they fought for India's freedom”, Yogi Adityanath accused him of a “Talibani mentality”. Owaisi took it personally: “Akhilesh Yadav should understand that Indian Muslims have nothing to do with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Our elders rejected the two-nation theory and chose India as their country.”
Muslim loyalty towards the country is embellished with unnecessary romanticism. In 1947, not everybody had or made a choice on both sides of the border; they just decided to stay where their homes and earnings were.
Partition continues to haunt Indian Muslims because they are seen as the ‘remains of the day’. And to correct that, they find a convenient villain across the border. It isn’t recent.
Islamic scholar Dr Rafiq Zakaria had said, “Never in India’s history has even the worst Muslim ruler alienated Hindus from Muslims as Jinnah has done.”
It is a delusion to blame every Hindu-Muslim discord on Partition. Communal riots predate it and, as recent events have proved, Jinnah’s fears of Hindu domination have not been unfounded.
In 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished and people were killed because they were seen as “Babar ki aulaad (the offspring of Babar)”. It is, therefore, surprising to see Muslims trying to prove their nationalistic credentials by critiquing Pakistan and demonising Jinnah even as rightwing jingoism digs up kings from centuries ago to reclaim their culture.
Jinnah, the Convenient Djinn
For someone who is singlehandedly held responsible for the loss of 6 lakh lives and 14 million uprooted people, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had once said, “Nobody will welcome an honourable settlement between the Hindus and Muslims than I and nobody will be more ready to help it.”
Constitutional expert and former advocate general HM Seervai had written in ‘Legend and Reality’, “It is a little unfortunate that those who assail Jinnah for destroying the unity of India do not ask how it was that a man who wanted a nationalist solution till as late as 1938, when he was 61 years of age, suddenly became a ‘communalist’”.
He writes that it was not until the elections of 1937 “when Nehru declared that there was no such thing as a Hindu-Muslim or a minority question. It was after Gandhi had said, ‘I wish I could do something but I am utterly helpless. My faith in unity is bright as ever; only I see no daylight but impenetrable darkness and in such distress I cry out to god for light’.”
Jinnah, the Messiah of 'Mussalmans'?
For a person who had “never been a believer in mass movements”, according to Maulana Azad, it was perhaps a seething response to Nehru’s declaration, “There are only two forces in India today, British imperialism and Indian nationalism as represented by the Congress”; Jinnah corrected him, “No, there is a third party, the Mussalmans.”
The results of the 1945 central legislative assembly proved Jinnah’s hold on the masses. In Muslim constituencies, the Muslim League got 86.6 per cent of the votes to the Congress’s 91.3 per cent in non-Muslim areas.
Lord Mountbatten was the real schemer behind the Partition carnage for ‘out of the blue’, on his own admission, he forwarded the date to August 15 from the originally decided June 1948, thus causing mindless bloodshed. The last viceroy was distinctly biased against Jinnah, often publicly ridiculing him. The tenth volume of ‘The Transfer of Power’, the detailed journals portraying the British view of the period, states, “If Mr. Jinnah thought himself betrayed he might derive great satisfaction by going down in history as a martyr for his cause, butchered by the British on the Congress altar.”
It may be ironical and even hypocritical that the Bond Street-suited gentleman appeared on pamphlets dressed in a sherwani, sword in hand. But it is also a reflection of the reality of majoritarian politics that a man with no interest in religion became a messiah to ten crore Muslims.
Why Does Owaisi Indulge in Bashing of Jinnah & Pakistan?
Today’s Indian Muslim politicians do not want to be path-breakers, choosing instead to be ideological fence-sitters.
It is fair enough for Owaisi to tell Imran Khan that Kashmir is nobody’s private property, but he was silent about Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s speech at the UN referring to the abrogation of Article 370 as an invasion and occupation by India. The AIMIM head is himself barely invested in Kashmiris and had rejected the UNHRC report on human rights violations in the state.
It is reasonable for him to tell Imran Khan to mind his own business and look after his own people, but on what basis does he respond by praising India’s “inclusive politics and minority rights” when the reality is different and he often raises questions about it?
The suggestion by some that by mentioning Jinnah Akhilesh Yadav is catering to a Muslim vote-bank is specious, yet Owaisi adds heft to it with his Pakistan-bashing. This has won favour with short-sighted liberals, too, who see it as a sign of patriotism, quite ignoring the fact that Muslims in India are taunted about Pakistan every day. They should not need to prove their patriotism and not everybody has a pulpit to do so.
Is Owaisi Furthering the RSS Narrative?
While he distances himself from the radicalised act of Partition, he does not shirk from using it. In his speech in Parliament following the 2012 violence in Assam against and displacement of non-Bodos, mainly Muslims, Owaisi had said: “If proper rehabilitation does not take place, you be ready for a third wave of radicalisation among Muslim youth.” Such misleading declarations only play into the hands of the “Hindu khatre mein hai” narrative of the RSS.
The balancing act of vilifying Pakistan and at the same time implying that Jinnah was a Pakistani Savarkar is facetious.
It could have been megalomania that Mountbatten accused him of, but at least the ‘divider’ Jinnah took the divided part and went away; Veer Savarkar’s ‘akhand Bharat’ idea is a supremacist divisive ideology eating away at the entrails of the very society that feeds it. This should disturb the Muslim leadership and not a 74-year-old ghost.
(Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based writer. She tweets at @farzana_versey. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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