With the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the lower house of the parliament, the ‘jinn’ of the two-nation theory has once again come out of the bottle.
Nearly all the opponents of this bill are calling it a revival of Jinnah’s two-nation theory, whereas, as per my understanding, the two-nation theory was imposed on Jinnah by the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and it’s sympathisers in Congress.
Jinnah was a thorough Gandhian in his outlook right until his death. The only thing he wanted (and was justified in demanding so) was proportionate representation for the minorities – the denial of which, from the majority community, led him to side with the demand for a separate state.
Seventy years on, the secular state of India has still not delivered on the promise of socio-economic equality to the minorities of this country, which is enshrined in the Constitution. The solution, as Jinnah foresaw, still remains the same, i.e. proportionate representation in all walks of public life.
Hence, silencing or undermining the legitimate demands of the marginalised community by using the bogey of two-nation theory, or dragging Jinnah in the debate, while arguing against fascism, is utterly nonsensical. This shall serve no purpose except for advancing the BJP and Sangh’s cause. It’s high time the liberals stop making an enemy out of Jinnah for their sins and that of the far-right.
The two-nation theory was proposed by V.D.Savarkar, who proclaimed that Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate nations. The Hindu right-wing, across party lines, lapped up to his assertion, and launched a relentless campaign, to curtail any bargain, with the imperial powers, that would provide Muslims with equal citizenship rights.
The Muslim representatives, with their backs on the wall, fought vehemently against this design of the fascist forces. Several rounds of negotiation were held to assuage the differences between the two parties, the end result of which, always was a deadlock. The Hindu far right was rigid in its stance and not ready to concede an inch from it’s stated position of a Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat. The Muslims persuasion and the liberal reconciliatory efforts, in light of fascist adamant behaviour, went in vain.
There is, however, the third dimension to this debate that needs attention. If Mohammad Ali Jinnah, indeed believed in diversity, and in the creation of an egalitarian state, what made him side with the voice for Pakistan? The same question arises for Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as well, who held a parallel political stature with Jinnah and had similar ideological inclinations. Why did he agree to the demand for partition?
The answer to this controversial question lies in the pre-independence fading global political clout of Great Britain. Britain’s power after the world war II was nowhere in comparison to that of the United States of America or even USSR, which made it untenable to run the subcontinent that was already boiling over for the sake of independence.
When the Muslim parties to the negotiation realised, that sooner rather than later, the Britishers are going to leave, they became restless. It is here that the path of struggle for citizenship rights gave way to popular demand for a separate state. Many scholars have also argued that the Britishers in their fading hour of glory, wanted to make the country politically weaker, and hence, sowed the seeds of strife. This, they believed, would secure their supremacy as the strongest member of the Commonwealth of Nations and would limit the growth of its former colony.
The idea of India being independent in the foreseeable, future led to a tectonic realignment of political positions. Jinnah gave up on his demand for proportionate representation and became the flag bearer for a separate state. Here again, some scholars believe that his shift in stance was equally propelled by a desire to lead a country and community of whatever landmass he would be able to negotiate. It was the same with Jawaharlal Nehru, who fell for the charms of becoming independent India’s topmost leader and sacrificed at its altar, the unity of the country.
Still, despite Jinnah’s and Nehru’s political shifts, they were not responsible for partition. However, it is also true that the Hindu far-right never desired such an outcome. Forever, their demand was to subjugate Muslims to second class citizens, in their greater fatherland, which was Akhand Bharat. Interestingly, their intimate desire remains the same and is the stated goal of their ideological patriarch, the RSS.
The real skeletons of the partition ironically lay not in coffins they are repeatedly dug from. Perhaps, if the Muslims had not become restless, after repeated failures in their fight for proportionate representation, and opted for a separate state instead, the contours of politics in South Asia would have been completely different today. Perhaps, we would still be struggling for independence from the Britishers. But, perhaps the minorities would not be feeling as powerless.
Had Jinnah and Nehru not succumbed to the human desire for power and prestige, maybe there would still be scope for negotiation today. A grossly unconstitutional and communal Citizenship Amendment Bill would certainly not have been passed without equal contestation.
The events of the past few days, where a brute majority in parliament, has boldly been used to rip apart the Constitution’s basic structure, that guarantees, amongst other things, secularism, has revived the pain of partition amongst the country’s Muslims. Despite being significant in number, they have been systematically reduced to the ranks of serfs.