Remembering Jinnah on 11 August

Just a stray thought; what if Jinnah was there and someone whispered Article 35 A!

Mehmood ur Rashid
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 10 2018 11:42PM | Updated Date: Aug 10 2018 11:42PM
Remembering Jinnah on 11 August

Today is 11th August. On this day, 1947, Jinnah spoke to the Constituent Assembly of a country formally yet to born. Pakistan was delivered three days later. Reading this short, yet pithy, speech one senses that Jinnah spoke to India one last time, to Pakistan for first ever time, and to the entire region for all times to come. 

Like Jinnah, his speech, is a bitterly contested legacy. Some derive finest version of secularism from it. Some distill a refined version of an Islamic state. This contestation is unending, as people never stop grafting their desirous thinking on events and personalities. A plain, unencumbered reading of this speech tells us that here the man was founding a Nation-State, and handing it over to the people living in its territory, making no difference between one or the other. No discrimination against anyone, no exclusions whatsoever. He only got an independent, sovereign country for Muslims, who in modern politics constituted a majority. Pakistan was first and last a Political Idea.

As the speech goes, this was “the only solution of India's constitutional problem”. So he solved a problem not just for his own party, or people, but for the entire India. He cared for his people in would be Pakistan as much as he cared for those left behind in Hindustan. He fought for this solution through the instrument of constitution, and by way of politics. Rest was subservient to this. People in India, Pakistan and Kashmir are conditioned to look at Jinnah in emotive terms. They passionately like him, or intensely dislike him, hardly they try to understand him. 

At a time when there is a debate going on in Kashmir whether the Resistance leadership should meddle with the issues that are 'within the ambit of Indian constitution', Jinnah's understanding of politics and constitutionality is a guidance ready and refined. Those who make such distinctions, and carve out airtight compartments could only earn Jinnah's wrath, laugh, and pity.  He would discard such weird ideas as worthless, void, and anti-people.

Constitution is a compact between, and amongst peoples. It is neither subservient to nationalism nor any religion. It is an agreement on rights of people, on the distribution of power and resources. It is a document ever evolving. This talk of “within the ambit of constitution” or a slogan like Aine Hind Manzoor Nahi  is primarily against the spirit of politics. Its creates a rhetorical gridlock, blocking independent thinking. 

Constitution is not a compulsive instrument determining the limits of human freedom. It is not one deciding the matter for other, and for ever.  It's a continuous dialogue, and an unceasing engagement on the matters related to the rights of people. It's determined by the political leadership of the peoples involved. It even informs the distribution, and political status of territories. Constitution is not an end to geography. The nature of borders, even borders itself, can change through politics. And constitution is nothing but an expression of the politics of the times. If within a country borders between its component parts can shift, using constitutional arrangements, who stops it to be applied to the national borders. It is only a matter of leadership's ability to realise the ideal.

But we are sailing through the ocean of anti-politics, lurching in the ships of Islamism, and insurrectionism. Both proposing a total turning of things upside down. That too violently. This is not the realm of politics Jinnah traversed through all his life. A Jinnah in Kashmir would go to the Supreme Court of India, fight for 35 A on legal grounds, win the case, come back and get back to his job of securing the future of Muslims in Kashmir, who constitute a majority in political terms. He would convince the world that this was “the only solution of India's constitutional problem”. He would achieve the goal the way he achieved Pakistan. His speech on 11th August says how: “And what is very important with regard to it is that we have achieved it peacefully and by means of an evolution of the greatest possible character.”

It's is this greatest possible character that is missing in our leadership. It's also missing in our people. It was this character that made Jinnah speak to his people with faith in himself, and his people, and say: “ I say the Muslim League is not going to be an ally of anyone, but would be the ally of even the Devil if need be in the interest of Muslims.” Silence fell the moment Jinnah said this, one could hear a pin drop. Jinnah continued: “It is not because we are in love with imperialism; but in politics one has to play one’s game as on the chessboard. I say that the Muslims and the Muslim League have only one ally and that ally is the Muslim nation, and one and only one to whom they look for help is God.” 

But in all this what mattered to Jinnah is what Morely picks up as the epigraph for his book on Compromise, : “It makes all the difference in the world whether we put truth in the first place or in the second place.”  Jinnah put truth in the first place, and put faith in his ability to fight for that truth. Rest was all occasional, episodic, eventual, constitutional or beyond. Jinnah fought all his life for the rights of Muslims, in the face of an impending Hindu dominance, eventually getting an independent country for them. But once he got the country, he again placed truth at the first place. Remember the speech on 11th August 1947:

“ You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place for worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed -- that has nothing to do with the business of the State.......We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.” 

That is Jinnah, Mahatma of Freedom. 

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