Why Jinnah apologist Irfan Habib is wrong on Golwalkar

In the backdrop of the controversy over MA Jinnah’s portrait in the Aligarh Muslim University campus, apologists of the father of India’s partition have taken to delving into history to resurrect his image. One such apologist is historian Irfan Habib. The noted academic has in an interview said that Jinnah had once been considered a ‘nationalist’ by the entire country. True, but that was before the Lahore Resolution of 1940 which formally demanded Pakistan.

Why should the earlier phase be repeatedly highlighted and not the later one? Again, Habib pointed out that Jinnah had once defended Bal Gangadhar Tilak in a court case in 1916. Jinnah had then successfully defended Tilak in a sedition issue levelled by the British.

This too is true, but how does that incident reconcile with the former’s later tactics that led to partition? Habib wonders why critics of Jinnah don’t ask about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “ideological ancestors” like MS Golwalkar. Well, the fact is that the question has been asked for long and answers have been given — except that the ‘liberals’ have been too prejudiced to understand them.

The eminent historian says that Golwalkar did not even consider Muslims as citizens of India. Now, when did Golwalkar say this, and in what context if at all all he did?  The second RSS chief’s position is known to all — his Bunch of Thoughts are explicit in nature. He did not deny citizenship to Indian Muslims; all that he said is that Indian Muslims must behave like Indians first and Muslims later, and that those Muslims who acted in an anti-national spirit ought to have no place in this country. Surely that is no blasphemy. Habib’s contention that Golwalkar had praised Adolf Hitler is partly true. Partly because the RSS leader had indeed said Hitler possessed “magic”, but then he had also criticised the massacre of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Habib also sought to defend Jinnah by quoting the latter’s speech made a few days before Pakistan’s formation — that in Pakistan, people of all religious faith would be treated equally — and blamed developments thereafter, including the Constitution framed, for the collapse of Jinnah’s dream of communal amity. This is funny. After all, when Jinnah created Pakistan based on the primacy of one religion, how could other faiths ever be on an equal footing? Jinnah knew well he was creating a theocracy of sorts, and he was okay with the idea. It’s time Jinnah apologist stopped defending the indefensible and accepted the truth: That Jinnah was a communal and divisive figure, and that he cannot be eulogised.