Did Gandhi-Jinnah Efforts to Avoid Partition Irk Hindu Fundamentalists?

When Sudheendra Kulkarni was attacked by Shiva Sena goons and his face blackened, it came as a surprise for many. A BJP member and former aide of ex PM Vajpayee, attacked by members of their own coalition partner? More so because it did not evoke much reaction or condemnation from the party leadership except for L K Advani. You could argue that it was always on the cards given the visceral anti-Pak sentiments persisting among Hindu fundamentalist groups, especially the ultra nationalist Shiva Sena.

However, the revelation of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, former Pakistan foreign minister, whose book was the point of contention that eventually led to manhandling of Sudheendra Kulkarni, unveils another story. He claimed that Gandhi and Jinnah had collectively worked to avoid partition and keep India united, and that the sub-continent’s history would have been entirely different if their efforts had succeeded.

Was this Kasuri contention that really irked them to the extent that they attacked one who himself subscribed to the Sangh ideology? Were the Hindu nationalists really hoping for partition even as they appeared to oppose it? And was what Kasuri revealed too bitter a pill for them to take and something they didn’t want to come out or even discussed? Its definitely something to ponder about.

Gandhiji with M A Jinnah
Gandhiji with M A Jinnah

Sub-continent’s history sabotaged

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said on Tuesday the Indian sub-continent’s history would have been different if Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah had succeeded in their efforts to keep the country united.

He said Gandhi and Jinnah were great leaders who collectively worked to avoid ‘partition’ and keep India united.

“Actually, the history of the sub-continent would have been different if the efforts made by Gandhiji and Jinnahsaheb had succeeded,” Kasuri said.

The Pakistani politician, who served as foreign minister from 2002 to 2007, was talking to reporters after visiting Mani Bhavan, which was the nerve centre of Gandhiji’s activities in Mumbai (then Bombay) from 1917 to 1934.

“They tried for 18 days to bring Hindus and Muslims together and attempts were made to find an amicable settlement and I wish they had succeeded. But let me point out that Jinnah, in a spirit of accommodation, had accepted the Cabinet Mission plan (of 1946 which dealt with transfer of power and Constitution formation). Rest I leave to history,” he said.

Gandhiji left an indelible mark

Commenting on the current state of relations between the two neighbours, Kasuri said, “It is incumbent on India and Pakistan to realise that their founding fathers had completely different views on how Muslims and Hindus would conduct themselves in reference to each other.

“As a foreign minister, I always tried to find the areas of convergence, where both countries can agree and then move ahead in those areas,” he said.

Earlier, Kasuri went around Mani Bhavan and showed keen interest in books, items and other displays kept at the two-storied historic building localed in Gamdevi area.

After a 55-minute visit, he wrote in the visitor’s book, “It is a great pleasure to be here. Gandhiji left an indelible mark on the minds of Hindus and Muslims. He made great efforts to bring them together during the Khilafat movement.”

Kasuri was accompanied by Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former BJP member and columnist who invited Shiv Sena’s wrath for organising the Pakistani politician’s book release in Mumbai yesterday.

Kulkarni filled Kasuri in about the different stages of Gandhiji’s life.

Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary of ‘Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalay’ said, “Since Kasuri belongs to a family of freedom fighters, he was very much aware of the various developments related to Gandhiji’s life. Kasuriji was overwhelmed when we opened the special chamber of Gandhiji for him. He also operated the ‘charkha’ (yarn spinning wooden machine) kept there.”