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INSIGHT: Jinnah Dialogue in Bhutto’s ‘The Myth of Independence’

“(India) is a paper creation, it has no basis in flesh and blood”

Chapter 7 of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s maiden book (The Myth of Independence) published in 1967 discusses pros and cons of “Collaboration with India on American Terms”, and includes the insightful matter-of-factly dialogue M A Jinnah had with British author Beverley Nichols many years ago — before partition.

Bhutto (April 4th is his death anniversary) verbatim publishes the dialogue — we take it to peg his arguments — by reinforcing Jinnah’s thought process in defense of separate Muslim nation as “united India would mean a Hindu-dominated India”.

One of Jinnah’s response to Nichols raises the curtain on things then and (even) now: “Why hasn’t time brought us (Hindus and Muslims) together? Because the Muslims are awake . . .because they’ve learnt, through bitter experience, the sort of treatment they may expect from the Hindus in a ‘United India’. A ‘United India’ means a Hindu-dominated India. It means that and nothing else. Any other meaning you attempt to impose on it is mythical. ‘India’ is a British creation . . . it is merely a single administrative unit governed by a bureaucracy under the sanction of the sword. That is all. It is a paper creation, it has no basis in flesh and blood”.

Mr. Bhutto ends quoting the entire dialogue with the note “The essence of Pakistan—at least of its spirit—is found in the foregoing dialogue“.

Excerpt (below) from the dialogue between Jinnah and Nichol on pages 81 and 82 of Bhutto’s book remains relevant as things unravel in India amid PM Modi’s push for a Hindutva nation.

SELF [Nichols] The first is economic. Are the Muslims likely to be richer or poorer under Pakistan? And would you set up tariffs against the rest of India?

JINNAH I’ll ask you a question for a change. Supposing you were asked which you would prefer … a rich England under Germany or a poor England free, what would your answer be?

SELF It’s hardly necessary to say.

JINNAH Quite. Well, doesn’t that make your question look a little shoddy? This great ideal rises far above mere questions of personal comfort or temporary convenience. The Muslims are a tough people, lean and hardy. If Pakistan means that they will have to be a little tougher, they will not complain. But why should it mean that? What conceivable reason is there to suppose that the gift of nationality is going to be an economic liability? A sovereign nation of a hundred million people—even if they are not immediately self-supporting and even if they are industrially backward—is hardly likely to be in a worse economic position than if its members are scattered and disorganized, under the dominance of two hundred and fifty million Hindus whose one idea is to exploit them. How any European can get up and say that Pakistan is ‘economically impossible’ after the Treaty of Versailles is really beyond my comprehension. The great brains who cut Europe into a ridiculous patchwork of conflicting and artificial boundaries are hardly the people to talk economics to us, particularly as our problem happens to be far simpler.

SELF And does that also apply to defense?

JINNAH Of course it applies to defense. Once again I will ask you a question. How is Afghanistan defended? Well? The answer is not very complicated. By the Afghans. Just that. We are a brave and united people who are prepared to work and, if necessary, fight.

So how does the question of defense present any peculiar difficulties? In what way do we differ from other nations? From Iran, for example? Obviously, there will have to be a transition period. . . .

JINNAH You will remember I said, a moment ago, that the British would have to do a lot of hard thinking. It’s a habit they don’t find very congenial; they prefer to be comfortable, to wait and see, trusting that everything will come right in the end. However, when they do take the trouble to think, they think as clearly and creatively as any people in the world. And one of their best thinkers—at least on the Indian problem—was old John Bright. Have you ever read any of his speeches?

SELF Not since I left school.

JINNAH Well, take a look at this. I found it by chance the other day. He handed me the book. It was a faded old volume, The Speeches of John Bright, and the date of the page at which it was opened was June 4th,1858. This is what the greatest orator in the House of Commons said on that occasion:

‘How long does England propose to govern India? Nobody can answer this question. But be it 50 or 100 or 500 years, does any man with the smallest glimmering of common sense believe that so great a country, with its 20different nationalities and its 20 different languages, can ever be bounded up and consolidated into one compact and enduring empire confine? I believe such a thing to be utterly impossible.’

JINNAH What Bright said then is true today … In fact, it’s far more true—though, of course, the emphasis is not so much on the 20 nationalities as on the2 … the Muslim and the Hindu. And why is it more true? Why hasn’t time brought us together? Because the Muslims are awake . . . because they’ve learnt, through bitter experience, the sort of treatment they may expect from the Hindus in a ‘United India’. A ‘United India’ means a Hindu-dominated India. It means that and nothing else. Any other meaning you attempt to impose on it is mythical. ‘India’ is a British creation . . . it is merely a single administrative unit governed by a bureaucracy under the sanction of the sword. That is all. It is a paper creation, it has no basis in flesh and blood.

Above is an excerpt from pages 81 & 82 of Z A Bhutto’s maiden book “The Myth of Independence (Karachi, 1967).

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