I know I am a bit late to discuss Anna Hazare here[Title is accurate, have patience 🙂 ], as the ‘movement’ he has engineered has come a long way since he started his fast a few months ago and re-started it on August 15th , in support of the Lokpal Bill. But, I can’t stop thinking about an observation I made.
How do you define a Leader and how do you determine his Greatness?
Anyone can be a leader of the masses, but can anyone leave behind a legacy strong enough to influence generations long after they have passed away?
This was what came to mind when I saw the media calling Anna Hazare a neo-Gandhi, or at least, inspired by Gandhi.
Let us go back in time. August of 1947 was a time of turmoil and two nations were born out of a common womb. The two Countries have since followed two different trajectories. One has proclaimed itself to be an ‘Islamic Republic’, while the other proudly calls itself a ‘Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic’.
There were many important actors during this time but the contribution of 3 leaders outrank any in this period of mayhem: Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru and ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi.
Jinnah went on to create his Pakistan by the sheer strength of his will and a lot of British help. Nehru and Gandhi spent half of their time between 1920 and 1947 in various British gaols and managed to get the hard-fought freedom for the Indian Sub-Continent, after a long, bitter struggle for Independence. They all come from the same era but the ideologies they espouse are different.
Gandhi, a pacifist by thought, wore only a hand-spun Khadi and a stern believer in the principles of non-violence. Nehru, considered himself a thorough ‘Gandhian’ and he had even fought with his father, a ‘Great’ himself, Motilal Nehru, in the process of sticking up for Gandhi and his policies (Motilal was opposed to dragging Religion into politics as Gandhi did so brilliantly and constructively).
Jinnah was unlike both. His strength was vague-ness and a brilliant mind. A premier lawyer of his time, who wore Saville Row suits, drank Alcohol (Alcohol consumption considered a sin in Islam) and his preferred language was English, rather than Urdu or Gujrati. Yet, he goes onto raise a cry for Pakistan, claiming ‘Islam is in danger’ [He goes onto argue for the usage of Urdu in Pakistan, even though it was not the native language of the geography nor the language of the majority, thereby sowing seeds for the birth of Bangladesh, a Country for the Bengali speakers of Jinnah’s Pakistan].
Let us not get into the details and the circumstances behind the partition as it doesn’t seem as important in the context of this observation.
So, Jinnah managed to create a “Country for Muslims”, named Pakistan (Land of the pure). And, Gandhi became the ‘Father of the Nation’ of India; Nehru its first PM.
Now, let us come back to the present.
65 years on, Gandhi and his ways are a source of inspiration, not only in India, but all over the World. A person like Anna Hazare still uses Gandhi’s methods to achieve what he thinks is right. Nehru’s name has been soiled a bit for the License-Raj rule he spawned, intentionally or otherwise. Political Parties play politics and use his bloodline to garner votes even today. Clearly he is still the darling of the Rural-India and a source of inspiration for those of us who are not corrupted by the canards propagating in Urban India.
But, what about the other guy in the famous trio? While Gandhi and Nehru are loved to be hated by the Right in India, the Left and the Centrists have been unequivocal about their love for Gandhi-Nehru; Jinnah, on the other hand, has turned out to be the quintessential poster-boy for both the Right and the not-so-Right in Pakistan.
Jinnah is quoted by all and sundry n Pakistan, for everything – Political and Religious. Ask a Pakistani if Pakistan was meant to be a Secular state, the not-so-Right will quote Jinnah’s August 11th speech [where he essentially says there should be room for non-Muslims in Pakistan] and the Right will ask you if Pakistan was meant to be a Secular state why create it in the first place and will also, most probably, quote one of Jinnah’s several speeches authenticating their point of view: A person will selectively quote one of Jinnah’s speeches depending on his/her political leanings. Jinnah has also done a great favor to the Feudalists of Pakistan by seeking their support during the 1940s and late 1930s, thereby not speaking against one of the most brutal institutions of the time- Feudalism. You won’t find him abusing the Feudals the way Nehru vent his rage on them.
Gandhi-Nehru managed to create a Country which would adopt a Constitution which stands for, or, at least does not violate both their respective ideologies. India is officially today a ‘Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic’ and Pakistan a ‘Islamic Republic’. India is content with its identity; Pakistan’s is ripping it apart. India, almost nonchalantly, will choose a Sikh Prime Minister, who derives his support from a Catholic Congress President. No non-Muslim can aspire to become the President of Pakistan, says its Constitution.
Legacy is such an important thing, especially of those who manage to create and influence entire nations. You have a Jinnah as the ‘Father of a Nation’, you head into turmoil; the politico-religious boundaries get erased and/or tend to overlap. Islamists will use him as their poster boy, so will the Secularists. Your nation will forever be doomed to be governed by a Constitution which allows outrageous laws like the Blasphemy Law. You cannot win an argument against the Right, who tend to not only have Jinnah’s quotes on their side but also are more capable of violence. On the other hand, if you have the luxury of divine providence of having a Nehru/Gandhi as a ‘Guy you can look up to’, your boundaries are pretty clear on most of the important issues, be it regarding war/violence or economy or social evils like the Caste System, Feudaism/Zamindari System,etc. The Right cannot invoke their beliefs and speeches, because there are none.
Mind you, I am talking about legacy here, not particular quotes or specific actions of the individuals in question.
Legacies are what which can define Nations. Only the people with upright morals and genuine good in their hearts can aim to have such influence over others, who in turn may well go onto inspire others. Gandhi can inspire men like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, but Jinnah cant. The difference between the two is pretty obvious: The former used Religion to unite, the latter to divide.
On an inter-personal level, we are all Children of legacies. A Father’s legacy for his son/daughter can define and mold his/her thinking (Influence of Motilal over his son, Jawaharlal, is the best example I have come across). A ‘Guru’ (Teacher) can extend his legacy into his student, by the power and wisdom of his knowledge. Legacy is a pretty powerful tool, for those who understand it. For those who don’t, they leave a legacy too, but that legacy is of a loathsome character and invariably leads to misery.
As far as legacy goes in the India-Pakistan context, India is blessed, while Pakistan seems bound to be stuck in a vicious cycle of war of two Jinnah’s.
Indians, be proud and thank Him for giving us a ‘Mahatma’ when we most needed him!