The Legacy of Gandhi-Nehru Vs Legacy of Jinnah

Two men, near, yet so far

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!



Filed under Gandhi, Happy, Human Rights, India, India's Freedom Struggle, Life, Love

6 responses to “The Legacy of Gandhi-Nehru Vs Legacy of Jinnah

  1. sarmadhassan

    It was a long post, just skimmed through it and am with you for the most part.

    The idea of Jinnah being a divider is very much down right wrong considering Jinnah a major player in congress once. No one just wakes up in the morning willing to divide a country for no reason, let a lone willing to cause blood shed in doing so. Do have a look at the down falls at Nehru and Gandhis’ part and other congress leaders as to why a major portion if not the majority of Muslims considered a need to build up a new country.

    As for nit picking laws, constitution, blasphemy etc. They are not a metric determining a nations success. If democracy and freedom of speech is your belief, I’d like to see some posts made on why a US by birth is only allowed to be a US president and had to take oath with a Bible in his hand. Or Why I am going to be jailed for an year and get fines as much as 45000 euros in most European countries just because I do not believe in holocaust for whatever reasons ?

    As far as legacy of Jinnah is concerned, it showed up in full strength when people in Pakistan raised for the justified cause of freedom of judiciary. If your good self is considering Gandhi and Nehru to be the ultimate Mahatmas, let me tell you, they didn’t had much of their affect over 100,000 armed Nexal militia.

    • @sarmadhassan,

      “The idea of Jinnah being a divider is very much down right wrong considering Jinnah a major player in congress once.”

      I merely said he belongs to the Right and Left of Pakistan, everybody Right-wing or liberal claim him. There is this confusion with what he stood for which will be a ever fought battle. This doesn’t happen with individuals like Nehru or Gandhi.

      “Do have a look at the down falls at Nehru and Gandhis’ part ”

      The British were the one’s who were ruling the Country, not Gandhi or Nehru nor any Congressman. What can they possibly do to upset anyone but the British? If they were in a position of authority, why did they spend so much time in jail?

      There were no downfalls, no ill-will on their part. Nehru did so great a service to the Muslims of India, that his grand-children still garner votes in his name from the Muslim Community. Both of them were Humanists of the rarest kind.

      “They are not a metric determining a nations success.”

      Well, actually they are. Laws and the Constitution are what makes a Country, their ideological foundations. You are seriously comparing the abused Blasphemy law with the law which prohibits denying the Holocaust?

      “As far as legacy of Jinnah is concerned, it showed up in full strength when people in Pakistan raised for the justified cause of freedom of judiciary.”

      Jinnah left a Legacy, yes. But, that Legacy is different for different people. The same people who fought for the judiciary, garlanded flowers on a Murderer. How many times have you seen a Mullah and a liberal fight on TV of what they think Jinnah really wanted from Pakistan?

      “they didn’t had much of their affect over 100,000 armed Nexal militia.”

      You have to read my post to understand my point wholly. What I am saying is those who profess to admire Gandhi and Nehru, for there are a lot, the path is clearly laid out- The path of non-violence, of bringing about a change from within, of peace. Gandhi inspires people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King; both combined inspire greatness.

      100,000 Militia? Sources? Anyhow, Gandhi and Nehru are supposed to be political and spiritual symbols, nothing else. To ask them to solve every problem in India is very unfair. But, even in death, they provide inspiration for, not only Indians, but people from all over. The state created by Nehru, will solve the problem of Naxals, that is for sure.

  2. shweta mittal

    liked ur post and ur reply to sarmad hassan. 1 thing that intrigues me is that the left liberal secular (pseudo-secular?) brigade of our country quote jinnah’s 11th aug ‘secualr’ speech to show that jinnah was secular. they blame gandhi saying that he was too openly hindu with his reference to ram rajya. they even blame him (and other hindu and congress leaders) for partition! what r ur comments about this peddarowdy? because frankly i find their interpretation of history baffling.

    • @Shweta,
      Thank you for your inputs.
      There are a lot of rhetoric going around and things are not usually that black and white. Gandhi’s call for Ram Rajya was used the Muslim League to achieve political aims, but the intention and meaning was honest and eternally secular.
      It has become a crime to use one’s own cultural language to spread the message across.

      Do visit us again 🙂

  3. UncomfortablyOpiniated

    Lets not forget that until 1946 the demand for Pakistan was a negotiating tactic…

    Infact the Muslim League/Jinnah had accepted the cabinet mission plan that would have kept India together and given some head room, ten years to be exact, for the parties to work out a more durable solution…

    It was the congress and especifically Nehru who scuttled this plan by first accepting the plan and then turning around and dismissing the plan by saying something along the lines of ‘We agree to it now but when the British go we will renege on our agreement’ it was after this that the ML and Jinnah finally took Pakistan off the table as a bargaining chip…

    Dont believe me just read up on the cabinet mission to find out who really is responsible for partition….

    As for bringing religion into politics the author himself says that Gandhi did the same thing but somehow Jinnah using the religion card is a problem but Gandhi’s use of religion a great political move, confused much.

    • Thank you for the comment.

      Yes, Pakistan was supposedly a negotiating tactic. Many suggest including Jalal that Jinnah played a high stakes poker game. Nehru just called Jinnah’s bluff.

      “Infact the Muslim League/Jinnah had accepted the cabinet mission plan that would have kept India together and given some head room, ten years to be exact, for the parties to work out a more durable solution…”

      Ifs and buts do not make a Nation. As I mention in another article, CMP was an experiment. The newly created states had only 10 years to fix up and were expected to decide after such short time if they want to join India. Considering Bangladesh broke off even after 24 years, its safe to assume this was NOT going to happen.

      Once you create a divide in the people’s mind, its hard to unite them. Nehru went for a certainty- An India in its present dimensions and based on his philosophy for a Nation-State, as opposed to a possibility, that too a remote one. Jinnah gave Nehru no choice. As Jinnah said on Direct Action day, “We will have a divided India, or a destroyed India”. Powerful words, don’t you think, for a guy who was supposed to be a patriot?

      Nehru accepted the plan, yes. I cannot deny. But, he changed his mind, later in the day. I am glad he did. He called Jinnah’s bluff. If he had not, the consequences could have been disastrous. India is not an object of Gambling.

      You bring about a very interesting argument that Gandhi too brought Religion into politics. But, we see 2 differing outcomes. Why?

      M.J.Akbar answers it beautifully saying, “Gandhi used Religion to unite, Jinnah to divide”. That, my friend, makes all the difference. Gandhi supported the Khilafat moment to win over the Muslims. He was a complex guy, just like Jinnah. Many layers to his personality, but when you look at his actions- like fasting onto death so that Muslim lives could be saved in Calcutta, to break his fast only when both the sides promised to cease hostilities(including Suhrawardy, the guy who started it all and who goes onto become the PM of Pakistan)- you know what a great Human Being he is. Even today Political parties win over Muslims in India using his and Nehru’s name.

      I would suggest you to go over this piece to fully understand my viewpoint:

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