Not a mere book launch

Alizeh Haider April 17, 2010

It seemed the embellished life of Jaswant Singh – an army officer, a minister, a parliamentarian and an ex-leader of the BJP – stood consummated at the launch of his book, Jinnah – India, Partition, Independence.

Before a distinguished gathering at an apt location, Mohatta Palace in Karachi, Jaswant’s effort at objectively dealing with the controversial topic of partition and Jinnah as the Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity was met with great appreciation.

However, the respect and recognition Jaswant Singh has received for being so courageously honest to his pen did not come without its share of anger and rejection from many of his own compatriots of the BJP, and hard-line nationalists from across his country. When commenting on his expulsion from the BJP, he defiantly held his head high and said: “There is no price big enough for peace between Indian and Pakistan” – and the packed audience broke into full applause.

His emotions showed when he spoke of his books being torched by protesters: “A book is like a child…. The feeling is the same as would be when your own child is set to fire.” The book, as he explained “is not questioning whether it was just or unjust for partition to happen – the question is whether it was done the right way.”

Although his book has been burnt and banned in India for projecting Jinnah in positive light, Hameed Haroon’s introduction of him as the single greatest communicator of Mr Jinnah’s views whose book has changed India-Pakistan relations for times to come was not mere flattery. It will, however, take more leaders like Jaswant Singh – perhaps many more, from both sides of the border – to muster the courage to deliver truth about partition of the sub-continent and the personalities responsible for it, and to ‘correct’ South Asia’s history books. “If you negate history then you get the revenge from geography.

There is a geography of the South Asian continent, there is a history of South Asia and we are equal inheritors of the region’s history” he said emphasising the need for accepting the fact of partition for what it is and moving forward towards forging alliance to achieve peace in the region. It was clear that he stood not as an ex-army officer or a former foreign minister of India but someone whose purpose now was to bring peace to South Asia.

Jaswant Singh came not only to promote a book, he came with a message of building bridges, of not undoing partition but undoing its consequences, of not depriving each other’s enjoyment of our nationhood but ensuring it. He beseeched those who propagate intolerance and hatred to defect to peace, and the cynics who find defects in peace to stop throwing stones in its path. When asked how to achieve the aforementioned, his simple reply was “dialogue”.


Zara F | 12 years ago | Reply Instead of discussing such cynical views about why Mr. Singh may have ultimately written this book, I think both sides of the border should applaud him for being the sacrificial goat and opening new channels for both countries to talk and question the partition in a new light. So far, we were stuck in the past where it was assumed that all indians had anti-pakistan sentiments and vice versa, but Mr Singh's courageous book proves otherwise. Clearly, there is lots of room for reconciliation, as it's evident that history will remain history (and a dubious one at that), and instead of bickering about the facts, we should together be working towards a stronger image for the subcontinent!
Liberal too | 12 years ago | Reply @ Liberal: The fact that the book was neither banned nor burnt (nor demonstrated against)in 'all' of India does not render the author's statement under question incorrect in fact. Indian right wingers all over India did not digest the book well - that is both understandable and expected. The author's statement could have indeed gone further to mention the 'rejection' of the book by quarters in India when demonstrations against it were taken out, burning effigies of Mr. Singh and more. While Liberal may also be suffering a mild case of superiority complex with regards to Indian writers, I agree with him/her that no Pakistani political leader/ parliamentarian has written such a book on relevant Indian leadership. If and when that does happen the right wingers in Pakistan will probably react in the same manner as their Indian counterparts did - it will be, again, both understandable and expected. @ El Edroos: You make some good points but beleaguered as Mr. Singh may be in India, his book will go a long way as, if nothing else then, a token gesture to thaw egos of politicians and bureaucrats in Pakistan. We need more initiatives such as this - peace will come from change in attitudes from both sides and such books play a vital role in such attitude shift.
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