Venkat Dhulipala’s “Creating a New Medina” – a dishonest polemic

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By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Venkat Dhulipala’s book is not an academic work. It is a polemic with footnotes. The effort Dhulipala has put into distorting the facts surrounding partition and especially Jinnah comes from a deep malice borne out of nationalist feeling.  Those who want to understand just subjective the exercise is should listen to his YouTube lecture at Azim Premji University in addition to ready his cleverly argued piece of historical obfuscation which “Creating a New Medina”. Fully cognizant of the irony that this book may well have been written by Safdar Mahmood or Orya Maqbool Jan,  through this blog post, I will attempt to point out the glaring omissions that Venkat Dhulipala has deployed to distort the narrative on partition apart from considering some blatant distortions etc in the book.

1.  1937 Congress and League coalitions and Jinnah’s repeated attempts at Hindu Muslim Unity

Venkat Dhulipala skips over the whole issue of coalition ministries of UP as well as attempts at Hindu Muslim Unity that were initiated by Jinnah in the aftermath of 1937 elections.  This he does after writing a chapter on how the main 1937 provincial elections had seen essentially a coinciding of interests between the Muslim League and the Congress and that even Nehru had campaigned in places for the Muslim League candidates. Even if one was to set aside the high politics of communal pacts and Hindu Muslim Unity Jinnah wanted resurrect,  in UP the way Muslim League was not allowed to join a coalition ministry unless its members resigned from the League and became Congress members was shortsightedness that laid the foundation for the subsequent mobilizations of the two parties which were also at cross purposes.  Dhulipala of course knows that it is not possible to defend the indefensible and therefore skips over it by saying that “far greater attention needs to be paid” to how Muslim League gained strength after being rebuffed.

2.  The claim that Deoband was split down the middle  

A deliberate impression created in the book is that somehow Deoband Ulema were central to the Pakistan Movement. There can be no greater deception than this claim.  Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind (JUH) was formed in 1924 and except for a brief period on Muslim Unity Board, it was never affiliated with the Muslim League.  First of all, the number of Deobandi Ulema of Darul-Uloom Deoband who supported the Congress and its Maulana Azad far outnumbered the breakaway section of Deobandi Ulema led by Ashraf Ali Thanwi and later by Shabbir Ahmad Usmani.  What later became the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) did not register as a major party till 1949 when remnants of pro-Congress JUH left behind in Pakistan led by Mufti Mahmood merged with JUI.  The significance of Ashraf Ali Thanwi and later Shabbir Ahmad Usmani is greatly exaggerated.  Dhulipala places reliance on various books of Deobandi authors to make this case.  It so happened I had read one of them and therefore I jumped up when Dhulipala so blatantly distorted even those Urdu books of questionable veracity that he has used. I reproduce the original Urdu text which Dhulipala claims to have relied upon.  His version of the story is that a delegation of Deobandi Ulema went to Jinnah and asked for congregational prayer at the Muslim League rally. Jinnah said that this would lead to dissension about who would lead such a prayer. The Ulema said that whoever Jinnah would stand behind the people will accept. So the next day at 1 pm the Muslim League broke for prayers and Jinnah then deliberately went up and stood behind the Qazi of the city (Page 106). Everybody prayed behind him.

Now compare this to the original:

قائداعظم سے ہم نے یہ بھی کہا کہ ہم یہ مطالبہ نہیں کرتے کہ اہل سیاست بڑے متقی اور پرہیز گار بن جائیں مگر یہ درخواست ضرور کریں گے کہ مسلم لیگ کے ذمہ دار ارکان نمازی ضرور بن جائیں اور کل نماز جماعت کے ساتھ ادا کریں۔ قائداعظم نے کہا کہ اس پر جھگڑا ہوگا کہ امام دیوبندی ہو یا سنی یا شیعہ۔ ہم نے کہا آپ صرف یہ اعلان کردیں کہ ہم نماز باجماعت پڑھیں گے چنانچہ ایسا ہی ہوا۔ مسلم لیگ کا اجلاس دو بجے یہ اعلان کرکے ملتوی ہوگیا کہ نماز ظہر کے لئے اجلاس ملتوی ہوتا ہے۔ چنانچہ قاضی شہر امام بنے قائداعظم نے تقریباً ایک لاکھ مسلمانوں کے ساتھ نماز ادا کی۔مکتوب ظفر احمد عثمانی بنام راقم مورخہ ۱۲ ربیع الاول ۱۳۸۷ھ۔

This is the letter by Zafar Ahmed Usmani dated 12 Rabbi-ul-Awwal 1385 AH that Dhulipala has relied on. The translation varies in very significant ways.  One the Ulema did not say that whoever Jinnah would choose would be acceptable. Nor did Jinnah leap up to stand behind the Qazi.  Dhulipala even has the time wrong. What is more is that it is clear that Dhulipala is very cleverly mixing up his facts with fiction to produce a completely different product.  The more serious question of course is of the veracity of these Urdu sources.  Anyone familiar with the religious literature that is commonplace is often extremely unreliable, contradictory and erroneous. Given that for most of his narrative, Dhulipala has relied exclusively on these accounts makes one wonder how accurate any of the transmission is. There is a reason why there is a tendency amongst partition historians to try and limit themselves to official papers.

3. Omissions vis a vis Ambedkar Plan

Dhulipala has discussed at length Ambedkar’s ideas contained in his classic “Pakistan or Partition of India”. His attempt has been to show that Ambedkar at least viewed partition as a necessary evil to primarily rid India of its Muslim problem or  even to allow Dalits to replace Muslims as India’s main minority.  What Dhulipala deliberately leaves out is any discussion of Chapter XV of Ambedkar’s book. It can be accessed here: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/515.html#part_3.

Now why is this significant.  What we forget is that Ambedkar too was a politician attempting to practise the art of the possible. In this chapter Ambedkar gives his solution for the impasse between Indian National aspirations and Muslim separatism. In very real terms this conformed to Jinnah’s inward looking strategy and objectives vis a vis partition.  Ambedkar points out that his plan is community based (as opposed to region based) and therefore more realistic than the Cripps Plan.  Given that Dhulipala’s obsession has been the differentiation between UP Muslims and the Muslims of the majority region – a closer analysis of Ambedkar’s plan would lend credence to the thesis by Ayesha Jalal of what Dhulipala naively and contemptuously dismisses as “secret” strategy or the elite conspiratorial models. Therefore Dhulipala’s omission of any reference to Ambedkar Plan seems deliberate.

4.  Raja of Mahmudabad’s relations with Jinnah

Perhaps the most cunning use of this technique of omission to make his point is Dhulipala’s treatment of Raja of Mahmudabad.  Raja of Mahmudabad, the Shia from UP.  Dhulipala relies on the thoughts and ideas of Mahmudabad to prove that Jinnah’s closest lieutenants had Islamist ideas. What he misses out of course is that it was for this reason that Mahmudabad was asked to distance himself from the Muslim League.

 “My advocacy of an Islamic state brought me into conflict with Jinnah. He thoroughly disapproved of my ideas and dissuaded me from expressing them publicly from the League platform lest the people might be led to believe that Jinnah shared my view and that he was asking me to convey such ideas to the public. As I was convinced that I was right and did not want to compromise Jinnah’s position, I decided to cut myself away and for nearly two years kept my distance from him, apart from seeing him during the working committee meetings and on other formal occasion. It was not easy to take this decision as my associations with Jinnah had been very close in the past. Now that I look back I realize how wrong I had been” (Mushir-ul-Hasan’s edited book, India’s Partition-Process, Strategy and Mobilisation, pages 415-426).

This too finds no reference in Dhulipala’s account because it would have detracted from his main claim which is fallacious to begin with.  Needless to say this was a very important reference that Dhulipala missed out on or perhaps that was the point.

5. 1943 Delhi Session

Dhulipala makes mentions of moots like the one supposedly organized by Nawab Ismail Khan where Muslim divines like Sulaiman Nadwi discussed the constitution making for an Islamic state.  What he leaves out (surprise) is the Delhi session of Muslim League where certain sections attempted to commit Muslim League to an Islamic form of government.  Jinnah in his famous speech at the session where he castigated the Landlords and Capitalists for having forgotten the lessons of Islam nonetheless declared that a resolution of the sort (i.e. Hukoomat-e-Illahaya) would amount to a “censure on every Leaguer”. The resolution was roundly defeated.  Dhulipala ofcourse did not find to mention this fact either.

6. Omission of the Congress backed Majlis-e-Ahrar and its sectarian propaganda

Another major omission in Dhulipala’s narrative is that Majlis-e-Ahrar – beyond passing references- has not been dealt with at all. Madh-e-Sahaba is dedicated a sentence or two but nothing more. Majlis-e-Ahrar -e Islam – Congress’ foremost favourite nationalist Muslim organ was responsible for not just anti- Ahmadi and anti-Shia rhetoric but outright incitement.  Ataullah Shah Bukhari the fire brand cleric is mentioned only in passing when discussing that the talented rabble-rouser was not available to lend fiery Islamic rhetoric to Congress’ campaign in Jhansi in 1938. Majlis-e-Ahrar’s Mazhar Ali Azhar is entirely left out.

By the same token there is hardly any reference to Sir Zafrullah Khan (there is a solitary reference) , the great Ahmadi stalwart and his unique role as Quaid-e-Azam’s go to man in the struggle.

7. Left wing of the Muslim League

Another omission is the support of the Communist Party of India to the Muslim League.  It is mentioned that Sajjad Zaheer was sent to Pakistan to form the communist party there but no mention is made of his and communist party’s earlier support to the Pakistan Movement. Daniyal Latifi Abdullah Malik and other leftist Leaguers find no mention in this narrative that Dhulipala wants to spin. P C Joshi of the Communist Party wrote, explaining the communist position, that:

“We were the first to see and admit a change in its character when the League accepted complete independence as its aim and began to rally the Muslim masses behind its banner. We held a series of discussions within our party and came to the conclusion in 1941-1942 that it had become an anti-imperialist organisation expressing the freedom urge of the Muslim people that its demand for Pakistan was a demand for self-determination…A belief continues to be held that the League is a communal organisation and that Mr Jinnah is pro-British. But what is the reality? Mr Jinnah is to the freedom loving League masses what Gandhi ji is to the Congress masses…This is so because Mr Jinnah has done to the League what Gandhi did to the Congress in 1919-1920 i.e. made it a mass organisation.”

The Communist Party not only supported the Muslim League, but also gave its own people like Sajjad Zaheer, Abdullah Malik and Daniyal Latifi to the League. Daniyal Latifi, authored the Punjab Muslim League’s manifesto for the 1945-1946 elections, which was one of the most progressive manifestos in the history of this region. But the point is that the League’s entire election campaign in the 1945-1946 elections was stage managed in Punjab by the Communist Party of India. They would not have done so if they had thought the League was operating on a narrow communal agenda.Therefore, the complex set of events that led to the partition of India do not quite gel with the simplistic narrative that Dhulipala wants to subject us to.

 

  • tajender
  • tajender
  • Majumdar

    Septic tank mian,
    .
    Kaal bhai in his chowk days was one of the most fiendish mindbenders you cud have come across. He cud brainwash you without realising what was going on. I suspect my transition from a Swatantra-ite uncomfortably in bed with Sanghis to a more orthodox (albeit non-religious) Sanghi was largely due to his influence.
    .
    Regards

  • Kamath.

    Tajender:
    “…So Gj Singh cried when saheb took him to task for the remark on Sonia Gandhi. Glad our PM is taking a tough stand against misogyny…”
    Is there any truth in the rumour that BJP is allowing MPs in Indian Parliamént to have their own spittoons next to their seat after a good beetle it and pan-chewing break time?

  • tajender

    ओबामा, सोनिया के बाद मोदी ने दरगाह को भेजी चादर
    after obama and sonia, modiji also sent chadar to ajmer sharief.

  • tajender

    Is there any truth in the rumour that BJP is allowing MPs in Indian Parliamént to have their own spittoons next to their seat after a good beetle it and pan-chewing break time?

    NOT SURE

  • tajender

    KAMATH,
    In the theatre of absurds, truth and facts die a silent death

  • RHR

    Dada he still is
    Though operates differently and at least some of us know now
    Of course rex will never know

  • silkroute

    tajender writes:
    “In the theatre of absurds, truth and facts die a silent death”

    That is why tajender is the most alive and noisy commentator on the PTH.

    Just like Aurangzeb (the earlier incarnation of tajender) was the most cruel and ruthless sunni who lived longest.

  • Mohan

    How some in Modi Government are making full use of Social Media

    Narendra Modi is an avid Social Media user. He has been tweeting for a long time, sharing selfies on instagram and giving his comments on many issues of public interest. However, as far as using Social Media for the good of the society is concerned, some of his own colleagues have left Modi far behind.

    Take the case of Sushma Swaraj. She doesnt get much primtime TV coverage, but that doesnt mean she isnt doing her job. Sample the following tweets, in which Sushma Swaraj used her twitter account to help a woman and her child stuck in Yemen

    And possibly the most powerful minister in Modi’s cabinet Arun Jaitley too has taken heed to sentiments on Social Media. Recently the IT department had added some new rules which made filing tax returns very burdensome. We wrote an open letter to Jaitleycriticizing the rules, and supported the general sentiment on Social media that these rules amounted to “Tax Terrorism”

    Eventually, in the aftermath of the backlash on Social media, Arun Jaitley paid heed to public sentiments and chose to put the new rules on hold. Although it wasn’t as graceful a move as the earlier two instances of other ministers, Jaitley showed an hitherto unknown feature among ministers to accept a mistake and promise a relook, purely based on public sentiment.

    Full article – http://www.opindia.com/2015/04/how-some-in-modi-government-are-making-full-use-of-social-media/

  • romain

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxPlm44PCK0

    Mohan Mian,

    this one is really for you. I know its kinda long but please humor me.

    Kaal mian,

    what do you have have say about Jaggi’s comments on “belief systems” and the associated cause of all problems.

  • romain

    Tejinder Mian,

    please do not waste your time with the link I posted. You will not understand.

  • Mohan

    —-
    Mr Gandhi also seems to forget Congress history. It was Indira Gandhi who amended the law to declare that farmers whose land was taken forcibly by the government could not get “compensation” from the government but only an “amount”- because all landowners were exploitative kulaks and, therefore, did not deserve proper compensation. Now
    those kulaks have become the builders of India for whom Mr Gandhi’s heart bleeds. Going further back in history, it was Jawaharlal Nehru who put land acquisition beyond the pale of judicial review. Indeed Nehru told those who were being displaced to make way for the Hirakud dam that”if you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the country”. So when Mr Gandhi stands up to relaunch his political career with bleeding-heart posturing, it is time to ask the question that Robert Vadra posed to a reporter: “Are you serious?
    The great disservice that Mr Gandhi has done is by casting the debate on forcible land acquisition in terms that suggest that the country does not need businessmen, that it does not need manufacturing, that it does not need physical infrastructure. Indeed he fails to understand that the reason why farming is uneconomical is because average land holdings have shrunk over the decades. That, in turn, is because this country has not created enough non-agricultural jobs, to take pressure off the land. Half the workforce slaves in the fields to generate one-seventh of gross domestic product (GDP); naturally, incomes from farming will be low and often not enough to keep body and soul together. You could address that by raising agricultural product prices, as Mr Gandhi seems to prefer, but that only helps farmers with a marketable surplus, which is a small minority. It also raises the cost of food for the poor, including agricultural labourers who do not own land. Pricing decisions have benefits and costs, and one should keep an eye on both.

    There is no shortage of people who think that Mr Gandhi needs some basic lessons in politics. On the evidence provided by his third (or fourth or fifth …) major intervention in Parliament in 11 years, he also needs some lessons in elementary economics and in Congress history.

    http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/are-you-serious-115042101262_1.html

  • Mohan

    Romain,
    I have already seen this, have also seen few more videos of Sadguru Jaggi Vasu

    Sadhguru Jaggi Vadudev says ‘Being a Hindu does not mean having a particular belief system. Basically, the whole culture was oriented towards realizing one’s full potential. Whatever you did in this culture was Hindu. There is no particular god or ideology that you can call as the Hindu way of life. You can be a Hindu irrespective of whether you worship a man-god or a woman-god, whether you worship a cow or a tree. If you don’t worship anything you can still be a Hindu.
    It is only recently and due to external influences that this geographical and cultural identity has attempted to transform itself into a religious identity called Hinduism. Hindu was never an “ism”, and the attempt to organize it as a religion is still not successful because the Hindu way of life which is referred to as Sanatana Dharma or universal law is all-inclusive in nature and does not exclude anything. The Hindu way of life is not an organized belief system but a science of salvation.’

    Sadhguru further says

    “God is just one more stepping stone that you can use or skip towards your ultimate liberation. This culture recognizes human wellbeing and freedom as of paramount importance versus the prominence

  • silkroute

    to Mohan


    Such enlightened and enlightening views are too dificult for muslims to understand or accept – they want a totalitarian, finalist-fascist ideology to rule over mankind ruthlessly in the name of a fascist-tribal arabic god-concept.

    A muslim can only pretend to be a open-minded. He can never achieve that in reality.

    Islam means submission under a fascist momolithic 7th century primitive god-concept and hate and violence against those who do not submit.

  • tajender

    hate and violence against those who do not submit.

    u are tail of a dog.india remained 80%hindu does not match what u say.daesh is western gift,majority of them came from scavandian countries.

  • silkroute

    to tajender

    those who come from scandinavian countries, but by rejecting the scandinavian culture, are the islamofascists.

    their fathers came from islamic fascism and spoilt scandinavia through their islamic-arabic backwardness and tribalism.

    in other words : a muslim will become a fascist and terroist even if he gets a chance to see and live and learn in scandinavia.

    India remained 80% hindu because hindu religions (inspite of all their defects and faults) are spiritually and psychologically superior to the west asiatic ones. the west asiatic ones failed because of their evilness, foolishness and lies. and islam is the worst case among them.

    …don’t interprete that as any tolerance by muslims towards hindus.

  • Rex Minor

    The Imam of Kaaba on his visit to Pakistan to evaluate the muslimness of Pakis said the following to a mass in the mosque to those who participated in Friday prayers and I quote;

    “Islam is a clear and open religion which teaches peace,” the Imam said in his sermon. “Enemies are propagating against Islam.” Further, he said, “Islam does not allow extremism or terrorism.”
    “Islam cannot be imposed by force, the Prophet (PBUH) treated non-believers with respect and gave them their rights,” he said, urging Muslims to give minorities their rights.

    Pakistan does not appear to have a good record of treating minorities, infact they are not even tolerated but harrassed and persecuted by many.

    Rex Minor

  • Rex Minor

    PS
    The last sentence is my observation from the reports in English and German language newspapers.

  • silkroute

    QUOTE:

    ” “Islam is a clear and open religion which teaches peace,” the Imam said in his sermon. “Enemies are propagating against Islam.” Further, he said, “Islam does not allow extremism or terrorism.”
    “Islam cannot be imposed by force, the Prophet (PBUH) treated non-believers with respect and gave them their rights,” he said, urging Muslims to give minorities their rights. ”

    Typical muslim lies and hypocrisy to fool non-muslims.
    Islam is the biggest cause/source of lies, suppression, terror, fascism and violence today.

  • haroon

    rex still they are far better than isreal,

    https://www.facebook.com/KarimFanPage/videos/10152201335501135/?pnref=story

    give ur comment.

  • haroon

    silkroute collection of ur poems is very limited.did u enjoyed the chase.

  • haroon
  • Rex Minor

    Haroon,

    We are all s inners Ir in this world; no one is better than other. There is nothing worst than being a jew in this world, said Areal Sharon, the late Prime Minister of Israel to a visiting jewish journalist from Germany. Moses is on the way to rescue the Palestinians from the terror.(End)

    Rex Minor

  • silkroute

    For an arab or muslims…
    “There is nothing worst than being a jew in this world”, said Areal Sharon, the late Prime Minister of Israel to a visiting jewish journalist from Germany.
    Because the kuran teaches arabs and muslims to hate jews.

  • tajender

    silkroute says:
    April 26, 2015 at 5:01 pm
    For an arab or muslims…
    “There is nothing worst than being a jew
    silkroute all over history arabs are known for hospitality generosity and bravery.

  • tajender
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