I recently came across an article published in an Indian news outlet, titled The BJP's ideology and growth mirrors that of the Muslim League in 1930s. To be fair, I am cognizant of the fact that today's India is not the same as the India of 10 years ago. There are far less avenues for public expression of dissent, and many news and media outlets are constantly bankrolled by far-right organisations to produce biased content. I never expected, however, that Scroll.in would also one day fall into that category. The organisation is linked to many independent student based initiatives and had been regarded as reliable source of information, but now it has somehow been put on a very different path that encourages the distortion of history and absolves India's rulers of their injustices towards minorities. The article in question portrays Jinnah and his Muslim League protégés in a very negative light, and posits (with one-sided evidence of course) that the injection of religion into politics had actually been the work of Jinnah.

The author conveniently glosses over the hard-line Hindu factions that had thrived in the Congress party as far back as the 1900s, when Jinnah and his group of moderates began to openly clash with their agendas. One of the reasons for Quaid-e-Azam’s split with Congress was due to its silent patronage of such people. Jinnah had always been averse to identity politics. Evidence for this can be found in his refusal to support the Khilafat Movement of the 1920s, which appealed to the pan-Islamic sentiments of the people after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The Khilafat movement had taken inspiration from Gandhi's 'non-violent' civil disobedience movement.

When Gandhi began to invoke Ahimsa and Satyagraha, which were aimed at fanning Hindu sentiments of being oppressed by 'invaders' under the garb of 'non-violence', Jinnah reacted strongly and warned the Congress party against the consequences of veiled religious symbolism. The existence of fundamentalist Hindus within the ranks of the Congress was well known to Gandhi and later on to Nehru as well but they never considered them to be a threat to their own so called 'secular' politics. Jaswant Singh and Sikandar Hayat have elaborated quite well on the veiled patronage of the Congress to such people in those days.

The author goes on to very subtly demonise Pakistan by equating its founders with the terrorists of the BJP, whilst forgetting that none of the leaders of the Muslim League were orthodox Muslims hell bent on turning Pakistan into a religious theocracy. The Muslim League had indeed lost the 1937 elections, and when it approached the Congress for its input on a charter of rights for the Muslims, Nehru blatantly refused to accept that there even existed a Muslim community big enough to be considered. He popularly remarked that there were only two powers in India, the British and the Congress. Akbar S Ahmed has written extensively on this.

The author also seems to be conveniently ignorant of the fact that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is the parent organisation of the BJP had already been in business long before the Muslim League gained prominence due to Jinnah. The Sangh Parivaar had been formed in 1925 and was given the purpose of indoctrinating Hindu youth with the ideological significance of armed resistance in ancient Indian culture. The group had styled itself after Hitler’s Nazi Party and openly supported the notion of racial supremacy, that was to be Hindu supremacy in India. The Sanghis took part in many Congress-led initiatives, sometimes supplying the muscle to Congress in case of confrontations with Muslim League or British authorities.

The rise of these people was one of the first instances of religious fundamentalism creeping into the political landscape of pre-Partition India. Their fundamentalism revolved around the protection and worship of cows, propagation of Hindi and Sanskrit as purely Indian languages and the decolonisation of India by reverse cultural oppression against other communities. They believed in Hindutva, which pronounced the forced assimilation of all other communities into the fold of Hinduism, thereby eliminating any cultural and religious differences. Today's BJP is no different, and draws inspiration form the toxic ideology of Hindutva in all of its political and cultural initiatives. The BJP's hate-mongering in politics cannot be compared to the moderate and accommodative policies of the Muslim League. The All India Muslim League never campaigned for the eradication of other communities from British India.

The Congress of the 1930s took pride in being the only Indian political party without religious inclinations. Jinnah considered this to be far from being true, because he had seen the slow transformation of the Congress into a Hindu dominated party after the death of moderates like Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Dadabhoy Naoroji. Jinnah's struggle had been in fact to prove the Congress wrong on its self-assumed leadership of all Indian communities.

What, one might ask, had led to his fierce conviction that Muslims in a United India would be reduced to 2nd class citizens? For starters, the Muslim representatives in the various political parties of India at the time were by no means popular leaders. They were too few and too powerless in terms of both political acumen and vision to claim to represent the second largest religious community of India. The Muslims in the Congress were no different, overshadowed and silenced by their superiors.

Jinnah's political ideology had always been opposed to communal differences (which was evident in his years of advocacy for Hindu-Muslim unity), but due to the persistent projection of an ancient Hindu civilisation that had been ravaged and destroyed by the 'invaders' and its convenient acceptance by Congress leaders, and also due to the symbolism that adorned all of the political initiatives undertaken by the Congress (the spindle that adorned the Congress's flag; imitations of Hindu peasants; revival of Sanskrit philosophy) Jinnah had come to conclude that the Muslims of India would sooner or later be forced to assimilate into the fold, being unable to resist against the massive majority group.

Secondly, when the Cabinet Mission was sent to India after the end of WWII to discuss the transfer of power with a proposition of grouping together Muslim majority provinces in the East and West of India at par with the Hindu majority provinces and the remaining princely states, Nehru voiced vicious disagreement with the idea of giving Muslim majority provinces and an equal status of representation in the central government with the Hindu provinces. Jinnah had initially agreed to the plan proposed by the Cabinet Mission, aware of the fact that it dismissed the creation of a separate Muslim state, but he instead insisted on certain 'safeguards and assurances' to be provided to the groupings in terms of provincial autonomy. This should be taken as proof of his commitment to securing the rights of Indian Muslims even within a United India after all that had transpired during the 1937 Congress ministries, and is enough to debunk the claims that he was a communally charged opportunist.

Realising that the Muslim League had now come at par with the Congress - and that Jinnah's claims of representing all Muslims of India had been justified - the Congress rejected both Cabinet Mission proposals and did not draft any resolutions in their working committee regarding them. The Viceroy would still invite Congress members to join the interim coalition government. Jinnah's patience had run out by that time, and he had realised that the Congress would never accept the logical and just demands of the Muslim community if India was to stay as one. Their fate in a United India would be that of second class citizens. He subsequently rejected and called for a boycott of all plans for a coalition government or any type of system that denied the creation of an independent Muslim country.

After the League's boycott, the Congress readily joined the interim government, all the while conveniently neglecting the demands of the second largest political party of India and the minority community that it represented. The Congress's opportunism in the face of political defeat was the final straw for Jinnah and his Muslim League, and they rallied behind the Pakistan demand in earnest. The author ignores these facts entirely and instead feeds into the notion of the marauding Muslims trying to carve up their land by cunning and manipulation. Jinnah foresaw the desolate conditions that minority groups would have to face in India, and he therefore worked to secure a new nation for the minority groups of India.

Pakistan has indeed suffered dearly at the hands of those who manipulated religious inscriptions and used it for personal gain, but their self-centrism can never be equated to Jinnah's selfless struggle to secure political freedoms for the Muslims of India. They can serve as adequate parallels with the BJP and its affiliates, but not Jinnah and the Muslim League of the 1930s. Jinnah stands out as one of the few cosmopolitan leaders in all of the Subcontinent's history, one who was proud of his education and his life choices. In comparison, Gandhi's readiness to don the dhoti (loincloth) was an attempt to relate with Hindu peasants and secure mass support.

It can thus be argued that attempts like the one made by Ajaz Ashraf to demonise Jinnah and his Pakistan are rooted in the ideology of desensitising the public to hatred towards Pakistan. India under the BJP and Narendra Modi is already treading the path of apartheid in Held Kashmir, and elsewhere the BJP-led government is engaging in numerous policies of oppression and subjugation against anyone who differs with their Hindutva narrative. It bodes well for them to portray Pakistan and Jinnah in a negative light under such circumstances.

These very issues of misrepresentation, demonisation, otherisation and oppression were at the core of Jinnah's struggle to create a separate homeland for the Muslims almost 80 years ago. A country where they may in the future have internal issues, but do not have to live in fear of being killed for eating cows, for going to their mosques or for speaking Urdu, Farsi and Arabic. Identity politics would never have taken root in the Subcontinent had 'Ancient India' not been invoked by Gandhi. It's ironic how the Congress's silent patronage and encouragement has led these very people to expose the facade of secularism being put up in India.