Beware of such self-promotion binge
By Devendra Swarup
IT is good that Organiser (July 17, 2005), true to its liberal tradition, has allowed its valuable space to be used by Dr Asiananda and by giving somewhat unusual display it has lent him credibility. But I am not able to make out whether it is a rejoinder or a review or another sample of his masterly salesmanship camouflaged in high-sounding verbosity.
If it was meant to be a rejoinder to my write up in Organiser (June 26, 2005), Dr Asiananda has skirted all the objections that I had raised about his book. He has only hurled cheap diatribes and invectives at me such as ?fabricate another controversy for gaining political mileage?, ?a conclusion he reaches from his ideological position?, ?journalistic hype calculated for the same purpose?, ?deliberately omitted the concluding sentence effecting a total falsification of the context?, ?did not pick-up of the book anything more than what suited the ideological purpose and political agenda? and that I ?couldn'tchoose anything other than footnote in 462-page (A4 size) book?.
As far as the speech made by the Minister for Petroleum, Mani Shankar Aiyer, on the occasion of the book release function held in Delhi on April 14, 2005, is concerned, its report published in a prominent Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika on its first page speaks for itself. Its facsimile is enclosed.
That Dr Asiananda is a master salesman and expert in the art of self-promotion is proved by the fact that he dares to hijack the credit of Advani'svisit to Jinnah'smausoleum at Karachi and some of his utterances about Jinnah during his Pakistan trip, to his book. I was wondering, how could a respectable Hindi weekly Sahara Samaya (June 18, 2005) in a first page story give sole credit to his book for bringing a positive turn in Indo-Pak relations, as well as for bringing a change of heart in the Hindutva icon L.K. Advani, when it is an established fact that the views he expressed in Pakistan had been with him for more than fifteen months, much before Asiananda'sbook had seen the light. But soon I discovered that Dr Asiananda himself had circulated this canard. First, he got a very boastful advertisement under the heading ?A book comes to shape history but once in centuries? placing his book at par with Marx'sCommunist Manifesto, Einstein'sTheory of Relativity, Freud'sInterpretation of Dreams and Mahatma Gandhi'sHind Swaraj in two consecutive issues of a Hindu-baiting Roman Catholic weekly, Indian Currents (June 5 and June 12, 2005). Simultaneously, he made the above weekly publish a five-page review article (June 5, 2005) and 10-page interview (June 12, 2005) both by the same gentlemen M.P. Kutty. Then he sent the copies of its June 12 issue to large number of editors with his own covering letter under the presumptuous heading, ?My book moved Advani to Jinnah grave? and claiming this event ?as one of the great conversions of history like Asoka'sor Constantine?s?. To impress the editors further, Dr Asiananda requested them ?to see the interview inside this newsweekly? and ?to include this book for a review or feature?. What an ingenious formula of self-promotion! Interestingly, Dr Asiananda, in his rejoinder, keeps mum on this exposure of his trickery.
After paying Rs 800, the reader is disappointed to find very little information about Jinnah and that too in a very cursory and generalised manner. Jinnah has been used to simply denegrate Mahatma Gandhi. The author wants his readers to believe that had India followed Jinnah and not Gandhi, India would have got Independence without Partition much earlier.
With this art of salesmanship, it could not have been very difficult for Dr Asiananda to procure appreciative remarks from many well-meaning public figures like Dr. L.M. Singhvi, Jaswant Singh, the late J.N. Dixit, N.N. Vohra and others, for, it is a known fact that our many busy politicians and bureaucrats may be easily impressed by any person flaunting international connections, high academic pretensions, speaking fluent English coupled with a superficial modesty bordering on flattery.
My basic objection is to the title of the book Jinnah: A corrective reading of Indian History. The title suggests that it must be a serious research work of history on Jinnah based upon new original sources equipped with a comprehensive bibliography and detailed references. After paying Rs 800, the reader is disappointed to find very little information about Jinnah and that too in a very cursory and generalised manner. Jinnah has been used to simply denegrate Mahatma Gandhi. The author wants his readers to believe that had India followed Jinnah and not Gandhi, India would have got Independence without Partition much earlier. This thesis of the author is highlighted in the above mentioned issue of the weekly Indian Currents (June 12, 2005) also. Its cover page carries the heading ?Jinnah Sanctified? and the interview with Asiananda beginning on page 26, is given the title ?Gandhi, Father of Partition??
The author is opposed to Gandhiji'sphilosophy of life, his civilisational approach, and his method of struggle for independence. He abhors Gandhi'sideal of Ram Rajya. In his view, ?Gandhi was a Hindu? while ?Jinnah was an Indian. Hind Swaraj created Muslim Swaraj? (p. XV). Asiananda projects Jinnah as ?archetypal Indian…. the prototype of the ?unpartitionable subcontinental unity? (p. 20) while Gandhi ?insisting himself to be Hindu? (p. 56). He charges Gandhi and his Congress with trying to establish Hindu Raj in India. He writes: ?Gandhi was absolutely in no doubt?and Congress after Gandhiji came to its leadership?that the British succession legitimately belonged to the original Hindu order, that the succession of the British Raj had to go to a Hindu Raj, which he envisaged as Rama Rajya, the Hind Swaraj ruled by Rama…? (p. 56). He further says, ?The mass Civil Disobedience of 1930s and the massive resistance of the British war efforts in early 1940s culminating in the 1942 Quit India movement proved to be nearly exclusive Congress attempts to reach out to Hindu Raj or Hind Swaraj on its own terms or say the right of conquest….? (p. 56). He absolves the British of any role and responsibility in the Partition of India and holds Gandhiji solely responsible for it (pp. 95-96).
Dr Asiananda is convinced that ?it is absolutely imperative, if India wants to emerge as a key player of the twenty-first century, to transcend Hind Swaraj and its Rama Rajya? (p XV).
How ridiculous that with this unhistorical and perverted view about Gandhiji, Asiananda professes: ?The book is not against Gandhiji? (Organiser, July 17, 2005).
Dr Asiananda is against Gandhiji because of his adherence to his Hindu roots. His anti-Hindu bias and political ideology acts fully exposed when he writes ?If the communitarian Gandhian Hind Swaraj failed the Indian Muslims, will the majoritarian Hindutva of the ruling Hindu Right will ever convince them?…. Will there be a subcontinental reconciliation and settlement on the matrix of Hindutva? The supremacist Hindutva, in view of its confrontational nature, I believe, is prone to create more Gujarats and Kargils.? (p. 61)
The book, from its dedicatory page to its concluding letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is trying to sell some panacea called Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan, to which the author claims to have committed himself in June 1988.
In fact, major portion of Dr Asiananda'sbook is devoted to the marketing of his personal philosophy of civilisation and political ideology. The sole purpose behind this book is to denegrate Gandhiji and Hindutva and to extol Jinnah and Rajiv Gandhi. The book, from its dedicatory page to its concluding letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is trying to sell some panacea called Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan, to which the author claims to have committed himself in June 1988 (p. 47) but which even Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her UPA government seem to have completely forgotten. Coincidentally, just three days after I had sent my article to Organiser, I happened to share the dais with Dr Asiananda at a book release function presided by a known secular journalist Prabhash Joshi. Joshi after listening to Dr Asiananda'sviews about Gandhiji, was impelled to remark in his presidential speech that Asiananda should have changed his name to Europananda or America-nanda? There I had suggested that his book should have been titled, Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan because the title ?Jinnah? is a misnomer and misleading. Joshi quipped that ?a corrective reading of India'shistory should be replaced with ?a Rajiv Gandhi corruptive history of India?.
Is it not significant that Dr Asiananda in his rejoinder skips completely this point raised by me?
(The debate on this book is closed with this piece.)