HISTORY repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce. We are now in the midst of the tragedy, but soon shall be overtaken by farce. But the men who are going to be hit have no idea who are behind the show and are pulling the strings.
History, as I said, repeats itself. When Shivaji Maharaj—he was not a Chhatrapati yet; that came later—visited Agra at the invitation of Aurangzeb, he did not receive the kind of royal treatment he expected, particularly at his first meeting with the Moghul supremo in his court, and he almost walked out of the court after refusing to do kurnisat, that is kissing the ground in front of the throne, as was the custom.
Shivaji said that unlike the other Sardars in the court, he was not in the pay of Aurangzeb, nor had he come to ask any favours. He had come all the way from Deccan, a thousand kilometres away, as a king in his own right, just like Aurangzeb himself, and not like Mirza Jai Singh of Jaipur, who was his (Aurangzeb’s) employee, and who was responsible for bringing him (Shivaji) to Agra, and he, that is Mirza Jai Singh, could do all the kissing he wanted.
Shivaji said so openly in the court and so loudly that Aurangzeb asked what the ruckus was about. Shivaji was then asked to await his turn in the durbar, but he was not happy about waiting, and asked who was the man standing ahead of him? He was told that he was Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur, who, like the Mirza, was also in the pay of Aurangzeb, and had once been sent south to capture Shivaji.
“What?” said Shivaji, “you are making me stand here behind this despicable fugitive from my country? A man who ran away during the battle with my army, with his tail between the legs and is now waiting to fall at the feet of the emperor?”
“I am not going to stand in line behind this man,” Shivaji said and walked out with his small son, Sambhaji, something that had never happened in Moghul history before.
Three hundred and fifty years after Shivaji, the world may have changed, but in the feudal thinking, things remain the same. Instead of paying “kurnisat” to Aurangzeb of Hindustan, they write books on Mohammed Ali Jinnah of Pakistan, the new emperor, and prostrate themselves before him. They sing his praises and, in a show of perversity that takes your breath away. They run down Indian leaders, exactly as they did in the days of Aurangzeb when they fought Shivaji and had him nearly killed in Agra to please the ‘great’ Moghul. History is repeating itself once again, as it always does, but this time it is doing so with unbelievable vengeance.
To say that it was not Jinnah who was responsible for the division of India amidst the massacres of millions of Indians, mostly Hindus, is like saying that Hitler was not responsible for the murders of Jews. Hitler can very well say that he did not murder a single Jew, for he himself never went near the concentration camps where the killings were organised. So can Jinnah, as he lived atop Malabar Hill in Bombay and perhaps never visited the killing fields of Calcutta and Lahore, where millions of innocent people were slaughtered in cold blood. No, Jinnah never asked for Pakistan, for according to this strange book, Jinnah was a nationalist and also a gentleman to his Savile Row tips. What perhaps endears him to retired army officers, who later take to politics and write books is that he had biscuits for tea in the afternoon and smoked chiroots after dinner, just like army officers from Darjeeling!
He was also, says the book, a great man, who achieved what he set out to achieve, meaning Pakistan, over the corpses of ten million Indians. So Hitler was a great man too, and so was Jinnah’s ancestor, Chengiz Khan. They all achieved what they sought to achieve, which, to some people, is a mark of greatness. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, not to mention Taimurlane and Chengiz Khan, were all great people but not Gandhi or Nehru or Patel, because these men achieved what they did without killing a soul.
One of these days, somebody will get a bright idea and will write a book accusing Nehru and Patel of having a hand in the killings of thousands of Hindus in Lahore and Calcutta, to ‘prove’ that it was not Jinnah who organised the riots and the killings but these two gentlemen from the Congress, who were so thirsty for power that they conspired with the Muslim League to trigger the riots and let loose a flood of killings.
This is exactly what Hitler and Goebbels had done before marching into countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland and taking them over, that is, accusing the governments of these countries of conspiring to kill Germans in their countries, though not a single German had been killed. However, they showed pictures of bogus killings to umbrella-toting Neville Chamberlain of England, who was so shocked that he signed on the dotted line. Nehru and Patel—the book would argue—so eager for power, like Hitler, had a hand in the killings and scared the British into handing over power to them. Jinnah was the innocent party and had no hand in the bloodbath, for was he a gentleman—and a great nationalist—and wouldn’t hurt a fly.
These are days of history made to order. You can write anything and get away with it. How many books have there been on John F Kennedy and who killed him, though the official commission said there was no conspiracy? But the men and women who wrote books on him have minted millions, laughing all the way to the bank.
If a dog bites man, that is no news. If a man bites dog, that makes big headlines. If you say that Jinnah was responsible for the killings—and for Pakistan—that is no news, for even a child knows that. But if you say that Nehru and Patel were great killers, that is big news—and big money. And there are people who will do anything to keep their bank accounts topped up, especially if you have expensive habits, and the bank manager is after you.