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A tigerish man, atop a sectarian tiger - Times

Carl Posey ()
23 December 1996

Title : A tigerish man, atop a sectarian tiger
Author : Carl Posey
Publication : Times
Date : December 23, 1996

Delhi in the spring heat of 1946 was not relaxed," TIME reported
that April. "It was taut with waiting, gravid with conflict and
suspense. Two socialist lawyers and a former Baptist lay preacher
from Britain had sat for 25 days in the southeast wing of the
viceregal palace, preparing to liquidate the richest portion of
empire that history had ever seen-to end the British Raj, the grand
and guilty edifice built and maintained by William Hawkins and
Robert Clive, Warren Hastings and the Marquess Wellesley, the
brawling editor James Silk Buckingham and the canny merchant Lord
Inchcape and by the great Viceroys, austere Curzon and gentle
Halifax. The Raj was finished."

Finished, perhaps, but still difficult to put down. The Raj at the
end was like one of the unexploded bombs still littering post-war
Europe, and it held the same promise: peaceful independence if you
do it right, explosive civil war if you fail. "The issue," said
TIME, "seemed to turn on one man-Mohamed Ali Jinnah." On Boris
Chaliapin's portrait cover, the metaphorical tigers of East and
West Pakistan stalked the subcontinent.

TIME had watched Jinnah intermittently since 1930, first as an
ardent articulator of Indian nationalism, then as a spark flashing
perhaps too close to the subcontinental powder keg. "Where the low,
bare limestone ridges of Sukkur, Sind slope like unkempt stairs
down to the banks of the Indus," TIME reported in December 1939,
"Indians who loudly object to 'fighting Germans in the name of
Empire last week fought each other in the name of their various
gods." Muslims had claimed a government building near the river as
the site of an ancient mosque and "threatened to hold it until
nirvana-come. Whereupon Hindus swept the city, storming, looting,
burning Moslem shops." It was a chilling preview of bloodbaths

"The leader of the Moslems,"' TIME observed, "usually thinks first
about independence for Moslems and afterward about independence for
Indians. His name is Mohamed All Jinnah, and he is probably the
greatest single force for disunity in all disunited India." As TIME
watched the inexorable progress of the cracks that would culminate
in India's partition, that view of Jinnah would be modulated, but
it would not fundamentally change.

There was, in fact, a good deal to admire in Jinnah's tough
single-mindedness and the way he played his cards. Talking with
TIME correspondent William Fisher in 1942, Jinnah said he would
accept a national government that gave Muslims "a fair break," but
that he would stop co-operating if the British made peace with the
Hindu dominated Congress Party.

The April 1946 Jinnah cover story reported by Pacific bureau chief
Robert Sherrod was more than bittersweet obituary for the British
Raj'; it was one of the world's first real close-ups of the man who
would have Pakistan, in all his coldly tigerish colorations. Here
was a charismatic leader who during Gandhi's 1942 Quit India
campaign had "boasted that if his followers joined Gandhi's
pacifist program, the British would have 500 times more trouble
'because we have 500 times more guts than the Hindus."' It was also
a grim prophecy. "The British Raj' had given India a unified
defense and a unified region of internal free trade," said TIME.
"Jinnah would destroy both ... Between mighty Russia to the north
and the main body of India to the south, Pakistan would dangle like
two withered arms."

In August, Jinnah unleashed-perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not-an
ugly sample of the horrors to come. Opposed to a British plan for
Indian independence that did not also create Pakistan, he
designated the 18th day of Ramadan as "Direct Action Day." "Though
direct," TIME reported, "the action was supposed to be peaceful.
But before the disastrous day was over, blood soaked the melting
asphalt of sweltering Calcutta's streets.

"Rioting Moslems went after Hindus with guns, knives and clubs,
looted shops, stoned newspaper offices, set fire to Calcutta's
British business district. Hindus retaliated by firing Moslem
mosques and miles of Moslem slums ... By the 21st day of Ramadan,
direct action had killed some 3,000 people and wounded thousands

Interspersed with what TIME called "musical chairs" of negotiation,
in which neither the Hindu side nor the Muslim side could be budged
by British nudging, the killing went on and on. "Perhaps, after
all, there would be no independent India," TIME mused sadly in May
1947. "Indeed, there might be no India."

Pakistan was by then an idea nothing could contain. In August 1947
it became the world's largest Muslim nation. The forces of hatred
unleashed by Jinnah's rhetoric, however, had acquired a life of
their own. By late October 1947 the plague of enmity flared ill
Kashmir, where a Muslim majority lived under a Hindu maharaja who
decided to throw in with India. "In Moslem Karachi," TIME
reported, "Pakistan Governor General Mohamed Ali Jinnah raged at
the news. He ordered Pakistan troops ... into Kashmir." But as the
raiders pushed into the Vale, "the blind butchery of neighbour by
neighbour had reached Kashmir. Pakistan heard that 50,000 Moslems
had been slaughtered by Hindus. British officials said that 100,000
fleeing refugees from Kashmir and nearby Jammu had crowded south
into the still reeking Punjab."

Jinnah, meanwhile, seemed to fade even as his discordant creation
took form. "Last week," TIME reported in early December 1947,
"after less than four months of independence, Pakistan was an
economic wreck, and serious social unrest was rising." The new
country could not afford to feed its millions of refugees; its
checks bounced around the globe. As for the health of the seldom
seen Jinnah, TIME added, "The Pakistan Ministry indignantly said:
"There is absolutely no truth in the rumors that Qald-e-Azam [the
Great Leader] is seriously ill."'

In fact, as evidently only he was aware, Jinnah was dying.

"Out of the travail of 400 million in the Indian subcontinent,"
TIME wrote in September 1948, "have come two symbols-a man of love
and a man of hate. Last winter the man of nonviolence, Gandhi,
died violently at the hands of an assassin. Last week, the man of
hate, Mohamed All Jinnah, at 71, died a natural death in Karachi,
capital of the state he had founded."

Enemies gave Jinnah his due, though. "The Hindustani Times," TIME
observed, "devoted a page to an uncompromising attack on Jinnah's
motives and methods. However, it concluded: 'A man of destiny, he
was perhaps the greatest man of Islam since Mohamed."' But, TIME
noted warily, his death "raised the possibility that his political
heirs might seek the final solution for insolvent, disorganized
governments: war." Indeed, Jinnah's chief legacy proved to be an
eternity of discord.

For more information, see the TIME Golden Anniversary Website at

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