Ambedkar, Jinnah and Muslim nationalism
There is a tendency amongst Pakistanis to rationalise the creation of Pakistan on religious grounds. Historically, there is no such correlation between Pakistan and Islam, other than the fact that Muslim identity itself had emerged from conversion of a great mass of people in South Asia to Islam.
Dr B R Ambedkar’s classic text Annihilation of Caste has been republished with an introduction by Arundhati Roy. The introduction by Roy maps out the tense and often acrimonious relationship between Dr B R Ambedkar and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. DrAmbedkar — arguably the father of India’s constitution — was a giant in his own right and perhaps the most underrated historical figure yet. As Roy points out, this great hero of the Dalits and scheduled castes did not even get a walk-on role in the Oscar winning film Gandhi. Now Roy’s magnificent introduction to the great doctor (he was a doctor of law from Columbia University) has reignited the debate on what Gandhi and Ambedkar said and did back in the 1940s. It is a tragedy that Ambedkar’s struggle is ignored by the world at large because, in just the sheer numbers alone, his civil rights movement dwarfs that of Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela.
Yet there is a reason why Pakistan ought to celebrate this great man as well. I was first introduced to Dr Ambedkar’s writings some 15 years ago in college through his work Pakistan or Partition of India, which was first published in 1940 and then republished again in 1942 and 1944. Since then, I have marvelled at how ignorant Pakistan’s historians and authors are of this text, which to date contains the most cogent articulation of the idea behind Pakistan. This book, Pakistan or Partition of India, was recommended to Gandhi by Jinnah himself during their unsuccessful talks in 1944.