“Sardar Patel as responsible as Jinnah for Partition, Muslims Blamed Unfairly”: Ex-VP Hamid Ansari

2-term Vice President Hamid Ansari sparked a major controversy by saying that Bharat was as much to blame for partition as Pakistan, and that Muslims were made the scapegoats and blamed unfairly for partition. In particular, he singled out a statement made by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 11 August, 1947 to drive home this point.

Ansari was speaking at the launch of Saeed Naqvi’s new book Being the Other – The Muslim in India, when he said –

“On 11 August, 1947, four days before independence, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel made a statement where he said: ‘We took these extreme steps after great deliberation. In spite of my previous strong opposition to Partition, I agreed to it because I was convinced that to keep India united, it must be divided.'”

Ansari further alleged that when politics changed, someone had to be made responsible for Partition, and it was easier to blame Muslims. “Everyone agreed that Muslims should be held responsible,’ he said.

The political rise of Hamid Ansari

An IFS bureaucrat who served as Bharat’s ambassador in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Australia etc., Ansari has also served as visiting professor in JNU and Jamia Milia Islamia, and as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

In 2006, Ansari was appointed the chairman of Bharat’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) by the UPA-Left coalition government. In 2007, he was named as the UPA-1 candidate for the post of Vice-President, and won the election against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah. In 2012, UPA-2 re-appointed Ansari as their candidate for the post of VP and he defeated the NDA nominated Jaswant Singh.

Thus, Hamid Ansari became the first person to be re-elected as VP after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1957. As Vice-President, Ansari also served ex officio as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. In fact, Sonia Gandhi was seriously contemplating Ansari’s name for the post of President in 2012, and only reluctantly agreed to nominate Pranab Mukherjee in the end.

Ansari was born in 1937 at Kolkata, though his ancestral home is in Ghazipur, Eastern UP. He is a grand-nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, who served as Presidents of both Indian National Congress and Muslim League and was an outspoken supporter of the Khilafat movement. Hamid Ansari is also related to the dreaded UP mafia don turned politician, BSP MLA Mukhtar Ansari (Mukhtar Ansari is the grandson of  Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari)

Hamid Ansari did his schooling from St. Edward’s School of Shimla, attended the St. Xavier’s College of Kolkata, and obtained his Masters degree from AMU.

Controversial stands of Hamid Ansari

Ansari’s latest comment holding Hindus and leaders like Sardar Patel equally responsible for partition, and letting Muslim League and Jinnah off the hook for their ‘two nation’ theory, is especially shocking, but no surprise for those who have followed his career.

He has often taken positions in alignment with the larger ‘Muslim world’ irrespective of Bharat’s official line on issues like Palestine, Iraq and Iran. In 2006, while reacting to Pope Benedict’s allegedly insulting remarks against Islam, Ansari, then Chairman of the Minorities Commission of India, said “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.”

Just before remitting the office of Vice President, Ansari gave an interview to Karan Thapar for Rajya Sabha TV, and made several interesting remarks

  • There is a growing sense of insecurity & unease among Muslims….intolerance is rising in the country.
  • Affirmative action (reservation) is needed for Muslims.
  • The country is seeing cultural aggression and arrogant nationalism…asserting your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary.
  • In a speech made a few days earlier, he said ‘nationalism that places cultural commitments at its core is usually perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism.’
  • India needs to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance of different religions (no such  advice was forthcoming from Mr. Ansari for religions which teach that ‘idol-worshipping’ non-believers are bound for eternal hellfire)
  • Kashmir is and has always been primarily a political problem.
  • Speaking on the instant triple talaq issue which was in courts at the time, he said ‘judicial intervening in the matter is unnecessary and that reform should come from within the community’

Then in September 2017, Hamid Ansari attended an event in Kozhikode, Kerala, which was co-organised by the National Women’s Front (NWF), the women’s wing of the Islamist terror-linked Popular Front of India (PFI).

Jinnah Apologists and other myths around partition

There have been many attempts to paint Jinnah as some sort of secular messiah, with some ’eminent’ historians claiming he didn’t really want partition, and was just using the threat of partition to get a better deal for Muslims in a united Bharat. Ansari’s attempts to blame leaders like Sardar Patel is just another variant of theories propped up by Pakistani scholars like Ayesha Jalal, who say that Nehru and Congress opted for partition to ‘throw Muslims out of India’ rather than sharing power.

The Jinnah & Muslim League apologists also claim that Jinnah imagined Pakistan as a modern secular nation-state, and his death soon after partition caused the identity crisis that Pakistan is today grappling with.

In a carefully argued book on the run up to Partition, Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Colonial North India, historian Venkat Dhulipala describes how misplaced these notions are.

This book examines how the idea of Pakistan was articulated and very thoroughly debated in the public sphere and how popular enthusiasm was generated for its successful achievement, especially in the crucial province of UP (now Uttar Pradesh) in the last decade of British colonial rule in Bharat. It argues that Pakistan was not a simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was popularly imagined as a sovereign Islamic State, a new Medina, as some called it. In this regard, it was envisaged as the harbinger of Islam’s renewal and rise in the twentieth century, the new leader and protector of the global community of Muslims, and a worthy successor to the defunct Turkish Caliphate.

Quoting from this review of Dhulipala’s book –

Not only the Muslim League (ML), but also a powerful section of the Deobandi ulama and students of the Aligarh Muslim University, all took part in the project to create a “new Medina”. The results were somewhat paradoxical. If the United Provinces provided the stage upon which this drama played out, the Muslims of this province, where they were a minority, were its protagonists. They rallied behind the ML to “liberate” the Muslims of majority provinces from the “tyranny of the Hindu Congress Raj”. Well aware that they would not be a part of Pakistan if and when it came into existence, they still made this “sacrifice for their brethren”.

Even Muslim children understand it but here is this great leader (Nehru) who says he does not understand Pakistan. Pakistan means partition. Pakistan means division,” (Dawn, 20 October 1945). These were the clear terms in which Muhammad Ali Jinnah described Pakistan in a speech at Quetta.”

It is no surprise that Hamid Ansari’s roots are in UP and he is a product of AMU – these are the places where the two-nation theory took seed and where Muslim elites still pine for the bygone era when Islamic power dominated Bharat.

But we ignore Ansari’s views on partition only at our own peril – his views can be safely assumed to reflect what a wide section of Muslim elites and intelligentsia are thinking today. This influential class nurses a well-guarded notion of Islamic supremacism and really does believe that it is Hindu intransigence which is at the root of the problems facing Muslims of Bharat today.

This sort of rhetoric and questioning the idea of Bharat from a purely Islamic perspective will get louder and louder in the coming days, as Hindus challenge the distorted idea of secularism prevalent in our country even more robustly. When the history of the nation is written 50 years from now, the decade of UPA rule, when people like Hamid Ansari ascended to high constitutional posts, will be seen as a fundamental turning point in more ways than one.

It will be interesting to see what reaction, if any, the present-day Congress has to offer to this attack on iconic Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel by Hamid Ansari, a man handpicked by the Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi.


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