New Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi fought for the unity of India for every moment of his public life and never accepted that the country could be divided on religious lines, former President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Sunday.
“Gandhiji’s whole life was dedicated to Hindu-Muslim unity… Gandhiji is not just the father of our nation, he was also the maker of our nation… he was the moral vector to guide our action by the measure by which we are judged,” Mukherjee said at the launch of veteran journalist M.J. Akbar’s new book “Gandhi’s Hinduism – The Struggle Against Jinnah’s Islam” that chronicles the endgame that led to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and the creation of Pakistan.
Noting that “communal unity and harmony is the bedrock of India’s strength and the key to its glorious future”, Mukherjee said Gandhi believed in the “intrinsic power of Hinduism” of assimilation, evaluation and adaptation, “as it was inclusive and offered space for the presence of people from every faith”.
“Gandhiji had declared that no faith could be in danger in India because India had always been the homeland for every faith,” Mukherjee said.
To this end, the book “strongly emphases” the fact that “Gandhiji fought for the unity of India for every moment of his public life”, rejecting “the conventional explanation that partition would be a solution to the communal problem (created by the British)”, noting at a prayer meeting a month before Partition that this would lead to a conflict between India and Pakistan, Mukherjee said.
“He believed Pakistan would hurt Muslims more than they appreciated. He thought (Muhammad Ali) Jinnah was suffering from an illusion when he imagined that an unnatural division of India could bring either happiness or prosperity” to Pakistan, Mukherjee maintained.
This was a view shared by Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, a stalwart of the freedom movement, who issued a statement that he had “come to the conclusion that Pakistan is harmful not only for India as a whole but for Muslims in particular”, Mukherjee said, quoting from the book.
Stating that the book is an “important” reference point for analysing the history of partition, Mukherjee said: “It very clearly demonstrates the inherent spiritual secularism that Mahatmaji stood for and the divisive colour that Jinnah gave to religion only to secure political ends.”
“It chronicles how Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress stood as a firm rock against the partition of the country till the very end,” Mukherjee said, adding, it establishes, “very adroitly”, how Gandhi wanted India’s unity at any price and Jinnah wanted partition at any cost.
“It will go to the credit of Mahatma Gandhi that he not only saw through the designs of the British in first creating and then fostering the communal divide in India when they saw that the continuation of their rule was not viable and then did everything for their future strategic and geopolitical interests “with the Muslim League under Mr Jinnah”, Mukherjee said.