Dalai Lama's View on Partition

August 16, 2018
11 months

What is the issue?

  • Dalai Lama recently asserted that had Jinnah been made India's first PM, it could have avoided the bloody partition. 
  • While the Lama had apologized for the same following an outrage against it, there is nonetheless substance to the claim on moral grounds.

What is the context of the assertion?

  • Speaking at the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan leader's refuge in India, Dalai Lama was stressing the generosity of the then Indian government's gesture.
  • Notably, India had granted him refuge and allowed for setting up a Tibetan government in exile despite immense Chinese pressure against it.
  • Further, he cited the need for a more humane approach towards the "Rohingya crisis" and "Assam's NRC update".
  • In this context, he stated that India missed a moral opportunity to avoid partition by offering undivided India's Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947.
  • In fact, Mahatma Gandhi is said to have speculated this possibility and Nehru allegedly refused to it due to the various political complications involved.
  • While the assertion was politically incorrect for someone on asylum, if viewed from a moral angle, there is at least speculative value to it.
  • The statement indeed displayed a disregard for appropriateness, but it was an effort to pluralize the nation's thinking as against "monochromatic patriotism".  

What was the intention of the assertion?

  • Making Jinnah the PM of undivided India was not a practicality in 1947 due to the socio-political context prevalent back then. 
  • Nonetheless, Gandhi was open to this idea as a last ray of hope to avoid the catastrophic partition.
  • Hence, Lama's assertion shouldn't be read as a critic of Nehru's view but a mere statement to provoke the conscience of the nation.
  • The offer was for Jinnah to give up his divisive political line and for Nehru to sacrifice his political stature, which proved too costly for both to part with.
  • Despite the impracticality, had this offer gone through, the humanitarian crisis of 1947 and 1971 and various Indo-Pak standoffs could've well been avoided.
  • Considering the current political situation, Lama's views can be perceived as an appeal to the masses to give up jingoistic polarization on religious lines.

What are the problems with the responses to this assertion?

  • Lama's statements provoked an instant disapproval from multiple quarters, forcing him to apologize for the same.
  • Lama's stress was about the magnanimity of Gandhi's offer, but the mass interpretation was that he perceived Nehru as shallow and self-serving.
  • Clearly, our uni-polar view of history and nationhood seems to have dominated the day, when the appeal was for developing an accommodating spirit.  
  • India is a land of spirituality and Dalai Lama's presence, much like Gandhi's, has added a very new dimension to this land in terms of moral and spiritual appeal.
  • In this context, we would do good to shun hatred and embrace a better moral compass to define the way we live.


Source: The Hindu

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