When it comes to the writings on political Islam in India, there is no better contemporary author than Akbar. In this superbly researched book, he takes the reader through that phase of Indian history, which had seen political Islam in its most aggressive avatar.
There are countless books on the story of India’s partition. I have read many, besides authoring one. But after reading this book, I have found my own book, written some 3 decades ago, to be woefully inadequately researched, like many others.
Akbar narrates the story of how a Sanatani Hindu like Gandhi used all his ethical, moral and religious power to unsuccessfully prevent the partition of India and how the political Islam of Jinnah had finally had its way in creating Pakistan.
In the first major Indian work on partition in 1960, ‘Guilty Men of Partition’, eminent Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had held five top leaders of that time, including Gandhi to be responsible for it. H V Seshadri, in his ‘Tragic Story of Partition’, held Congress, the British and Muslim League as the main culprits. Akbar’s book gives greater insights into what had actually happened during those fateful 3 years before the partition.
Akbar extensively quotes from the partition-related documents like Menon’s Transfer of Power in India as also Gandhi’s 100-volume Complete Works, to give the reader a completely new and hitherto unknown perspective on the happenings of that time.
While the title of the book is provocative, ‘Gandhi’s Hinduism – The Struggle against Jinnah’s Islam’ -, the blurb is more revealing – ‘Gandhi wanted India’s unity at any price. Jinnah wanted partition at any cost’.
I recommend this book as a must read for everyone, including those who have read others books on this much-discussed topic – don’t to miss Akbar’s version. You will close the book with a deep sigh and in contemplation. It helps you to bust certain myths created around great personalities like Gandhi, and of course reiterates what has been said earlier about the ‘leaders in a tearing hurry’ like Nehru. Most importantly, it also brings out the fascinating and almost superhumanly side of Gandhi’s understanding of Hinduism and its relevance in contemporary social and political discourse.