Volume - 7 : Issue - 3


Published : Jul. - Sep. 2008


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Nirmal Malkani


My Country, My Life – L. K. Advani’s Autobiography

  • A Response To

Ranjit Butani, Gul Karamchandani & Nari Panjwani –

Respectfully Submitted by Nirmal Malkani

It is good to see the Sindhishaan issue of April-June 08, and note also the editorial of Ranjit Butani in which he quotes the following excerpt from LK Advani's autobiography:

"Sindh is now a part of Pakistan, an independent and sovereign nation, a fact that has to be accepted. But from a civilizational perspective, neither can Sindh be separated from India, nor can India forget Sindh."

To my mInd, in this brief observation, L. K. Advani undoubtedly speaks from the heart of every Sindhi in India and elsewhere, and I hope equally, he reflects the thought in the heart of every Sindhi in Pakistan.

My parents and grand parents are no longer alive but they left us a legacy of their memories of abiding love for Sindh, which remains in our hearts even though decades have passed since political alienation. It is my hope that this sense of belonging and togetherness from civilizational and cultural perspective will remain evergreen among Sindhis on both sides of the border, irrespective of political affiliations and that Sindhi hearts never harden towards each other even if Governments, in arrogance or ignorance, choose to be insensitive to the continuing bond among Sindhis, everywhere,.

I must also congratulate warmly Gul Karamchandani for his excellent Review of LK Advani's autobiography, in the above-cited issue of Sindhishaan. The Review brings out not only LK Advani's love for Sindh and dedication to Sindhi values of Sufism and communal harmony but quite clearly, the Review also shows LK Advani's honesty of purpose, steadfastness, credibility and fundamental attachment to secularism, sense of inclusiveness for all communities, respect for all faiths and attachment to democratic ideals. The Review also refers to quite a few quotations by LK. Advani in his autobiography from "Return of the Aryans" by Bhagwan Gidwani whom he correctly regards as 'one of the greatest Sindhi historians' for authentic and glowing light which Gidwani sheds on the history and culture of Sindhu Civilization from 8,000 BC., and to present the integrated picture of the structure of Sindhi Society and its freedom from communal disharmony, but more so, the history of the land where the roots of Hinduism were formed in the shape of Sanatan Dharma, where Vedas were composed, and the land that served as the cradle-ground of the Aryan civilization. LK Advani's reference to quotation from Gidwani's writing about Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's presence at Sadhbela (Hindu temple) at Sukkur in Sind, in early times, is worth noting.

The Review also refers to what Advani's admirers and critics have always known him for: the gift for clarity of thought, strong convictions and forceful articulation and shows how the autobiography is being studied throughout the world capitals in expectation of the possibility that the high position of Prime Minister might await Advani, when India's next elections take place.

In the same issue of Sindhishaan, I have also read 'Bouquets and Brickbats' by Nari Panjwani (an ex-student of LK. Advani). In parts, It is a highly interesting account in which Panjwani refers to how he and other students were impressed by LK. Advani's keen intellect, logical mind and his very rational explanations of fundamentals of Physics, Chemistry and also English - Prose, Poetry and Grammer. But Nari Panjwani spoils it all at the outset, by an assertion that with LK. Advani's first name being Lal and his father's name, Kishenchand, he should be calling himself Lal Kishenchand Advani "but for reasons best known to him, Advani substituted Krishna for Kishenchand". I hope this is not an attempt by Panjwani to grasp for straws to criticize, or to reach out in pettiness but if it really is, I can easily write an essay for Panjwani to explain to him, how names are formed and how they can undergo such changes. There are also quite a few other interesting aspects regarding LK Advani which Panjwani mentions, such as Advani's courtsey to old students, his sense of hospitality, attention and care towards them and his concern over their welfare. He also refers to Advani's lack of ostentatiousness throughout and his simple living in early days when working for his organizational activities - and even staying in a Dharamshala at which the organization had booked him, with a room devoid of any furniture, not even a charpoy with a bare cement floor. "I asked him”, says Panjwani, “how and where he was going to sleep in the night?” Panjwani adds that “Advani opened a roll under his left arm and out came a bamboo chatai, a bed sheet, a blanket and a pillow. That was his spartan bed and in his right hand, he was carrying a burlap bag with a copy of the Bhagvat Gita , a flute, a kurta, dhoti and perhaps a comb and a towel. I was overwhemed by the simplicity of the man and felt great respect and deep admiration for him specially so when he told me that he washes his kurta and dhoti with his hands. It was bitterly cold then and we both clinbed up on the open terrace of the building, and while basking in the sun, he took out his flute and played some tune .... " Panjwani's article also gives some instances of LK Advani's being a "considerate and polite human being”.

Even so, Panjwani spoils it all by his failure to understand the nature, purpose and significance of Ram Rath Yatra. I, for one, agree with Gul Karamchandani that Advani's Ram Rath Yatra galvanized the nation – and correctly so. I recall also the newspaper report of 'India-Meet' at the University at Indianapolis, USA, where Bhagwan Gidwani, during Question-Answer session had stated as follows when this kind of a question had been raised. Said Gidwani:

“ Mr. Navani and Mr. Shahani should have raised this long Question, padded with so many arguments, in the morning debate, where it could have been answered fully and not in this hurried, brief Question-Answer Session. Let me however say that the charge is totally unacceptable that Ram Rath Yatra was a violation of the spirit of Sufi philosophy or conflicts with the Gandhian ideals of Ahimsa in leading to confrontation with unfortunate results, or is a direct blow to the principles of Secularism. It is only a pseudo Sufi who can urge that while every community in India may wear the badge of its community with pride and honour (and is also so encouraged, to the point of frenzy, by the ruling political parties and their allies in the interests of creating their own Vote banks), but that somehow, the Hindu must remain aloof from displaying his identity and cultural roots. Such an interpretation of Sufi philosophy is spurious and entirely untenable. Equally frivolous is the reference to the Gandhian principle of Ahimsa and the need to avoid confrontation. Gandhiji believed in confrontation though with Ahimsa and yet his principles of Ahimsa were not intended as a shield for cowardice, but even so, where was the confrontational aspect in the entirely non-violent, peaceful Ram Rath Yatra? About Secularism - I have also simply to say, that your understanding of Secularism is faulty and convoluted. Secularism involves equal respect and consideration for all communities and all faiths, including your own; and for your own not more – but certainly not less, either.... To my mind therefore your charge fails and I am satisfied that Mr. Advani has acted honourably, in non-confrontational manner, with no disrespect towards any community and with respect for law and adherence to moral principles ....”

It is difficult to disagree with Bhagwan Gidwani's response, brief though it was, due to circumstances in which the question was raised. In particular, I respect his definition of Secularism, as above.

Yet Nari Panjwani has the benefit of LK Advani's 1000-page autobiography in which pages after pages are devoted to Rath Yatra, other connected Temple issues and the events that followed. Even so, Panjwani contents himself by his simplistic assertions, with no attempt to present the points of view, which are ably and amply, put forward in the autobiography. On this issue, Panjwani simply refers to Advani as a “This man with blinkered vision...... , responsible for all madness.... , who brainwashed .....” Thus Panjwani's article, 'Bouquets and Brickbats' has simply a façade of Bouquets with a few personal compliments but a series of Brickbats thrown in. In fairness of the debate, Panjwani should have carefully read the autobiography to present Advani's point of view as well. It is not too late to do so.

A related point to note about LK Advani is, that during the long period that he was the Deputy Prime Minister of India, his party followed the discipline of scrupulously keeping the issue of State policy away from Religion in all Governmental conduct.

We need LK Advani at the helm of affairs to lead India. He is scrupulously honest and has outstanding ablity; he loves Sindhi values of Sufism and tolerance and respect for all communities and faiths. He is a man with a vision for India and inner strength to lead us to reach that vision.