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Noted Without Comment – But It’s Not Even Thanksgiving Yet Edition

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Morning Song – Gon’ B Alright

If you ever wondered what a 21st century version of the pure pop harmonies and infectious dance rhythms of The Jackson 5 crossed with the psychedelic soul and social consciousness of Sly & The Family Stone might sound like, wonder no more.

“Gon B’ Alright” is the closing cut on Janet Jackson’s 2015 comeback album, Unbreakable, and it places an emphatic exclamation point on Ms. Jackson’s full return to pop power. It’s also just a lot of fun to listen to.

We all need a little love,
When we get down in the dumps,
Because we, we gon’ be alright;
‘Cause love and vision gonna helps us make it through,
You know we, we gon’ be alright
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Beauty All Around Me – Heading Upstream

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Morning Song – Tennessee Flat Top Box

Regular readers are aware of this little blog’s First Rule Of Cover Songs*, and the corollary that it takes a certain nerve to cover a popular song. It takes a bit more nerve when that song’s identified with one of the towering musical figures of an era. And even more nerve when that figure is your daddy.

Rosanne Cash not only covered her father Johnny’s “Tennessee Flat Top Box” (his own creation myth as much as “Johnny B. Goode” was Chuck Berry’s); she had a #1 hit with it back in 1988. (Her old man only got to #11 on the country charts with his original version in 1961).

*You’ve got to bring something new to it.

The Sole Spokesman: The Last Viceroy, An Ignominious Scuttle & India’s Communal Madness

(One in a series of posts on Ayesha Jalal’s book, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Demand For Pakistan.)

On Feb. 20, 1947, British Prime Minister Attlee appointed Lord Mountbatten Viceroy of India and sent him, “armed with…plenipotentiary powers” (p. 250), with a mandate “to effect the transference of power to responsible Indian hands by a date not later than June 1948“.

Mountbatten acted quickly. By June 3, 1947 the British government announced it would partition India. The Indian Independence Act received royal assent on July 18. Pakistan and India gained independence at midnight on August 14-15. (Pakistan celebrates independence on the 14th; India on the 15th.)

During the final, high-stakes negotiations, Mountbatten “abandoned all pretence of dealing evenly between the Congress and the League”. (p. 270)

“While one side, represented by Nehru, Mountbatten’s favourite, was invited to join him in Simla for ‘long and satisfactory discussions’ about the new plan…the other, Jinnah, was not even given the slightest hint of the new scheme since it was thought that he ‘might publish a statement which would wreck negotiations’. Negotiations with one only of two sides was the novel concept which Mountbatten now introduced into Indian political life.” (p. 207-71)

 

At another point in the negotiations, Mountbatten showed a London proposal only to Congress leaders, and not to Jinnah (for fear Jinnah might accept it and Congress would not). Mountbatten then reworked the plan “follow(ing) Congress principles to the smallest essential detail”. (p. 273)

In her final words, Jalal coldly eviscerates Mountbatten’s claim that he did everything ‘humanly possible’ to prevent the bloodshed and turmoil that followed what he called “one of the ‘greatest administrative operations in history'”.  (p. 293)

“The fact that power was transferred to two governments, neither of which knew the exact geographical boundaries of their respective states, adds yet another curious twist to Mountbatten’s handling of the partition of India. Certainly the Viceroy’s tactic of postponing the award did nothing to prevent an eruption in the Punjab. Everything that was ‘humanly possible’, so we are told, was done to control the situation. The Joint Boundary Force was reinforced by two more brigades, but the situation was ‘long past mere military action and require(d) political leadership of a high order’. If anything it was a complete failure of responsible political leadership which had brought anarchy to the Punjab. While Punjab writhed and turned under the impact of decisions taken in distant places, Mountbatten boldly claimed credit for having accomplished, in less than two and a half months, one of the ‘greatest administrative operations in history’. On behalf of the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands, and the refugees who in their millions stumbled fearfully across the frontiers of the two states, the historian has a duty to challenge Mountbatten’s contention and ask whether this ‘great operation’ was not in fact an ignominious scuttle enabling the British to extricate themselves from the awkward responsibility of presiding over India’s communal madness.” (p. 293)

Other posts in this series

Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Demand For Pakistan

Jinnah Between The Wars

Jinnah & The League’s Search For Survival, 1937-39

Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Lahore Resolution

Jinnah, The Cripps Mission & Taking Advantage Of Events

Getting A Seat At The Table, By Any Means Necessary

Negotiating With A Weak Hand

Jinnah’s Case & Its Fatal Flaw

Violence In The Streets & Jinnah’s Shrinking Ability To Maneuver

The Sole Spokesman: Violence In The Streets & Jinnah’s Shrinking Ability To Maneuver

(One in a series of posts on Ayesha Jalal’s book, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Demand For Pakistan.)

Throughout the closing months of the Raj, there was the growing violence across India, most dramatically with the Great Calcutta Killings from August 16-20, 1946.  Jalal’s primary interest is their effect on the politics of independence and partition.

“They unleashed pent-up forces of disorder of such magnitude that they brought parts of India close to anarchy; they gave this violent chaos, the product of very different rivalries some of which had little to do with religion, a communal colouring, and above all they destroyed the India of Jinnah’s dreams…. One year before partition, in an ominous dress rehearsal for performances in other parts of India, the City of Dreadful Night witnessed a mass hysteria, sparked off in the main by determined little bands of trouble-makers. In five days of rioting some 4,000 persons were killed and 15,000 were maimed and injured in Calcutta. Everyone who describes these killings runs for the shelter of communalism to explain the inexplicable, or more accurately the unacceptable, face of violence. But the killings still await their historian.” (pp. 215-16)

Viceroy Wavell then made “a last-ditch attempt” (p. 217) to get Congress and the League to agree on terms to form a coalition interim government. Wavell, appointed by Churchill during the war, was perhaps the British official most understanding of and sympathetic to Jinnah and the League’s position, but with a Labour government in London, his power was diminished. Jinnah could still negotiate with his old rival/ally Gandhi, but both men were in their 70s and they too were no longer as powerful as they once had been. This was not the Gandhi of 1930 who had sole control over Congress and its Salt Satyagraha. At one point in the negotiations, Jinnah and Gandhi struck a tentative deal, but Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel vetoed it. (p. 224)

Communal violence verging on anarchy—particularly in Bengal and Punjab—continued throughout the months of negotiations leading to the final settlement of independence and partition. Violence and the threat of violence increased pressure on the British, Congress and the League to act quickly; and that pressure helped expose the weakness of Jinnah’s position (he had hoped for a gradual transition, perhaps lasting as long as a decade).

One of Jalal’s aims in The Sole Spokesman is to reclaim the historical Mohammad Ali Jinnah from nationalist mythologies. Her Jinnah is neither “that monster in the demonology of not very perceptive Indian and British chroniclers”, nor “that triumphant hero in Pakistani hagiography”. Rather he was, in the words of Viceroy Archibald Wavell, “very quiet and reasonable, and…anxious for a settlement if it can be done without loss of prestige”. (p. 221)

“The last thirteen months of British rule saw the tragic collapse of Jinnah’s strategy—tragic, because the Quaid-i-Azam had always tried to keep himself above communalism in its cruder forms and had cherished his own vision of Indian unity.” (p. 208)

Jalal makes the case that Jinnah’s insistence on ‘Pakistan’ was always intended as a means to get himself to the bargaining table with as much power as possible so that he could then negotiate a decent compromise for a united India with Congress and the British.

“Just when Jinnah was beginning to turn in the direction that he both wanted and needed to go, his own followers pressed him to stick rigidly to his earlier unbending stance which he had adopted while he was preparing for the time of bargaining in earnest. Now that the time had arrived, the constraints on the Congress High Command matched by the pressures from his own followers were threatening the freedom of action Jinnah needed and seriously undermining his tactic, which was to ask for more in the expectation, at the end of the day, of settling for less.” (p. 210)

Repeatedly in the closing chapters of The Sole Spokesman, Jalal highlights moments that bolster her case that Jinnah did not want a partition of India, nor the Pakistan that emerged from partition.

  • When the last British viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, arrived on the scene in the spring of 1947 and made a last-ditch effort to forge a compromise that would allow for a united India, “(i)t was Congress that insisted on partition. It was Jinnah who was against partition”. (p. 262)
  • Jinnah also vigorously opposed the partition of Bengal and the Punjab, the two largest and most economically powerful Muslim-majority provinces. (p. 268) However, “Congress demanded that, if India was to be divided, Punjab and Bengal would have to be partitioned.” (p. 279)
  • In the end, “absolute partition was Congress’s order of the day. And it was an order which Mountbatten had to carry out to its logical conclusion.” (p. 280)
  • “A Pakistan consisting of western Punjab, Sind, the N.W.F.P, Baluchistan, eastern Bengal and Sylhet district was hardly the Pakistan of Jinnah’s dreams. Yet this was all he could now expect to get. Congress, his own followers and above all the contradictions in his own strategy had reduced Jinnah’s Pakistan to the moth-eaten version which he had rejected so vehemently on more than one occasion.” (pp. 282-83)

Other posts in this series

Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Demand For Pakistan

Jinnah Between The Wars

Jinnah & The League’s Search For Survival, 1937-39

Jinnah, The Muslim League & The Lahore Resolution

Jinnah, The Cripps Mission & Taking Advantage Of Events

Getting A Seat At The Table, By Any Means Necessary

Negotiating With A Weak Hand

Jinnah’s Case & Its Fatal Flaw

The Last Viceroy, An Ignominious Scuttle & India’s Communal Madness

 

 

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Beauty All Around Me – Bathing Bird

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