Sorry if my statement on Partition has hurt people: Dalai Lama

Tribune web Desk

Chandigarh/Goa, August 10

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Friday said he is willing to apologise if his statement that "Mahatma Gandhi ji was very much willing to give Prime Ministership to Jinnah but Pandit Nehru refused" had created a controversy.

“My statement has created a controversy; if I said something wrong I apologise,” said the Dalai Lama on Friday, while speaking to the media in Goa.

The Dalai Lama had on Wednesday said that India’s Partition would not have happened if Mahatma Gandhi’s wish of Jinnah becoming the Prime Minister had materialised.

The 83-year-old monk gave the example in response to a question from a student at the Goa Institute of Management on how one could be sure about one’s decisions and how to avoid mistakes. 

Preceding the interaction, the Dalai Lama spoke on India’s ability to merge its rich traditional knowledge with the modern facets of education. He also stressed the need for dialogue and debate on a range of subjects. 

“We need more people to come together and talk and debate on aspects linked to India's ancient knowledge, such as ahimsa and compassion. We also need to find ways to reduce conflict among ourselves," he said.

When asked as to what she made of the observations, historian Mridula Mukherjee said, “With due respect to the Dalai Lama, who has made great sacrifices for his people, he is clearly misinformed. It is very saddening to see someone of his stature make a statement not borne out by facts.

“Rather, Jawaharlal Nehru was the person who gave refuge to the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama. You cannot blame any one person for Partition. It was caused by long-term factors rooted in the British policy of divide and rule. Pt Nehru was as much against Partition as any nationalist would be. But we must remember the ball was always in the British court.”

The British, she said, kept insisting on Indians sorting out their differences among themselves but MA Jinnah continued to be recalcitrant. “The Mountbatten Plan was a plan for Partition. The British refused to hand over power to the Congress. What option did Gandhi or Nehru or Patel have?

“As far as Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that Jinnah could be PM goes, it was a goodwill statement, a Gandhian way of winning over Jinnah, but Jinnah never accepted even that. Gandhi said this in 1944 but he had, way back in 1942, named Nehru as his successor. In democracies, people, not individuals, choose and make leaders.”

Another historian, S Irfan Habib, said what the Dalai Lama had said could be his perception. “It is certainly not a fact of history. Partition was such a huge tragedy, no one person could be held responsible. Two decades of communal politics and the propagation of the two-nation theory led to Partition. What the Dalai Lama has said is just another statement in the line of many in the category of Nehru-baiting.”

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