I was 19 then…
The very first question in the interview was that do you have a special attachment for Karachi? Advani said, ‘Very much. After all, I was born in Karachi. I completed my schooling there. He also went to college for a few years. I was 19 when I left Karachi. Advani tells in that interview that Sindh used to be a province, then its population was not too high. Of the total 43 lakh population there were 13 lakh Hindus. There were probably three million Muslims, but the Hindu population was mostly in cities and towns. At that time the population of Karachi used to be 3 to 4 lakhs. As of today, it was a small town then. Most of Advani’s friends were Hindus, some were Christians, Parsis and Jews. His school was named St. Patrick’s High School, in which very few Muslims studied.
In response to a question, Advani says that today (during the 1997 interview) the situation is completely different. It hurts me to see this. A few years ago a survey revealed that Karachi is one of the 10 dirtiest cities in the world. I was shocked. In 1978, I had the opportunity to go to Karachi for a few days, at that time I was involved in the government of Morarji Bhai. Wherever I went at that time, there was not that much dirt. The special thing is that during my childhood, Karachi used to be one of the cleanest cities.
Referring to the situation at the time of Partition, Advani says in this interview that things were changing rapidly in the early months of 1947. The picture became clear in April-May. We felt very bad to know that Sindh is a resident of Pakistan.
Advani and RSS
Was Advani still an active member of the RSS at that time? In response, he says that yes, I joined the RSS at the age of 14.
Was there any enmity-like atmosphere between the RSS and the Muslim League in Karachi at that time? Advani says, ‘No, the Muslim League was not strong there. Perhaps if public opinion had been taken there, even the Muslims of Karachi would not have been in support of partition. Support for Partition was seen mostly from areas outside Pakistan. Sindh, Punjab, East Pakistan, East Bengal from where Hindus had to migrate, they came and settled well, whereas people who migrated from UP, Bihar to Pakistan are still called Muhajirs. They haven’t even settled down well.’
Was Advani living in Karachi?
Did Advani even once in 1947 feel that he should stay in Karachi? The BJP leader had said in the interview that if I look back, there was a lot of uncertainty at that time. Our decision was to stay there because the conditions were completely different from Punjab. There was no riot before partition. Even after partition, the situation was not that bad. The killings started, the trains and the streets started bleeding. There was heavy violence in Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Bengal. But there was nothing like this in Karachi. In such a situation, when the partition was happening, we were feeling that why should we go? We will stay here, such was the feeling in my mind.
Then why leave Karachi?
What happened that a decision had to be taken to leave Karachi. Advani says that after a horrific blast in Karachi in the month of September, not only mine, but the attitude of the entire Hindu population living there changed. The allegations were leveled against the people of RSS. At the same time Gandhiji addressed a meeting of RSS in Delhi. Advani said, ‘I remember very well the issue of Dawn newspaper of 11 or 12 September 1947. On one side there was mention of Gandhi’s address at the RSS rally in which he criticized Pakistan for sending tribals to Kashmir. He had said that if Pakistan takes this kind of attitude, then who knows that a war will break out between India and Pakistan. And it shouldn’t be.’ The headline of the bomb blast was printed on the second page of the newspaper alleging conspiracy of RSS in Pakistan. One headline was ‘RSS Plot to Blow Up Pakistan Unearthed’ and on the other side the heading ‘Gandhi Speaks to RSS Volunteers in Terms of War’ was made.
Recalling that period, Advani had said that at the age of 19, he was not intimidated at all by being associated with the RSS. Finally on 12 September 1947 he left Karachi. He was alone and had traveled by plane for the first time. Being associated with the RSS, people had advised that go out alone now. The family left Karachi after about a month. Rapid exodus from Sindh had started in October. By January 1948, riots broke out there too.
After the formation of Pakistan, Advani lived there for about a month. He was not happy even on the day of Pakistan’s Independence Day. Hurt by the pain of partition, many children in the school did not even eat sweets. He says that we were not getting any feeling like freedom.