Academics as sensationalists

Published : Sep 24, 2004 00:00 IST

ROGER D. LONG is at work on a biography of Liaquat Ali Khan. He regards Stanley Wolpert's biography of Jinnah as a "magisterial and unparalled volume" and gives strong signs of emulating his mentor. He should desist. Long calls Dr. Zakir Husain "a sufi"; Wolpert called Z.A. Bhutto "a sufi mystic" and Jinnah "Managing Director of Tata Enterprises". He called Begum Liaquat Ali Khan a charming and attractive lady who was Indian Christian, "an Iranian beauty" and confused Dr. John Mathai with M.O. Mathai. Wolpert was out for dirt - whether on Jinnah ("senility"), his wife ("opium, hashish and cocaine were of course readily available"), Nehru or Bhutto. Having seen what Wolpert did to Jinnah the elite of Delhi rushed to help him in the book on Nehru only to end up with egg on its face.

Long is not content to accuse Mountbatten of having "engineered Kashmir's accession to India rather than Pakistan". He proceeds to dub him as a sexual pervert, accuse his wife Edwina of having a "salacious" relationship with Nehru, and of gratifying herself "night after night" with seamen on board a schooner. He quotes, in support, a book on Winston Churchill.

The relevance of all this in a book on Liaquat's letters is not very evident. What is evident, however, is a marked tendency among some academics - like Wolpert and Long - to profess to be scholars and provide sensational fare; to mix the work of academia with the ways of the gutter press.

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