A rebel from the Jinnah family

A rebel from the Jinnah family

Dina Wadia, the only child of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his second wife Ruttie Petit, passed away in New York on November 2. She was 98. She is survived by her daughter Diana, son Nusli, grandsons Ness and Jeh Wadia and two great grandchildren. She preferred to stay out of the limelight. Many Pakistanis were not aware of Dina and also so many Indians. Pakistan’s top leadership expressed shock and offered condolences over the passing away of Quaid-e-Azam’s daughter.

She was a rebel from her younger days. Ditto, her mother. Much can be compared between Dina and her mother Ruttie, who was later known as Maryam Jinnah after her marriage to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, then a leading lawyer and champion of Hindu-Muslim unity. Ruttie got married to Jinnah when she was only 16. Jinnah was 42 at the time. The marriage then shocked the Parsi community. Ruttie was the only daughter of a leading businessman Sir Dinshaw Petit. Her mother Sylla Petit was the daughter of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and sister of JRD Tata. Ruttie’s father and Jinnah were friends.

Dina was born on the midnight of August 14-15, 1919 in London. The irony caught up with Jinnah when Dina decided to marry Neville Wadia. Neville was born in a Parsi family, which had converted into Christianity. Jinnah loved Dina deeply. But their relationship became strained after she decided to marry Neville. Jinnah’s friend late MC Chagla - jurist, diplomat, union minister – has narrated the conversation which took place between father and daughter in his book ‘Roses in December’. He writes, “Jinnah had only one daughter, and this story also, I have reason to believe, is true. She wanted to marry a Parsi belonging to a distinguished family. She asked her father’s consent to the marriage.

Jinnah, in his usual imperious manner, told her that there were millions of Muslim boys in India and she could have anyone she chose. Then the young lady, who was more than a match for her father, replied: ‘Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?’ to which, of course, Jinnah could have no answer.” Dina married Neville when she was only 17.

She visited Pakistan only twice. She visited first in September 1948 after her father passed away and the second time when in 2004 General Pervez Musharraf invited her to witness resumption of India-Pakistan cricket matches. At that time, she was accompanied by her son Nusli Wadia, and grandchildren Jeh and Ness. They visited Lahore and Karachi. After visiting the Mausoleum of her father, she wrote in the visitors’ book: “This has been very sad and wonderful for me. May his (Jinnah’s) dream for Pakistan come true.”

Dina wanted to spend her last days in the Jinnah House. Her contention was that she was the only legal heir of her late father and, so it should be given to her. She had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court also and claimed the bungalow. Dina Wadia had also written a letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007 requesting him to return Jinnah House to her. It is a historic bungalow where Jinnah held various meetings with the then top leadership of Indian freedom struggle. He had meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Abul Kalam Azad, etc. In that sense, the Jinnah House was witness to many historic moments.

It becomes a responsibility of the state to preserve such buildings. Jinnah wanted to come to Mumbai even after Pakistan came into existence and live in the house. He was in love with Mumbai and the bungalow he built brick by brick. He wanted Hindus and Muslims to live in a peace. While addressing Constitution Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Jinnah explicitly spoke of giving equal rights and freedom to the religious minorities of Pakistan. Jinnah wanted the bungalow to be given on rent to only Europeans, as it was constructed in a European style and also only Europeans would be able to admire. For many years after independence, it was a residence of British Deputy High Commissioner.

The National Assembly of Pakistan and Sindh Provincial Assembly observed a minute’s silence on November 3 to pay homage to Dina Wadia. It is the linkage. Dina wanted to spend her last days in the Jinnah House. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

The bungalow should be preserved and should be used to promote composite culture. It has a sentimental value also. The bungalow can become a centre from where the message of peaceful co-existence can be sent across the South Asia. The religious minorities in these countries are facing serious issues. There are issues of ethnicities. Some communities like Rohingyas, Ahmadis are persecuted. The Jinnah House can be used for the research and promotion of communal amity. It can also bring eight countries close to each other.

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