Why Jinnah House? -- By Sanjeev Srivastava Back   Home  

Dinah Wadia, the only daughter of Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has staked a claim to her father's house in Bombay, which the Pakistani Government wants to use as a consulate.

Mohamed Ali Jinnah: Founder of Pakistan In information made exclusively available to the BBC, Ms Wadia made her claim to the property - known as Jinnah House - in a letter sent to the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The sprawling bungalow was used by the British deputy high commissioner until 1982.

But it has been lying empty for nearly 20 years and is in urgent need of a facelift.

Ms Wadia has given an undertaking to the Indian Government that her family will not exploit the property for commercial gain and will keep in mind the historical value of Jinnah House when carrying out any modifications and repairs.

Pakistan claim President Pervez Musharraf recently repeated his country's request for the house to be used as Pakistan's consulate in Bombay.

Tomorrow, they may want Taj Mahal and the day after Qutub Minar.

Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray He also talked about raising the issue during his meetings with Mr Vajpayee during the summit in Agra.

While the Indian Government has so far remained silent on the issue, leaders of some of the parties in the BJP-led ruling coalition have come out strongly against any suggestion that Jinnah House is given to Pakistan.

Bal Thackeray, leader of the ultra-nationalist Hindu Shiv Sena Party, has rejected the idea outright.

"Today they (Pakistan) are asking for Jinnah House. Tomorrow, they may want Taj Mahal and the day after Qutub Minar," he told journalists in Bombay.

Mr Thackeray suggested that Jinnah House be given to the Wadia family who, he said, were the rightful claimants.

Mr Thackeray's views may be an indication of the thinking going in government circles, according to observers.

'Sympathetic' to claim Sources say the Indian Government may take a sympathetic view of the request made by Mr Jinnah's daughter as it also gives them an opportunity to wriggle out of what could be a diplomatic embarrassment for both countries.

Pakistan wants the property for a consulate It is felt that Pakistan is unlikely to press its claim for the property if it is handed over to Ms Wadia.

Jinnah House, dating back to 1936, occupies a unique place in the pre-partition Indian history.

It was in this sprawling bungalow - designed by a British architect Claude Batley, and built by a Muslim contractor, a Hindu plumber and Italian stonemasons - that the destiny of not one, but two nations was moulded.

The bungalow, with its terraced gardens and walnut woodwork, is in the exclusive Malabar Hill area of Bombay.

In its time, it played hosts to leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and Lord Mountbatten.

Partition history According to many, it was here that the final chapter of both independence and partition was written.

Jinnah left the house for the last time for Pakistan just a week before partition on 7 August 1947.

An emotional Jinnah, who had been practising politics and law in Bombay, is reported to have told the then prime minister of Bombay, BG Kher, that his bungalow should be well looked after.

"Someday I may come back and live here," he is reported to have said.

This article was published in bbc.com south asia section.