Consider two ways of looking at the same man.
Way #1: this man has spent pretty much his entire adult life as a politician. He has been a Member of Parliament for years. He has risen to the highest levels of power in this country, as an important Minister in different Governments. In his most recent Ministerial stint, he was in charge of law and order for the entire country, second in power only to the Prime Minister. Indeed, he was and is often spoken of as a possible Prime Minister. Both his party and millions of people around the country trusted him implicitly in these important posts; enough, again, that he might easily have been the head of our Government.
In other words: like his politics or not, this man has spent years close to the very core of power in this country, because it is clear that enough people trust him with that power.
One day, he travels to Pakistan and says something about one of their leaders. This sets off a storm here in India, and among other things, people openly call him a traitor. The same man who, until just year ago, was a weak knee or a heartbeat away from assuming the most powerful elected post in our land.
Way #2: this man spent years leading an entire agitation to build a temple where a mosque stood. He repeatedly held up that mosque as a symbol of Indian disgrace, Hindu humiliation. He toured the country in a Toyota truck dressed to look like a chariot, making his case about the mosque and urging his outraged listeners, their passions whipped up with his rhetoric, to trek to where the mosque stood. In December 1992, hundreds of thousands of these passionate men made that trek, and expressed their passion in the only way possible: they tore down the mosque. That one act of destruction sparked killing around the country, Indians turning on Indians with savagery we are distressingly accustomed to. The killing lasted over three months and ended with a series of bomb blasts in Bombay in March 1993. The hatreds live on, expressing themselves in more killing every now and then.
In other words: like his politics or not, this is the legacy of this man too. His spurring of passions for political gain took us unerringly into great bloodshed; made hatred and prejudice acceptable.
Yes, and one day he travels to Pakistan and says something about one of their leaders. This sets off a storm here in India, and among other things, people openly call him a traitor. The same man whose actions and rhetoric caused Indians to kill other Indians by the thousand.
Forget the years when we entrusted enormous swathes of Government to this man. Forget the years when he deliberately led us to hate one another, and use that hate to kill one another. Forget whatever those things might say about him. He calls Jinnah secular, he gets called a traitor. End of story.
That's how empty these ideas like "patriot" and "traitor" now are.
And as a coda to all this, I read in today's news that one of this same man's senior party colleagues, one Joshi, reaffirms that Jinnah "can in no way be termed a secular man ... [our] party has to keep its ideology in mind.."
There you have it: an ideology that is founded on whether a long-dead man is "termed secular" or not. Seems like no ideology to me.