Congress leader K Natwar Singh said on Sunday that he was glad that India was partitioned at the time of Independence, because the Muslim League would not have allowed an undivided India to function properly, PTI reported.

“In my view I am glad India was partitioned,” the 88-year-old politician said at the launch of Bharatiya Janata Party leader MJ Akbar’s new book, Gandhi’s Hinduism: The Struggle Against Jinnah’s Islam. “Because if India had not been partitioned we would have had Direct Action Days – the first we had during Jinnah’s lifetime was on August 16 [1946] when thousands of Hindus were killed in Kolkata – and of course then the retaliation took place in Bihar where thousands of Muslims were killed.” Singh said keeping an undivided India together would have been impossible in the presence of the Muslim League.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee released the book at his residence in New Delhi.

The Muhammad Ali Jinnah-led Muslim League had called for “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946, to press for the demand for Pakistan. The call led to widespread riots and mass murder.

Singh, to emphasise his point, said that the Muslim League refused to join the interim government of India, formed on September 2, 1946, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, and then proceeded to enter the cabinet only to turn down all its proposals. “Therefore you can imagine this on a larger scale, if India was not partitioned, the Muslim League would have made things very very difficult for us to function,” Singh said. “Also, the government situation would have worsened by the week.”

Singh described Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah as two very “great and difficult” icons. He said Gandhi’s standards in politics were very high, and Jinnah had an abrasive temperament.

The Congress leader alleged that Gandhi pampered Jinnah on the insistence of India’s last Governor General C Rajagopalachari. “In 1944, Gandhi visited Jinnah’s house in Malabar Hill [in Mumbai],” he said. “But not once did Jinnah return his visits.

In August 2015, a far-right Hindutva group, Hindu Samhati, organised a march in Kolkata to protest against Direct Action Day, which has also become known as the day of the Great Calcutta Killings. The protest connected 1946 to 2015: people carried banners which called for an end to the “torture” of Hindus in Bengal, warned politicians to stop “appeasing” certain groups in the “greed for votes” and called for an end to “jihadi riots”.