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The Wastes of Time: Reflections on the Decline and Fall of East Pakistan
Chapter XIII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
There is a tide in the affairs of men
which taken at the flood leads on to fortune - Shakespeare

In the summer of 1944, while recuperating from a serious, surgical operation on my thigh, I received an invitation from Mr Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, editor of the Azad, to preside over the literary session of a Conference- the East Pakistan Renaissance Society of Calcutta were organising for July. I was flattered. Obviously the invitation was a reciprocal gesture, a return for the honour we had done him at Dacca in January 1943. I was only twenty-four, had been to Calcutta only once before in connection with the printing of a biographical volume on Nazir in 1943 and possessed little experience of public conference in a metropolitan city. But the invitation had been extended to me as the President of the East Pakistan literary Society, and I accepted. At one stage when my recovery from the operation seemed to be taking an unusually long time, I wrote to Mr Shamsuddin saying that I would like to be excused. But they were prepared to wait for me, and after this I had no further excuse for wanting to avoid the engagement.
 
Chapter XIV PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Pakistan, one must not forget, was less a territorial than an ideological concept. It was not the sum-total of a number of demands for self-determination for Muslims scattered all over India; it was inspired by the feeling, whatever the sentiments of the Bengalis today, that the Muslims of India constitute one single nation. The Muslims of Bengal identified themselves wholly with their co-religionists elsewhere and lent their full and whole-hearted support to this theory.

What we continually discussed, debated and analysed was the nature of Muslim nationalism. None of us in the Azad group, or for the matter of that in the Dacca University Circles, were fanatics in the religious sense. Some of us, I confess, were not regular in the observance of the prescribed rituals, and we resented being maligned as obscurantist. Of course, we believed in religion, and strongly rejected the myth that religion itself was an antiquarian matter. Most Hindus or nationalist Muslims, such as they were, did not dare attack religion; they themselves professed religious beliefs. Where they differed with us was in maintaining that religion could not form the basis of nationhood in India.
 
Chapter XVI PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive! -- Wordsworth

Lord Mountbatten quickly convinced the Indian leaders that he meant business when saying that he would advise His Majesty’s Government to withdraw from India as early as possible. He was a man of action. Having come to the conclusion that independence had to be granted to India and could not be delayed, he resolved to complete the transaction in as short a time as possible. His energy impressed everyone, but his impatience seemed fraught with menace.

Mr Attlee's Government who had originally announced that Britain would not stay in India beyond 1948, surprised many by deciding to quit a year earlier. The speed with which Lord Mountbatten, as Mr Attlee’s principal agent in India, carried through this programme could not but evoke admiration, but it was also viewed with serious concern. Such speed was bound to lead to major violent dislocations; no one could foresee how the entire administrative machinery would be disrupted and how long it would take to put it in order again.
 
Chapter XVIII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
The movement in favour of Bengali attracted men even from such rightist groups as the Jamaat-e-Islami, who did not realise that they were walking into a trap. What would possibly be wrong, they said, in supporting the claims of Bengali as a state language? A language was a precious inheritance, and those who spoke Bengali had the right (why shouldn’t they have it) to demand that their mother tongue must be given its rightful place in the political life of Pakistan. That is the way most people viewed the issue.

There was a time when those of us who could perceive the real drift of events, felt that perhaps a concession to the rising sentiments in favour of Bengali would help arrest the rot that had set in. But we were wrong. Each concession that was made was regarded as a victory by the conspirators who used it as a stepping-stone to the next stage in their campaign. No matter what was done to conciliate the students, the enemy was determined to press ahead.
 
Chapter XV PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
In the middle of 1946, I forget the exact month, Maulana Akram Khan bought the rights of the late Maulana Muhammad Ali's English weekly ‘Comrade’ and decided to revive it. I was asked to resign from the Islamia College and join the Azad staff and run the weekly. The offer was tempting but I felt on reflection that it would be better to practise free-lance journalism and retain my job at the Islamia College. I was not quite sure where my true vocation lay, but the idea of giving up my academic life completely did not appeal to me. Journalism had its attractions. To a young man of twenty-five, as I then was, the freedom that journalists appeared to possess seemed to contrast with the constraints of service under the Government, but I realised that abandoning the academic career would involve the renunciation of the dreams with which I associated the scholar's life, the detachment I inwardly craved, the ambition which I entertained of exploring uncharted provinces and landscapes as a seeker of knowledge.
 
Chapter XVII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds - Shakespeare

If I were writing a history of the Pakistan movement, I should record in detail the stages by which the new state disintegrated. That would involve a close examination of its politics and economics and social evolution. The bungling and delays over the framing of a Constitution, the erratic politics that led to an accentuated public misunderstanding of the motives of men at the helm of affairs, all this should find a place in a history of the decline and fall of Pakistan. Mine, however, is an attempt to explain, primarily to myself, the nature of the rot that undermined its foundations and brought about a complete reversal of the feelings of the East Pakistan population. I do not deny that mistakes were made. I do not deny that the Government showed occasionally a callousness towards the trends of public feeling which one could only describe as astonishing. But none of these factors would account satisfactorily for the happenings of 1971 without reference to a conspiracy and without presupposing that there were agents at work both within and without the state who were determined to destroy it and took clever advantage of the lapses and errors and shortcomings of those on whom the responsibility of building up Pakistan devolved.
 
Chapter XIX PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
The imposition of Section 92A and the replacement of Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman by Iskander Mirza as Governor could not stop the rot. The monument remained unfinished; the masonry platform and the concrete columns which had been erected becoming in their unfinished form a symbol and reminder of the repressive attitude of the Centre. So year by year, fed secretly by the homage of the young, and the devotions of the conspirators, the language movement grew.

Finally the Central Government changed its mind, and decided that perhaps surrender to what they now considered to be sentiment universally shared, would remedy this cancer and renew people's faith in its goodwill. When General Azam Khan was appointed Governor he announced the acceptance of 21st February as a provincial holiday, and a Committee was set up to review the whole question of the language monument. Dr Mahmud Hussain, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dacca was the Chairman. A cross-section of people from different walks of life were represented on the Committee; Mr Munir Chaudhury and myself were chosen to represent the University. Among other members were Mr Ali Ahsan, Director of the Bengal Academy, Mr Zainul Abedin, Principal of the College of Fine Arts, Khwaja Khairuddin, Vice-Chairman of the Dacca Municipality and Mr Musa Sharfuddin from the government.
 
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