Isha khan’s Weblog

The month of mourning
January 31, 2009, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan
The month of mourning

By Amar Jaleel

December comes with a sharp reminder of the tragic events of 1971.The month of December, since 1971, reminds us of our loved ones and friends in East Pakistan who were separated from us as a result of painful and lamentable political events systematically nurtured for 24 years from 1947. My generation is eyewitness to the treacherous conspiracies West Pakistani politicians hatched during civilian and military rule against the Bengalis that ultimately compelled them to opt for parting of the ways. The conspirators had their vested interests in masterminding the separation of East Pakistan.

“Why would some of the politicians desire separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan?”

This is a valid question that is bound to lurk in the mind of those born after 1958, the year General Ayub Khan took over the country and gave fickle-minded Pakistanis first taste of Martial Law. In the chain of events the Martial Law changed hands in 1968, giving General Yahya Khan an occasion to rule the restless country. By the time people born in 1958 were 13 years of age, Pakistan disintegrated in December 1971. East Pakistan became Bangladesh. West Pakistan was given the name of Pakistan. It is unfair to expect from a child of 13 to retrace the complex political problems Pakistan was beset with that compounded under Martial Law from the year 1958.

The State-controlled electronic media bombarded the masses in West Pakistan with disinformation about the situation in East Pakistan. Based on the malicious information, the 13-year-old boy would conveniently recall that the disgruntled elements with the assistance from India succeeded in separating East Pakistan from West Pakistan. The misleading information made inroads in our history, found a place in it, and it is taught to generation after generation since the catastrophic parting of the ways between the brothers in 1971.

Huge trees do not grow overnight. The seeds of separation for reaping the harvest in 1971 were sowed in 1948 within one year of the coming into being of Pakistan. Separated by a thousand mile Indian territory, East Pakistan nurtured a homogenous population of 45 million, and West Pakistan’s heterogeneous population was 30 million. The Central (Federal) Government consisting of handpicked favourites utterly failed in maintaining parity between the two wings of Pakistan. The constitutional proposals and the provisions of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1950 earmarked 200 seats each for East Pakistan and West Pakistan in the Lower House, and 60 seats each in the Upper House. It was a violation of the provision of the number of seats in the lower and upper houses on the basis of population.

Liaqat Ali Khan’s constitutional proposals ignored Bengali, the language of an overwhelming majority, and proposed Urdu for becoming the state language of Pakistan. It opened the two-year-old wounds of the infuriated aBengalis. Early in 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, then Governor General, in his address to the nation said, “Urdu and Urdu alone shall be the state language of Pakistan.”

Here, I would like to speak briefly about Urdu, and then return to our subject of discussion today, parting of the ways. Urdu a phenomenon, a prodigy is a charismatic language. It is soft and poetic, and draws you naturally. You feel cosy and comfortable in its fold. It refuses geographic confinements. It takes wings to distant places, and alien cultures, and is welcomed. It is amazing that a vast majority of writers and poets in Urdu belong to other linguistic nationalities in Pakistan, India, and else where in the world.

Unfortunately, Urdu was hijacked by the Muslim League in early 20th Century, and was ruthlessly exploited for political purposes.

The language of love and romance was used as a weapon in Pakistan movement. Urdu, the language of India, (at times called Hindustani) was relegated. Urdu became the language of the Muslims who were bent on seeing the break-up of India with a piece of it going to the Muslims for a separate homeland. They succeeded in their mission. The Muslim League became the ruling party in Pakistan. The idiosyncratic rulers immediately put Urdu in conflict with the popular Pakistani languages, Bengali, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, and Punjabi, and made it controversial. The rest is history.

The attitude of the centre remained the same towards the Bengalis who were enlightened, intelligent, scholarly and artistic in their approach to the realities in life. The West Pakistani jagirdars, sardars, choudhries, and the waderas were no match for the professors, intellectuals, thinkers, scholars and the artistes from East Pakistan who sat with them in the National Assembly.

What perturbed the rulers was that the population of East Pakistan was more than the cumulative population of the four provinces in West Pakistan, Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan.

Bengalis refused to be bulldozed by the federal government. They fought for their legitimate rights, language, proportionate share in the government, jobs, equity and shifting of the National Assembly and the State Bank to Dhaka. The Bengalis suspiciously viewed the influx of investment of the wealthy West Pakistanis in East Pakistan. They feared if not resisted, the West Pakistani billionaires would purchase the land and the resources of the East Pakistan.

To quell the Bengalis, the rulers used brute force against them. The force was met with force. India conveniently stepped in. The Muslim League for the second time in history succeeded in the break up of their own country.

Posted by Isha Khan


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