By Wajahat Masood
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Bureau)
02 January 2019
A big disadvantage of a public gathering is that if anti-social elements find a little room in it, they inflict such an irreparable damage that humanity goes centuries back. The greatest challenge before humanity is that the forces of hatred and schism should be fought everywhere -- in Israel, India, Pakistan, Iran, China, Vietnam, America, Russia and Rwanda. The precondition is that we should hate injustice and all kinds of misdeeds. There is no justification for opposing someone’s religious, linguistic, ethnic or national identity.
My family had arrived in Pakistan from Ludhiana after sacrificing a 17-year old son. My grandmother lived for 27 years after the establishment of Pakistan, but she never wanted to sleep inside the house. She used to cover herself with a black Chadar and sleep in the courtyard under the open sky. She had the belief that her son, who had been caught by his hockey-stick-wielding class-fellows in the Ludhiana government college ground, had not been killed, but had gone missing and would return any day. If he came back late in the night, knocked at the door, and did not get any response, he might go back. It was therefore, necessary for her to sleep close to the door in the courtyard. My age must have been two or three years then. Mother would sit me on her knees and talk to the birds returning home as if she talked to her son whose uncremated body had turned to dust a quarter century ago. She was a mother. To understand the pain of this mother, we need to understand the pain of those hundreds of mothers, who had crossed the raging rivers of fire and blood flowing on both sides of the border, after losing their loved-ones, homes and assets. Our family will ever remain grateful to the Sikh neighbour who confronted another Sikh of the locality and gave the hapless family an opportunity to escape to safety.
A student of Urdu, who did not claim to be a poet, had written on the situation:
Many things have been lost but the fist of memory is still closed,
Many familiar voices, countless painful scenes,
Birds were on their migratory flights,
But they still regarded the leaves of grass left behind as their homes
Where, the children’s toys, dreams of tomorrow
Had been kept safely
The principle adopted in this writing is that facts and objectivity will be preferred over emotionality. Nonetheless, it should be kept in mind that the foundation of the highest political discourse is laid on the values of human compassion, Justice, peace, civic freedom and human welfare. The concept of an independent political point of view is impossible without human ethics. Politics is not synonymous with a series of conspiracies and hypocritical legerdemains. The roots of lofty political wisdom are entrenched in practicable ethical perspectives.
The living proof of the rays of humanity remaining bright even in the worst of circumstances are the short literary sketches titled “Siyah Hashiye” (dark fringes) written by Manto shortly after the partition. Here’s a small incident narrated by Sri Prakash:
“When two Sikh army officers informed the IG, West Punjab, Qurban Ali Khan in the presence of the Indian High Commissioner Sri Prakash, of the possible conspiracy of killings in Sheikhupura, he banged his fist on the desk angrily and said, “Shame on your India and Pakistan! Was the partition of the country done for the welfare of the people or for this savagery and bloodshed?” According to Sri Prakash, the police officer immediately set out for Sheikhupura and was able to prevent the bloodshed in the nick of time. Reports suggested that a similar situation prevailed in the east Punjab.”
The Muslim India of the 20th century had hardly produced a better Muslim than Dr. Zakir Hussain is terms of knowledge, moral character, intelligence and vision. He was one of the founding teachers of Jamia Millia.
After doing his doctorate from Germany, he taught at Jamia Millia on a monthly salary of Rs 200. After the partition, he became the vice- Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. He was also appointed as the Governor of Bihar. He was elected the first Muslim vice-President and later President of independent India. In the turbulent summer of 1947, Dr Zakir Hussain was travelling to Kashmir by train in connection with an educational conference and was deeply submerged in his study. The rioters stopped the train at Amritsar railway station specifically pulling down apparently Muslim passengers with intent to kill. A Goonda came up to Dr Hussein and asked, “Are you a Mussalman”? Without betraying any nervousness, he replied, “Alhamdulillah, Main Mussalman Hoon, “(By God’s grace I am”).
It should be remembered that in party-based politics, Muslim league leadership questioned the purity of the faith of anyone who disagreed with political point of view of the Muslim League. Getting Dr Hussein’s reply, the rioter gestured to a truck waiting close-by and told him to get on it. Armed soldiers were guarding the truck headed to the ‘slaughter-house.’ Without saying a word, Dr Zakir Hussain walked with unfaltering steps towards the truck headed for the abattoir. In the meantime, a soldier among the rioters made out from the appearance of Dr. Hussain that he was not an ordinary man and became apprehensive of the consequences. He said to the soldiers, “Mia Bhai (Muslim) seems to be a big a catch. I want to behead him with my own hands.” The rioters would have no objection. The soldier brought Dr. Zakir Hussain to the residence of the Sikh deputy commissioner of Amritsar in his official jeep. The name of the deputy commissioner was Kunwar Mahendra Singh Bedi. Mr Bedi recognised Dr Zakir Hussain; gave him a friendly dressing-down for fearlessly playing with death and made arrangement for his stay at his residence until his safe return to Delhi was made sure.
The famous author of India, Khushwant Singh was a practising lawyer at Lahore before partition. The son of Sheikh Abdul Qadir, Manzoor Qadir (later the foreign minister of Pakistan) was his close friend. During the bedlam that followed partition, Manzur Qadir played the role of a friend in a highly commendable way. In his memories, Khushwant Singh has written about his magnanimity in such glorifying words, that the head of every Pakistani becomes high with pride. In short, bright manifestations of humanity were still visible on both sides of the dividing line of religion. However, according to Mushtaque Ahmad Wajdi, incidents of knavery were more glaring.