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Synopsis of Book “The Wastes of Time” by Dr. Syed Sajjad Hussain’s (ex vice chancellor of dhaka university)

Posted by yourpakistan on December 17, 2012

fall of dhaka west pakistan 1971

The Wastes of Time: Reflections on the decline and fall of East Pakistan a memoire of late Dr. Syed Sajjad Hussain, Former Vice Chancellor, Universities of Dhaka and Rajshahi. This was published by Natun Prokashani, Dhaka in 1995. He wrote this book during his captivity in Dhaka central Jail in 1973 (he was technically imprisoned since 20 December 1971) primarily to avoid his boredom and secondly to leave behind a record for the people to know the truth about the whole episode of the civil war or war of liberation (both terminologies used by him) which took place from March 1971 to 16 December 1971 and beyond when Bangladesh become an independent country.


He belonged to the older generation i.e the generation who were physically involved in creation of Pakistan in 1947. Hence he was the one who supported the cause of one Pakistan and worked for it which later turned to be the cause of his miseries, confinement etc. which narration follows. 

Following surrender of Pak army on 16 December 1971 a reign of terror was let loose and the pro Pakistan elements became the target of wrath of the Mukti Bahini or the liberation force. Dr. Syed Sajjad Husain also became a victim on 19 December 1971. Some armed youth stormed the house of Dr. Husain and looked for him. His family members wanted to let him hide but he preferred to face them. He thus surrendered to them. One of them caught him by collar and took him away to the vehicle waiting down. Then they drove him away to an undisclosed destination. He was blind folded and placed in a room and tied up to some thing.

Before this he was slapped, abused and even false unhealthy accusations were also made against him. He expected death any moment. His captors went away leaving him there under the care of an armed guard. It was night then. He was tied up so tight that his movement from one position to another had become difficult. That way he passed the night. At around dawn as he could notice from the cry of a cock, some men came and took him away from the room, herded him in a jeep and drove to a place. There he was dislodged from the vehicle and stabbed several time in the chest and was thrown on the street. He felt bleeding and then lost consciousness. When he regained senses, he felt much pain and realized that the location was some where around Jinnah Avenue near Gulistan Cinema. From a distance he also heard the voice of another person. He shouted that he was Dr. Hassan Zaman. Dr. Husain though in pain also cried for help.

Some people surrounded him. When they knew that he was victimized by the Mukti Bahini men, they all became scared to help and left him to suffer. However one man came forward, called a rickshaw, helped him to board on that and accompanied him to his house. At the house people had taken him for dead. He was helped and a doctor came but he refused to treat him on the plea that without x-ray, he could not be treated. This was a pretext. He feared the wrath of the Muktis. However, his abduction was earlier made known to the Indian soldiers who were on the look-out for him. When they could know he was traced, some of them arrived. In their team there was a doctor too. He treated and sent him to Dhaka Medical College for proper treatment and care. There he was put in a cabin. Some guards were also put for his safety. But his safety was at stake which he could feel at time when some un-wanted persons dashed in his cabin. His family could visit him. As his injury was grave, it took around three weeks to recover to let him stand on his own legs and walk around his cabin and visit wash room un-aided. He did recall the services rendered to him by a person whom he had helped. But there were persons who showed their backs during the hour of his need. These included relations, friends and employees who had come after December 16, from hiding or India. Such attitude he considered as betrayal. One thing he remembered that some one told him that the home-coming of Shaikh Saheb might bring luck to the general captives as general amnesty was expected from him. So he meticulously followed Shaikh Saheb’s speech over the radio he used in his cabin. It was not only disappointing but even provocative and gave a smell of revenge as he could feel. No general amnesty came. The other things he noted was the promulgation of collaborators order vide which police could arrest any one and many people, both known and un-known were arrested and put into jail on mere allegation of one being collaborator. The reign of terror was also let loose on Pakistani minded persons. The jail was the safe place. The other thing he noted was the change of names of roads, places bearing Islamic or Pakistani names to other names. Hindu or Christian names were spared. For instance Jinnah Avenue was changed to Bango Bandhu Avenue. Islamic Intermediate College to Kazi Nazrul College and the like.

His safety in hospital had became at stake (as said before) rather intensity multiplied with the arrival of the persons from exile or hiding. At one point of time it had become so grave that his movement even to a floor down was considered un-safe. Hence on 30th January in the morning, he was shifted to central jail.

He described prison as an infer no, the dictionary meaning of which is – “a very large dangerous fire that is out of control”. There all sorts of inconveniences are experienced by the in-mates. However the inconvenience is some what reduced in the case prisoner-s put in division one. Life is scarcely distinguishable from that of animals in case of ordinary prisoners. He said that then the capacity of Dhaka central jail was 1966 where as its population swelled to 14,000 as the non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistanis known as collaborators were indiscriminately caught and put in jails. Then he discussed about the jail administration its hierarchy which ranged from IGP down to warders via jailers. The jailors wielded much authority while the warders locally did so. Corruption in the jail was rampant and those with money could buy favors etc. One thing he noticed that beating of the non-Bengalis was a common thing while straight way many were liquidated. Despite all the hardships some had adjusted to the way of life there and some bought favors with money as said before. He also had mentioned of killing of eight persons on false pretext that they were engaged in mutiny.

The cell where Dr. Husain was located, and around, there were reputable persons who were imprisoned for their loyalty to Pakistan. Before he went to describe, the traits of each he put on record the sentiments of ordinary prisoners – they all were hell bent to take revenge on release. Among them many were the Urdu speaking people and the local Pakistani minded persons, all termed as collaborators.

Among the prominent persons he came across there, were Mr. Fazlul Qadir Chowdhury, Mr. Khan A Sabur, Mr. Khaja Khairuddin, Dr. Qazi Din Mohammad, Dr. Mohar Ali and many others. During his confinement for relatively a longer period, he could know their ways of life and commitment and conviction. Some seemed to be loyal while some were compromising. He found F Q Chowdhury quite a Pakistani, except on one occasion at the court he made a compromising statement which shocked all. Khan A Sabur was known as a pervert and drunkard. He held position in Pakistan cabinet, that did not help him mend his ways. He was a leader who had influence only in Khulna and could not be considered as a national level leader. Against him Mr. F Q Choudhury commanded wider popularly and his character was un-blemished. There were other leaders too but the one Dr. Husain admired was an advocate named Mr. Shafiqur Rahman. Everyone respected him for his professional integrity and competence. He even drafted statements for others to be presented in court. He was big, but kept a low profile that impressed Dr. Hussain very much.

Earlier, Dr. Husain classed the persons whom he met as crowd at one point. But subsequently he came across persons, some of whom be already knew and were worth befriending. One of such person was Dr. Abdul Malik, the last Governor of the then East Pakistan. He considered him to be personally good but the cabinet members he chose were not up to the mark. And that could be the reason that they failed to deliver goods i.e. they could not convince people about the anti Pakistan role the Awami League and its rank and file were playing. He had even cabinet members who had passive leaning to-wards Awami Leaguers.

The next person he described was good and fully committed to the cause and ideology, was Malana Nuruzzaman. He belonged to Jamat-e-Islam. He was well read and also good at English. He was however found not to be compromising on the clear Quranic and Hadis commandments.

He compared him with Khawja Khairuddin who had almost similar conviction about Quran and Hadis. He was his (Dr. Hasans’s) next door neighbor. They became friends since there were lots of common things between them. He had good knowledge of Islamic theology, history and was good at Urdu which was his mother language. That helped him access to many original sources which Dr. Husain lacked.

Dr. Husain admired Khwaja Khairuddin for his bold statements in the court without caring for the consequences. He made no secret of his being Pakistani minded and that creation of Pakistan brought welfare to the Muslims against the Calcutta Hindus. Politics was in his blood since his ancestors like Sir Salimullah and others like Khwaja Nazimuddin and Khwaja Shahabuddin were successful politicians. They commanded loyalty. He had lack of knowledge of Bengali which was exploited by the opponents. About him, however he concludes that despite of draw-backs and short comings, Khwaja Khairuddin was the only hope who could arrest the drift towards anarchy and paganism, and the only person around whom people opposed to Shaikh Saheb would willingly rally.

Being in the prison, Dr. Husian seemed to have gathered much information about the inmates there both the renowned persons as well the ordinary ones. He identified one Mr. Akhtar Uddin, a Barrister by profession who had married in to Ahson Manzil family. He was from Barisal. He had turned very religious to the extent that he did not believe in class system visa-viz civilized and uncivilized. He had strong conviction on this.

There was another person, named Maulana Muklesur Rahman, who was very simple in his out-look and conviction. He was around seventy six and ran an orphanage, in Tejgaon. He was associated with politics earlier but left after creation of Pakistan and devoted him-self to the service of the orphans and missionary work. He was self educated and knew Urdu very well. He also knew English. Because of his simplicity he could be easily led into believe any thing told to him. For example, he was told a story by an Awami Leaguer that in Chittagong there was a concentration camp where 600 women were kept naked by Pak soldiers. There was no proof of this but he believed it. Later when he was told that there was no proof of this rather it was told to prove the wickedness of Pakistan army. He was convinced and changed his attitude.

Never ever there were such numbers of persons belonging to elite group like teachers, politicians, lawyers, doctor, university students etc in the central jail besides the ordinary prisoners. But there was a marked difference between the elites and the commoners. Among the elites, loyalty of some towards Pakistan was questionable. Some prominent ones who displayed shaky loyalty were principal Ibrahim Khan, Mr. dewan Azraf, Mr. Soliman etc. Some felt had not they supported Pakistani cause, the present miseries would not have befallen upon them. But the loyalty towards Pakistan and Islam of the common prisoners was rock solid. They did not repent for their present miseries rather in some cases their faith to the cause got strengthened. Mr. Husain then wondered that with such dedication, what made the disintegration and fall of East Pakistan. The prime cause he considered were: (i) wild propagation about exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistan and building up of public mind on this by the enemies aided by India and their direct armed intervention, (ii) Luke warm support of USA and China to Pakistan and (iii) foolishness of handling the affairs. All these led to the tragedy of 1971.

Dr. Husain has questioned the concept of nationalism on the basis of language. He has cited references from local, regional and international cases that this had been hardly a basis. Instead, the influence of chiefs and their strength were more or less the basis of territorial integrity. Religion has been a more cogent factor. Division of India and Pakistan was made on the basis of religion. The birth of Bangladesh on the basis of language was a conspiracy that was hatched and finally culminated in 1971. It is devoid of historical fact. If language were the basis, then west Bengal should have been also included in Bangladesh.

It is commonly known that it was Muslim League who insisted upon partition of India. It was, but they were forced to do so because of Hindus unbending attitude. There was the concept of group scheme of 1946 to which both Muslim League and Congress agreed. That would have saved partition since in that Muslims interests were protected. But later congress withdrew. Then Muslim had no option but to ask for partition. To this, Hindus in Gandhi, Nehru and Dr. Rajindra Prashad vehemently reacted. There was no concept of division of Bengal and Punjab. But later this idea was floated to the disadvantage of Muslims since Bengal sans Kolkata port and capital Kolkata itself were a lame territory. But the Hindu Bengali forgetting the unity of Bengali Nationalism considered to be better off under Hindu domination than under the Muslim majority rule and hence put their support to division. Further a false view was projected by the Hindus that inclusion of East Bengal to Pakistan meant a lot of economic advantage to Pakistan as it had lot of resources and fertile soil. They ignored the fact that this part was a famine stricken imbalanced area, imbalanced man-land ratio, and regular visitation of floods and draught which offset the gains obtained by soil fertility. This reality forced the people to live in abject poverty. But Hindus painted a rosy picture. They also exploited the language issue. They said if language would be Urdu then their (the then East Pakistan) culture would be at stake although when Hindi was adopted as national language of India, then, they did not object bringing in the same logic.*

*Note: It was reported that once when Benazir Bhutto visited India to meet Rajib Gandhi, some commentator observed that – “two rivals met who speak the same language, strangely called Urdu in Pakistan and Hindi in India. Then as far Known, none of the Indians including West Bengalis protested that Hindi and Urdu are not the same language.

They played hypocrisy and dual role and sowed the seed of hatred against the Pakistanis right from the day one of the creation of Pakistan. And people here believed them and worked to serve their interest. And later even agreed to 6 points programme of Shaikh Saheb which was nothing short of a tool for disintegration of Pakistan.

Dr. Husain wondered as to why the Muslims so soon forgot the necessity of creation of Pakistan and rallied round Awami League ignoring the bare fact the during pre-partition days they were oppressed and suppressed by the Hindus. Now they thought through 1968 to 71 that once they got out of the yoke of Pindi administration they would, with India’s help prosper. They forgot that earlier even a slightest benefit if considered to allow by the rulers to the Muslims, that was opposed. He cited the example of division of Bengal in 1905 which was opposed and annulled in 1911.

Then the British considered allowing a university in Dhaka for upliftment of the Muslims that was also opposed. However, it was established in 1921 with the poorest number of Muslim teaching staff. It was around 5 or 6. He recalled the names of Dr. Shahidullah, Mr. A F Rahman, Dr. M Hassan and Qazi Motaher Hussain. To be fair, he did not blame the Hindus for this, rather, said that qualified persons in Muslims were not available then. The numbers of students then were also small, around 250.

Then he spoke of the out-break of Second World War which put the people to stress. They could know more about the war in Europe than in the Far East since the paper, Calcutta Statesman spoke more of the European situation than what happened in the East. There were paucity of local news paper. The Azad owned by Maulana Akram Khan since 1936 upheld the cause of Muslims in India. He did not forget to point out the frustration of educated Muslim youths. A young man with first class degree from Dhaka University considered himself worthless as that did not help him get a job. That was more or less the feeling of the rest.

At that time the concept of partition of India was in fluid state. Nehru championed the cause of united India while, the Qaide Azam, at a later stage with his forceful arguments developed the concept of two nation theory – the Hindus and the Muslims since both had glaring differences in life style. When the concept of partition was mooted, the Muslims began to breathe freely as they thought that the panacea for their problem did lay there in the partition.

The idea of partition as expounded by Mr. Jinnah defining two nation theory, which was so convincing that some Hindu scholars also believed that Hindus and Muslims are two nations that could not live under one political frame work. But they would not recognize that officially. To them both were a nation. This united the Muslims to rally round the Muslim League. Some however differed like Jamate Ulama-e-Hind until the last days when Pakistan became a reality.

Then the Second World War broke in which initially, the allies seemed to be weaker. Mr. Gandhi took a chance and started quit India movement which the Congress and Hindu students supported. They boycotted classes but not the Muslim students since they thought that they would not gain anything out of this.

About this time a very bold step was taken by Muslim students prominent among them was Nazir Ahmed from Noakhali. He brought out a fortnightly named, “Pakistan”, to serve the cause of Muslims and Pakistan. The writers were M/S Mazharul Haque, Jasimuddin, Abdur Razzak, Ali Ahsan etc. But the ones who contributed regularly were, Dr. Husain, Mr. Mazharul Haque and Nazir Ahmad.

To strengthen Pakistan movement, some other literacy societies were formed. One was the East Pakistan literary society. The other was East Pakistan Renaissance society which was formed earlier in Calcutta with Mr. Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, editor of the Azad as its President. The two organizations were to cooperate and collaborate in their activities. The broad aim was to bring about a re-awakening among the Muslim writers and influence public opinion in favor of Pakistan movement. Later in 1943 a conference was also organized at the Salimullah Muslim Hall. Students and young men from far off places also came to attend this conference. It was a success and wide coverage to this was given by the Azad. This helped to stimulate Pakistan movement in Bengal.

Though the episode above was a success story which owed much to the efforts of Nazir Ahmad. But unfortunately he was assassinated by Hindus under a conspiracy on 2nd Feb 1943 on the university premises. It was a great set back. His void could not be filled. A demonstration against Nawab Khaja Habibullah who was in coalition Ministry with Hindus was undertaken. Counter demonstration by the Nawab’s men were also made. They attacked with lethal weapons. The crowd dispersed but Mr. Nazir Ahmad stood at the site until the end as he was very courageous.

The period from 1936 to 1945 was a war year and 1943 was the worst since a famine broke out. Poor people moved from place to place in search of food. Rice price rose to Rs. 5.00 to 10.00 and then to Rs. 80.00, followed by no availability of rice in the market. This was tragedy since it was man made and no effective measures were taken by Mr. A K Fazlul Haque, the then Chief Minister and Mr. Suhrawardy who held the port folio of food. Around a couple million perished. But they did not even resign. Had they resigned, the onus would have lied on the British government. But the lust for power did not allow them to do so. More over, their personal characters were not above board. It was blemished where as Mr. Jinnah’s was unblemished, Dr. Husain compared. The famine was man made on the count that bulk purchase of rice were made for the army, there was hoarding and last but not the least inter province movement of food was not mobilized. That was unfortunate.

Despite of the above, the enthusiasm for furthering the cause of Pakistan movement continued unabated in Bengal against odds. So was the feeling in minority provinces like the Punjab, NWFP and Sind where the Muslims were dominant. But in Bengal the Muslims were politically dominant by the British and economically by the Hindus. So they thought that their salvation did lay in completely throwing away the yoke of slavery of both the British and the Hindus and become free in a new destination called Pakistan.

In 1934, Mr. Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, editor of the Azad invited Dr. Husain to preside over the literary session of a conference – the East Pakistan renaissance society of Calcutta. He felt honored but being sick, he wanted to be excused. But he was told, they would wait. Then there was no point in refusal. He attended and the address he presented was very much applauded. About the same time he was interviewed for a lecturer ship in the Bengal education service. He was accepted and joined at the Islamia College. There was difference between Dhaka and Calcutta. At Calcutta the main focus of the Pakistan movement was the daily Azad building. There around Maulana Akram Khan, a veteran scholar and journalist a group of intellectuals met daily to discuss the future and plan the strategy of the Pakistan movement. Dr. Husain joined and worked with them.

At Islamia College he felt at home to discuss the political situation with colleagues who were cosmopolitan in nature. There were Muslims, Hindus and Christians. About the Muslim, Professor Zaharul Islam was most vocal. Among the Muslim teachers, there were black sheep too. Dr. I H Zuberi was the Principal. His record was not clean, but he encouraged students to whole heartedly take part in promoting the cause of Pakistan. He allowed them to arrange meetings and processions in support of Pakistan. Among the teachers Mr. Abdul Majid was Muslim in name only but had a Hindu character. Mr. Matinuddin another teacher had a dubious character. He had reservation about support to Pakistani cause. But when Pakistan materialized he wanted to get everything out of it. But his mental condition was fully reflected when he betrayed Pakistan in 1971 as its cultural attaché in Washington. Though the faculty was of heterogeneous character, all the students were Muslim.

The convenient place they found to discuss things freely with like minded persons, was the office of the Azad. Each evening they assembled there. Among the prominent members championing the cause of Pakistan were M/S Abul Kalam Shamsuddin, Abul Mansur Ahmad, Mujibur Rahman, Abdul Maudud and Dr. Sadeq. Mr. Farrukh Ahmed was a young poet and wrote a song with refrain, “Larke Lenge Pakistan” (we shall fight for and win Pakistan). One regular non-Muslim visitor was Mr. Basudha Chakarvarty. He was leader-writer in Azad. He under stood the logic of Muslim demand for Pakistan. He was a unique person there at Azad office. They debated the issue of viability of Pakistan and during course of time, they realized that the demand for creation of a separate state for Muslim in Bengal i.e. two Pakistan was not wise. It could not survive rather the exercise would have been counter productive.

Pakistan was an ideological concept based on religion, so all Muslims across India showed the same feeling. But the Hindus did not agree that religion could be the basis to form a nation. There was the difference in feeling of Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus and Muslims were different in many ways. Hindu caste system was an additional glaring difference making lives of both class difficult to survive together as a single political identity. The Hindus did everything to decry the idea of partition. At this time big writers like Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Rajindra Prasad wrote books – “Analysis of the demand for Pakistan” and “India divided” respectively to show that Pakistan was not economically viable and politically stable. The Azad was busy in countering those lame excuses put forward by the Hindu writers. Sir Muhammed Azizul Haque’s book ‘the Man behind the plough’ was a good treatise. But he did not live long to contribute. Mr. Mujibur Rahman’s “Pakistan” was the first book of its kind in Bengali. This kind of intellectual exercises were necessary to supplement the cause of Pakistan movement. Allama Iqbal was to dream of Pakistan but he did not survive to see it as the Lahore resolution adopted it in 1940. Though majority of the Muslim supported Pakistan cause, but a section in Ulemas had reservation, the chief being Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. This reservation was exploited by the Hindus in general and the Congress in particular. Most non Muslims believed that religion could not be the basis to form a nation. Dr. Husain attempted an article in the then Morning News titled “Test of Nation hood,” to clarify some points. This was well appreciated since it highlighted the glaring differences between the Hindus and the Muslim-s in their life style. Conversion to Islam means the way of life from birth, growth death and here after and hence the great divide between the two communities. Though there were opposition in Muslim comp since influenced by Maulana Azad, Mr. Asif etc but the election of 1946 in Bengal demonstrated how deeply the Muslim Bengalis were committed to the cause of Pakistan. This also eliminated Mr. A K Fazlul Haque from the scene and people rallied round the league. By this time, the British were also convinced that partition was the solution since the new vice-Roy Lord Mount Batten had a round of discussions with the leaders which yield no result and he flew home to report to the government, possibly to say that partition was the solution lest the minority, the Muslims were thrown to the wolves.

In the middle of 146, Maulana Akram Khan bought the right of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s English weekly the comrade and decided to revive it. Dr. Husain was asked to resign his job from the Islamia College and run the weekly. He agreed to run it from behind the scene without resigning his job. He was its defector editor from the beginning until he left Calcutta in Sept 1947 to join M C College in Sylhet.

The comrade was re-launched to promote the Pakistan cause and inform the English speaking people about the need and justification for Pakistan for the Muslims. Mr. Mujibur Rahman Khan was the editor while Dr. I H Zuberi, Mr. Shafi Hussain, Abu Rushd contributed. It was mentioned that then Mr. Altaf Hussain wrote a column in the Calcutta ‘States-man’ under pen name, “Shahed” which was superb. The cause moved on and they felt encouraged when Lord Mount Batten said that British won’t stay in India beyond 1948.

But it was unfortunate that Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in 1946 in Calcutta in which around 50,000 Muslims were killed (P-164). This escalated to other areas including Bihar. There had become clear demarcation of Hindu-Muslim area. None of the opposite people were safe. Though the loss of Muslims in life and properties were huge but Congress blamed Muslims. Even Gandhi who visited Nuakhali where around 100 (hundred) Hindus were killed he down played the partition idea. The Hindu presses were fanning fuel to the fire. The sad thing was that the Muslim dominated government did nothing to contain the riots. As the Congress opposed, it was apprehensive that concept of Pakistan might suffer a set back. With this, the year 1946 ended making the Muslim apprehensive and to depend on wait and see policy for the next one or two years that would follow.

As told, Lord Mount Batten hurried in making arrangement for transfer of power by 15th Aug 1947 but the hurry proved very costly in terms of loss of lives of million of Muslim in Punjab and the neighboring princely states. The British government was indifferent to the holocaust. Their concern was early retirement and transfer power to India and Pakistan. But at the last movement the Congress changed its attitude and demanded Partition of Bengal and Punjab. This was a set back but Jinnah had no option but to accept it reluctantly. It was strange that the division of Bengal was announced on 15th Aug, but real boundaries would be determined by Rad Cliffe Commission.

It so happened that Khulna with 51% Hindu majority celebrated independence with Indian flag while Murshidabad with 56% Muslim majority hoisted Pakistani flag. But this was later reversed. Muslim accepted this Migration to either countries followed by the respective followers, Muslims to Pakistan with the hope that it would be an ideal Islamic state. In the flow, Dr. Husain also came to then East Pakistan with a new job in Sylhet MC College. With the concept of undivided Bengal, and then divided Bengal, the seed of Bengali Nationalism on the basis of Language hiddenly was sown which culminated in 1971. The conspiracy was hatched both from with in and out side since creation of Pakistan.

Dr. Husain examined the causes of disintegration of Pakistan not strictly from historical perspective. He rather said that the offensive against Pakistan took three forms viz cultural, political and economic, which the conspirators exploited to the full.

Muslim cultural affinity was a great asset to bind the Muslims of India in one thread. Even Pandit Nehru, in his diary wrote that “one of the greatest bonds among Muslims was a shared pride in the past achievement of the Muslims” (page-177). Since 1935 new trends in education de-emphasing the importance of Arabic and Persian which considerably eroded this pride particularly in Bengal. This to some extent was checked in other parts where Urdu in some form was retained because good translation work in Urdu of the Persian and Arabic books were done which also helped them to know their religion, Islam and the great personalities of Islamic world. Urdu speaking people knew much about Ghalib, Hali while the Bengali Muslims were more conversant with Bankim and Michael Dutt. This division in knowledge divided people on the linguistic line rather than united them on religious line. Thus a wide and unified culture was affected. There were of course some persons like Nazrul in the contemporary period, but alone it was difficult for him to turn the tide. Moreover there was controversy also in Nazrul’s works (page-179).

Immediately after establishment of Pakistan the conspirator-s stimulated public debate on the state language issue stressing that Urdu if adopted would oust the Bengali Muslims from the position besides causing cultural subjugation.*

*Note: The some persons both in Pakistan and India (West Bengalis) did not protest when India adopted Hindi on State Language. They did not say that Bengali and their culture would be affected.

To aggravate the situation, the Qaide Azam’s declaration of Urdu as state language at the Dhaka University convocation in March 1948, came as a bold handle to the Bengalis and some 3 or 4 students then protested. This was an insult to the Head of the state and went unpunished which encouraged as spring board for further mischief in future (page-181). The matter was also not handled by the government properly. The language issue then could be set aside to be discussed later and in between period English could conveniently go as official language, and in true sense it continued for long. This language issue at this initial stage also created bad blood between the non-Bengalis and Bengali Muslims. The conspiracy was so strong that it could influence the minds of prominent pro-Islamic intellectuals in the person no less than Dr. Shahidullah who in a literary conference as chairman in 1949, propounded his theory of Bengali nationalism which by all means was contrary to the spirit of two nation theory and the ideals of Pakistan. Being offended Dr. Husain protested in a write up in the Azad. It was taken by Dr. Shahidullah negatively and there developed alienation between them for around 2 (two) years. This episode of propounding Bengali nationalism was also taken by the then government lightly and encouraged its supporters to agitate on 21st Feb 1952 forcing the government to resort to firing which killed 4-5 persons. This gave it a status of language movement and provided sufficient fodder to the public to ignite the flames to burn the ties that existed between the East and the West leading to disintegration.

The movement in favor of Bengali even attracted men from Jamate islami (P-188) for they considered, that way the status of mother tongue could be preserved and hence there was no harm in supporting the Bengali as state language. They ignored the deep rooted conspiracy which was hidden in such claim. The efforts of Nurul Amin government in controlling the language movement did not succeed rather it gained strength. Monuments (Shahid Minars) in public places and schools, both private and government were constructed and anniversaries observed (21st Feb) in memory of those killed on 21st Feb, 1952. Administrative actions failed because the senior people in the government other than Muslim leaguers were also influenced by the virus of language movement. The Dhaka University teachers supported the students on this count. Young CSP’s recruited also drew inspiration from the above. More over those who insulted (like Mr. A K M Ahsan) the Qaide Azam during convocation in 1948 referred to earlier were not only recruited to the central system but were promoted and given higher positions. The leftist with doubtful ideology towards Pakistan like Mr. Qudratullah Shahab, Altaf Gauhar held high positions and influenced government policies. It was something like the jackles were put on guard to the hen-pens, putting the survival of Pakistan at stake. Writers’ guild was his own brain child which he formed firstly to promote his own interest as he was a writer. But this later turned to be a leftist (p-191) strong hold. While forming it he was not in favor of parity in putting members from both the wings. That would have given a lever to the people from East to complain their deprivation. To avoid this Dr. Husain spoke of his mind on maintaing parity which enraged Shahab. Though some kind of acceptable arrangement was made on the intervention of Dr. Hussain, but he (Shahab) became revengeful and later victimized him (Dr. Hussain) in different ways. Like the guild contributing to left ideology, the Dainik Pakistan and the Morning news though funded by the state coffer yet had on its staff who lent their support to the leftist ideals and views. Thus the role of central government by patronizing these and ignoring the lapses was no less responsible for promoting the Bengali cause leading to disintegration.*

*Note:            In the words of some writer, “Iss Ghar Ko Aag Lagi Iss Ghar Kay Chirag Se (The house was burnt with its own candle light).

The defeat of Muslim league government in the then East Pakistan in 1954 and formation of coalition government of United front (Awami League) and Krishak League (of Mr. A K Fazlul Haque) put the last nail to the coffin box of united Pakistan by declaring 21st February as official holiday, to commemorate the death of those who died on this date. A monument on the spot where the students had died was promised, the central government though denounced it, but it was too late, the monument construction had already started (Page-194).

The language movement grew despite imposition of section 92A and replacement of Mr. Choudhury Khalequzzaman by Mr. Iskander Mirza. The work on monument also remained unfinished. The central government then thought to appease the promoters of the language movement. When Gen Azam came as governor, he officially declared 21st Feb as a provincial holiday and constituted to review the whole question of language monument. Dr. Mahmud Hussain, the vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka was made the chairman. A cross section of people from different walks of life were on the committee Mr. Munir Choudhury and Dr. Husain represented the University. Among other members were – (i) Mr. Ali Ahsan, Mr. Zainul Abedin, Khwaja Khairuddin and Mr. Musa Sharfuddin, from the government. Various aspects of the monument was discussed. To Dr. Husain and some others it did not look good. It neither depicted art and nor architecture. Mr. Musa suggested a beautifully designed mosque might serve the purpose. But Principal Zainul Abedin seriously objected to this and affirmed that the original design be implemented on the pain of violent reaction. Smelling violence, the chairman thought it unwise to further debate on it and recommended that the original plan he implemented.

Meanwhile the language movement gained so much strength that to nourish Bengali both the government and the non-government agencies were encouraged to give literary awards for its promotion. But these did not help in removing the suspicion from the minds of dissidents that the central government was out to destroy Bengali culture. The greater the investment in Bengali, greater was the belief that there was conspiracy to destroy Bengali and Bengali culture. Bengali writers received the favor. But these were ignored.

Not only language but even Bengali culture was being promoted beyond proportion. Tagore’s centenary is a case in point. For the occasion, Dr. Husain was asked to write a paper for centenary celebration. He spoke his mind. But that was not taken in good grace so much so that his essay was excluded from the anthology on Tagore published by Dr. Anisuzzaman of the Bengli Department. Then in 1967, a controversy arose by the version of the then Information minister Khwaja Shahabuddin. He was right in saying succeeding 1965 war that no song who so ever the author was of the enemy country be broad cast by the Radio Pakistan. This was co-related with the authorship of Tagore and created a huge reaction terming it as a measure to assault Bengali culture. All the youth organizations were alerted against it. The situation became so hostile that the Khwaja Saheb had to tender apology for the misunderstanding his statement had created. But people were not in the mood to take that in good grace rather they became more hostile and connived with others like university teacher, lawyers, civil society etc and even demonstrated against ideology of Pakistan. Those who opposed their action were considered as undesirable persons. Interestingly enough even the committee on spelling reform set up by Dr. Shahidullah was also made controversial saying that in the changed context they could no support those proposals now. This was an act of highest intellectual dishonesty since it was a challenge to an authority in Bengali, a person no less than Dr. Shahidullah. But unfortunately by that time, Dr. Shahidullah had fallen ill and could not take part in the controversy that had later developed.

Before conclusion, Dr. Husain observed that despite their passion and excitement over Bengali and the imaginary threat to its future, it was confined to the student community with support from some teachers, lawyers, civil servants etc. But the bulk of the population in peasants, workers etc were least concerned with this and in Bengali language movement. Never-the-less improper handling of the issue both by the center and provincial setup strengthened the conspirators’ hands which paved way for the upheaval of 1971.

Dr. Hussain asserted that the political offensive against Pakistan began almost simultaneously with the cultural. The left forces became active and the so called intellectuals in the universities openly attacked the concept of two nation theory, polluted the minds of young generations particularly the student community. The controversy over the place of religion in the sub-continent’s policy was carefully re-opened. The concept of Bengali nationalism initiated earlier was helped to grow and over grow with the intention to take it to a point of no return to the extent that the country dis-integrated in 1971. There were many factors for this including the constitutional crisis, imposition of Marshal law by Ayub Khan, overture of state figures like Mr. Sahrawardy, writings of Mr. Qamruddin Ahmad and Badruddin Umar etc. In brief for disintegration he concluded noting the following main factors.

  1. Geographical distance between the two wings.
  2. The failure of central government to comprehend the nature of the nationalism and predict its course.
  3. The habit politicians in the west developed of administering pin pricks to East Pakistanis which served to irritate and annoy.
  4. The government’s un-willingness to refute the lies about the economic situation sedulously spread by the enemy.
  5. An attitude of guilty mindedness among the west-wing politicians and administrators to wards the end.
  6. The most dangerous of all, was the complacent belief that nothing could really shake of Pakistan’s foundation.
  7. The last was utter ignorance in the upper echelons of the administration of the forces gathering against Pakistan on the international front (page-216).

Being in captivity, Dr. Husain added an epilogue which runs as below:


Lord, give me courage

that I may face life;

give me strength

that I may bear the burdens

thou imposest on me’

give me forbearance

that I may stay unperturbed

when provoked;

give me tolerance

that I may view, unexcited,

the great human comedy;

give me patience

that I may not lose my equanimity

when confronted by trials.

Protect me, O Lord,

from the tongue of those who

malign Thee;

from the contumely of those

who are vain and proud;

from the hatred of those

who are ignorant;

from the ferocity of those

who are ignorant;

from the ferocity of those

who forget Thee;

from the stupidity of those

who know not but think that they know;

from the dullness of the unintelligent.

But save me, Lord, above all,

from the hatreds within me,

from the pride in my own heart,

from the ignorance in my own mind,

and the flames of greed, avarice

and malice which burn me.

Syed Sajjad Husain


Author is Former Vice Chancellor of the Dhaka University



One Response to “Synopsis of Book “The Wastes of Time” by Dr. Syed Sajjad Hussain’s (ex vice chancellor of dhaka university)”

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