We Are Strangers Now

This post is being republished from Chapati Mystery


No one born after 1975, in my family’s circle of acquaintance, remembers the fall of Dhaka. They don’t know the year. They don’t know that Bangladesh was created out of blood spilled by their own army. I asked them what they had been taught in schools and they said nothing. I went to the market and purchased the history text books assigned in the Punjab Textbook board (serves a population of ~ 80 million and mandatory for all school/college students) for grades 7th – 12th. For giggles, I also purchased the M.A. History curriculum from Punjab University. These are my tweets as I read through them:

According to PK History Textbook Grade 12, Jamaluddin Afghani (d. 1897) supported the Pakistan Resolution on Mar 23rd, 1940. #FAIL

According to PK History Textbook Grade 12, Abdulhaleem Sharar (d. 1926) supported the Pakistan Resolution on Mar 23rd, 1940. #FAIL

PK History Textbook: “The iron man of Russia, Joseph Stalin, anticipated the division of India” #FAIL

According to PK History Textbook Grade 12: In the “Crusades” chapter, time period extends from 1096 to 1660s. #Fail

According to PK History Textbook Grade 12: Hindus would have played Holi with the blood of Muslims if no Partition. #FAIL

According to PK History Textbook Grade 12: 1971 never happened because I can’t yet find a fucking reference. #FAIL

PK History Textbook Grade 12: Found a reference to 1971! Page 56. ONE LINE under the heading Pakistan Constitution 1973. #FAIL

PK History Textbook Grade 12 on 1971: “Unfortunately, none of them agreed on transfer of power, which provided opportunity to India to interfere, resulting in the separation of East Pakistan that became Bangladesh on December 16, 1971.” #FAIL

PK History Textbook Grade 12 Authors: Mohd. Farooq Malik, Dr. Sultan Khan, Rai Faiz Ahmed Kharal, Khadim Ali Khan, Mohd. Wasim Chaudhry #FAIL

Today, Pakistan plays the West Indies cricket team in the World Cup Cricket quarterfinals. Today is also March 23rd, the day celebrated with tons of patriotic fervor. It is on March 23rd, 1940, in Lahore, that the Muslim League made a demand for separate state(s) for Muslims in India. ThisLahore Resolution became the political platform for League and the elections/negotiations during and after WW2. Today, the memory of East Pakistan and the sins of West Pakistan lay forgotten. I have a piece in Pakistan Today on this. Go read in full:

In that soil lies the writer of that Lahore Resolution of 1940 – A K Fazlul Huq (d. 1962). There lies also Khwaja Nizamuddin (d. 1964) who was the second Governor General and the second Prime Minister of Pakistan. There, next to him, lies H S Suhrawardy (d. 1963) who was the fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan. These men were the architects of the Lahore Resolution though their visions differed on significant points with that of Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. They urged for a Pakistan that was inclusive, diverse and which was the sum of all its parts. Their graves in Dhaka signal the deepest silence in Pakistan’s history. A silence that extends all over Dhaka and the bloody violence it suffered in 1971. It became a city soaked in the blood of its own inhabitants, as the, then, West Pakistani army purged it of its intellectuals, its leaders, its poets, its dreamers, its students. After the separation of East Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh, the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report valiantly tried its best to document that bloody Dhaka but it fell short and, in any case, the report itself lays forgotten by patriotic Pakistanis.

Note: The title is taken from Agha Shahid Ali’s translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s 1974 poem, “On My Return from Dhaka”:

After those many encounters, that easy intimacy,
we are strangers now –
After how many meetings will we be that close again?

When will we again see a spring of unstained green?
After how many monsoons will the blood be washed
from the branches?

So relentless was the end of love, so heartless –
After the nights of tenderness, the dawns were pitiless,
so pitiless.

And so crushed was the heart that though it wished
it found no chance –
after the entreaties, after the despair — for us to
quarrel once again as old friends.

Faiz, what you’d gone to say, ready to offer everything,
even your life –
those healing words remained unspoken after all else had
been said.


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