Archive for Lahore
by Rab Nawaz
Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a by-product of Zia’s notorious military dictatorship, is famous for its hooliganism and Islamic fascism. Beating, terrorizing, thrashing, shooting, harassing the innocent students and a general hypocrisy has been the defining attributes of this socially outrageous organization. Recently it has committed another incident to make its presence felt.
This happened in Punjab University such that a newly formed student organization (about 10 months old) named University Students Federation (USF) was gaining rapid popularity mainly because of its Non-violent and Non-partisan nature. This Federation was the result of aftermath of Imran Khan’s man-handling by IJT during the last year’s emergency rule. USF was mainly centered at PU Law College and most of its leading members belonged to the Law College. Although there was a continuous series of threats and maneuvering from IJT since the formation of USF which was frequently reported to the varsity administration and media, it gained pace in the previous weak when USF started forming its structure in the varsity’s hostels. IJT could not hold back to face its hostages (hostels) being liberated. Furthermore IJT thought to have created some space by building some pressure on the administration through staging some rallies for the decrease in fees and internet facility in hostels. It is noteworthy that IJT itself had been stopping the installment of internet in hostels for previous two years on the plea that it would spread vulgarity. There has been continuous tussle between IJT and administration over this issue which mounted to beating and insulting the teachers by IJT.
In this context, on the night between 30th November and 1st December, 2008 about two dozens of IJT activists equipped with arms and sticks attacked the room no. 64 of Hostel No. 15, a major center of USF meetings. There they tried to kidnap Ch. Ahsan, Imran Sial and Hafiz Azeem but could do no more than thrashing and beating owing to the resistance by the victims and some students from the neighboring rooms. They left after giving life threats. The next day, USF activists did a demonstration on the Campus Bridge requesting safety. Administration promised to take some action but it followed nothing till the night between 2nd and 3rd December when the hostel no. 16 bathed into blood at 2:30 a.m. The events preceding this blood-bath are as follows.
At about 8:00 p.m. on 2nd December, about 50 IJT activists including a number of outsiders had a round of university hostels without any explicit purpose except show of power. When they entered hostel no. 16, they found Atif Naeem Ranjha (President of USF) standing at the newspaper stand and suddenly attacked him with severe blows and thrashing. When USF supporters from the surrounding started to approach them, they ran away. This open cruelty boiled every boarder of hostel 16 and other hostels. They came out raising slogan against IJT and blocked the Canal Road. The road remained blocked for about 2 hours until police and administrative authorities came and they ensured action against the culprits within 24 hours. This scene ended at about 11:30 p.m.After it IJT was heard to stage a protest at another side of Canal Road which was conceived as against administration but it indeed implied the delaying of lawful action against them.
Probably at their returning from the protest, they planned to end this pending story, or it may be a pre-plan, and they attacked the hostel 16. Eye-witnesses tell that they were approximately 50 in number. About 15 to 20 of them trespassed the hostel and directly raided at the rooms resided by USF activists. They were carrying pistols, guns, clubs, iron rods, wickets and bats. There they victimized Hafiz Ahsan, Asad Sajjad Gujjar, Atif Naeem Ranjha, Rai Shajar Abbas, Ali Hassan Waraich, Khurram Butt, Ali Abbas, Rana Naeem and Azhar Subhani. Hafiz Mazhar and Asad were shot with pistols while remaining received serious hurts in heads, arms, backs and legs. During this operation, the brutality of assailants exceeded to an extent that after shooing Asad in the leg, they dragged him down to the gate of the hostel from his room at second floor and battered and pummeled him there to force him to utter the slogan of “Zinda Hai Jamiat (Jamiat is alive)”. Subhani was thrown down on the ground from second floor. After they left by leaving their prints in the form of blood on the floors, broken clubs and window glasses and nine students heavily injured; the other boarders, hostel warden and employees gathered. They took the injured to the Jinnah Hospitalwhere they were operated and medicated. Hafiz Mazhar’s condition was very fragile. His vein was cut and he was recovered with great difficulty. Vice Chancellor, other authorities from varsity, police and media immediately reached the hospital. Varsity authorities announced that IJT was behind this act, police registered the FIR while media covered the whole event.
A great wave of anger spread across the campus. Hundreds of students massively boycotted the classes the next morning and arranged a procession that ended at the campus bridge after marching throughout the campus. The students were so upset and raged that they blocked the traffic, burned the tires, raised slogans against IJT and demanded immediate expulsion and arrest of alleged IJT activists. After 3 hours the students dispersed as a result of negotiation with the VC who ensured the fulfilling of the demands.
Although varsity administration and provincial government have resolved to take action but the students must realize that these fascist elements are a grave threat to the very foundations of our society. We need enlightened consciousness to fight back them at every front of the society.
Rab Nawaz is a student of the Punjab University Law College and an active member of the University Students Federation.
“Main Nay Kaha” is a satirical poem by the famous leftist poet Habib Jalib called “Musheer” (Advisor). Jalib wrote it in response to a conversation he had with Hafiz Jalandari during the time of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship. It remains just as fresh and valid today.
This poem has been put to music by Laal (Shahram Azhar & Taimur Rahman) a new Pakistani music group dedicated to resistance music and poetry. Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman are also political activists of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party and their poetry, music, and activism constitute an integrated whole the essence of which is always revolutionary. The CMKP has been an integral part of the lawyers movement and the movement for democracy in Pakistan.
The music video contains real images of events in Karachi, London, and Lahore during the tumultuous period between December 27th and February 18th. The song and video were recorded on a shoe-string budget of one session each.
This video and song are connected to a documentary on a journey through a life-changing period in the history of Pakistan. The journey begins in Pakistan on the eve of the assassination of Benazir and the ensuing grief, violence, and carnage. The film maker travels to London to discover a group of young activists organizing protests against Emergency rule. Following these activists full circle to Pakistan, the documentary captures the events around the 2008 elections. The film thus captures a moment in the life of Pakistan, from Benazir’s assassination to the elections, through the lens of young activists. The documentary by Widei Films will also be released shortly.
Habib Jalib – Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha
Shahram Azhar – Vocals
Taimur Rahman – Music
Mahvash Waqar – Backing Vocals
Taimur Khan – Director Producer
Dita Peskova – Assistant Director
Jamie Mill – Recording Director
Laal & Taimur Khan – Music Producer
WIDEi Films – Production Company
Disturbed to life by the atrocious massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919, disillusioned by the national political leaders who recoiled the promising Non-Cooperation Movement in 1922, alarmed by the rising religious divisions and reactionary rhetoric in the mainstream politics, and motivated by the Bolshevik Revolution of workers and peasants of Russia of 1917, Bhagat Singh and his compatriots entered the political scene of India and became the icon of the aspirations of the people of India in no time. Their aim was to bring a revolution that would not only end the colonial British regime but would also lay the foundations of a system that shall combat all forms of injustices. It was for these crimes that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were hanged by the rulers of British colonialism on 23rd of March, 1931, at Lahore Camp Jail. Bhagat Singh was only 23 years old at the time of his hanging.
The colonial administration made it no secret that their enmity lied more with the ideals of Bhagat Singh rather than Bhagat Singh himself. Justice Medilton, who transported Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt for life in the Assembly Bomb Case, testified to the danger that the ideas of Bhagat Singh posed to the system based on manifest injustice: “These persons would enter the court with the cries of ‘Long Live the Revolution’ and ‘Long Live the Proletariat’ which shows clearly shows what sort of political ideology they cherish. In order to put a check in propagating these ideas, I transport them for life.” One can well imagine that Bhagat Singh must have received the Medilton’s comment with a broad smile. Once, during a court hearing when Bhagat Singh started laughing while chatting with one of his comrades, he ironically replied to inquiry of the Magistrate about the reason behind the amusement: “Dear Magistrate, if you can’t tolerate my laughing at the moment, what will happen to you when I laugh even on the scaffold?”
Bhagat Singh started his political journey when new lines were emerging in the Indian polity. On one hand, the religious jargon was being introduced in the political rhetoric at a mass scale and seculars like Jinnah were getting sidelined. On the other hand, the revolutionary ideas of Lenin and Bolshevik Revolution were trickling into India. Bhagat Singh, like many others who were already disillusioned by Gandhi, was attracted towards experiment of workers and peasants of Russia.
With this ideological motivation, the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), which was formed by Ashfaqullah Khan and Mahavir Singh in around 1925, became the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in 1928 primarily on the insistence of Bhagat Singh. Along with an express commitment towards socialism, the HSRA also proclaimed a broad internationalist vision of a World Order that would free humanity from the scourge of capitalism and imperialist wars. Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS) was founded in Lahore in 1926 as the open front of HSRA with object to expose reactionary politics and to promote religious harmony and secularism. In June 1928, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev also organized a Lahore Students’ Union as auxiliary to NBS. The outlook of NBS was clearly popular. “Revolution by the masses and for the masses”, stated the Manifesto of the NBS. NBS made remarkable progress within a few months as its branches were organized all around India. It became so popular that it was banned by the British government in May of 1930.
In 1928, the all-White Simon Commission came to visit India in order to provide the further constitutional reforms. The Congress decided to boycott the Commission, and the HSRA decided to actively participate in the boycott demonstrations. One such demonstration, led by Lala Lajpat Rai was organized outside the Lahore Railway Station where the Commission was to arrive. Bhagat Singh and his compatriots were also a part of this protest. When the Police ordered baton-charge, the Superintendent of Police, J. A. Scott, targeted Lala Lajpat in particular who could not bear the severe injuries caused by the raining batons and died. The whole nation was infuriated at the death of Lala Lajpat.
HSRA decided to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. On December 17, 1928, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekher Azad and Rajguru shot dead J. P. Saunders, a Police officer, mistaking him for Scott. Posters under-singed by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army appeared across Lahore the same night that stated that “we are sorry for shedding human blood but it becomes necessary to bathe the altar of revolution with blood.”
After the assassination of Saunders, Bhagat immediately escaped for Calcutta where he attended the first All India Conference of Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties and the Calcutta session of the Congress, where the Communist Party made an illustrious entry by demanding the Congress to accept the goal of complete independence (which did not happen).
This was a time when the Communist Party was taking its roots in India in general and in the working class movement in particular. Naturally, the British government became apprehensive and rounded 31 prominent Communist and labor leaders in the famous Meerut Conspiracy Case. Repressive measures, like the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill, were brought to the floor of Central Legislative Assembly that threatened the democratic rights of the citizens of India.
HSRA decided to take action against the onslaught of British government. On April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt threw two bombs in the Assembly when Viceroy was supposed to enact the Trade Disputes Bill using his special powers against the will of the Assembly. These bombs were made especially for the occasion. As they were harmless and were not meant to kill anyone, no one was seriously injured. The bomb, as the leaflet thrown by Bhagat Singh in the name of HSRA, was “a loud voice to make the deaf hear”. Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt gave their arrests, as was pre- decided by the HSRA, so that they can use the trail in court to popularize the programme and ideology of the HSRA.
The struggle against British colonialism was taken to new scale in the court and in the jail. In the court room, the people of India met Bhagat Singh, the political thinker. In jail, the people of India witness the resilience of Bhagat Singh. The whole nation was awestruck by the hunger-strike that Bhagat Singh and his comrades managed to pull while protesting against the inhumane and discriminatory conditions meted out to the Indian political prisoners. This was a time, says Pattabhi Sitaramyya, official historian of the Congress, when “Bhagat Singh’s name was as widely known all over India and was as popular as Gandhi’s”. Bhagat Singh underwent a hunger-strike for more than 116 days, with one stretch of 97 days, despite the heavy and frequent torture inflicted by the Jail authorities. One of participants of the hunger-strike, Jatin Das, died on the 64th day of the strike.
As a political thinker, the jail years had a deep impact on the ideological development of Bhagat Singh. The presence of an impended trail, which was more of a propaganda forum for him, and an unending thirst for knowledge motivated Bhagat Singh to study hard. He read more than 144 books in jail and prepared extensive notes about his study in a prison diary. His thoughts matured with a serious study and he also criticized his own tactics. In a short message to students’ conference at Lahore, Bhagat Singh advised: “Comrades, Today, we can not ask the youth to take to pistols and bombs… the youth will have to spread to the far corners of the country. They have to awaken the crores of the slum-dwellers of industrial areas and villagers…” Writing about his revolutionary career, Bhagat Singh said: “Study” was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of my mind… the Romance of the violent methods alone which was so prominent amongst our predecessors, was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith… use of force justifiable when resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence as policy indispensable for all mass movements.”
When asked in court what he meant by revolution, Bhagat Singh famously replied: “A revolution does not necessarily involve sanguinary strife not is there any place in it for individual vendetta. It is not a bomb or pistol cult. By revolution we mean that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must be changed… By revolution we mean the ultimate establishment of the order of society… in which sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognized.”
After being awarded life imprisonment in the Assembly bomb case, Bhagat Singh was registered for what came to be known as the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case for the assassination of J. P. Saunders. A special tribunal was set-up for the trail of Bhagat Singh that was provided with the novel power of conducting an ex-parte trail. After what was termed by A. G. Noorani as “a farcical trail”, Bhagat Singh was sentenced to death.
Gandhi observed the injustices meted out to Bhagat Singh in jail and in the court rooms with a conspicuous silence. It was only after the death of Bhagat Singh that the Congress gave a statement, after much tension over wording, in “admiration of the bravery and sacrifice of the late Bhagat Singh and his comrades”. A. G. Noorani pointed out that Gandhi could have averted the death of Bhagat Singh during his talks with the Viceroy, Lord Irwin. Gandhi’s claims that he tried his best to persuade the Viceroy were found to be mere lies by the records that came to light four decades later.
Bhagat Singh, nevertheless, found a supporter in the mainstream politics and that was in Jinnah. Jinnah who was himself isolated by the encroachment of religion in politics at that time and considered it undesired rose in support of Bhagat Singh. In his incisive speech to the Constituent Assembly on September 12 and 14, 1929, Jinnah harshly condemned the criminal colonial rule and the Government’s actions against revolutionaries:
“The man who goes on hunger-strike has a soul. He is moved by the soul and he believes in the justice of his cause; he is not an ordinary criminal who is guilty of cold-blooded, sordid, wicked crime.
“What was he driving at? It is the system, this damnable system of Government, which is resented by the people.
“And the last words I wish to address the Government are, try and concentrate your mind on the root cause and the more you concentrate on the root cause, the less difficulties and inconveniences there will be for you to face, and thank Heaven that the money of the taxpayer will not be wasted in prosecuting men, nay citizens, who are fighting and struggling for the freedom of their country.”
In our part of the sub-continent, we conveniently forget the role played by non-Muslims in the struggle of liberation from the British colonialism. All non-Muslims are grouped in one category to be completely rejected by the rulers of Pakistan irrespective of their message and their history. The same fate met Bhagat Singh. That he was supported by Jinnah is a fact never mentioned in the corridors of power or in the text-books of Pakistan Studies. It is not surprising, though. Bhagat Singh, a symbol of resistance, could never be the hero of the government that is not based on the will of the people.
Although the times have changed, they do not appear to have changed a lot. The World, particularly Pakistan is still facing a number of problems that were essentially present in the times of Bhagat Singh as well. Hence, the legacy of Bhagat Singh remains with us in his uncompromising struggle against imperialism, unflinching resistance to communalism and caste oppression, unbending opposition to the bourgeois-landlord rule, and unswavering support for socialism as the best possible alternative before society.
Published in The Post (Vista) on Tuesday, March 25, 2008.
The Elections Day in Lahore was relatively calm, as compared to previous elections, though it was not expected to be after the murder of one of the candidates to provincial assembly of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz last night. As I write this post, I can listen to many analysts on the news channels expressing their surprise over the comparative smoothness with which the elections proceeded in the district.
I spent most of my day, after casting my vote for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), with the Election Monitors of the Students Action Committee (SAC) Lahore and Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP). I traveled around Thoker Niaz Beg area visiting several polling booths in order to look for any illegal activities.
The most pervasive complaint, while the detailed report of SAC is pending, was the exclusion of opposition party voters from the voting lists. According to the voters, who exercised their right to vote in the last elections, they could not find their names and the names of their family members in the voting lists, though it was present a few days ago. Many alleged that the voting lists might be changed overnight before the elections. There were also complaints about lack of polling booths and polling staff particularly in the opposition constituencies. Additionally, there were also some reports regarding intimidation of the polling staff by the local authorities.
In the pre-poll phase, there was rampant information of money being distributed by PML-Q and the development works being carried out in the late hours.
As the news is coming in, it appears that the King’s Party, PML-Q, is going down swiftly. Many PML-Q stalwarts – Moonis Elahi (who spent so much money in elections that his face seemed to be everywhere), Shujat Hussain, and Sheikh Rashid – have reportedly lost (the latter two are contesting from more than one constituencies, so whether they will make it to the legislature or not is still unconfirmed).
Here also some short-messages that I received throughout the day:
SAC mock referendum results:
Against Musharraf: 782
For Musharraf: 24
From Geo: Majority polling stations have not received their allotted number of ballot papers and boxes.
Mianwali; NA-72: Pervez Elahi’s relative Humair Hayat Rokri’s (candidate for PML-Q) supporters giving money to female voters outside polling stations.
Narowal; NA-117: Ransacked polling stations go up to 25. Armed gangs of criminals carried out the operation on the behest of PML-Q and took away boxes.
YOUR SILENCE; THE DEATH OF OUR COUNTRY
· Under the guise of emergency, on the 3rd of November a brutal attack was launched against the civil society of Pakistan which recently mobilized in unison with the judiciary and the lawyers.
· All the judges who stood by their oath to protect the constitution were removed and placed under house arrest. Moreover, the two judges blamed for releasing terrorists have taken oath under the PCO. There is no excuse for the treatment meted out to the judiciary.
· The media has effectively been silenced as have all opposing voices to the totalitarian regime.
· Fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, right to association and right to life, liberty and property, have been taken away.
· A direct assault on the students has been made: talks and debates on academic campuses have been banned. Students are being threatened with expulsions and are being pressurized by a pseudo-student’s (non-democratic) organization. Threats have been made against the students’ future careers and job acquisitions.
· Thousands of people are in jail to date without any legal basis.
· Our industries and businesses have suffered immense losses in millions of rupees due to the aforementioned governmental policies.
If not Now, WHEN? If not Us, Who?
There is no neutrality anymore; SILENCE IS CONSENT. SPEAK!
Do not strengthen the forces of repression which plunder the life and liberties of innocent citizens. SPEAK!
“I will not remember the words of my enemies but the silence of my friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Raise your voice with ours for the restoration of the constitution and the judiciary; freedom of the media and release of protest prisoners to enable a democratic process to take root through free and fair election.
Join us to peacefully PROTEST on 30th of November near Salt & Pepper (Liberty) at 2:30 (after the Jumma prayers)
Student Action Committee
From: The Emergency Times