AKLF, Aamir usher in Calcutta’s book season

“Is this Aamir Khan that Aamir Khan?” She asked me.  She was seated beside me, a 20-something journalist with a city-based newspaper.

“Yes, the same one. There’s only one Aamir Khan in India,” I answered.

Thus, we conversed as we waited for Bollywood star to arrive at the Victoria Memorial where the fifth edition of the five-day Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival was inaugurated today by West Bengal governor R.K. Narayanan.

My new friend’s eyes lit up suddenly. Aamir had just arrived with the entourage, comprising governor and Maulana Azad expert Syeda Hameed (writer, activist and member of planning commission), among others. They were good 25 minutes late; a political rally had brought the city to a standstill.

Soon after, a welcome song was announced and a bunch of children sang, well, Saare Jaahan se Achha Hindustaan Humara, Humara. The emcee said it was “beautiful”. Everyone clapped. They felicitated the lady in a white saree who had “guided” the children.

Narayanan was then called upon to inaugurate the festival and address the gathering. He lavished praise on Shri Aamir Khan even though he admitted he wasn’t much of a “cinema buff”. He dropped names of a couple of Aamir films–Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Taree Zameen Par. “I hope to get passes for Dhoom 3,” he tried to crack a joke. Aamir didn’t appear too pleased, or so it seemed to us from the distance we were seated. Did he, like us in the audience, hear “Doom Three”?

I looked up at the sky. The moon was a perfect half. The white marble of Calcutta’s iconic monument glistened in a yellow glow. What a perfect setting it was, indeed! Chill descended and I pulled my hoodie over my head. Sari pallus of women, who had forgotten their warm clothes at home, copied my hood.

Aamir Khan: this is the closed I could get to him.
Aamir Khan: this is the closest I could get to him.

Shri Aamir rose to speak. Every one clapped. He is a descendant of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Narayanan had said while introducing him. Maulana Azad, by the way, is the highlight of the festival. His 125th birth anniversary is being celebrated. Maulana Azad (the learned one) was a polymath–among many other things, a freedom fighter and an educationist. And, Aamir was his descendent! I sensed pride in the air. But no one explained exactly how the hero is connected to the Maulana, not even Aamir (we learn later that the legend was his great grand-uncle).

The phenomenon of a Bollywood star said he owed his career to the Maulana. If the great man had not whispered the mantra–“follow your heart”– into the ears of his filmmaker uncle Nasir Hussain, then his father Tahir would have never made films; and if his dad had not made films, Aamir sure would have been doing something else–possibly studying engineering and romancing the principal’s daughter.

Aamir also said he’d someday like to make a film on his ancestor.

That’s all he said. And for the main topic that he was scheduled to speak, ‘Maulana Azad: His Belief in Secularism and His Foresight’, he read out, word by word the following extract of an interview that the Maulana had given to Shorish Kashmiri of  Matbooat Chattan, Lahore, in 1947. It is all over the internet and I have copied the extract here from this link. Read on.

Q: Maulana, what is wrong if Pakistan becomes a reality? After all, “Islam” is being used to pursue and protect the unity of the community.

A: You are using the name of Islam for a cause that is not right by Islamic standards. Muslim history bears testimony to many such enormities. In the battle of Jamal [fought between Imam Ali and Hadrat Aisha, widow of the Holy Prophet] Qurans were displayed on lances. Was that right? In Karbala the family members of the Holy Prophet were martyred by those Muslims who claimed companionship of the Prophet. Was that right? Hajjaj was a Muslim general and he subjected the holy mosque at Makka to brutal attack. Was that right? No sacred words can justify or sanctify a false motive.

If Pakistan was right for Muslims then I would have supported it. But I see clearly the dangers inherent in the demand. I do not expect people to follow me, but it is not possible for me to go against the call of my conscience. People generally submit either to coercion or to the lessons of their experience. Muslims will not hear anything against Pakistan unless they experience it. Today they can call white black, but they will not give up Pakistan. The only way it can be stopped now is either for the government not to concede it or for Mr Jinnah himself — if he agrees to some new proposal.

Now as I gather from the attitude of my own colleagues in the working committee, the division of India appears to be certain. But I must warn that the evil consequences of partition will not affect India alone, Pakistan will be equally haunted by them. The partition will be based on the religion of the population and not based on any natural barrier like mountain, desert or river. A line will be drawn; it is difficult to say how durable it would be.

We must remember that an entity conceived in hatred will last only as long as that hatred lasts. This hatred will overwhelm the relations between India and Pakistan. In this situation it will not be possible for India and Pakistan to become friends and live amicably unless some catastrophic event takes place. The politics of partition itself will act as a barrier between the two countries. It will not be possible for Pakistan to accommodate all the Muslims of India, a task beyond her territorial capability. On the other hand, it will not be possible for the Hindus to stay especially in West Pakistan. They will be thrown out or leave on their own. This will have its repercussions in India and the Indian Muslims will have three options before them:

1. They become victims of loot and brutalities and migrate to Pakistan; but how many Muslims can find shelter there?

2. They become subject to murder and other excesses. A substantial number of Muslims will pass through this ordeal until the bitter memories of partition are forgotten and the generation that had lived through it completes its natural term.

3. A good number of Muslims, haunted by poverty, political wilderness and regional depredation decide to renounce Islam.

The prominent Muslims who are supporters of Muslim League will leave for Pakistan. The wealthy Muslims will take over the industry and business and monopolise the economy of Pakistan. But more than 30 million Muslims will be left behind in India. What promise Pakistan holds for them? The situation that will arise after the expulsion of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan will be still more dangerous for them. Pakistan itself will be afflicted by many serious problems. The greatest danger will come from international powers who will seek to control the new country, and with the passage of time this control will become tight. India will have no problem with this outside interference as it will sense danger and hostility from Pakistan.

The other important point that has escaped Mr Jinnah’s attention is Bengal. He does not know that Bengal disdains outside leadership and rejects it sooner or later. During World War II, Mr Fazlul Haq revolted against Jinnah and was thrown out of the Muslim League. Mr H.S. Suhrawardy does not hold Jinnah in high esteem. Why only Muslim League, look at the history of Congress. The revolt of Subhas Chandra Bose is known to all. Gandhiji was not happy with the presidentship of Bose and turned the tide against him by going on a fast unto death at Rajkot. Subhas Bose rose against Gandhiji and disassociated himself from the Congress. The environment of Bengal is such that it disfavours leadership from outside and rises in revolt when it senses danger to its rights and interests.

The confidence of East Pakistan will not erode as long as Jinnah and Liaquat Ali are alive. But after them any small incident will create resentment and disaffection. I feel that it will not be possible for East Pakistan to stay with West Pakistan for any considerable period of time. There is nothing common between the two regions except that they call themselves Muslims. But the fact of being Muslim has never created durable political unity anywhere in the world. The Arab world is before us; they subscribe to a common religion, a common civilisation and culture and speak a common language.

In fact they acknowledge even territorial unity. But there is no political unity among them. Their systems of government are different and they are often engaged in mutual recrimination and hostility. On the other hand, the language, customs and way of life of East Pakistan are totally different from West Pakistan. The moment the creative warmth of Pakistan cools down, the contradictions will emerge and will acquire assertive overtones. These will be fuelled by the clash of interests of international powers and consequently both wings will separate.

After the separation of East Pakistan, whenever it happens, West Pakistan will become the battleground of regional contradictions and disputes. The assertion of sub-national identities of Punjab, Sind, Frontier and Balochistan will open the doors for outside interference. It will not be long before the international powers use the diverse elements of Pakistani political leadership to break the country on the lines of Balkan and Arab states. Maybe at that stage we will ask ourselves, what have we gained and what have we lost.

The real issue is economic development and progress, it certainly is not religion. Muslim business leaders have doubts about their own ability and competitive spirit. They are so used to official patronage and favours that they fear new freedom and liberty. They advocate the two-nation theory to conceal their fears and want to have a Muslim state where they have the monopoly to control the economy without any competition from competent rivals. It will be interesting to watch how long they can keep this deception alive.

I feel that right from its inception, Pakistan will face some very serious problems:

1. The incompetent political leadership will pave the way for military dictatorship as it has happened in many Muslim countries.

2. The heavy burden of foreign debt.

3. Absence of friendly relationship with neighbours and the possibility of armed conflict.

4. Internal unrest and regional conflicts.

5. The loot of national wealth by the neo-rich and industrialists of Pakistan.

6. The apprehension of class war as a result of exploitation by the neo-rich.

7. The dissatisfaction and alienation of the youth from religion and the collapse of the theory of Pakistan.

8. The conspiracies of the international powers to control Pakistan.

In this situation, the stability of Pakistan will be under strain and the Muslim countries will be in no position to provide any worthwhile help. The assistance from other sources will not come without strings and it will force both ideological and territorial compromises.

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