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End of the study tour

The Symphony of our Times

Published : Monday, 15 July, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 284
Mizanur Rahman Shelley

Mizanur Rahman Shelley

Mizanur Rahman Shelley

At that moment we felt that we had set foot on an extension of northern Indian Territory. However the Pakistani troops at the boarder cheek-post welcomed us warmly as 'East Pakistani brothers'. They even invited us to have dinner with them. We could not comply with the request as we had to move on to the city of our night halt--Lahore. The city, the capital of West Pakistan at that time but basically of the Punjab, was as historically rich as cities of northern India. Moghal gardens beautified the city tinging it with the colours of the Mughal gardens of Delhi some four hundred miles to the east.

Though located near the periphery of the Mughal Empire it bore the imprint of centrality. In fact, to the residents of Lahore from pre-partition times, it was a dear city and the refrain of the natives, irrespective of cast, creed or religion is 'Lahore Lahore aye--Lahore is Lahore'--a place without parallel. It is interesting to think how inhabitants of historical places lionise their habitats. Thus, one finds in the Dewani Khash in the Delhi Fort, the verse inscribe by Emperor Shahjahan: 'Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast' (If there is heaven on earth, this is it, this is it, and this is it).

We enjoyed our time in the fabled city visiting historical sites like the Mughal garden, Emperor Jahangir's mausoleum and Emperor Shahjahan's daughter Princes Jahanar's modest grave. Her touching poem inscribed on the grave never failed to move human minds: please do not light lamps or place flowers on this poor grave. Lest the moth burns its wings or the nightingale is deceived.
The unforgettable encounter with impressive relics made history of South Asia come alive in our tender minds.

In these recollections the tour of India in April 1958 appears as a detour in time or it can be called a loop going back in time to accommodate a significant event in life. Actually before this insert, we were discussing later events such as the promulgation of the first martial law in the then undivided Pakistan in October 1958.

The impact of the imposition of direct military rule had a stunning impact on our young minds. The harsh rules and regulations that were clampdown not on only political activities but also the freedom of speech, assembly and communication were at once suffocating and degrading. The citizens were virtually bereft of fundamental rights. Democracy and constitutional rule were cast to the four winds.

The entry of March 2, 1959 in my journal reads: 'Foreign Minister Monjur Kader and Home Minister AW Sheikh of the martial law regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan addressed students at the Curzon Hall of Dhaka University. Enamul Haque and I attended. Kader smartly asserted that the constitution and rights would be restored if people develop the 'right character and create the suitable environment with the help of the martial law regime"!'

The patronising remarks of the foreign minister of the first martial law regime provided the key to the psyche of the self-imposed rulers. They evidently viewed people as an entity in a state of non-age. The citizen had to be tutored into proper citizenship and the state had to act as a stern headmaster. Authoritarianism had clearly run amok.

There were strict regulations clamped on the freedom of speech, assembly and media. Political parties and political activities were banned. Even restaurants including roadside tea stalls displayed placards and notices with the grim announcement: 'No political discussion, please!' The state-owned radio became even more restricted. There was, of course, no television or mobile phones or social media on the internet. It was an epoch when cyber control was neither conceived nor necessary.

The author, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh (CDRB) and Editor quarterly "Asian Affairs" was a former teacher of political science in Dhaka University(1964-1967)  and former member of the erstwhile Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) (1967-1980) and former non-partisan technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh (1990).

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