1971: Hum kay thehray ajnabi…

Posted on December 16, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, History, Music, Poetry, Urdu
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Adil Najam

As the fourth part of our series on the events of 1971, we are reposting this post which was first published at ATP on December 16, 2006. We are reposting it with all the original comments since they, as a whole, are very much part of the conversation we all need to have with ourselves. The previous three parts of the series can be read here, here and here.

Today is December 16.
Today Bangladesh will mark its 35th ‘Victory Day.’

Most Pakistanis will go about their lives, not remembering or not wanting to remember. We should remember – and learn – from the significance of this date.

Not because it marks a ‘defeat’ but because it marks the end of a dream, 24 years of mistakes, horrible bloodshed, traumatic agony, and shameful atrocities. The constructed mythologies of what happened, why, and who is to be blamed need to be questioned. Tough questions have to be asked. And unpleasant answers have to be braced for. We need to honestly confront our own history, for our own sake.

But right now, the goal of this post is different. We at ATP just wish to extend a hand of friendship to our Bangladeshi friends. May the memories we make in our future be very different (and more pleasant) than the scars we carry from our past.

There is much – too much – that I wish to say; but cannot find words for. So let me do what I always do when I am at a loss of words. Let me quote Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who in his memorable 1974 poem ‘Dhaka say wapsi par’ (On Return from Dhaka) expressed what I wish to say so much better than I ever could.

We share with you here the original poem in Urdu, a version in ‘Roman Urdu,’ a wonderful English translation of the poem by the late Agha Shahid Ali in his book The Rebel’s Silhouette, and a video of Nayarra Noor singing the verses with the passion and feeling that they deserve.

ham ke Thehre ajnabi itni mulaaqaatoN ke baad
phir baneiN ge aashna kitni madaaraatoN ke baad

kab nazar meiN aaye gi be daaGh sabze ki bahaar
khoon ke dhabe dhuleiN ge kitni barsaatoN ke baad

the bahut bedard lamhe khat’m-e-dard-e-ishq ke
theiN bahut bemeh’r subheiN meh’rbaaN raatoN ke baad

dil to chaaha par shikast-e-dil ne moh’lat hi na di
kuchh gile shikwe bhi kar lete manaajaatoN ke baad

un se jo kehne gaye the “Faiz” jaaN sadqe kiye
an kahi hi reh gayi woh baat sab baatoN ke baad

Agha Shahid Ali’s Translation:

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.

109 responses to “1971: Hum kay thehray ajnabi…

  1. Gautam says:

    Dear All,

    Thank you for bringing this topic to light. With the exception of Syed Tahir X, most of you have been humane, which gives me great hope that the Pakistan you younger generation will help build will bear your stamp, your morality, your goodness. That is my earnest prayer.

    I was there, and the memories are too painful. A Brig. Mehboob Qadir wrote very sanctimonious and laudatory articles in the Daily Times, to which I sent him emails detailing the names of his commanding officers and the ones in Jessore sector familiar to me. I asked him, according to the Nuremberg War Trials, the commanding officers are held entirely responsible for their underlings [who, in any case, are following directives, if not direct orders when they kill &rape on such vast scale]. Was Sharmila Bose there? Her stake is that of notoriety & self-interest. I have nothing to gain, and have lost everything. The Catholic priests, some still living in Dhaka, are also witnesses. They had zero political affiliations.

    I can say something without putting any spin on the truth. The war in Bangladesh was very complex, and had its antecedents in 1961, in Chittagong, and further in 1965. In 1971, there was a civil war between various factions of Bengali Muslims, one that continues to this day. Hindus, 10% of the population, got caught in between not only after 1947, but were savagely and deliberately targeted in 1971 for no reason at all. They were hardly in the thick of politics, being the underclass, but were marked for particular savagery by the Pakistan army. Such horrific sins visited on innocents have a karmic effect, and we are seeing some of it today. We need truth and reconciliation for the greater good of the entire subcontinent.

    I am very sure we shall have world wars soon, owing to resource shortages and the actions of national elites in the subcontinent. One of the few chances of goodwill is to try and truly understand what are the root causes of anger and ill-will that divide Hindus and Muslims. I have my own suppositions, but my generation has come to its end.

  2. Ahmed Azwad Imtiaz says:

    Assalaamualikum bhai. I would like to say Bangladesh and Pakistan would still be United if you Westerners would let our Mujib in power(Not that i like him that much..Awami League is a bed of corrupt politicians). And second condition was… how could you people have your capital in Islamabad and not in Dhaka? We Bangalis made up the largest ethinic group in the country and had the best language there was. It was also the most widely spoken. Urdu is the mother tongue of very few people and one of the hardest to learn. Bangla only takes a few tries and then you speak fluently.
    Other than that…..i would still have liked Pakistan to have stayed the same. Pakistan Zindabad! or Joy Pakistan would be more appropriate. My own grandfather fought at Chawinda in 65′. We still don’t like Indian Malauns on our soil. Amra Ak Qaum! Amader Qaumi Nishan!

  3. Adnan says:

    If you are Bangladeshi, why are you fond of Indian Tagore so much? I would be interested to know of a single instance when “Bengali culture was made forbidden by Jinnah”. do you even realize the extremity in that phrase? Someone needs to do homework on where the person-who restricted Indian Tagore songs on EP radio- was from; and what Jinnah’s own mother tongue was. Urdu being the national language would have been the only way possible for a Bengali to talk to a Punjabi, a Punjabi to talk to a Pashtun in a language that is not English. That is due to the prevalence of Urdu in Bengal, Sindh, Punjab, etc. for centuries. Our mother tongue Bangla would have continued to flourish amid that. language was never a factor. Bangla even became a national language of greater pakistan (I would say rather unfairly) in 1956, beside Urdu.

    Adnan from Bangladesh

  4. najam says:

    All I have to say to my bengali brother and sister I am very very sorry for what happened to east pakistanis I was 2 years old but after coming to north america I realize through neutral media how wrom=ng west pakistan govt was I am very very sorry.

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