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. Tariq-Bangladesh says:

    @ shankar- sorry but if you dont know history….dont talk then…urdu was not said to be only as a national language…but also bengali culture was made forbidden by jinnah…there was no rabindranath tagores song allowed to be played in radio in EP and no bengali culture was allowed to be practised….the WP not only interferred with language, but they also interferred with our ancient and rich culture…

  2. Jamshed says:

    Pakistan’s two wings should never have been combined into a single country.It was a geographical oddity.Bengalis had their ethnic kinsmen in East Bengal while West Pakistan was a long way away.India found a golden opportunity to to settle scores for partition.It did not have any business meddling in the internal affairs of another country .Bangladesh’s subsequent history is full of bloodshed and instability.The break up was inevitable.All the blame should not be laid at Pakistan’s door.

  3. sitwat qadri says:

    well, i was born in the same year i.e 1971, throughout my childhood at home and in school we heard that bengalis were traitors and they joined indians against us and killed innocent west pakistanis, naizi was a cowrd he surrendered altough our forces could have fought.Yahya was alwaus drunk and so on.

    i have been to bangladesh in 2005 on an official assingment and my father migrated from UP in India to EP however they were lucky that they shifted to WP in mid 60s.So i have a small background.

    as i am interested in history i searched web and have read books (Indian,BD,Pak and neutrals) i have formed my own opinion.

    yes, i a heard actual stories from the people who fled EP after fall , non bengalis were also killed,abused and looted and it was not right but WP troops did hell of a damage before that, intellectualls were picked first in march 1971 and then last day before surrender and killed .that includes poets,teachers,doctors, and so on.

    pakistanis tried to capture the land without thinking of people living on it.But the blame should not be given to regular low level officers and other ranks they were a mere cog.i found pakistani establishment both civil and military and WP politicians ,they should have let Mujeeb rule, bengalis are genereally easy going people who love art,culture and think they are even better muslims, but we first baned thier rich language and enforced urdu, imagine if god forbids some one do this to us and impose hindi,russian etc what we will do , they were considered sub humans.it is sad that we never realized our mistakes that led to this breakup.also thousands of those who supported Pakistan suffred , including biharis, pro pak bengalis, non bihari urdu speaking ,punjabis ,pathans etc.Sad is the fact that forces were repatriated but the civilians who supported Pak were left , except for those who took refuge in cantonments and surrendered with Pak forces.

    as a pakistani we should do two things
    1. apologize to people of BD but also put the record straight and ask them to acknowledge the killing of innocent non bengalis.
    repatriate standard pakistanis , they were the people who fought alonside army but were left at the mercy of BD.

    also i think niazi was not a coward as in 90,000 pows only 30,000 was army make 50,000 if we include others such as police etc the rest were civilians who took refuge at cantonments, also after indian took over thier soilders generally safeguarded civilans and many WP civilians got a chance to get out alive, decide yourself.also his situation was not good thier was no support comming from west and he was left on his own, deep down my heart i say surrender was humilating but i dont know.

  4. Nusrat Pasha says:

    Truths have to be reconciled with at any cost. We can not continue to live in a state of denial for ever. We won’t be able to. These are some truths:

    1. To say that in 1971, we lost half the country is incorrect. There were more Pakistanis in East Pakistan than there were in the Western wing. The truth is that the majority was lost. The greater part of the nation of Pakistan simply chose to reidentify themselves. Why? What were they convinced they would not get – and ironically from the minority? It was “equality”.

    2. Nations can not and do not survive without equality existing at every single plane.

    3. There has to be perfect equality, of all kinds, at all levels, among all federating units.

    4. There has to be perfect equality, of all kinds, at all levels, among all ethnic denominations.

    5. There has to be perfect equality, of all kinds, at all levels, among all religious denominations.

    6. There has to be perfect equality, of all kinds, at all levels, between urban and rural.

    7. A common religion evidently could not prevent the nation of Pakistan from breaking up. This proves that it takes a lot more than a common creed to bind a nation together. In fact sometimes a State Religion serves the purpose of a perfect distraction. Elusive dividing forces act while the nation slumbers in the illusion of a common religion.

    Equality and absolute equality on all these planes will have to be established. 1971 to 2010 makes 39 years of denial. The lesson to be learned is that there are no shortcuts to survival, and there are no concessions for those who deem themselves “more equal”.

  5. awais ali says:

    i love pakistan.

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