– ALL FOR A LOST CAUSE –
By Syed Bashir
Ghulam Azam’s name must be spelt right – he would surely hate the more Bangali “Golam” because Urdu for him has been the language of the Muslims of South Asia.
But why would the disciple of Syed Abul A’la Maududi suddenly shift gears to uphold the ‘glory of mother tongue Bangla’ and project himself as a veteran of the Language Movement?
To defend himself in court?
Why should a man who ordered death for so many be afraid of death at the ripe age of 91 when most men his age or younger are already in grave – or with one foot in it!
That brings us to the moot point – Ghulam Azam was not trained to face death as soldiers are but was a politician who could only order death for those he saw as rivals and use it as political weapon sans all the honour that is often there in death for soldiers and believers who uphold martyrdom.
These are people who chicken out when the gun turns on them because they are never prepared to face it.
At the end of the day, Azam’s last minute efforts to project himself as a Language Movement veteran gave out the weakling in him – a man who wants to live, at all costs.
The truth is that Azam was the mastermind of a genocide against his own people. Yes, a genocide, because more people died in the nine months of the 1971 Liberation War than in India’s entire struggle for independence, the 1857 Mutiny included.
Azam was born a Bangali – unlike the Yayha Khans and Tikka Khans who ordered their soldiers to kill “a few lakh Bengalis” to silence their freedom struggle.
So when Azam organised the vigilante forces like the Razakars and Al Badrs and unleashed them on freedom-seeking Bangalis, he was promoting a mass murder campaign against his own people.
Even the inevitable did not shake his faith in Pakistan – the Promised Land for all Muslims of South Asia.
So he continued his conspiracies to undermine the new-born nation and his campaign in the Middle East is too well known to be swept under the carpet. How ironic he used a paper “Sonar Bangla” to promote his cause!
It would be interesting to ask Pakistan whether they would shelter this old man if they had to for all that he had done for them.
Surely, Pakistan would turn its back on Azam as it does on many thousands of others who live in Bangladesh and want to be in Pakistan because they fought and even died for it.
None understands this reality better than MQM leader Altaf Hossain who once said that his people (Urdu-speaking Muslims of North India) derisively called Mohajhirs made their biggest mistake by supporting the idea of Pakistan.
They went to a country whose natives they were not, and it just did not work. Though Urdu became the national language, a Pakistan ruled by the Punjabi-dominated military had as little space for the Urdu-speaking migrant as for the proud freedom-loving Bangali.
Or for that matter, for the Balochi and the Sindhi.
In 1960, you have General Ayub Khan goading cadets just commissioned into the Pakistan Army to “become good Pakistanis”. “Till yesterday, you were Baloch, Pathans, Punjabis and Sindhis, but today you must swear you will be good Pakistanis,” he lectured after inspecting the parade at the country’s Military Academy.
When something like this happens 13 years after Pakistan was born, one would surely ask questions about its future. Except those who were sure which way Pakistan was headed even before it was born.
In an interview to Lahore’s well-known magazine “Chattan”, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had predicted Pakistan would break up in 20 to 25 years.
“Whoever else remains there, I am sure, the Bengalis will not remain in it,” he had prophetically predicted, reminding all that as a Maulana, he understood both the strength and weakness of religion in politics much better than someone like Muhammad Ali Jinnah whose food habits would upset any pious Muslim.
Ghulam Azam lived and upheld a cause named ‘Pakistan’ for whatever it was worth. The hollow conviction in an equally hollow cause comes through loud and clear in the trials that have laid bare many unknown tracts of history for the younger generations who were not around during the 1971 War but who live in the country it created.
Azam’s lament that people don’t listen to Radio Pakistan in many parts of the country – for fear of Indian spies, as he would allege – is classic. It shows the war was lost for Pakistan even before it was actually won by the freedom fighters. Bangladesh was born in the minds of its people and took shape in the flag some of its brave sons designed much before it was established on ground. For someone like Maulana Azad, it had to happen.
Azam’s problem – and that of his band of Islamist brothers – is their poor sense of history. Their failure was to understand that language and culture, tradition and ethnicity are much stronger elements in shaping a nation like Bangladesh than a pan-continental religion or a global ideology.
But though Azam may die in jail, he leaves behind a political organisation which will continue to rock the stability of Bangladesh because it does not believe in it. It will be the over-arching platform for many shades of jihadis and terror merchants who will take full advantage of Bangladesh’s democracy without believing in it one bit.
There lies the danger. In Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh has a party which opposed it at birth and still does not believe in its founding principles, a party which will seek to take full advantage of its democracy without ever having any commitment to uphold it.
That is the legacy of Ghulam Azam, the merchant of a lost cause, the mastermind of a genocide, the man who leaves behind a powder keg which his soul-mates can ignite whenever they want to. But a man who remains fearful of death he ordered for so many of his countrymen.
15 July 2013