Jobs @ MG
By Rizwan Ullah
|The emergence of Bangladesh was another
watershed for Indian Muslims since independence. Its impact upon them was
more psychological than physical and it was more severe in eastern states,
especially in West Bengal for obvious reasons: West Bengal was in close
proximity with the dying East Pakistan or the emerging Bangladesh, it was
the hub of activities that culminated in the emergence of Bangladesh, West
Bengal was most affected by the refugee influx and above all Calcutta was
the centre of the most vocal media. The cumulative effect was badly
reflecting upon Muslims.
Today it may be difficult to realize the psychological predicament of
Muslims but it must be narrated for it had a long-term effect. It may be
remembered that over ninety thousand Pakistani troops had surrendered
before the Indian Army without any resistance. Obviously, it was a
politically manipulated event. It had nothing to do with the gallantry or
the fighting capability of any force. Anyway, it was a matter of shame for
a fighting forces anywhere. But the media hype gave the impression that it
was the defeat of a big Muslim army and as such the Indian Muslims must
bear their share of the shame. It was completely overlooked that the
actual struggle was between the two wings of Pakistan both belonging to
the same faith and India had to intervene due to various other
considerations. The fact remains that the Muslims in West Bengal were made
to feel ashamed over the blunders persistently committed by Pakistani
administrators. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that months before the
final assault I had written a series of three articles in Calcutta Urdu
daily Azad Hind under the title ‘If Pakistan splits!’ I had concluded
that the split of Pakistan would not be in the long-term interest of
India. Today we see that Bangladesh dares to bare its fangs.
The Urdu press in Calcutta was in most unenviable position. It had little
to say except displaying the reports as received from agencies. The Urdu
press in Dhaka had been completely wiped out. So a substantial number of
Urdu readers in that area had no source for quenching their thirst for
news. Much later when the dust had subsided we came to know that Calcutta
Urdu papers, mainly Azad Hind, were smuggled into what had emerged as
Bangladesh. But despite all limitations and distractions the Urdu press
did help its readers to keep cool in the face of all provocations and
helped them regain their psychological equilibrium and stability which had
been badly shaken. In the final analysis the emergence of Bangladesh
proved to be a boon to the Muslims.
It is a fact of human history that man has been migrating from place to
place since the days he stood up on his two legs. Today the migration to
distant countries and continents continues in search of jobs, better
amenities of life, even to seek refuge from persecutions at home. It is a
global phenomenon. Unfortunately this natural flow of human kind was
misconstrued in the case of Indian Muslims who were migrating to East or
West Pakistan in the wake of the termoils after independence. It was seen
as an inclination of Muslims in general towards Pakistan and hence an
un-Indian, if not an anti-Indian act. No doubt many Muslims thought that
they had better opportunities in Pakistan but many times more Muslims
thought otherwise and preferred to stay in India where they were living.
But on every occasion they were made to feel as if they were Pakistani
renegade. The Bangladesh development was one such event.
However, during the same period of time several other developments were
taking place. Leftist parties had a taste of governance in West Bengal.
They were not so unkind to Muslims perhaps due to the fact that they were
preoccupied on two other fronts; one against the Congress Party and the
other against the newly emerging Naxalites. Bloody clashes and shooting
spree were daily occurrences in Calcutta as well as in other urban and
rural areas. The Left parties administration must be credited for
appointing Muslim officers on highly responsible positions in those days.
It was an opportunity for them to prove that they were as honest in their
job performance and as faithful to the country as anyone could be. It was
such an act of confidence building that Muslims in West Bengal were not
exceptionally inconvenienced more than others during Emergency.
On the international plane, oil-producing Arab countries had demonstrated
to the world what the oil wealth could do. They were tempting the job
seekers from all sides. Capable Indian Muslims along with others were
looking forward to getting better job opportunities. Fresh air began to
blow in from this newly opened window. It was good diversion anyway.
The overall impact of these internal and external developments stabilized
the mind of the Indian Muslims and they concentrated on laying sound
foundations for future development. The most prominent sign in West Bengal
was the emergence of a more confident Urdu press. Urdu papers bade goodbye
to the Stone Age. Brought in offset printing machines to be followed by
computer composing replacing the traditional calligraphy. These and other
related measures helped them improve their appearance and push their
circulation. Most importantly, the Urdu press started weaving multifarious
patterns on political fabrics.
Akhbar-e-Mashriq, brought out by Mr Wasimul Haq in 1980, was leading this
resurgence. Wasim Sahab was involved in journalism since his college days
in 1950s, running after the Film Weekly and struggling with an English
periodical, The Struggle, and finally hatching out Akhbar-e-Mashriq. In
the matter of policy he deviated from the stereotype. It was followed by
daily Iqra, an innovate paper no doubt but proved to be short lived. Azad
Hind and Aabshar also joined the race for a better show. Government
agencies helped them through establishing an Urdu wire service and
assistance in acquiring Urdu teleprinters.
But the whole story does not end on a happy note: The editors and owners
of the Urdu press are generally the same so the benefits accruing from the
business of Urdu journalism are mainly going to them and the plight of
other journalists who have suffered all along has not improved. It is a
tragedy. It must be realized that the prosperity of the individual however
big does not amount to the prosperity of the people.