मुन्नन भाई का नाबाद सैकड़ा : पाकिस्तान से सन्देश

( 28 सितम्बर 1920 को इलाहाबाद के जमींदार मुस्लिम परिवार में पैदा हुए ज़िया –उल-हक़ आज अपने जीवन के सौ साल पूरे कर रहे हैं. नौजवानी में ही समाजवाद से प्रभावित हुए ज़िया साहब अविभाजित कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के पूर्णकालिक कार्यकर्ता बन गए और बकायदा पार्टी के दफ़्तर 17 जानसेन गंज, इलाहाबाद में एक समर्पित होलटाइमर की तरह रहने लग गए. 1943 में बंगाल के अकाल के समय जब महाकवि निराला कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी द्वारा संचालित राहत अभियान में अपना सहयोग देने पार्टी दफ्तर पहुंचे उस समय जि़या भाई ही पार्टी के जिला सचिव थे और निराला जी ने अपनी दस रूपये की सहयोग राशि उन्हें सौंपी.

अपने जीवन का एक हिस्सा ज़िया साहब ने पत्रकार के रूप में भी निभाया और दिल्ली रहे. इस रोल में भी वे बहुत कामयाब रहे. हो ची मिन्ह जैसी दुनिया की नामचीन हस्तियों के साथ इंटरव्यू करने का मौका भी उन्हें  मिला. साठ के दशक से वे अपनी पार्टनर और शहर की मशहूर डाक्टर रेहाना बशीर के साथ इलाहाबाद में पूरी तरह बस गए. पिछली आधी शताब्दी से ज़िया साहब इलाहाबाद के वामपंथी और लोकतांत्रिक स्पेस की धुरी बने हुए हैं. अपने दोस्ताना व्यवहार के कारण वे जल्द ही सबके बीच ज़िया भाई के नाम से जाने गए. आज उनके सौवें जन्मदिन के मुबारक़ मौके पर समकालीन जनमत उन्हें बहुत मुबारक़बाद पेश करता है और उनके बेहतर स्वास्थ्य के लिए दुआ करता है.

इस मुबारक़ मौके पर हम ज़िया भाई के चाहने वाले तमाम युवा और बुजुर्ग साथियों के संस्मरण पेश कर रहे हैं जिन्हें उपलब्ध करवाने के लिए उनके बेटे और छायाकार सोहेल अकबर का बहुत आभार.

इस कड़ी में पेश है पाकिस्तान के मशहूर अर्थशास्त्री और ज़िया भाई के चचेरे भाई एस एम नसीम का लेख. यह लेख हमे मूल रूप से अंग्रेज़ी में मिला लेकिन  बहुत ख़ास होने की वजह से हिंदी में अनुवाद न होने के बावजूद हम इसे अपने पाठकों से साझा कर रहे हैं. उम्मीद है यह आपको पसंद आयेगा. सं. )


Munnanbhai scores a 100 (not out): A message from Pakistan

Tribute from a cousin

(S.M. Naseem, a.k.a. Kallan)

My eldest paternal cousin, Munnanbhai, as we adoringly call him – sadly, his real name, Ziaul Haq, was usurped by  a Pakistani General, along with political power in his country – has been a living legend. Together with my eldest maternal cousin, the illustrious Bhaijan (Shafiq Naqvi), he has had a great influence in the formative years of my life.

His selfless devotion to his cause and his indifference to the conventional aspirations of a successful life, inspired all of us in the family. Instead of becoming an IAS or CSP officer or a successful lawyer (like his father), he chose to live on the paltry salary (or a pocket money) of a CPI whole-timer for most of his working life. I have witnessed his life in the common dormitory of party workers in Lucknow and Delhi, called the commune, where cooking was common but cleaning was individual responsibility.

Cousins played an important role in the UP Muslim middle classes – partly, because male and female cousins could mix freely and cousin marriages were possible and often a common occurrence, even though their incidence declined after independence, both in India and Pakistan. Although Munnanbhai’s family lived in Allahabad (recently renamed Prayag Raj) and mine in Lucknow, we met at least once each year in either location and there was frequent interaction among the two sections of the family. The period during which we lived was heavily charged with politics and our families were inevitably drawn into its vortex and one could sense a growing generational divide between the elders and the youth on political issues. Two other cousins, both younger to Bhaijan –  Rafiq and Khaliq Naqvi – also chose to follow the path of their illustrious older brother, though after joining the academic profession they were spared the rigours of the life in a commune.

My maternal grandfather, Syed Zahur Ahmed, was the Secretary of the All India Muslim League during 1919-26, but was largely politically inactive for over a decade before his death in 1941. During the period of his association, the Muslim League was a fairly liberal organization and Mr. Jinnah rose to prominence as its president expounding ideas of HinduMuslim unity and helping shape the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress and was called the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity by Sarojini Naidu. However, tensions between the two communities increased as the goal of freedom neared, especially after the adoption of the Pakistan resolution in 1940,  culminating in the partition of the country and much worse later.

(S M Naseem in cap with Zia bhai, Photo credit: From Zia bhai’s personal collection) 

At the same time, the struggle for independence against the British intensified and the Congress gave the call for Quit India movement. My eldest maternal cousin, Shafiq Naqvi (whom we endearingly called Bhaijan), was the first to join the Indian freedom struggle and later the Communist Party of India. I am not quite sure when and how exactly Munnanbhai came under his influence, but it was clear that the trail blazed by Bhaijan consumed most of the young people in all segments of the family, including myself over a decade later. Among others whose contacts influenced us through them were such prominent people as CPI Politburo member Dr. Z. A. Ahmed (and his wife Hajra Begum), Sajjad Zaheer (and his wife Razia), Prof. Ehtisham Hussain, Sibte Hasan, Dr Rashid Jehan (and her husband, Mahmuduzzafar), as well as of poets Majaz (and his sisters, Safia and Hamida, who were friends of my two elder sisters), Kaifi Azmi and Ali Sardar Jafri.

While growing up, we heard stories of our revolutionary cousins being in jail and having gone “underground” (which sounded a bit weird to an under-teen). Most of my sisters and cousins were reading progressive Urdu literature, including that of Ismat Chughtai, Rashid Jahan and Krishan Chander who were becoming household names, as well as People’s War and other Party literature. However, my father, who was a staunch Muslim Leaguer, did not like the spread of this “seditious and atheistic” literature in the family and at one point – presumably to prevent the virus from infecting three of his marriageable daughters at that time – some of our cousins, including Bhaijan and Munnanbhai, were not allowed to enter our house, except surreptitiously.

I did not see much of Munnanbhai in India, but continued to hear a lot about him and his being underground for long periods of time and being unable to attend his sister’s wedding in Allahabad. When his family finally decided in 1949 to leave for Pakistan, largely as a result of the pressure from his mother’s brothers, including my father, who had decided to migrate, Munnanbhai was unable to see them off – much less accompany them to Pakistan – and his parents were doubly bereft, as their next elder son, Sannan, only a few years older than me, and studying in College, suddenly died a few months before their departure.

Although he did not migrate with the rest of the family to Pakistan, his influence on Pakistan’s progressive movement crossed the border through his friends and disciples. Among those there were the two brothers from Allahabad, Akhtar and Sarwar, whom I came to know soon after my arrival in Pakistan. Akhtar, who died at the young age of 32 in 1958, joined Dawn and was a prominent journalist in Pakistan, while Sarwar who joined the Dow Medical College, became an iconic leader of Pakistan’s pioneering student movement in Karachi in the 1950s and remained a source of inspiration to the Left movement in Pakistan until his death eleven years ago. Both the brothers, along with hundreds of students and political activists, were arrested in 1954 in the wake of the US-Pakistan Military Pact, which in turn laid the foundation of an unending arms race and deepening political tensions between India and Pakistan, culminating in the collateral damage of the break-up of the country in 1971.

Sarwar’s daughter, Beena Sarwar, one of Pakistan’s leading media persons and now a Boston-based academic, in the quest of her father’s ideological roots, rediscovered Munnanbhai, not too long after her father’s death and visited him in, Allahabad and became his friend and admirer for life.  She and Sohail, continue to advance their fathers’ friendship and their legacy of Aman ki Asha, which, hopefully, we all cherish on both sides of our incomprehensible and artificial border.

There were many other friends of Munnanbhai in Pakistan, including political activists, writers, journalists and bureaucrats. Had he chosen to forsake his ideals – as many in his generation did – he would have become a leading figure in his chosen field in either country. One of his classmates in Allahabad University, Nurul Hasan Jafri, husband of poetess Ada Jafri, served as Gen. Zia’s chief bureaucrat, while among his many disciples and great admirers was Abid Kazmi, a student leader and cricketer from Allahabad, who later came to Pakistan and died a decade ago. Abid told me that Munnanbhai was simply adored by his young comrades in Allahabad, who nicknamed him Maulana, for his asceticism and simplicity.

My wife, Zarina, and myself owe him a special debt of gratitude for his fondness and love for both of us. I recall his writing to me and expressing his immense pleasure at the engagement of two of his favorite cousins. Munnanbhai was kind enough to lead my barat to Allahabad from Delhi, where I arrived alone from Pakistan and where my eldest sister, (Mushir) Apa, organized the arrangements at her house in Jamia Millia. My wife’s parents were his only close relatives left in Allahabad, after the departure of his family to Pakistan, and they too had decided not to go to Pakistan. My wife’s father, Syed Sharafat Ali, was a leading advocate of Allahabad and was popular in political and intellectual circles in the city and treated him like his younger brother.

My marriage in 1960 – and, later my jobs with the UN – provided me with more opportunities for visiting India and meeting Munnanbhai, in addition to his periodic visits to his family in Karachi. Whenever I was in Delhi I would meet him in the Party and New Age office on Asif Ali Road and spend a lot of time with him. He introduced me to many of his senior comrades and friends. When I was returning from London after my studies at LSE in 1959, I stopped in Bombay and Delhi before crossing to Pakistan via the Wagah border. Munnanbhai tried seriously to persuade me to stay in India – as Ayub Khan’s coup had taken place just a year ago – and offered to help me find a job in Delhi. Unfortunately, I did not have  strong enough will to make the decision to tear myself apart from my family, like he had dared a decade earlier. In any case, I had decided to settle in Pakistan where, despite Ayub’s military coup, there was some hope of building a better future.

I consider myself fortunate to have had the privilege of such a close relationship with Munnanbhai, despite our distance, over the years. We all feel proud of him, his achievements and his family. I had planned to be with him on this occasion, but both the visa restrictions and Corona pandemic, has made this impossible. Fortunately I was able to see him earlier this year during a previously scheduled visit to attend his son Sohail’s wedding, although the last-minute India visa arrived too late to attend the wedding, but it enabled me to meet Munnanbhai in the hundredth year of his life. I do hope that both he and Rehana Bhabhi are feeling much better than they did at the time of our visit in January and are able to enjoy this proud milestone in their lives.

I join you all in the celebration of such a unique landmark in the  very purposeful, fulfilling and selfless journey that Munnanbhai chose for himself. Sohail and Sameer, along with their families, deserve to be congratulated for caring for their exemplary parents and for ensuring Munnanbhai succeed in comfortably completing his century, with Rehana Bhabhi not far behind in that quest.

(Message prepared for his 100th birthday celebration in Allahabad on 28, September, 2020, at the request of his son, Sohail Akbar).


(SM Naseem is a well known Economist, he lives in Islamabad.)


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