KARACHI, Jan 6: Students traditionally observed January 8th as ‘Martyrs’ Day’ in memory of the students and passers-by killed by police firing on Jan 7, 1953, during the peaceful ‘Demands Day’ procession organised by Inter Collegiate Body (ICB) and Democratic Students Federation (DSF). The High School Students Federation (HSSF) also actively participated in this movement and some of those killed were high school students.
Their demands were education-related, including: revise the fee structure (make fees payable monthly instead of six-monthly), improve laboratory, library, and hostel facilities, build a proper University in Karachi (where none existed) and provide security of employment to graduates. The High School Students Federation also actively participated.
Filed under: 1950s student movement | Tagged: Adib ul Hasan Rizvi, Afzal Shirvani, APSO, Asaf Jillani, Barkat Alam, Dow Medical College, Dr Ghalib Lodhi, Dr Haroon Ahmed, dr m r a hashmi, Dr M Sarwar, Dr. Asif Ali Hameedi, Dr. Khwaja Muin Ahmad, Dr. M. Ayub Mirza, Dr. M. Yusuf Ali ‘Marshal’, DSF, Fasih Zuberi, Ghazi Salahuddin, ICB, Jamal Naqvi, Karachi Arts Council, M. Abul Fazl, Mazhar Jameel, Mazhar Saeed, Mirza Mohammad Kazim, Mohammad Shafi, Moizuddin Farooqui, Niaz Ahmad, Nooruddin Sarki, Rashida Haleem Iqbal, S. M. Naseem, Saghir Ahmad, Saleem Asmi, Sartaj Alam, Shahida Haleem Saad, Sibghatullah Kadri, Syed Iqbal AHmed, Wasi Ahmad Hai, Wilayat Ali, Zain Alavi | Leave a Comment »
This post contains links to a recent five-part series on the history of student politics in Pakistan, produced by Saram Bokhari on Dawn News TV. While the entire series is worth watching for the wealth of information and insights it contains, Episodes 4 and 5 (links below) are based on a discussion with Dr Sarwar and others at his residence in April 2009 (the producer was unable to get hold of Dr Sarwar before starting the series). This was Dr Sarwar’s last interview. He was hospitalised a few days later. He passed away peacefully at home on May 26, 2009 with his characteristic grace, courage and dignity.
Episode 1 – The ’50′s and the ’60′s, featuring interviews with Meraj M. Khan, Fatyab Ali Khan and Munawwar Hasan.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SENB3KWeHUo
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSWKGQZBSd4
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOUyGDid_bM
Filed under: Student movement stalwarts | Tagged: Azhar Jamil, Dow Medical College, Dr Haroon, dr sarwar, Faheem Zaman, Fatehyab Ali Khan, Hasil Bizenjo, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Mairaj Mohammad Khan, Nadeem Farooq Paracha, pakistan, Saram Bokhari, Student politics | 1 Comment »
A slightly abridged version of this article was published in Dawn as Student movement revisited, April 5, 2008
Setting the record straight
Democratic Students Federation: The first all-Pakistan student body
By S. Haroon Ahmed and Saleem Asmi
The welcome move by newly elected Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gillani to revive student unions takes us back the first all-Pakistan students’ body, the Democratic Students Federation, which laid the foundations not only for the progressive outlook of the National Students Federation (NSF) but also the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA). The DSF is often either ignored or misrepresented in most accounts of the history of the students’ movement in Pakistan, like the article ‘Students politics: a brief history’ (Dawn Magazine, February 10, 2008) which otherwise included excellent thumb-nail sketches of student unions. At this critical juncture of Pakistan’s history, there is a need to set the record straight regarding the DSF.
Filed under: 1950s student movement | Tagged: 1947 Partition, 1950s student movement, Asif Hameed, Asif Jaffery, Cold War, democracy, DJ Science College, Dow Medical College, Dr Haroon Ahmed, Dr Mir Rehman Ali Hashmi, dr sarwar, DSF, eric rahim, Islamia College, Jamat-e-Islami, Khudai Khidmatgar, migration, Muslim League Students Federation, Oudh restaurant, pakistan, S. M. Naseem, Saleem Asmi, SM Arts College, Students Herald, Yousuf Ali | 1 Comment »
by Beena Sarwar
She is not the grave-visiting sort. A white-haired dynamo with luminous eyes, she pioneered teacher training and teaching English in Pakistan (as a second language in large classrooms with limited resources). The activism inculcated in her native Pratapgarh in UP, India, remained with her after the migration to Pakistan in the late 1950s, later nurtured and encouraged by the life partner she found.
Zakia met Sarwar after moving from Lahore to Karachi in 1961. The unconventional, long-limbed Allahabad-born doctor was known as the ‘hero of the January movement’. Visiting Karachi for a holiday after Partition he had stayed on after being admitted to Dow Medical College. There, he started Pakistan’s first student union in 1949 (corrected from 1951), catalysing the first nationwide inter-collegiate students’ body. When the government ignored the students’ demands (including lower fees, better lab and hostel facilities and a full-fledged university campus) the students held a ‘Demands Day’ procession on January 7, 1953. Police brutally baton-charged and tear-gassed them, and arrested their leaders. They were set free hours later under pressure from students staging a sit-down in front of the education minister’s house, refusing to budge until their release.
The momentum continued with another procession on Jan 8. This time, they were confronted by armed police. Trying to negotiate with the police to let them pass Sarwar realised that their threat of opening fire was deadly earnest, he tried to stop the students from going forward. Charged up, many surged ahead anyway. The police opened fire. Seven students and a child were killed on that ‘Black Day’. Over 150, including Sarwar, were injured.
The college principal Col. Malik visited the family to get them to persuade Sarwar to give up his activism. The support of Akhtar, his even taller older brother, a well known journalist, gave him the courage to resist. Both were jailed during the crackdown on progressive forces coinciding with America’s McCarthy years, after Pakistan and America signed a military pact (Sarwar received his final MBBS results in 1954 while in prison for a year).
The January Movement’s impact can be gauged by the Khawaja Nazimuddin government’s eventual acceptance of most of the students’ demands. The students were even asked to approve the blueprints of Karachi University (based on Mexico University). In the 1954 provincial elections it was a student leader defeated the seasoned politician Noor-ul-Amin in former East Pakistan.
After graduating from medical college, Sarwar declined invitations from various politicians to join their parties. “I didn’t have the means,” he said simply. He was the sole breadwinner of the family after Akhtar’s sudden death due to pneumonia in 1958 at the peak of his career – he was chief reporter of the newly launched eveninger The Leader. Their circle of progressive writers, poets, activists and journalists was devastated. The well known poet Ibne Insha compiled a book of essays on Akhtar (including by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hameed Akhtar and others) and his letters from prison. Sarwar, who had been particularly close to Akhtar, insisted that everyone get on with their work and not sit around mourning.
Zakia’s older brother Zawwar Hasan had been one of Akhtar’s closest friends. They had played field hockey for rival college teams in Allahabad, re-connecting as sports journalists in Karachi. After moving to Karachi, Zakia, who began teaching at Sir Syed Girls College there, would take Zawwar’s young children to Sarwar’s clinic nearby for checkups. The romance included outings like seeing off the Faiz sahib when he left for Moscow to receive the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.
“As a comrade, his relationship with Abba was an unspoken clear bond based on a shared understanding of the universal struggle for a just human order,” says Salima Hashmi, Faiz’s daughter and an old friend of Zakia’s from her Lahore days.
Sarwar and Zakia got married in September 1962, overcoming parental apprehensions about religious differences (Shi’a, Sunni). Neither was religious. Akhtar would have approved, as Zawwar did.
As their eldest child, one of my earliest memories is Zakia and other college teachers on hunger strike, demanding an end to the exploitation of teachers. Sarwar supported her against the muttered disapproval (‘women from good families out on the streets’), as always, giving her the space to develop her potential. No wonder that he has a special place in the hearts of her colleagues at Spelt, the Society of English Language Teachers that she founded, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Sarwar practiced as a general physician for nearly fifty years from his modest clinic in a low-income area, consciously charging low fees and treating struggling workers, journalists, artists and writers for free. He was contemptuous of doctors who charged high fees, prescribing costly tests and medicines where less expensive ones would do. He helped launch the Pakistan Medical Association and its affiliated Medical Gazette – both of which have been vital platforms for progressive politics in Pakistan, particularly during the Zia years.
Diagnosed with cancer in August 2007 (‘stage four’, pancreas, metastasis to the lungs), he took it in stride. “Look,” he reasoned in his remained characteristically calm and good humoured way, “everyone has to die. If this is how I have to go, so be it.”
He refused to give up drinking or smoking, reminding us of friends who died early despite giving up such habits. When a cousin’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer, he asked wryly, “And does she also smoke?”
“To look into the eyes of a killer disease, and yet not roll over is something that the bravest could envy,” wrote Zawwar last October from the Bay Area.
Sarwar defied doctors’ predictions of ‘maybe six months…’, humouring us by trying the nasty herbal concoctions we inflicted on him, and later stoically withstanding six months of chemotherapy at SIUT, the pioneering philanthropic institution set up by his old friend Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi. Perhaps this bought him some more time. Perhaps it was simply the sheer willpower of a fighting spirit refusing to give up hope even while realistically facing the worst.
Friends flocked to ‘Doc’, as many affectionately called him, hosting parties at his home when he was too weak to go out.
Emerging from anaesthesia after a blocked bile duct was cleared this April, one of his first questions was about the Indian elections. He’d ask for the daily newspapers – even when weakness made difficult to concentrate – and that cigarette which one of us would light. He’d chat hospitably with visitors, cigarette dangling habitually between the fingers of one hand even as a drip punctured the veins of the other arm.
At home later, it was only during the last two days of his life, his breathing dangerously obstructed, that he did not smoke. Doctors suggested suctioning out excess fluid in intensive care – entailing drips (no space for more needle pricks in either arm by now) and the risk of life support if the procedure failed. When I explained this to him, he waved his hand and pronounced, ‘No point, no point’. They sent over technicians with an inhaler and suction pipe, which gave him some relief. But then the rattling in his throat recurred.
Late that night, when he seemed to be more comfortable and settled, I finally said goodnight, kissing him on the forehead. “Sleep well Babba.”
“Goodnight,” he replied, clasping my hand back. “Go to sleep.”
He died quietly in his sleep about half an hour later.
Zakia now takes time out from her work to sit by his last resting place. It gives her peace.
Filed under: Sarwar | Tagged: 1947 Partition, 1950s student movement, 1953, Akhtar, Akhtar journalist, Allahabad, Black Day, Col. Malik, Demands Day, democracy, Dow Medical College, dr sarwar, DSF, eveninger Leader, Faiz, Jan 8 1953, Karachi, Lenin Peace Prize, pakistan, Pakistan Medical Association, PMA, politics, Pratapgarh, SPELT, Zakia Sarwar, Zawwar Hasan | 1 Comment »