‘Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement’ – 2004 posting

I just found this on my group email list posted Feb 26, 2004 reproduced below.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beena-issues/message/434

‘Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement’

A good background to the fledgling 1950s student movement in Pakistan and how it was crushed. On Black Day – Jan 8, 1953 – police opened fire on a peaceful student demonstration in Saddar, Karachi. Seven students were killed and several more were arrested, including my father, Dr Mohammad Sarwar. Personal circumstances including the death of his elder brother, the journalist Mohammad Akhtar, led to his giving up the activism, but I still come across people who still remember his dynamic leadership. Personally, he’s my most exacting critic, best analytical source, and most reliable babysitter for my daughter.
beena

—–
Daily Times, Pakistan, Jan 8, 2004

Students for whom the bell tolls

By Shahid Husain

KARACHI: January 8, 1953 is a milestone in the students’ movement of Pakistan when peaceful students of the then capital city of Karachi were fired upon by police. Seven people were killed and 59 were injured. But the student movement led by Democratic Students Federation (DSF) succeeded in getting most of their demands accepted including the establishment of the University of Karachi at its new campus. The movement influenced the people across the country and its echo was also heard in the relatively more politically conscious elements in the then East Bengal.

Unlike today when students are divided on the basis of ethnicity and sectarianism, the January 1953 Movement encompassed all democratic students and its main demands were reduction in tuition fees, opportunities of scholarships to relatively poor students, improving the condition of hostels and establishment of Karachi University at a new campus to ensure that more students acquire higher education, according to Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, who was the president of DSF, the leading force behind the movement.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Times here at his residence, he recalled that a group of some 25-30 students convened a meeting at Karachi’s Dow Medical College (now university) in early 1950s and later assembled in a small hotel in Arambagh and decided to form a students’ organization, which was named as Democratic Students Federation. Mohammad Sarwar was made the convener of the newly formed organization. Amongst those who made the historic decision to form a democratic and secular students’ organization included some of the very bright students, many of them making a niche in their professional life in later years. These included Dr. Khawaja Moin Ahmed, Dr. Syed Haroon Ahmed, Dr. Adeeb-ul-Hasan Rizvi, Dr. Ghalib, Dr. Mohammad Yousuf, Dr. Safdar Ali, Dr. Ayub Mirza and Dr. Rahman Ali Hashmi.

“We then contacted fellow students in other colleges and started membership in DJ Science College, S. M. College, Urdu Law College, S M Law College, Islamia College, Government Women’s College and other educational institutions and got a very good response,” he said.

The students’ movement was brewing in Karachi in the backdrop of growing population of the city as a result of influx of refuges from India amid poor infrastructure and inadequate facilities in the domain of health, transport and education.

“In 1947, the Karachi became the capital of the new state of Pakistan. Bureaucrats, government employees, semi-government institutions all moved to the city and new organizations were established to meet the needs of the new state. In addition, over 600,000 refugees from India also moved into the city increasing its population by more than 161 percent in a period of 10 years. The refugees occupied all open spaces and the city center, the military cantonment and public buildings. This migration changed Karachi completely,” according to noted town planner and architect Arif Hasan. It was the growing problems of the capital city, which paved the way for a glorious students’ movement.

In 1951 a convention was held at Theosophical Hall and the manifesto of DSF was drafted and demands put forward for the betterment of the student community. It is absolutely wrong to say that the Communist Party of Pakistan had anything to do with the formation of DSF, Dr. Sarwar said. However, there were progressive students in the fold of the newly formed organization, he added. DSF also launched a fortnightly journal Students Herald, which started its publication in 1951 and was edited by S. M. Naseem, he said. He went on to say that the standard of Students Herald could be gauged from the fact that it bagged the best fortnightly award in Poland from the International Union of Students. The government in July 1954 banned Students Herald in the wake of growing relationship with the United States.

Referring to the popularity of DSF, he said it emerged victorious in the elections in almost all the important colleges of Karachi in 1952. Then it opted to form an Inter Collegiate Body (ICB) that along with DSF played a vital role in students’ politics.

After failing to pursue the university authorities to listen to their grievances, the ICB and DSF tried to meet the education minister Fazlur Rahman but that was thwarted by the right-wing vice chancellor of the university A.B.A. Haleem who established a bogus students group and conveyed to the education minister that he had already met the aggrieved students and there was no need for the minister meets them. This made the students angry who gave a call for a “Demands Day” on January 7.

Dr. Sarwar recalled that a big meeting was held at DJ Science College from where the students decided to go to the residence of the education minister Fazlur Rahman at Kutherey Road in the form of a procession but the authorities imposed Section 144 and made it clear that procession would not be allowed. The students, however, were firm to take out a procession and they did succeed. However, when the procession reached Frere Road from police resorted to lathi charge (baton charge). But the students were undaunted by this cowardly act. And continued their procession. They were tear-gassed when the procession reached Elphistone Street (Now Zaibun Nisa Street) and again near the Karachi Club. The police also arrested many student leaders who were ultimately released amid pressure from the agitating students.

On January 8 the students again gathered at DJ Science College and decided to take out a procession against the highhandedness of the police. As if the brutalities of the previous day were not enough, police resorted to firing near Paradise Cinema and a number of students were killed, including a minor. On January 9 Karachiites observed a strike against police brutalities. In fact, the government imposed curfew for a few days, Dr. Sarwar said. But the impact of January Movement was such that the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin had to accept most of the demands of the students.

“We toured the Punjab, NWFP and East Pakistan culminating in the formation of All Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO) on December 25, 1953. The popularity of the new organization was such that one of its student leader defeated seasoned politician Nurul Amin in the elections,” he said.

In May 1954, the government in the wake of growing tilt towards the US banned DSF, APSO and the Communist Party of Pakistan. Many student leaders including Dr. Sarwar Dr Ghalib, Jamauluddin Naqvi, Ayub Mirza, and Students Herald editor, Syed Mohammad Naseem were arrested and sent to jail.

“The January students movement was the first major movement that focused on democratic issues, especially those concerning students and youth. Its impact on the people of Karachi indeed on the people of Pakistan was electrifying and soon the students of other cities and provinces joined the movement. The then Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin accepted all the major demands of the students after about a week. What I remember is that tuition fee was decreased, in some cases by 50 percent and in other cases even more than that,” said Prof. Jamaluddin Naqvi, one of the of leaders of January 1953 Movement

(ends)

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