Introduction to Event Book, Jan 9, 2010

Thanks to S.M. Naseem for writing the introduction to the Event Book produced for the Jan 9, 2010 event at the Arts Council Karachi, ‘Looking Back to Look Forward’ (a phrase borrowed from Eric Rahim’s email of Dec 12, 2009)


The January 1953 student movement was a result of a confluence of social and political factors, including the influx of a large population into Karachi from all parts of the sub-continent, which became imminent after the Partition. A thorough analysis of these factors and their interaction has yet to be undertaken. However, one factor that stands out on looking back is the role of the collective efforts of a large number of student activists – mostly belonging to the Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) – in the affiliated Colleges of Karachi University, spread across the city.

In belatedly honouring these activists today – more than a third have already departed from this world – two facts speak for themselves.

First, the movement was really broad-based and took roots in almost all colleges, even though its seeds were sown mostly in Dow Medical College, and spread into high schools as well.

Secondly, as their brief thumbnail sketches clearly show, these activists were not professional politicos or troublemakers, but serious students who cared about their studies as much as about the environment they studied in. Most of them pursued purposeful careers and distinguished themselves in their chosen careers later in life. A majority of them, for obvious reasons, shone in the field of medicine and surgery, but they also included those who became distinguished teachers, journalists, diplomats, lawyers, judges, writers, economists, broadcasters, scientists and managers in later life.

These brief biographical sketches also belie any impression that those involved in the movement gave up their ideals after the movement abruptly ended in the mid-fifties because of the fear of repression. As these short biographical accounts illustrate, neither Sarwar nor most of his colleagues can, in fairness, be accused of having done so. Some, such as Jamal Naqvi and Ayub Mirza, continued their struggle in the political field and were victimised for doing so. Others, such as the journalists and doctors, continued their struggle against the repressive military regimes. Still others, in their own way and in their own particular fields fought the battle of truth, fairness and justice, possibly in less conspicuous ways, but seldom lacking in determination, whose spirit they had learned from the January 1953 struggle. Their journeys may have been interrupted, but few, if any, lost sight of the road map they had perceived 57 years ago.


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