‘Three days that shook the country’ – Students’ Herald, January 19, 1953

The number of those killed remains a disputed figure, ranging from 8 (official) to 17 (Imroze) to 32 (legal advisory committee later formed – ref. Asim A. Shah, former president NSF) Below, scans from the Students’ Herald “Martyrs’ Number”, January 19, 1953, report headlined: ‘THREE DAYS THAT SHOOK THE COUNTRY: 27 Martyred & Hundreds Injured and Arrested’ (pages 10 & 13).

Page 10

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Setting the record straight on DSF (2008 article by Dr Haroon & Saleem Asmi)

A slightly abridged version of this article was published in Dawn as Student movement revisited, April 5, 2008

Scan from front page of Student Herald 'Martyrs Number', Vol. 1, No. 5, Jan 19, 1953

Scan from front page of Student Herald 'Martyrs Number', Vol. 1, No. 5, Jan 19, 1953

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.

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Friends, followers pay tributes to Dr Sarwar

Scan of a report published in Dawn, Lahore edition, Aug 9, 2009 (not available on the website).

N.B. Note of correction below

Sarwar Dawn Aug 9 09

Correction: As mentioned in the press release sent out earlier, the event was organised by ‘friends and admirers of Dr Sarwar and his legacy’. The initiator of the event was Dr Farrukh Gulzar, working in his individual capacity as an admirer and follower of Dr Sarwar, the HRCP (Husain Naqi and Zaman Khan, use of the auditorium and staff), the Labour Party Pakistan (Ammar Ali Jan and Farooq Sulehria, who also published a booklet compiling articles related to Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement), and Dr Sarwar’s family.

The Awami Jamhoori Forum was not involved in the organisation, nor is Dr Farrukh Gulzar a member of the AJF as the report states.

Sarwar, DSF and the ‘Students’ Herald’ – S.M. Naseem

S.M. Naseem

SMNaseemThoughts shared at the Reference ‘Celebrating Sarwar: Student Movement Re-Visited’, Dorab Patel Auditorium, HRCP Lahore, Aug 8, 2009

Students Herald, April 3, 1953

Students Herald, April 3, 1953

Looking back at the events of more than fifty years ago, which brought Sarwar into lime light, from the vantage point of today, is neither easy nor entirely relevant, but it does provide a useful perspective on the life and times of a person who helped transform Pakistan’s political discourse and left a legacy worthy of celebration – a  legacy much more valuable than the millions others bequeath to their families. It is significant that we are gathered here today not to pay a tribute to some one who had held a high public office or achieved a monumental task that has received public attention, but to some one who challenged the status quo and the patronage system in our educational institutions in the formative stage of our politics and forced the ruling coterie of the time to pay attention– if only transiently – to the real problems of the people, especially in education.

At a time when the bogey of lack of  patriotism and anti-communism could easily be invoked at the slightest expression of criticism of government policies, Sarwar was able to galvanize a mass movement of students in Karachi and later extend its reach to other parts of the country – an effort which was unfortunately aborted by the authorities through their joining the crusade against communism and signing a defence treaty with the US in 1954 and carrying out mass arrests of activists and alleged communists between May and July 1954.

S.M. Naseem reading out his paper at the Reference at HRCP Lahore

S.M. Naseem reading out his paper at the Reference at HRCP Lahore

After serving a period of almost a year, on  a habeas corpus petition in Sind High Court, Sarwar, along with other students and activists, was released in 1955 and faced severe restrictions in resuming normal life, including finding employment. While there was some let-up in the wave of repression that followed immediately after the US-Pakistan Military Pact of 1954, life continued to be hard for those released. Sarwar’s elder brother, Akhtar, who was also arrested, lost his job in Dawn and had to move to other lesser-known papers. A more serious calamity fell on Sarwar in the shape of Akhtar’s death soon after Ayub Khan’s coup and martial law. All this ruled out Sarwar’s involvement in active politics or picking up the threads where he left off before going to prison. But neither did it mean his giving up the ideals that he lived for and that were inherent in the student movement he led. Lord Robbins, a famous British economist, used to tell his graduate students at LSE that a person would be a fool if he was not a revolutionary in his twenties but did not become a worldly-wise conservative by the time he was forty. Sarwar, steadfastly defied that received wisdom and remained consistently loyal to the ideals he embraced in his youth.

My association with Sarwar mainly relates to the core period of his activism in the early 1950s, although I kept in touch with him for the rest of his life and was aware of his social and political activities on a regular basis. Others more conversant with his post-1950s life are better placed to bring them out, I will, therefore,  talk more about how I see the Karachi movement developed and the pivotal role Sarwar played in it. Historically, perhaps, it is true, as some have argued, that DSF was born in Lahore and that the nascent Pakistan Communist Party played a leading role in its formation and in  directing its activities. However, its operational dynamics in Karachi in the 1950s student movement was largely spontaneous – as most student movements inevitably are—and a product of the rather unusual circumstances of Karachi in those days which were much more propitious for making it successful than in Lahore. (I do not wish to drive an invidious wedge not only because the event is being hosted in Lahore, but also because many who played a prominent role in the Karachi movement were from Lahore or Punjab, such as Ayub Mirza and Ghalib Lodhi and some of the leading DSF lights of Lahore – such as Raza Kazim and Zuhair Naqvi – were not originally from Lahore).

Karachi was a truly cosmopolitan city in those days and there was hardly a trace of the ethnic tensions that emerged in 1960s and beyond. Karachi, in contrast to Lahore, had hardly an educational infrastructure commensurate to the needs of a rapidly growing urban city which was also the capital of the country. Its colleges were affiliated for a considerable time with Bombay University. The class composition of the capital was far less heterogeneous than Lahore’s, which was the bastion of the feudal elite. The co-mingling of such a diverse population in Karachi’s educational institutions – a high proportion of which were public funded and catered to the middle and lower middle-class population produced a synergy which propelled the demand for democratic reforms in the educational system which was at the core of the DSF’s agenda.

The Dow Medical College, which was still struggling to get its degree recognized was seriously deficient in staff and equipment, became the nerve centre of DSF’s activities and with Sarwar’s election as the Vice-President of the College Union (the ex-officio President was the College head, with veto power which Sarwar wanted to be abolished). But Sarwar knew that one swallow does not make a summer and realized the need for similar pro-active role of Students’ Unions in Karachi’s other dozen or so colleges. Most such unions until then were either defunct or  in the pockets of College Principals and the Vice-Chancellor (Prof. A. B. A. Haleem who was busy politicking), and who resisted change.

The DSF fought elections in most colleges and won a majority of them. Sarwar then devised the master-stroke of forming  an Inter-Collegiate Body of all the College Unions and decided to get elected the non-DSF Vice-President of a College Union, instead of himself,  as its Chairman in the interest of the broad-based unity of the student community. The ICB after prolonged deliberations and the failure of negotiations with authorities on its demands  decided to observe a Demands Day on 7 January 1953. The rest, as they say, became history, demonstrating Sarwar’s skills as a consummate strategist.

Students’ Herald

I would also like to talk a little about Students’ Herald of which I became, largely by accident and default, its editor, printer and publisher. The DSF felt the need for having a journal to mobilize students in favour of its objectives. A more immediate need was to counter the propaganda against the DSF by the Government in the national press and through the Jama’at–i-Islami’s student organ, Students’ Voice, edited by Khurshid Ahmad, who is now a Senator.

It was relatively easy to get a declaration for the paper as I applied for it in my individual  capacity and the CID official who cleared my application was unsuspecting about my intentions. But publishing it regularly and uninterruptedly from January 1953 to July 1954, was no easy task. It required a core group of dedicated and competent writers, proof-readers, advertisement seekers and donation collectors. Producing a paper was a much more labour-intensive and cumbersome job than in the electronic world of today. Fortunately, the movement generated enough talent to prove us equal to the task of producing a quality paper, with which I still feel proud to have  been  associated and from which I have derived far greater fulfillment than from the newspaper columns I have penned during the last 15 years.

Our resources were extremely limited – the paper sold for two annas per copy slightly more than the cost of a cup of tea in those days. Our editorial office moved from one Irani tea shop to another between Burns Road and Bunder Road where most of the colleges were clustered and we were constantly shadowed by the CID inspector who was assigned to find out what we were bringing out in the next issue. He would often sit in the printing press and pressurize the owner to give him the proofs. But the owner, who was very helpful and allowed us to print the paper on credit and treated us to tea, refused to oblige. But our most valuable support came from our seniors in the journalistic community, who helped in editing (often ghost writing) some of the manuscripts and in teaching us about the lay-out and presentation of the reports. Among these were M. A. Shakoor, Eric Rahim, Ahmad Hasan and Sarwar’s elder brother, Mohammad Akhtar, all of whom worked for the Dawn and were later arrested and dismissed from that newspaper. Among the members of the teaching community who helped and inspired us were Prof. Samsamul Hai, Dr. A. H. Hamdani and Prof. M. Kareem. Sadly, most of them are no more among us.

In passing, I may mention that Saleem Asmi, who culminated his journalistic career as Editor of the Dawn, began his career as a proof-reader in Students’ Herald. Among my other colleagues and collaborators were Wasi Ahmad Hai, who left for Burma after his release from jail in 1954 and has never been heard from since; he shared most of the editorial burden with me. I must also mention our very talented photographer, the late Sartaj Alam, who took some of the most telling pictures of the demonstrations, firing and other events that appeared in its pages. A leading cartoonist of that time, Aziz, contributed original cartoons to the paper. Among others who helped the publication in its struggle for survival, were Mazhar Saeed, Zain Alavi and Ghalib Lodhi. Sarwar himself often  contributed articles to the paper and provided guidance on major issues.

S. M. Naseem established the DSF Unit in S. M. College and was editor of Student’s Herald launched in 1952, published fortnightly until he was arrested along with others in July 1954 (released in March 1955)

Celebrating Dr M. Sarwar: Student movement revisited – Aug 8 Lahore event

Dr Farrukh Gulzar & Abid Minto

Dr Farrukh Gulzar & Abid Minto

Dr Sarwar’s Reference at the HRCP on Aug 8 was very well attended thanks to the passion, commitment and hard work of Dr Farrukh Gulzar, and also the involvement of Husain Naqi and Zaman Khan of HRCP and Ammar Ali Jan of the Labour Party Pakistan. The veteran journalist Minhaj Barna, despite his frailty and ill-health traveled by bus to Lahore with the political analyst and former editor of ‘Student Herald’ S.M.  Naseem. Hameed Akhtar, Abid Hasan Minto, I.A. Rehman, Salima Hashmi and others spoke very well as expected.

Hameed Akhtar addressing the gathering; Husain Naqi on stairs at left

Hameed Akhtar addressing the gathering; Husain Naqi on stairs at left

Dr Farrukh Gulzar sang Faiz’ ‘Nuskha hai wafa’ in his powerful and intense voice, carrying the audience along. Of the other speakers, Dr Haroon Ahmed could not make it because
he is unwell while Farooq Tariq was in Nepal. Zakia Sarwar wound up the evening with a note of thanks to all those present and those who made the event happen.

The LPP published a comprehensive bilingual compilation of articles about Dr Sarwar and the student movement. Farooq Sulehria in Sweden initiated the booklet, that Ammar compiled (I helped). It got a bit late coming to the venue from the printers and there was a problem with the binding but it was greatly appreciated. The remaining copies will hopefully be salvaged. The copies were to be available free of cost but the size and paper took them over budget. People are encouraged to contribute Rs 50 or Rs 100 towards this valuable historical reference.

Grateful thanks to other contributions to the evening – Waseem at the Interactive Resource Center who arranged the video recording and most importantly, HRCP for their hall and staff, and the multimedia equipment. Thanks also to PMA Karachi for the banner and to Qasim Jafri for finding Dr Sarwar’s favourite jugalbandi so that we could play it along with the slide show at the beginning, Ustads Bismillah Khan and Vilayat Ali Khan (in the rush I forgot the
CD in Karachi). Thanks also to friends at the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) for hosting Minhaj Barna at their hostel and facilitating his visit by providing transport.

Photos of the event at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/beena.sarwar/CelebratingDrMSarwarStudentMovementReVisited#

— beena sarwar, karachi, aug 10, 2009

Remembrances – by Hilda Saeed, July 27, 2009

Hilda SaeedHilda Saeed works in the area of population and development, reproductive health and gender. She is a long-time women’s rights activist, among the founder members of Women Action Forum (WAF), and was among the 1000 global nominees for the “1000 Nobel Peacewomen Award” 2005

Father and sonIt’s taken me a long time, just to sit and write these thoughts… Memories can be difficult things to deal with at times, nor are tears enough to express the grief you feel.

As we sat together at the PMA hall in Karachi on May 31 this year, remembering Sarwar, and friends recalled their particular memories, I felt Sarwar is still with us, large as life. So many recollections…. incidents, shared laughter, political discussions, recalling the years of student activism, happy times together.

I entered this group of friends, doctors, political and human rights activists, poets and artists after meeting Mazhar Saeed in the early ‘60s,  much later than their time of student activism: by that time,  we were all already involved in our different careers: I hadn’t been with them in my student days.

Coming from the cloistered surroundings of a women’s college into the stimulating activity of the DJ (Science College), and its student union, was an elating experience, even though, as I learnt subsequently, college student unions in those days, in 1957-1958, were on their last legs.

That was when we learnt of the earlier activism of the DSF (Democratic Student’s Federation), their media link with the public, the “Students Herald”, a fortnightly magazine published by the DSF and edited by S.M. Naseem, which noticeably impacted the student movement, and in that brief period, also gained international repute. We learnt of the struggles of this student group with the politicians of that time, the formation of the Inter Collegiate Body, and the involvement of Sarwar, Adib Rizvi, Haroon Ahmed, Zain Alavi and his brother Hamza Alavi, Mazhar Saeed, Salieem Asmi, S.M. Naseem  and other student activists.

Those were wonderful learning years, when we gained so much awareness about rights, democracy, the fast changing political scenario – yet, paradoxically, as we entered university in 1958, and Ayub Khan became the first military dictator, they were also the years when we realized how much our rights as students and as human beings were being eroded.

Mazhar Saeed, Dr Sarwar, Dr Badar, Karachi 2008

Mazhar Saeed, Dr Sarwar, Dr Badar, Karachi 2008

Later  after Mazhar and I were married in 1962, Sarwar and Zakia (she’ll always be Zakko to me) became close friends. For a long time, we were neighbours, with our children growing up together….I’d often walk across at tea time, with my own special mug of tea, for a chat…. He loved some of my cooking, especially the rice and chops. Many were the impromptu evenings when we’d get together with friends at each other’s homes (Come on over, Zakko or I would say, I’ve made paya, or khichri, or besan ki roti, or whatever)… In the 70s, and early 80s, Sibte Bhai, Suroor Bhai (scholar, writer Sibte Hassan, poet Suroor Barabankvi), with Anis and Haroon, Dr Badar and Shaheena Siddiqi, Mazhar, and so many more were often part of this lively, enriching group of friends. Sarwar, in his own quiet way, contributed so much, to such a variety of issues.

He was, for me, also the sympathetic doctor who saw us worried young mothers, and our children, through childhood illnesses, laughed and joked to make us feel better — I really valued his diagnostic skills.

But he was for me, above all, friend and confidante, someone to turn to. I can never forget the time when Mazhar was seriously ill. Sarwar sat up, virtually all night, and only retired when he was repeatedly assured that his patient and friend was fine.

A rare trip abroad: Mazhar and Sarwar, Paris 1978

A rare trip abroad: Mazhar and Sarwar, Paris 1978

How much he valued his friends—and how often he recalled their memorable trip together to London and Paris in 1978 —Haroon, Sarwar and Mazhar, one of the few times Sarwar ever traveled abroad (on a subsequent trip that the friends had planned he actually returned home along with his packed suitcase before even reaching the airport, already nostalgic for his own bed and armchair).

Sleep well, my friend…I can’t help recalling these words from a Christina Rossetti poem “Better by far that you should forget and smile, rather than remember and be sad”.

Yes, Sarwar, we’ll try to smile, and look forward, and continue the struggle for rights in our own separate ways. Maybe someday our future generations will succeed in making Pakistan what we want it to be — a world where religion doesn’t hold sway in this bigoted fashion, as it does now, a country that is secular, that values each human life, where each individual has human rights, equality, healthcare and education, and a chance to grow to her or his full human potential……yes, we’ll smile, but we cannot forget you, or the joy and learning and wonderful friendship that you brought to so many of us

Karachi, July 27, 2009

‘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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