Alternative voices

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Intizar Husain

I HAVE before me the latest issue of Dunyazad. The editor, Asif Farrukhi, has chosen to call it a “kitabi silsila” although it bears a semblance to a literary journal. The issue has been dedicated to the martyrs of Karachi and Peshawar, and to the activist Sabeen Mahmud. Alluding to the unfortunate targeted killings perpetrated in recent months Asif has told us that it was with a heavy heart and a distressed mind that he has been able to compile this issue. How sad.

Mahmud, he recalls, had done a good job of establishing in Karachi a centre of discussion suited to all kinds of intellectuals. I am reminded, here, of a pleasant evening when I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion on the Jataka tales of Buddha — Farrukhi had compiled and brought out a collection of such tales translated in Urdu.

Now let us see what the present volume of Dunyazad has brought for us. The first article that attracted my attention was one written by Nasir Abbas Nayyar, who is seen here discussing Maulana Shibli as a scholar carrying a divided sensibility. Shibli, he says, was a great admirer of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and at the same time censored him harshly for what he thought and preached. Shibli, he adds, owes much to Khan and the Aligarh University — as both had played a great role in the formation of his mental make-up. But at the same time it is also true that Shibli had been trying his best to escape from the influences of Aligarh and Khan. He was strongly opposed to modern English education but at the same time he managed to have an English school in his own city. Not only this, he also insisted on including English in the syllabus of the school he co-founded, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema. He calls this attitude of his “do jazbiyat” which he coined keeping in mind the English term ‘ambivalence’.

But, I ask, was this ambivalence limited to Maulana Shibli alone? What about Iqbal? And coming to our own times, would I be wrong if I say the same about Muhammad Hasan Askari too? In fact, our leading writers and scholars saw no harm in English education. Instead, they heartily welcomed the flow of knowledge from the West. They imbibed deeply what they could from the Western tradition of knowledge.

But this process of acquisition of knowledge from Western sources made them acutely conscious of their own heritage. While looking back to their own mystics, seers, poets, and thinkers they developed an ambivalent attitude towards the West. Would it be wrong to conclude that it was this ambivalence which helped such talents as Iqbal rise to the status of a great mind?

Anyhow, I should proceed further. This issue of 324 pages has much more to offer to serious readers of literature. I started rummaging through the pages cursorily casting a glance at the contents therein till I reached the end and a title ‘Sehra-i-Thar ki Pukar’ arrested my attention.

In fact I had developed an attraction to it after knowing that this desert region has the distinction of being the abode of peacocks. And I felt most distressed when I read the news that the peacocks in Thar are in a miserable state. They are speedily dying and nobody from official quarters or from the circle of social workers have come to their rescue.

But the present article written by Mustafa Arbab tells us that the unlucky people in this desert area are far more in distress than the peacocks. One can hardly imagine the inhumane conditions they are living in. They appear to be groaning under oppression and are treated as if they are not human beings. And as the article indicates, no one from among the proponents of human rights has cared to come here and save them from the high-handedness of these oppressors. They are a thoroughly neglected people. Are they treated as outcasts? At least they feel so.

When anyone of them gets the chance to pay a visit to any city or town of Sindh, he tells friends that he is going to Sindh. That means that while living in the province he feels that the spot he is residing in does not form part of it. The author indicates in his article that these people belong to the ancient race of Dravidians. That is, they are the unlucky sons of the vanished race who were the original inhabitants of this land. Is it because of this fact that they are treated now as outcasts?

Intizar Husain, “Alternative voices ,” in Dawn, July 18, 2015. Accessed on July 18, 2015, at:

The item above written by Intizar Husain and published in Dawn on July 18, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on July 18, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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