Written by Syed Sajjad Husain
|As I have explained in the text of the book, these memoirs were written in 1973 in the Dhaka Central Jail where I was being held as a 'collaborator' for not supporting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his campaign against Pakistan. I was not a politician; had never been a member of any political party; but I had agreed at the request of the Yahya government in July 1971 to visit London and the USA to explain to those whom I might meet that the struggle in East Pakistan was a struggle between those who were determined to wreck Pakistan and those whose loyalty to its ideology would not let them align themselves with a movement against its integrity.
The mood that dominated me in prison was one of outrage, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. Physically disabled by an abortive attempt to assassinate me, tortured by the feeling that all I had believed in had crashed in ruins around me, and that we had suffered a defeat from which it would be impossible to recover in the foreseeable future, convinced that the change of 1971 could bode no good to my people, oppressed by the thought that could see no ray of hope, I sat down to record my reflections on the whole series of events which had culminated in the disaster of December 1971.
I wished to be as frank as possible. I little hoped that the book I was writing would ever see the light of day, but I felt that I owed a duty to posterity, that I must put on record all that I knew and had heard. I spared neither friend nor enemy. My only object was to analyse the reasons why we failed to preserve a state which represented the dreams of so many and which had cost so much in blood, sweat and tears. I was also staggered by the opportunism and nauseated by the hypocrisy of people who until the very last moments of united Pakistan had so volubly defended it and who now went about assuring the victors that they had all been secretly hoping for this denouement.
Twenty one years' have passed since this record was composed in the solitudes of prison life. What tortures me now is that what I foresaw has materialised. The poverty, squalor, and meanness of our present existence should be a stem rebuke to those who fought in 1971 to end what they called the yoke of Pakistan and who, disillusioned by what they see around themselves" assert that the independence Bangladesh enjoys is not worth preserving. Some privately confess their error; but fear of embarrassment prevents many from being openly contrite. They have sunk into a worse despair than I experienced in 1973.
I, who opposed the movement of 1970-71, believe, however, that Bangladeshi nationalism, as a secular expression of Muslim nationalism, the sentiment which down the decades and centuries has given the population of the eastern region of Bengal a consciousness of their identity as separate cultural group, can give us the emotional stability as a nation that we need Despair is no answer to anything. We must believe in ourselves.
If those whom I have criticised find my language strong, I would ask them to remember that I wrote under great emotional stress; they may try and imagine the shock and horror of seeing one's ideals disintegrating before one's eyes.
I owe a word of explanation, and also perhaps of apology, for the many gaps in my narrative and also for the book's abrupt conclusion. The fact is, I could have filled in these gaps only by continuing to work on the book after my release from detention on December 5, 1973. This I had no intention of doing. For I realized that what I could write at home as a free man would be different in temper from what I wrote as a prisoner without any hope of immediate freedom. It is because of this that I had no time during the last few days of my detention to discuss in some detail Mr Bhutto's role in the events leading to the crackdown of March 25, 1971, the nature of the crackdown itself, how having done nothing to stem the tide of disintegration in the period between December 1970 and March 25, 1971, the Army suddenly swung into action, when it had little hope of being effective. Nor have I said much about the nature of the elections held in 1970 which were a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the public of East Pakistan. No one who was alive in 1970 and can recall those events as a responsible adult can forget how in its anxiety to win anyhow the semblance of a popular mandate, the Awami League first drove all its rivals from the field by recourse to open militancy and violence so as to have a walkover. Nor will they forget how inspite of the devastating cyclone in Khulna and the coastal areas which took a toll of nearly a hundred thousand lives, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman insisted that the elections must go ahead as scheduled and threatened to stir up a frightful agitation unless Yahya agreed.
There are many other events of this nature which I had not dealt with when I learnt that we would be released under a general amnesty in the first week of December 1973. As I have explained already, I decided against adding to my manuscript outside the jail but I thought that a general conclusion about the reasons which resulted in East Pakistan's fall should be added, however abrupt it may sound.
When I left for Britain in June, 1975 on my way to Saudi Arabia I carried the manuscript with me in hurriedly typed form and deposited it with friends lest it should be lost or destroyed. I am deeply grateful to them for having preserved it with care for nearly twenty years. It was only in 1992 that I thought of getting it back for publication, if possible.
The text which is now in print is exactly as it was on the day I was released from the Dhaka Central Jail in 1973.
I cannot say how deeply indebted I feel to friends who have undertaken to publish these memoirs. I am particularly grateful to Tajammul Hussain, Muhammad Ashraf Hussain, Editor of the Bengali monthly Natun Sajar, Mesbahuddin Ahmad and Muhammad Abdul Motalib for their help in the matter.
If I can see this book in print before I die (I am now nearly 75) one of my wildest dreams will have been fulfilled.
If history, a hundred years hence, proves my fears and apprehensions about my motherland to have been untrue, nobody will be happier in his grave than myself.
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