Salute to a champion of media freedom

A. U. M. Fakhruddin

Incontrovertibly an exceptional virtue, true courage consists in opposing and defying despotic brute force in the interest of the body politic. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them; but the late Enayetullah Khan achieved the distinction of greatness by dint of his uncompromising avowal of press freedom and democratic values.

Way back in the month of August, 1965 when the populace of what is now Bangladesh had to endure and suffer in the repressive regime of military dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan – six months ahead of the Six Point programme placed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Lahore in February 1966 – the weekly Holiday emerged as vox populi under the editorship of Enayetullah Khan as the only English weekly robustly opposing the politically discriminatory and economically exploitative coercive state power of Pakistan government.
A progressive thinker, Mr. Khan correctly found his mentor in Moulana Bhashani (1880-1976). The seed of independence was decisively and resolutely sown by Bhashani in remonstrance against the brutal anti-Bengali policy of the central government of Pakistan just after less than two years of the Great Divide in 1947 and emergence of Pakistan. On 23 June in 1949 the Awami League came into being under the very wise and able guidance of its founding father Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, who led all progressive political activism since the Language Movement till the 1969 Movement in support of the students which hastened the release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from Agartala Conspiracy Case.

Renouncing Pakistan government
Synonymous with tumultuous polemics of nonconformist young men across the globe, the Swinging Sixties was characterised by a myriad of momentous earth-shaking historic events – the Vietnam War, assassination of US President Kennedy, murder of Martin Luther King Jr., the Moon landing, the Beatles, advent of the Hippies called Flower Children, the Beat Poets and a robust regeneration of idealism. A shining star of that decade, A Z M Enayetullah Khan alias Mintu since his early youth chose the hazardous path of renouncing Pakistan government’s exploitative domination of what is now Bangladesh. And his dream weekly Holiday hit the newsstands on 1 August 1965 and soon it became a vox populi of erstwhile East Pakistan. The Holiday has continued to decry all forms of undemocratic tyrannical power of the state. The irony is that the well-known journalist – whose articles were filled with diatribes against Pakistan government’s unjust policy, was imprisoned by the first Awami League (AL) regime in independent Bangladesh for writing in favour of the helpless millions who were being persecuted by the AL leaders.
At the most volatile and critical time our history on the verge of the Liberation War – 11 days ahead of the zero hour of the Pakistan Army’s genocide of unarmed civilian Bangladeshis – Enayetullah Khan in his essay entitled “They are not finished with you yet, Bengal”, predicted mass murder and put forward the course of action to be taken. The paragraphs excerpted from the Holiday dated March 14, 1971 follow:
‘Anticipations of a settlement notwithstanding, the uneasy truce between Bengal and the military establishment of General Yahya Khan may finally turn out to be a deceptive stratagem of repressive violence. Faced as they are with a people’s war, or at least the beginning of one, when they cannot isolate the fish from the sea, and when counter-insurgency techniques have failed to work, they might as well go for indiscriminate violence or genocide which literally means the total extermination of the people.
‘Their options are very limited. Either they withdraw completely from the soil of Bengal leaving the Bengalees to shape their own destiny, work out a solution which will not imperil the status quo as they view it or resort to the third course of brutal assault with their superior fire-power and organisation on an unarmed mass of rebellious populace.
‘The possibility of a settlement seems remote because even the acceptance of Sheikh Mujib’s demands does not break the impasse.’

“Orgy of mass killing”
‘The only logical explanation is that they are taking a long breath before plunging into an orgy of mass killing by trying to instill a false sense of security and achievement among the fighting populace now being led into the unknown by an inadequate and vacillating leadership.
‘History bears testimony to the fact that the warlords, as colonialists, as feudal landlords, as big bourgeoisie, are either part of the ruling class or the servants of rulers, who just do not give up economic and political power out of benevolent feelings for humanity. Thus, the current euphoria over the stunning success of a non-violent civil disobedience movement in the absence of even the minimum of predicable governmental reaction may ultimately become counter-productive in the struggle for total emancipation.
‘It is now obvious that the struggle against repressive violence of an organised and determined army has got to be met by insurgent violence. As of today, it may not have the revolutionary leadership required to carry it to its logical goal. But then it is a patient and protracted struggle. And since the victory of the alien colonisers cannot be assured short of extermination of their enemies—that is, the united masses of Bengal—it is time to brace ourselves against such a danger which may be coming any day.’

Mujib’s “acute sense of history”
‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who has displayed an acute sense of history, must realise this danger and come out of the insidious trap laid by some of his educated (?) advisers whose bona fides are yet to be proved. He must choose between glory and power, and it is now or never.’

“Sixty-five million collaborators?”
It was his epic article “Sixty-five million collaborators?” published in the Holiday in February 6, 1972, which gave voice to the silent victims in their own motherland who were intimidated, compelled or forced by the occupation forces of Pakistan to work under difficult circumstances in the radio, television and other offices during the war and could not go to India—and their number was 65 million.

Read the excerpts
‘The excommunication of the defenseless artistes from the holy communion of patriots, and the incidence of high-handedness by some Swadhin Bangla Radio personnel over some respected artists like Abdul Ahad and Abdul Latif have come as a rude shock to many. A similar attitude has also been displayed by our noveau-patriots in other spheres, where they merrily bludgeoned their helpless victims with their perverted judgment.
‘The rationale offered by these people in support of such brazen actions, which often smack of professional jealousies and personal animosities, is a curious blend of egotism and spite, and self-glorification. It is symptomatic of the aberrations of a twisted psyche, and hence an unpardonable offense against the majority of silent sufferers by a minority of freaks.
‘This has naturally resulted in a crisis of confidence between the civilians who sought refuge across the border and those who had to stay, perforce to live through the agony and misery of nine long and interminable months. And this has been due to the exaggeration by the former of their role in the liberation struggle in the safe recluse of Calcutta or Mujibnagar in total negation of the suffering millions trapped inside the territory of occupied Bangladesh.’

Vanguard of press freedom
It is pertinent to mention here that the Holiday’s founder editor the late Enayetullah Khan, while undergoing chemotherapy in Toronto, in his signed article “Jamaat: the viper doesn’t discard its poison” dated 7 October 2005, derided its elimination campaign of the liberal and progressive members of the Bangladeshi intelligentsia in 1971 and its theocratic goal. In addition, he censured centrist liberal BNP for its alliance with the Jamaat.
At all times Enayetullah Khan will be remembered as a vanguard of press freedom by people who have respect for democracy and freedom of speech, because, to quote Joseph Pulitzer, a “nation and its press will rise or fall together.”

Source: Weekly Holiday


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