The voice becomes the shout of Mansoor, if it is free
And if throttled, becomes Hasan Nasir’s plea)
Pakistan has seen people who wielded immense power. Their narratives and photographs adorned the first page of newspapers and every word uttered by them had the status of law. But their status did not survive their passing: their fans directed themselves immediately to some other doorstep. Nobody remembered their birthday nor the day of death. Their memory was so erased from the hearts as writing upon water.
But in this very country there have also been such ‘lunatics’ who were neither fated to have a seat of power nor wished for wealth and influence. They were never bothered by the desire for name and fame. They were not garlanded with flowers in gatherings and processions. Instead, they left their homeland for love and service of the workers. Leaving behind their mother, sister, brother or relatives, they participated in the revolutionary struggle of the people with great silence and humility. And when the executioners took their life, their relatives and friends did not get to even see them for the last time. Neither did their friends carry their corpse in a funeral; nor did anyone find a trace of their grave.
Owing precisely to this obscure life and even more obscure martyrdom, Hasan Nasir – who was disappeared in Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan’s infamous dungeon at the Lahore Fort 60 years ago on November 13 last month – is the perpetually immortal revolutionary whose popularity among young critical thinkers increases year after year. The traces of his memory get more illuminated every year. Every year new lamps are lit by the lamp of his sacrifices. Nazeer Abbasi, Hameed Baloch, Nasir Baloch, Ayaz Sammu, Mashal Khan – all of these drank the cup of martyrdom by walking on the very same path of fidelity as Hasan Nasir, and reddened the flag of honesty, peace, freedom, democracy and social justice with their blood.
60 years have passed since the death of Hasan Nasir. In these six decades, the great hell of oppression and cruelty that was let loose on the country and its people, and the sacrifices offered by the brave people for their democratic and constitutional rights, is not concealed from anyone.
Who can reveal the secrets of the mysterious death of Hasan Nasir? Who can narrate how he gave his life in the miserable cell of Lahore Fort? Who knows how many types of torture skills were experimented with on this iron man? We don’t even know when his corpse was carried on the bier and where he was buried and by whom.
The unexpected death of Hasan Nasir was perhaps the most brazen incident of political repssion in the Ayub period. Had such an accident taken place in a democratic country, there would be a commotion everywhere. There would be questions in the Assembly, protesting narratives would be published in newspapers, there would be court inquiries at a high level and then the criminals would receive definitive punishment for their evil deeds. But in our country things go against the law of nature. So the murderers were granted promotions instead of reprehensions. It is a separate matter that these promotions proved to be the prelude to humiliations. And the man at whose indications these outrages were committed himself left the seat of power greatly dishonoured. The same fate met all of those whose hands were stained with the blood of Hasan Nasir.
Nasir began working underground. He would wander from city to city in disguise, doing the work of organizing his party with great diligence. At night, he took refuge at the homes of close relatives and sincere friends and sometimes he spent the nights in jungles, wastelands, ruins and cemeteries
And Hasan Nasir is still alive. The tales of his asceticism and sympathy, his spirit and determination, his love and habit of constancy, his sincerity and sacrifice still create passion and fervour in our hearts.
Hasan Nasir was the second, elder son of Syed Alamdar Hussein. Syed Alamdar Hussein had come to Hyderabad from Etawah for work and became the private secretary of Yamin-us-Saltanat (‘right hand of the realm’) Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad Bahadur. He also remained the private secretary of the four prime ministers of the gate of government namely Sir Mirza Ismail Hyderi, Nawab Chhatari and Mir Laiq Ali. Alambardar was married to the younger sister of Dr Jafar Hasan, Zohra Begum and she gave birth to Nasir on August 2, 1928. In those days, all of them lived near Sagar Talkies in Abid Manzil, Turap Bazar.
Nasir opened his eyes amidst wealth and was brought up in ease and affluence. His initial education was in a grammar school. Actually, his family itself was highly educated and cultured. In those days, boys studying in grammar school came from well-off families and considered themselves higher and superior to others. They had a bourgeois mentality ingrained into them. The standard of culture in home and family was very high, and any flippant act would not be tolerated. Nasir was educated in this milieu at home and the madrassa. He was an intelligent student. So he passed the Senior Cambridge exam with high distinction in many subjects. During his student days, he was a very good speaker and he had great expertise in the English language. He wanted to go to Oxford for higher education. But his father did not deem it suitable to send him to Oxford at this young age; and advised him to go after passing B.A. Nasir was very sensitive. This was a second push to his mind. In a state of disappointment, he departed for Aligarh for doing his Intermediate. Since in those days someone with Senior Cambridge could get admission in second year and thus saved one year.
The world of Aligarh was unusual for Nasir: there he met different types of boys. However a year at Aligarh was a new and strange experience for Nasir. He returned from Aligarh and enrolled at Nizam College for B.A. At that time, he became very close to his maternal cousin Kokab Durri.
Kokab was a passionate youth with communist ideas and his agemates were convinced of his competence. Kokab introduced Nasir to the ideology of Karl Marx and developed a taste for reading communist literature. Nasir adopted the communist philosophy and an apocalyptic awakening of excitement was created in the heart of this sensitive youth. Now he abandoned studies and became a systematic communist. When the government began searching for him, he went underground and eventually left Hyderabad to go to Bombay; where like a passionate communist he began to work against capitalism with great intensity and devotion.
Nasir continued publicizing communist ideas for a long time in Bombay. The eminent Sajjad Zaheer decided to leave India for Pakistan and work for the Communist Party there. So, he and a party of youth which included Nasir, moved to Pakistan.
In those days, the Communist Party in Pakistan was not an illegal party. But when difficulties increased for the communists and the government crossed all limits with its repression, Sajjad Zaheer returned to India.
Nasir was arrested in Pakistan. He was severely tormented in jail. He went on a hunger strike in jail and wrote an article, sketching a map of the untold condition of jails in Pakistan. The Pakistani government increased his jail term. When his mother Zohra Begum found out about these conditions, she went to Pakistan and using her influence brought Nasir back from captivity on the condition that he would not set foot in Pakistan for a year. Nasir loved his mother deeply and she was sick. She feared for her life and was about to go to Vellore for an operation. She wanted Nasir to be present in Vellore at the time of the operation. Nasir came to Hyderabad and accompanied his mother to Vellore. The operation was successful and she returned to Hyderabad healthy. Now Nasir’s time off was ending and he wanted to return to Pakistan. Alamdar had contracted brain paralysis and he was totally handicapped since many years. His mother tried very hard and wanted him to return to India like Sajjad Zaheer but Nasir’s sense of honour did not bear that he leave his comrades in the vortex to watch the scene of the storm from the coast in safety.
He returned and became the youngest secretary of the Communist Party. Now he risked his life and limb to propagate communist ideas and for destroying capitalism with great enthusiasm. His passion was immense and to risk his life was child’s play for him.
The government of Pakistan laid a trap throughout the country for Nasir’s arrest. Nasir began working underground. He would wander from city to city in disguise, doing the work of organizing his party with great diligence. At night, he took refuge at the homes of close relatives and sincere friends and sometimes he spent the nights in jungles, wastelands, ruins and cemeteries – on the floor beneath the sky without a pillow and durrie. Eventually, he was caught one day. People who admired him tried very hard to have him released on bail or a systematic case to be brought against him. But the government did not listen one bit.
He was intensely tortured in captivity. He used to be tied after bending him; he used to be sat upon with a heavy stone placed on him; searchlights were shone over his eyes. This went on until his backbone was crushed to bits and he expired.
Nasir’s death greatly grieved all the members of his family because he was very well-liked by great and small, poor and rich. The mourning mother tried to have Nasir’s corpse brought to Hyderabad for burial. After great efforts, the Pakistani government gave permission and when she reached Pakistan and the grave was dug in her presence, it did not have Nasir’s corpse but of someone else. The Pakistani government did not want its oppression to be divulged; so such a means was contrived as to disappear even the corpse. To this day, nobody knows where his grave is.
Wherever the grave may be, blove for Nasir is alive: conscious youth celebrate ‘Nasir Day’ annually; the Communist Party of India too is influenced by Nasir’s sacrifice.
The great Urdu resistance poet Himayat Ali Shair wrote on the death of Hasan Nasir, who was born in the same year as Che Guevara and was executed like Bhagat Singh in the prime of youth in my native city of Lahore:
Aaj akhbaar ki surkhi pe nazar padte hi
Mere andar se koi mohr ba-lab cheekh pada
Mere jazbaat ki ghairat, mere honton ka sakoot
Mera fan cheekh pada, mera adab cheekh pada
Ye zameen haq ki parastaar hai, baatil baatil
Seena-e-haq se sadaa aati hai, qaatil qaatil
(Today while glancing at the headline of the newspaper ream
Some sealed lips from within me let out a scream
The silence of my lips, my passions’ honour
My art, my literature let out a clamour
This earth is the devotee of truth, lie lie
Assassin assassin, from the bosom of truth comes the cry)
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book, Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi, forthcoming in 2022. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org