The other 1971: A Review of “Of Martyrs and Marigolds”

Javed Jabbar in the Express Tribune:

Martyrs_Marigolds03-12Of Martyrs and Marigolds by Aquila Ismail is a poignant and evocative portrayal of the so-far largely untold aspects of a sad saga. In a novelised form, the book depicts the shattered dreams and dilemmas of the Urdu-speaking Bihari-origin residents of East Pakistan, particularly in the years 1971 and 1972.

There has been patchy coverage of the roughly 200,000 Biharis living in refugee camps post-1971, who want to move to a Pakistan which is no longer willing to accept them. But news media in general and non-news media in particular have devoted little attention to the paradoxical plight of those Bihari East Pakistanis who genuinely loved the land and the people they had adopted. Many of them condemned the postponement of the National Assembly session by General Yahya Khan on March 1, 1971. They were grieved by the use of excessive military force against the Awami League onwards of March 25, 1971. And they did not support the pro-Pakistan militias that were pitched against the Bengali militias.

When these innocent, non-combatant Biharis and other Urdu-speaking residents of East Pakistan began to be indiscriminately targeted by Bengali Awami League extremists to settle scores against General Yahya Khan’s policies and the actions initiated by General Tikka Khan, tens of thousands of these persons became victims overnight at the hands of fellow countrymen.

More here.