As I put down reading ‘Blood over Different Shades of Green’, i am struck by the partnership it garnered in Ikram Sehgal, Chand to family and friends, and Bettina Robotka – academician, scholar of history, student-linguist of South Asian languages – and, as if, by “whOm of God”, drawn to walks around the promenade in Karachi, in finding a purpose: that of co-authoring a realistic view of history and historical events for the young and the future. Providence seems to have links, after all. This is not the first outpouring of Chand’s inner-self, that I have read. Before it was published, I read the manuscript of ‘Escape from Oblivion: The Story of a Pakistani Prisoner of War in India’. The qualities of the man: grit, courage, steely resolve with an inner-core, as it were, of empathy for all: friends and foe, stood out, in recall. The bravery of the escapade would easily make for cinematic spectacle, if it were a different theatre. But, i am digressing, suffice it to say: Chand is made of “different mettle”.
The breaking up of the State and creation of Bangladesh may have its supporters but, there can be no denying that those tumultuous times were a blot on the conduct and sensibilities of many a leader who, but for ineptness, in the least and personal aggrandizement, in the most, could have avoided the bloodshed and calamity. They should have known better. That a state founded on beliefs, in noble Islam, and leadership, steeped in its traditions, could have allowed this historical break-up, was a tragedy of immense proportion. The book brings out all, and more, of this.
Revisiting history is often pain-some and requires a clear mind devoid of prejudice, ability to understand both sides of the coin and, above all, a sight that is agenda-less. The Book scores in all these checks. The authors have painstakingly researched facts, interpreted and chronicled the cause-celeber leading up to the events. Eminent reviewers: military men, diplomats, jurists and the like have reviewed the book and I am mindful of the expressions of admiration it has garnered. Besides the honest candor with which the narrative offers an account of the unfolding of events leading to the break-up, what emerges from reading the pages is the pathos of the recollections and the soul-searching it offers.
For is it so difficult to assimilate that the tenets of Allah Almighty that enjoin compassion, empathy, inclusiveness and resolution of conflicts: all so meticulously followed by and recorded for posterity by His Last Prophet (PBUH), are not only the first resolve but also the unfailing course of action? Yet failed, they did and although excuses were propped up for the break up, the lessons of inward failing to follow rightful tenets are there for the discerning to realize.
What are the Lessons to be Learned, according to the narrative? Was it not for refusal to heed the election results: Vox Populi, the conflict, nay the differences, that subsequently destroyed a nation, could have been avoided, nay, resolved? Brought out in several segments of the book is the need to be protective, at all times and in all situations, and not to be felled by prejudices of: looks, languages, culture, clothing, mannerisms, food habits and the like as these are meaningless; a bond based on Ummah is to be recognized. Is it not worth recalling that the noble precepts of Islam reached out beyond Arabic culture, language, food-habits and life-styles to unite, in fold, far flung peoples of differing lifestyles?
This testimony that fellow-Muslims can never be allowed to be seen, however dubious the comparison, as different, bordering on inferior, human-beings should be exemplary lessons to Islamic leaders. The different shades of green, symbolic of the Deobandi, Ahle Hadith and Barelvi schools of thought are, at best, a scholar’s greenfield; not to be confused by or be allowed by leadership that has multiplicity of these schools, but is, nevertheless, committed to keeping the State unsoiled by these differing schools. After all, does not everyone, professing Islam, deserve the unqualified recognition and protection of such rights in an Islamic State?
Grudging jealousy about superior academic qualifications and, counter-wise, intellectual disdain by the well-read (as in Bengali) versus the ignoramus/half-wit (as in Punjabi), are symptomatic of how society and the fabric of State can so easily be allowed to rupture relations and plague governance. The lesson, brought out in the book, is universal.
The citation: Owing everything to Allah Almighty, front-paged in the book, is recognition of His Influence on the lives of Men and Nations. What greater testimony is needed to believe that conflict resolution can best be achieved by peace; unilateral acceptance; not bilateral conflict. The historical example for the world: The Treaty of Hudaibiyah, in 628 A.D. is recalled in management studies as a classical example of conflict resolution.
The book brings out the longing, of most, in a bi-lingual, bi-cultural citizenry. It highlights how it is attempted to be enforced by law. Leadership has to go beyond; it has to inculcate and promote acceptance through down-playing differences. It has been chronicled that whenever the Prophet (PBUH) had to choose between the two, he always opted for the ‘easier course of action over the harder course of action’! Peaceful resolution of conflict(s) has its origins in both the divine words as well as the conduct of the Prophet (PBUH).
The content writing is excellent and Bettina’s proficiency, at narration, stands out. However, not to distract from this, it is Chand’s Book, all through, reflective of his inheritance and upbringing, the legacy he has imbibed of noble Islam, of patriotism, of the best of both the east and the west, of his devotion and pride in his chosen profession, his struggles as a soldier, his innate desire to reach out to those in need, the fulsomeness with which he looks at events that, otherwise, past-muster: are all reflective of the persona he is.
All, and more, of these is reflected in every thought and recollections brought to bear in the pages of the book. It is not for nothing that people from the East and West, all, throng to Ajmer Sharif to seek solace, re-kindling of the purpose of life, and strength to face the future. The Book, aptly, brings forth the Color Green as reflective of this truism: another hallmark of noble Islam.
The Book encapsulates much more; i cannot, in true conscience, do justice to the contents. But, foremost, it is recognition and gratefulness for my wife, my son and myself, that Chand is ‘family’ and that we are blessed to have him as ‘family’.
Ashok Kak is an advisor to Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board, Mumbai. After serving with Esso Eastern, Inc. (modern Exxon Inc.) for twenty years in USA, UK, Germany and Vietnam, Ashok Kak became Marketing Operations by ACC, India. He later served as Managing Director & CEO for Eastman Kodak affiliate and India Steamship. Now a full-time Consultant, his special interests include Islam, corporate governance, humanism and music.