Jiyay Mohajir?

Much soul-searching is required by the Urdu-speaking people to determine the losses they have incurred by opting for a Mohajir identity.

By Faizan Usmani | December 2019

The Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), later re-branded as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was formed in the middle of the 1980s, mainly to represent and safeguard the interests of the Urdu-speaking community living in urban Sindh, mainly in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.

In the political scene prevailing at that time, the term ‘Mohajir’, or migrant, was an innovative but ironic expression which succinctly represented the lot of those people who had migrated from India to Pakistan during the Partition in 1947. The word ‘Mohajir’ by itself was a euphemism for ‘panah gir’ or refugee, a term commonly used by local populations to refer to the Urdu-speaking people, the self-styled Baneeyan-e-Pakistan, who were landing in droves in the Promised Land to resettle themselves to start a new life from scratch.

Since the grass is always greener on the other side, they soon found their dreams shattered and found themselves having stepped into a land that was predominantly ruled by a tribal mindset, marked with ethnic favouritism, racial segregation and lingual differences. For the Urdu-speaking migrants, Jinnah’s Pakistan appeared to be wholly different from that of their fancied world, which was ceaselessly portrayed and eternally promised by the All-India Muslim League leadership to some 92 million Muslims of British India.

Nevertheless, the elation of being in a newly-independent Muslim country of their own, which was created out of their decades-long struggle and sacrifice, overwhelmed the sense of alienation of the Urdu-speaking migrants, who were welcomed with many derogatory terms. Among these, the name tags of ‘Urdu speaking’ and ‘Mohajir’ were the least demoralizing. The last-mentioned was later adopted as a distinctive identity to project their political fantasies through the MQM’s.

Since 1947, a litany of events has kept shaking and shaping the Mohajir mindset fraught with an entrenching sense of insecurity, injustice, racial prejudice and lingual discrimination. The assassination of the country’s first prime minister Khan Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, the Ayub Khan era from 1958 to 1969, the shifting of the national capital from Karachi to Islamabad in 1960, the breaking away of East Pakistan in 1971 and the imposition of the infamous quota system in Sindh during the prime ministership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who played a greater role in cementing the rural-urban divide in the province, were the most eventful periods for the Urdu-speaking community.

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he writer is a member of the staff. He can be reached at faizan@southasia.com.pk

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Jiyay Mohajir?
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