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North America III: Revolutionary Diaspora at Queen’s

Fayyaz Baqir

April 10th, 2017

 

 

As I moved to Canada, I became part of international community of resistance. Queen’s university was located in Kingston. It had a glorious academic tradition. On the one hand it hosted celebrated speakers from places like Harvard, Pentagon and Karl Marx University Hungry and on the other youth fleeing from tyranny of totalitarian regimes in Chile, South Africa and Pakistan. In 1981-82 Kingston had a population of 60,000. Being Canada’s first capital the city was known for its heritage assets and scenic beauty. It is located at the Eastern end of Lake Ontario and is home to one of the leading institutions of higher education in Canada. I immediately fell I love with the university because of its six-story library with a collection of 1 million books. Graduate students could check out up to 30 books at a time and the library stayed open till midnight. As a graduate student I had an office within the department and could keep a big stack of books at my desk. In this library I got the opportunity to read British Parliamentary Papers providing unique insights of the British about their colonial subjects in India;, and books Listen Little Man, Mass Psychology of Fascism, Function of Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich; Phenomenology of Mind by Hegel and Equus by Peter Shaffer. Some of these book and documents I could not imagine of accessing in any university library in Pakistan .We had a large graduate class consisting of 100 students. Overall size of student population at Queen’s was more than 10,000.

Franz Fanon’s line in “Wretched of the Earth” that “Every Spectator is either a coward or a traitor” became the outcry of radical student movement across the university campuses all over the world. During my stay at Queen’s, I saw two movies, Gandhi and Missing both relating to this theme in a unique way.  Gandhi rejected the cowardice of the spectator by rejecting the moral and spiritual deficit of the conformist and Missing rejected the spectator appearing under the guise of a shallow patriot who keeps silent on atrocities committed by ‘his’ state against the ‘others’ until terror strikes back home. Missing was the story of an American businessman who goes in search of his journalist son who went missing in Chile after the overthrow of Salvador Allende's democratically elected government due to his association with left wing politics. The businessman could not understand how American government could not assist him in recovering his son abducted by a dictatorial regime dancing on American tunes. His dialogue with the American Ambassador was the punch line of this dramatic story. In this dialogue, Ambassador told the businessman that you challenge the tyranny of dictatorial regimes only when it disturbs your personal comfort. If you don’t resist the Empire when it hits the ‘other’ you will find no sympathy when it hits you.  These two themes were the focus of Kingston Solidarity Committee’s work throughout my stay.

In between the screening of these movies in the town a lecture by a Pentagon Officer on the situation in Balochistan was arranged by the Political Studies Department. Based on the Pakistani experience I imagined that spooks only gather secret information under a cloak. This was the first time I came across a spook who was sharing (dis)information in public. It sounded very intriguing, so I made it sure to attend his lecture. The Officer talked about the Soviet designs in Afghanistan and Pakistan and their use of Balochi guerrillas for destabilising Pakistani government and getting access to warm waters. As soon as he finished his talk I raised my hand for a question. I introduced myself and told him that according to my knowledge Balochis took arms because their democratically elected provincial government was dismissed on the fake charges. This uprising had its origin in Balochistan, not in the Soviet Union. To my amazement, the officer did not contest my argument and gracefully corrected himself. He might have done it for keeping his credibility or for face saving. But it was far more sophisticated mode of operation than the ones I had experienced at home. I made my point and the officer, before leaving, said in a patronising tone, you are a bright young man. ( To be continued).

 

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