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The rechristening of Patel Park

Updated Sep 16, 2015 06:41pm


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Upon careful examination, you will realise that the Karachi Municipality’s maps of the city of the years 1941 and 1971 are pretty much the same. In 1941, most areas in the city were recognised through quarters. One of these lines of quarters was Jamshed Quarters.

There was a park splat in the centre of the Soldier Bazaar area of Jamshed Quarters. Back in the days, it was called the Patel Park. Today, more commonly known as the Nishstar Park. In the 1960s and 1970s, the park was known for holding political gatherings. Now, it hosts religious gatherings; naat competitions, mourning processions in the month of Muharram, and other such activities.

Our politicians avoid political gatherings at the Nishtar Park. The park can accommodate not more than two dozen thousand people at a time. One cannot simply term any gathering in Nishtar Park a gathering of hundreds of thousands, let alone millions.

The park is called Nishtar Park after the Muslim League figure Sardar Abdul Rub Nishtar. Its previous name, Patel Park, was after the Congress leader Walabh Bhai Patel. The fact was checked by renowned journalist Abdul Majeed Chhapra.

Zahid Choudhary writes in his book Pakistan Kee Siyasi Taareekh that Walabh Bhai Patel was never in favour of a united India. He was of the view that if a state, comprising of Muslim majority areas, is formed it will be to India’s benefit.

Josh Maleehabadi writes on page 287-88 in his book Yaadon Kee Baraat (published 1970) on the views of Walabh Bhai Patel for Muslims:

“After taking up the responsibility of the daily Aaj Kal, I visited Pundit Jee (Jawaharlal Nehru) one day. He inquired if I had met the minister of my relevant ministry, Sardar Patel. I told I had not, nor did I have any intentions of any such meeting. Pundit Jee asked the reason and I replied, “Because the man has got a criminal face.” Hearing this, the Pundit laughed, and then told me to see the man. He told me, “I will set up a meeting right now,” picking up the telephone receiver. Apparently, Sardar sahib asked for me to be sent to him immediately. I left there and reached Sardar sahib’s kothi. There stood Sardar sahib in his dhoti. As soon as I got to shake his hand, I bluntly told him: “Sardar sahib, I was quite excited over seeing you for special reason.” Upon hearing ‘one special reason’, the smart man that he was, he seemed to have understood it all. However, he inquired, “Why the excitement?” Candidly, I told him, “Because I have heard a lot of bad things about you.”

He took me to a room and after being seated, he spoke in English: “You must have heard I am not in favour of Muslims. You are known to be a candid man, so am I. Hence, I will say it candidly: I respect all Muslims who are like you, whose ancestors migrated to India from abroad. I only dislike the converts who were previously a part of the Hindu community, especially the scheduled caste Hindus of the past. They embraced Islam under the influence or in the fear of Muslim rulers. These people are fanatics of another kind, the mischievous lot. They are in minority yet they supress the majority of Hindus.

What a man, Walabh Bhai Patel. He even had discriminative categorisation for the people he disliked. The Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after India’s partition were probably never cognisant of his views for Muslims. Even Josh sahib’s Yaadon Kee Baraat had not appeared back then. However, one can say that Sardar Patel’s views were never a secret anyway.

Perhaps that was the reason for the chief officer at Karachi Municipality to send a letter to the Commissioner, Karachi requesting the rechristening of the Patel Park. Sent on October 11, 1965, the note read: “We express it with honour that the All Pakistan Muslim League National Guard, Karachi has, through resolution 1965/2/14, demanded that the Patel Park be renamed Sardar Abdul Rub Nishtar Park. The matter is being forwarded with all the reservations keeping in view the need to avoid any conflict of interest with the Indian government.”

It is interesting to see how a public servant of those days had it in his mind that matters as such could create a problem between two rival neighbour states. Anyway, Patel Park became Nishtar Park. However, there is another problem here. In the maps of Karachi from the years 1941 and 1971, one can find this park in the Jamshed Quarters area. However, the name of the park in both the maps is neither Patel nor Nishstar. The name, instead, is Withal Bhai Patel Park.

Now, who was Withal Bhai Patel?

Withal Bhai Patel was Walabh Bhai’s younger brother. The former, too, was a political figure. However, he was not on good terms with Gandhi Jee. In fact, he criticised Gandhi on several occasions. He was more inspired by the renowned revolutionary Subhash Chandar Bose. He even sold his property and donated a hundred and twenty thousand rupees to Bose to be used for political welfare under his cause.

On October 22, 1933, Withal Bhai Patel he died. His elder brother Sardar Walabh Bhai Patel and Mahatma Gandhi also petitioned the Bombay High Court for the hundred and twenty thousand rupees donated by the younger Patel brother to Bose.

While Sardar Walabh Bhai Patel may have been a discriminating man who categorised even the lot he hated. We, however, too made sure to rename a park named after his younger brother.

Translated by Ayaz Laghari


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Akhtar Balouch is a senior journalist, writer and researcher. He is currently a council member of the HRCP. Sociology is his primary domain of expertise, on which he has published several books.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

Addy Feb 25, 2014 02:04am

It's instructive to note the similarities between VB Patel's ideas and BJP/Sangh Pariwar's current views on the Muslim population of the sub-continent. A perennial problem for all xenophobes: how do you tell the ancestry from just looking at someone? Like it's all in the skin-tone or surname, or DNA for that matter.

Addy Feb 25, 2014 02:11am

Very instructive. We had our NCC exercises in Nishtar Park, way back during my days in Adamjee College. Good times.

imran Feb 25, 2014 05:15am

Dear Akhtar Balouch Sahib, thanks for sharing another part of historical data:)

TKhan Feb 25, 2014 06:32am

Nice Article.

However "The park can accommodate not more than two dozen thousand people at a time." What does that suppose to mean? How many park can accommodate?

Dr Vimal Raina Feb 25, 2014 09:49am

very interesting read. thanks you sir.

Dilip Thorat Feb 25, 2014 11:50am

Very Informative. Good Article. Once people like you die, Pakistan would be a marching towards a more ignorant lot.

Sandip Singh Feb 25, 2014 11:58am

Dear Akhtar Baloch, We too have AURANGJEB ROAD in Delhi, Should we rename it or not............Tell is?

Ajay Verma Feb 25, 2014 01:17pm

So Sardar Patel who was such a stalwart in the freedom struggle - which won freedom for BOTH Indians and Pakistanis - has no value in Pakistan. Very typical of Pakistanis. As if all your leaders had kind views on Hindus!

Kamil Feb 25, 2014 01:43pm

@Sandip Singh:

If it is "Aurangjeb" the way you wrote it, then leave it since it does sound very non-Urdu. I'll have to take you out for drink on that Sandip.

mimi sur Feb 25, 2014 01:59pm

Though I highly doubt a Pakistani's statements , but the concept of naming and renaming is to be learnt from Pakistanis . You can rename Patel Park , but can't move forward with Bhagat Sigh's street . Similarly you can name your missiles after Bin-Qasim or Timur or Aurengeb , after all Pakistan was being formed after invasion of Bin-Qasim , not Mr.Patel. If Mr.Jinnah and Mr.Iqbal can claim the murderer of Mr.Raj Pal as 'Ghazi' , then what is wrong when Mr.Patel showed you the mirror ? Truth hurts , can be surpassed for a moment , but can't be defeated.

Sanjeev Yadav Feb 25, 2014 02:16pm

Everyone has his own version of story. We will never see history from a neutral point of view.

Komal S Feb 25, 2014 03:11pm

The statements associated with Vallabhai Patel is very unfair and is without any proof. Of course Patel is not here to defend himself.

Krish Chennai Feb 25, 2014 04:39pm

There is a Jinnah Tower in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, located on Mahatma Gandhi Road. No one has wanted to either rename the Tower or the Road ! Yes, the Tower is named after the founder of the neighbouring country, for whom the title "Quaid-e-Azam" was also given by Gandhi.

Secular Feb 25, 2014 06:32pm

Pathetic to say the least of author, and the authorities who changed the names,bunch of losers. No wonder pakistan is what it is.

Nizamuddin Ahmad Feb 25, 2014 08:51pm

One day out of curiosity I went to see Patel Park with my grand son. I was shocked to see the condition of the park. No grass, no blooming flowers and no benches to sit. I used to go to the park in the summer after noon in 1965 to study while I was preparing for my CSP examination since my house used be crowded with my cousin visiting us from out of town. There were seasonal flowers blooming in every season and used to be a full time gardener on duty every day. We saw only lazy bums sleeping on grounds some dupatta dyers drying the fabrics they had just dyed. The fences were gone and I will not dare to go there after dusk.

Jollyjoe Feb 26, 2014 05:18am

No offense. Correction Please/ Vithalbhai patel was the elder brother to Vallabhbai Patel

Shailesh Feb 26, 2014 05:33am

As much of a xenophobe Patel was, he cannot hold a candle to the great Quaid, no ?

Abu bakar Baloch Feb 26, 2014 07:20am

Akhtar baloch's recent article is very nice Historical.

akhtar Feb 26, 2014 11:19am

@Komal S: Josh Maleehabadi writes on page 287-88 in his book Yaadon Kee Baraat (published 1970) on the views of Walabh Bhai Patel for Muslims:

Shakir Lakhani Feb 26, 2014 12:38pm

Even today, most people refer to it as "Patel Parha". There used to be a small park known as "Shivaji Park" which was renamed "Aurangzeb Park". I remember this was noted by Indian newspapers. This probably happened in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
By the way, many roads named after Hindus and Christians have been given new names after partition.

amin valiani Feb 26, 2014 03:09pm

We need to respect and recognize the contribution of all personalities (Hindu and Muslim) to our city Karachi. The history of every historical park, building or road must be recorded in some corner of these monuments for information to general public and coming generations would feel pride of their past leader. They will also add some contribution to the growth of the city. I thank the writer of this article who provoke us to contribute something for our city.

Nagin Desai Feb 26, 2014 03:27pm

Though I am not from Karachi, but I must thank you for well written little history. I wish more historical facts were writtenin the same.

Wallabhbhai Patel was know for his hatred towards muslims was never in favor for separate home land for them and harmed muslims severely.

Anand Feb 26, 2014 04:00pm

That is how the leaders of Pakistan are eroding the history of undivided India. The next generation will indeed be poor for being ignorant about the past.

Komal S Feb 26, 2014 05:37pm

@akhtar: Yes i got that from the article but the point is, this is supposedly a conversation between two individuals behind closed doors. You always have to be careful when we attribute statements to have been made in private. There is no proof. I have no problem, if you believe this statement.

Raj Patel Feb 26, 2014 06:31pm

@Ajay Verma: Give one Hindu name Pakistani admires including Mahatam Ghandhiji. None of the muslim went to Pakistan ever has taken positive part in freedom fighting of India. Those muslim who took part are living in India. Give me a single name of muslim lived in Pakistan went to jail for freedom. There you can get the reason for difference in situation of both the country. Mr Jinnah may be a good barister but no visionary. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a visionary as well as down to earth guy who lived in reality and not in fiction. There is no Pakistani leader including Jinnah come to close to Sardar's stature.

SK Feb 27, 2014 01:36pm

Arey bhai unka country hai...karne do jo unko karna hai...hamara kia jata hai...every hero is a villain for some one else....Patel is our hero but their villain and likewise Jinnah is there father of the nation and not so likeable name here :) :)