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The rechristening of Patel Park

Updated February 24, 2014
-Photo by author
-Photo by author
-Photo by author
-Photo by author

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