Bengali Writer Hails Ex-Premier As "Hero of the East"
If there’s one thing all peoples of the world can understand, it’s their common yearning for freedom and independence. The convergence of the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from colonial Britain (August 15, 1947)1 and the 63rd anniversary of the U.S. and British-backed military coup in Iran (August 19, 1953) brings to mind this eternal truth.
At mid-century, Iran’s struggle against the British for its political and economic independence, encapsulated in its bitter dispute over the nationalized oil refineries in Abadan, had captured worldwide attention. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whose government arose on the very day of independence, followed it closely, even offering his own advice to the Iranians.
Yet Iran lost in the end. Sick of negotiating, the United States and Britain chose instead to join forces to help overthrow the democratic and popular government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. By the summer of 1953, Iran became, virtually overnight, not only a ruthless autocracy, but a vassal client state serving not so much British but American interests.
At the close of the year, an Indian journalist and publisher of weekly publication Spotlights3 featured an extremely glowing tribute to the former Iranian Premier, who at the time was busy defending himself in military court for treason.
The author, S. Jeelani, burned with contempt for the coup government and those Iranians who he felt had betrayed their “Father”, Dr. Mossadegh (Of course, he was not privy to the foreign role in Mossadegh’s demise, though it had been previously alluded to in The Times of India).4 In his front page essay, Jeelani imagined how, if Mossadegh had only been Indian, things might have turned out differently.
Asian nationalists: Dr. Mossadegh receives Gandhi compatriot Abul Kalam Azad, a major figure in the Indian independence movement, politician, journalist, and the first Minister of Education in post-colonial India in Nehru’s government. Maulana Azad, a secular Muslim who understood Persian, was portrayed in Richard Attenborough’s Academy award winning movie Gandhi (1982).
Jeelani’s passionate views would soon get him in legal hot water. His condemnation of the Shah, Gen. Zahedi, the Dulles brothers and King Faisal of Iraq in September 1953 were judged a “grave danger” to Indian interests. In March, the state filed suit with him in Calcutta High Court for publishing “objectionable matter” which might injure India’s friendly relations with its neighbors.5 The court emphasized that, in view of its less than seven years since attaining independence, India could ill-afford to upset the “equilibrium of international relations.”
That, in essence, happened to be Mossadegh’s greatest crime.
If Mosaddeq Was An Indian!
Iranians’ Betrayal of Great Hero
By S. Jeelany
Spurning the Shah’s gratuitous “clemency” with all the contempt it deserved, Mohamed Mosaddeq, the hero of the East, declared that he did no wrong and, to prove this, he decided to vindicate himself by an appeal to the Supreme Court of Iran. Nobody knows whether leave for appeal would be given to him nor, for that matter, whether the Supreme Court will be able to act, in case it hears the appeal, untrammeled and free from the pressure of the tyrant Shah.
Never have I felt as proud of being an Indian and more so of being a Bengali, at least by birth, till I went with Dr. Mosaddeq through his ordeal. If Dr. Mosaddeq, who means to nationalist Iran as much as Mahatma Gandhi means to India, had been an Indian, the whole country would have risen as one man and seen that justice was done.
The Bengalis excelled all other Indians and their sacrifices for the Motherland during the National Struggle. The other day, one [illegible] of one [illegible] (a fraction of the Iranian rial), which a foreign company [British-owned Calcutta Tramways Company] had imposed as an increase in tram-fare, the Bengalis lived up to their reputation as the people who could never submit to oppression of any kind. Overnight they won their battle.
I am as much Indian as Arab and Iranian. What can I say of my Iranian brothers who have so treacherously betrayed their own Father, Mohamed Mosaddeq, than whom their country has never produced a man more sincere or hero as great? Shall I call them eunuchs and cowards or worse names which they richly deserve for having betrayed Mosaddeq? I cannot do that. The pre-Islamic Arab poet, who hailed from what is now Khozistan in Iran, [Khuzistan] placed in the same predicament as the one in which I now find myself, gives tongue to my thoughts:
It was my own people who killed my brother, Omaym!
If I shoot an arrow, the arrow would surely hit me!
If I forgive, I forgive the unforgivable!
If I avenge, I would crush my bones!
So here I am. What can I do for Mosaddeq or my Iranian brothers? Can I do more than write in Spotlights in English and in the Arabic press in Arabic, battling for Iran with a mere pen? Yes, there is something else I can do, which millions of people as helpless as I am or now doing: Pray God to forgive the Iranians their sin of treachery to the national cause, open their eyes and hearts, and make them worthy sons of Iran! Amen!
1 Technically 69 years, but India is marking this occasion as it ushers in their 70th year of independence, and their 70th Independence Day itself.
2 Reza Nazem, Seyyed Hossein Fatemi and the Political Transformation in Iran (in Farsi), p. 150. (Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi, MD)
3 Spotlights billed itself as “an international weekly newsmagazine specializing in Middle Eastern affairs”.
4 Iran’s Royalist Coup, a three-part series in The Times of India dated September 16-18, 1953 by journalist Gunapati Keshavaram Reddy, found that Mossadegh’s overthrow was probably at least inspired, if not engineered, by the United States. G.K. Reddy, as he was better known, had previously interviewed the Premier at his bedside in Tehran.
5 S. Jeelani vs The State — March 18, 1954 in Calcutta High Court, presided by Judge K.C. Das Gupta.
Meet Shapoor Reporter, the Indian-Iranian Spy Who Helped Overthrow Mossadegh
Iran Severs Diplomatic Relations With Britain (Oct. 1952)
Tension in Teheran — The Indian Express, March 3, 1953
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”