Poetry and politics of communalism in independent India.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance,” said Jawaharlal Nehru to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the eve of India’s Independence. That was to be the dawn of a new morning for India and Indians. But by the time India celebrated its first independence day, Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated and the country had witnessed a communal bloodbath during the partition.
Believing that the worst was now history, Majaz wrote :
Hindu Muslim Sikh Eesai aman ke moti ro lenge
Khoon ki holi khel chuke hain rang ke dhabbe dho lenge
(Hindu, Muslims, Sikh , Christians will cry tears of peace
Having played Holi with blood, they will wash the red stains)
It wasn’t long before the dream started souring and the same poets who had fought for freedom from the British now used their pen to fight against the socio-economic problems plaguing our society. There were signs of restlessness amongst the populace as the magic wand, which they thought would wipe out poverty, did not materialise. Nothing epitomises the hope and despair of our society than two of Sahir Ludhianvi’s nazms. The first, Woh Subah kabhi tau aayegi written for the independence movement but used in the film with same name in 1958 as disillusionment started to set in.
In kaali sadiyon ke sar sey jab raat ka aanchal dhalkega
Jab dukh ke badal pighalengey jab sukh ka saagar jhalkegi
Jab ambar jhoom ke nachega jab dharati naghame gayegi
Woh subah kabhi to aayegi…
(When the veil slips from the head of these dark centuries,
When the clouds of despair will disperse and oceans of happiness overflow,
When the sky dances and the earth sings, songs of joy
That morn will surely come one day)
The second, his satirical take off on Iqbal’s Saare Jahan Se Achcha.
rahne ko ghar nahiiN hai
saara jahaaN hamaara
A decade later in a poem titled 26 January, written on Republic Day, Sahir lamented:
aao ke aaj ghaur karen is sawaal par
dekhe thhe hum ne jo, wo haseen khwaab kya huye…
bekas barehnagi ko kafan tak nahin naseeb
wo waada-haa e atlas o kamkhwaab kya huye…
jamhooriyat-nawaaz, bashar-dost, amn-khwaah
khud ko jo khud diye thhe, wo alqaab kya huye
(Come, and let us ponder on the question
Those beautiful dreams we had dreamt, what happened to them
Helpless nakedness does not even merit a shroud
What happened to those promises of silk and satin
Democrat, humanist, pacifist
What happened to all those self-conferred titles?)
Instead we have a parliament, that is adjourned more often than it functions and the pictures of rowdy behavior are telecast across the world. The credentials of our representatives leave much to desire. It is no wonder that Hindi Poet Ramnath Singh, who wrote under the pen name of Adam Gondvi said:
Kaju bhune hain plate mein whiskey gilaas mein,
utra hai Ram Rajya vidhayak niwas mein.
Pakke samaajwaadi hain taskar ho yaa dakait
Itna asar hai khaadi ke ujale libaas men
(With roasted nuts in the plate and a glass of whiskey in their hands,
Ram Rajya once again descends once again in the Legislative residences.
They are diehard socialists, be they smuggler or dacoit,
So much is the effect of the white khaadi they wear.)
Contrast the behaviour of our leaders of today with the pledge made by Jawaharlal Nehru on 14 August 1947, “It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.” But our politicians are not solely to blame. The urban elite of the world’s largest democracy treats elections as a public holiday for well deserved getaways and utilises its energies only in outraging on social media, television channels or maybe their blogs. The people who turn up to vote lack proper information about the candidates and often vote as per the dictate of the village and religious elders. They end up as hostages of the social evils of caste and communalism ailing India. No surprise then that we end up getting the government we deserve.
Kalim Ajiz says it much better:
Yeh shahswaar-e-waqt hai’n, itna nashe mein choor
Gir jaaye’n ge, agar yeh utaare na jaaye’n ge
(These are riders on back of opportunity, in such a drunken stupor,
They will tumble headlong, if they are not brought down)
With general elections looming in the horizon we once again see the bankruptcy of ideas, lack of concrete programs for betterment of the populace and attempts at polarisation of voters. In the words of Munawwar Rana:
Tawaif ki tarah hukumat apni badkarion par
Mandir o masjid ka parda daal deti hai
(Like a prostitute sells herself,
our government sells faith)
It is distressing that Muslims are not seen as individuals like the rest of the populace of India, but as a vote bank. They call it the ‘M’ factor. There are attempts by multiple political parties to appease the approximately 13 percent muslim vote. The hardliners in both majority and minority communities are flourishing, spreading hatred and at times inciting violence. This has only resulted in alienation, ghettoisation and a feeling of insecurity amongst the Muslims. Quoting Adam Gondvi:
Hindu ya Muslim ke ahsasaat ko mat chhediye
Apni kursi ke liye jazbaat ko mat chhediye
(Be it Muslim or Hindu, don’t tamper with feelings,
For the sake of your ‘chair’ don’t tamper with emotions)
Throughout history, India has witnessed countless instances of communal violence. These have only affected the common man.
Ghalatiyaan Babar kii thiin; Jumman ka ghar phir kyun jale
Aise naazuk waqt men haalaat ko mat chhediye
(Babur made the mistakes, why then did the Jumman’s house burn?
In such a delicate time, don’t tamper with the situation.)
The recent communal violence and loss of lives in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh only demonstrates what Munawwar Rana said,
bohat sii kursiyan is mulk mein laashon pe rakhi hain
ye voh sach hai jise jhoota sa jhoota bol sakta hai
(Innumerable chairs in this country rest on corpses
This is that truth which every liar can testify to)
Have our politicians failed us? Saaghar Siddiqui perhaps got it right:
Be-wajah tau nahin hai’n chaman ki tabaahiyaan,
Kuch baaghban hai’n, barq-o-sharar se mile huye
(Destruction of the garden is not inexplicable,
Some gardeners are friends of lightening and storms.)
In these troubled times, it is hard to disagree with Adam Gondvi :
Sau main sattar aadmi
Filhaal jab nashaad hai
Dil pe rakh kar haath kahiye
Desh kya aazaad hai
(When seventy out of a hundred people
Are currently unhappy,
Keep your hand on your heart and say
Is the country really Independent?)
But we have hope. We must have hope. Woh Subah Kabhi Tau Aayegi.
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