SYEDA HAMEED | 10 MARCH, 2016
NEW DELHI: Nisar mein teri galiyon pe ai watan ke jahan
Chali hai rasm ke koi na sir uththa ke chaley
These lines from Faiz Ahmed Faiz written during the zenith of military rule, express the poet's love for watan but a watan which mandates that no one walks upright with her/his head high.
Jo koi chahne wala tawaf ko nikley
Nazar chura ke chaley jism o jaan bacha ke chaley.
If a lover (of watan) goes for a parikrama, he dares not look up and walks always on guard.
This is the state of my watan today. One recent example is that of a poet who recited at a Mushaira.
Gauhar Raza is a poet whose nazms and ghazals have always been mirror of the times. He recited his most poignant Nazm a few days ago at the Shankar o Shad Mushaira. And then... His poem was instantly distorted by one television channel and projected in a convoluted form with images, phrases, commentary, to prove the point that this was yet another example of deshdroh masquerading as Mushaira. The screaming text once again invoked the event as supporting Afzal Guru. Sensation is name of the game, reason has no place in this game.
Bazm e Shankar o Shad is the country's most respected Mushaira held every year in memory of two poets from India's best Ganga Jamni tradition, Shankarlal Shankar and Murlidhar Shad, members of the DCM family. As a child I was taken to this Mushaira which was then held on the family's lawns on Curzon Road. It was the elder generation's way to teach culture and Tehzeeb to children. In the fifties, when I could barely understand Shayari, I was thrilled to see Jawaharlal Nehru sitting next to Josh Malihabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, while a very young Zehra Nigah recited at her very first Indo- Pak Mushaira.
This glorious tradition was revived after a gap of a few years by another talented member of the family Madhav Shriram with blessings from other family members. It is this institution and one of our most thoughtful poets who has been targeted by a sinister channel; this particular channel has brought shame to the media by spinning falsehoods to stir up multiple storms of lies.
Every line of Gauhar Raza's poem shatters our somnolent conscience. When he recites, 'Europe jis vehshat se ab bhi sehma sehma rahta hai/ khatra hai voh vehshat mere mulk mein aag lagaegi' he echoes the intense discomfort which has become the cross we carry every day of our lives. When I say 'we' I mean people across the country, people of all communities, castes, classes who are not able to sleep or laugh for fear of what the next day will bring.
When Gauhar Raza recites 'German gaskadonmein ab tak khoon ki badbu aati hai/ Andhi watan parasti humko us rastey le jaaye gi' we think of the blood of Akhlaq Ahmed of Rohit Vemula, the burnt skin smell of Soni Sori, the fear-smell of Christian worshippers of Raigharh, the burnt body of the 13 year old dalit girl child.
The smell of burnt flesh of Gujarat still lingers in my nostrils from 2002 when I went with five colleagues to post carnage Gujarat to write our fact finding report What the Gujarat Carnage Had Done to Muslim Women.
Poets, said Plato are legislators of Mankind. They speak with reason, with feeling, with vision; and the world better listen. If Gauhar Raza said Ye mat pehno ye mat khao ishq to bilkul karna mat/ Deshdroh ki chhaap tumhare upar bhi lag jayegi, he only voiced the anguished cries of people of this entire country who hate being forced into the standard strait jacket which is being sewn as their living shroud.
As for the future generations, we all know that they are the brightest flames which light up dark sinister alleys of falsehoods. Probing their embers can cost dearly, just as tampering with JNU has done to the powers which did that. Gauhar Raza says Ye mat bhoolo ugli naslein raushan sholaa hotien hain/ aag Kurdedoge chingari daman tak aa jayegi. Listen to the voice of youth for they are ambassadors of tomorrow. Not heeding them will singe your cloak.
Who can stop the pen or stifle the speaking voice? When a TV channel tries to do that by placing glib sentences in the mouth of an anchor, I wonder if the presenter, the researcher, producer, the CEO know that they have sold their souls for a few pieces of silver? Sold their souls and sold the country so cheaply to merchants of hate. What is the gain? Is it just lust for TRP's?
In targeting Gauhar Raza the channel has covered itself with shame. The time will come when all those who colluded to do this damage will find themselves at the receiving end of the same oppressive regimes which have given them the license to demolish, distort and demonize.
Editors Note: The said television channel has run a news package on this mushaira repeatedly since 6pm last night violating all journalistic ethics by targeting the one poet, the other participants and delegates in a manner that has his family now worried about his security. It is again a case of a television channel playing the role of the jury and the hangman with not a single line in evidence of its vulgar allegations dubbing respected citizens of India drawn from all walks of life as “Afzal Guru lovers gang” and “Pakistan Premi ka gang” in the commentary to this package.
(Syeda Hameed was a member of now the erstwhile Planning Commission)