Sahir Ludhianvi – Communist and a Poet

By Saswat Pattanayak

It was more than a coincidence that Sahir Ludhianvi was born on an International Women’s Day. His concern and respect for women was as much personal as it was political. For him, no one – and nothing – was more important than his mother Sardar Begum. Resenting her husband’s feudal properties, his mother had left that household and raised Sahir on her own. And Sahir grew up as an organic revolutionary against landlords and burgeoning capitalism of that era. And more importantly, as a progressive poet deeply aware of the capitalistic exploitations of women and the working class.

An avid reader of Marx, Sahir early on was influenced by Faiz and Josh – prominent communist poets of that era. His early compositions included “Jahaan Mazdoor Rehte Hai” [Where Workers Reside]. In 1937, Sahir joined All India Students Federation (AISF), affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI) – committed to anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles. He was expelled from both the colleges (in Ludhiana and Lahore) that he attended, due to his political activisms. Sajjad Zaheer’s Progressive Writers’ Movement (PWM) would subsequently provide Sahir his cultural platform, to express himself as a socialist poet rejecting ‘art for the sake of art’.

As a revolutionary poet, Sahir wrote “Kuchh Baatein” [Some Issues]:
“Des ke adbaar ki baatein karey
Ajnabi sarkar ki baatein karey
Agli duniya ke fasaaney chhoddkar
Is jahannumzaar ki baatein karey”

[Let us talk of the nation’s tribulations
Talk of the colonial power impositions
Why bother with heaven’s splendors
Let us talk of the hell we possess]

As a communist poet, Sahir wrote the poignant verses “Aurat ne janam diya mardoen ko, mardone ne use bazaar diya” [Women gave birth to men; men made them commodities]. His analysis of feudalism/capitalism manifested itself in the splendid tribute to Taj Mahal, full of scorn borne out of a materialistic outlook that defined his work.

He wrote,
“Anginat logoen ne duniya mein mohabbat ki hai
Kaun kehta hai ke saadiq na tha un ke jazbe
Lekin un ke liye tasahir ka samaan nahin
Kyon ki woh log bhi apni hi tarah muflis the”

[Countless peoples in our world have showered love in abundance
Who can claim their heartfelt love ever lacked sincere affections
But they lacked the means of advertisement, of crude exhibitions
After all, they were like you and I: submitted by birth to cruel situations]

Sahir’s secular credentials were unmatched. An avowed atheist, he rejected the organized religions as impediments on the path to attaining a sense of humanity. Addressing an abandoned child without a social identity, Sahir wrote:

“Accha hai abhi tak tera kuchh naam nahni hai
Tujh ko kisi mazhab se koi kaam nahni hai
Jis ilm ne insaan ko taqseem kiya hai
Is ilm ka tujh par koi ilzam nahni hai”

[A bundle of joy you are, sans a given name
Disconnected from religions, that’s your gain
Religious texts have only divided humanity
My child! So far they couldn’t attack your sanity]

As a communist poet, he was not just dedicated to women’s empowerment and secular values, he also was a peacenik who refused to believe in sanctities of geographical borders that justify militarism. He wrote –

“Khoon apna ho ya paraaya ho
Nasl-e-adam ka khoon hai aakhir
Jung mashriq mein ho ki magrib mein
Amn-e-alam ka khoon hai aakhir
Bomb gharoen par giren ya sarhad par
Rooh-e-ta’amir jakhm khaati hai
Khet apne jalein ki auroen ke
Jis’t faakoen se tilmilaati hai”

[Shed our blood, or theirs
Lives lost are of human race
War on the East or against the West
Casualty is troubled peace
Bomb our land, or across the borders
Afflicted are souls under construction
Homeless our people, or theirs
Suppressed is oppressed expression]

It was his internationalism that was recognized in the Soviet Union and his commitment to humanist values remain unchanged till the end of his life. In 1961, when Patrice Lumumba was assassinated by CIA, Sahir would protest and leave behind a haunting masterpiece, like none other –

“Zulm ki baat hi kya, zulm ki aukaat hi kya
Zulm bas zulm hai aagaz se anjaam talak
Khoon phir khoon hai, sau shakl badal sakta hai
Aisi shakley ki mitao toh mitaaye na baney
Aise sholey, ki bujhao toh bujhaaye na baney
Aisey naarey ki dabaao toh dabaaye na baney”

[Injustice can only do so much
Capable of nothing much
But the blood can take many shape
Shapes that are permanent
Inextinguishable Embers
And indomitable slogans]

Sahir’s dream coincided with that of a revolutionary who is capable of imagining not just a world without borders, but also a world without prison cells – a song that is so relevant today in light of sedition charges routinely applied to silence independent thinkers of the society Sahir once had sought to liberate.

He wrote –
“Jis subah ke khaatir jug jug se hum sab mar mar kar jeete hai
Jis subah ke amrut ki dhuun mein hum zahar ke pyaale peete hai
In bhookhi pyaasi ruhoen par ek din to karam pharmayegi
woh subah kabhi toh aayegi…

Manhoos samaaji dhaancho mein jab julm na paale jaayenge
Jab haath na kaate jaayenge jab sar na uchhale jaayenge
Jailoen ke bina jab duniya ki sarkaar chalaayi jaayegi
Woh subah hum hi se aayegi”

[For the dawn, that for ages, we nurtured with sacrifices
For that morning of nectars, have we not consumed poisons
These impoverished souls will finally be rewarded
And such a dawn, shall one day be ushered in…

As crimes cease to be structural givens of societies
Justice no longer served with torture, death penalties
A new world needs no oppressive prison
We shall usher in such a new dawn!]
——

As a communist poet, like Neruda, Sahir was close to the women of his life. Since none of his relationship could be formalized, and he died shortly after his mother’s demise whom he loved endlessly, he remained much misunderstood in his personal life. Many criticized him as an egotist megalomaniac seeking attention. But Sahir remained indifferent to both adulation and brickbats.

In 1971, when he was awarded with the prestigious Padma Shri, he told his close friend and fellow progressive poet Jan Nisar Akhtar, “Yaar Jan Nisar, ab sarkar ko tumhe bhi Padma Shri se nawaazna chahiye” [Jan Nisar, the government should now honor you with a Padma Shri as well].
Jan Nisar, amused, asked Sahir, why [“Bhala aisa kyoun”]?
Sahir wryly replied, “Ab yeh zillat mujh akele se bardaasht nahni hoti.” [I cannot bear this embarrassment alone.]

———

[All translations by Saswat Pattanayak]

More translation of Sahir’s poetry –

Fellow Decent Humans

Taj Mahal

Radical Child

Giving Back

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Roots (and prospects) of Justice

Our justice system has failed to protect the very principles of liberty and equality it was tasked to defend and become a willing participant in the State oppression it was supposed to prevent. Reforming it requires us to revisit what we’ve previously held sacrosanct, says Saswat Pattanayak. (Kindle Magazine)

“I request this House to adopt the same conciliatory attitude to all political minorities and to adopt the same principles as have been adopted by the Soviet Union…I propose my amendment and request Dr. Ambedkar to accept it—That in the Preamble for the words ‘We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic’, the words ‘We The people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a union of Indian Socialistic Republics to be called U.I.S.R. on the lines of U.S.S.R.’ be substituted.”

—Amendment proposed by Maulana Hasrat Mohani, 17 October 1949

Maulana Mohani’s visions were threefold: “Our Constitution must be federal, it must be centrifugal, and the constituent States or Republics should willingly hand over certain central powers to the Centre”. He was highly critical of the draft under consideration and minced no words: “We should take our minorities into our confidence. Instead of doing that, you are going to outcaste them altogether. You are passing anything you like, without the slightest consideration for the interests of even your political minorities.”

The Constituent Assembly of India had quite predictably negatived Maulana Mohani’s proposed amendment. The feelings were reciprocal—Mohani, the man who symbolised religious harmony and coined the phrase “Inquilab Zindabaad” also remained the only voice of dissent in the Assembly and refused to go along with the finally adopted Constitution. His desire for a free voluntary democratic Indian Union of sovereign units never materialised.

Almost seven decades have passed since, and the sole dissenter Maulana Mohani has been vindicated. India has failed on both grounds: our states are constantly at odds with the Centre, and our political minorities are routinely persecuted. Both social justice and individual liberties are duly neglected and travesty has become synonymous with justice.

Social (in)Justice

India’s most devastating failure to tackle social justice started only a year after independence was gained. The Hyderabad massacre of 1948—the deaths of around 40,000 people, mostly Muslims killed by Hindu mobs—was well documented but remained suppressed for decades and no justice was rendered. Two decades later in 1969, the Muslim community was again targeted, this time in Gujarat where Hindu nationalists killed hundreds of Muslims and destroyed nearly 40 mosques and 50 dargahs. Exactly two decades later, Bihar (Bhagalpur) witnessed the worst communal violence until that period, resulting in over 1,000 deaths (900 of them Muslims) and the displacement of over 50,000 people. The Moradabad riots of 1980, the Nellie massacre of 1983, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the anti-Muslim Bombay riots of 1992–93 and the 2002 Gujarat riots together have resulted in innumerable deaths and massive distrust among minority communities. Add to these the recent Muzaffarnagar riots, the plights of Northeast and Kashmir and we have a region fragmented into different imaginary and competing republics, bound by the law of the land, but not by its spirit.
What can explain the dismissive manner in which the accusations of over a hundred “political” rapes in Kunan Poshpora (among many others in Kashmir) have been handled? What about the justice in caste-based violence resulting in the rape of Dalit women in India (statistically, 21 rapes every week)? So absurdly absent has judicial intervention been that people not only have “taken the law unto their own hands”, but private militias have been established to oppress the Dalits. As a result, the dispossessed are either too often casually disregarded as willful participants in the violence, or are publicly used as case studies carrying Maoist aspirations.

From vilifying insecure communities and terrorising the marginalised, to carrying out broad daylight romanticised “encounters”, the Indian justice system has stoically overlooked communal clashes, rendered selective justice, oppressed political minorities, ignored indigenous peoples and fostered hegemonic nation-building excesses. In the latest instance, the Hashimpura massacre has turned out to be a textbook example of injustice. Even as the police and the military orchestrated the murder of 42 innocent Muslim youth, no one has been found to be guilty. Nearly three decades have passed, and yet not a single member from the military could be brought to the trial for investigational purpose. From entertaining charges of sedition against Arundhati Roy and Geelani, to actually declaring Dr. Binayak Sen guilty, the judicial system is notoriously indifferent to heinous crimes of hateful nature, while it promptly penalises conscientious dissenting citizens who express unpopular political opinions. Even as the sacrosanct wings of democracy in the form of executive-legislative-judiciary-military have long ceased implementing laws that can guarantee a life of dignity for all the citizens of India without discrimination, they have been acutely enthusiastic about reminding people of how serious a charge of “sedition” can be—a remnant of a cruel colonial legacy that has been neatly preserved.

Individual Liberty

Like Maulana Mohani, there was another unsung member of the Constituent Assembly who had predicted the approaching disasters: Mahavir Tyagi. While Mohani was concerned that in our anticommunist quest, we were ignoring an emancipatory USSR Constitution, while heavily borrowing from colonial legacies of oppressive Constitutions of the imperialist world, and that, by doing so, we were facilitating prospects for dangerous communal violence in the coming years, Tyagi was equally emphatic in rejecting the proposals of the Drafting Committee that had introduced the clause of “Preventive Detention”, which curtailed basic individual liberties and in turn made the judiciary system a draconic one.
“What relevancy is there for a detention clause in the Constitution which is meant to guarantee fundamental rights to the citizens? I am afraid the introduction here of a clause of this kind changes the chapter of fundamental rights into a penal code worse than the Defence of India Rules of the old government. I have suffered under the Defence of India Rules long detention“. Tyagi went one step further and proposed that a truly emancipated people must possess the capacity to overthrow a government that acts destructively against the rights of the people: “I would ask Dr. Ambedkar and the Drafting Committee if they are also prepared to arm the people also with the power to overthrow a government which works destructively against the fundamental rights which they have granted to them. Surely the people have got the right to overthrow, abolish or alter such a government and to constitute another government which they think would be more likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

It was not a matter of sheer coincidence that both the divide-and-rule policies resulting in communal violence and curtailment of liberty by means of detention without trial were gifts from British colonialism. R. Palme Dutt cited in India Today (1940) the official policy of the British Raj: “Our endeavour should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavour to amalgamate them. Divide et impera should be the principle of Indian government.”

And yet, despite having an anti-colonial spirit at the forefront of freedom struggle in India, we heavily retained the colonial judicial chapters. Ironically, the British have themselves completely abolished sedition as an offence, but India has zealously guarded the provision, which reads: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government estab­lished by law shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added”.

Let alone entertaining Tyagi’s demands for rights to the citizens to oppose reactionary governments, the Indian injustice system is rife with criminalising citizens without providing them with basic safeguards. Nearly 70 percent of the prison population in India comprises citizens who haven’t been tried (pre-trial detainees or remand prisoners), even as the occupancy level in the prison system is at 118.4 percent. Monthly pending cases in just the Supreme Court amounts to 61,300 (February, 2015). The number of pending cases in the High Courts is 44.5 lakh and in the lower judiciary, the number is 2.6 crore.

Judicial Activism

Even as the pending cases and prison system are depressing indicators, the enthusiasm to encourage judicial activism is a parallel development that is founded upon utter hopelessness. If democracy is meant to reflect the will of the people, then judicial activism/overreach is in reality a legitimate tool to undermine that will. There is no doubt that public interest litigations have done a world of good and that the Supreme Court of India has enormously improved the country’s state of affairs, but at the same time, by essentially violating the separation of powers principle, the courts are setting wrong precedents. Most notably, the manner in which the Chief Justice of India and four other judges get to select and appoint judges clearly sends alarming signals.
Most of the judicial activism is made possible owing to interpretations of our Constitution, which are perfectly legal (naturally), but it will not be a stretch to visualise the courts as the new bureaucracy. Not to mention, considering the social locations of the powers to be within the judiciary, a tad elitist (again, naturally so).

As the recent “Nirbhaya” documentary episode demonstrated, not only was the ban itself rightfully controversial and therefore ignited discussions, but the media interviews with the defense attorneys displayed almost a trend of judicial vigilantism. Whatever be the nature of its content and regardless of how useful to or judgmental of the feminist movements it is, the excuse that the telecast of it can influence the due process of law is open to debate. The vigilantism accompanied the manners in which one attorney threatened a member of the audience with an accusation that he was insulting the Supreme Court if he was going to pose critical questions to the lawyer. The lawyer then went on to boast how his daughter would never do something for which he would have to set her on fire—as he was the custodian of his adult daughter.

As shocking as such revelations appear to be, the truth is the lawyers and judges hail from the same patriarchal society which enables rape culture, the same casteist regions that pervade the entire landscape of the country, and the same corrupt playing fields that separate the commoners from the VIP judges for whom the traffic gets cleared on priority.

Back to the Basics

The same meritocracy, which continues to disadvantage the historically oppressed, finds its greatest manifestation in the country’s judiciary. It is undeniable that the justice system—law enforcement and courts alike—bears great responsibilities, especially during times when the executive and legislative branches have reached the lowest ebb. But it is even all the more important that while judicial activism arms the judges with the unprecedented privileges, they open up to much greater scrutiny.
One of the ways to move forward is to ensure social justice and individual liberty, while at the same time abolishing provisions for seditions and detentions without trials. Constitutional interpretations are necessary, but thanks to amendment provisions, there are greater hopes still. For amendments of course, using the participation of other branches of governance is crucial, so that overreach of any specific unit is contained.

India has multitudes of problems when it comes to issues specifically impacting the women and religious minorities. If we have not been able to adequately safeguard their interests, it is quite possible that we may need new laws in place, employing feminist languages that aim at liberating the oppressed.

For instance, in the past, we might have neglected to consider the USSR Constitution or the idea behind the Soviet of Nationalities or Korenizatsiya. Following Maulana Mohani’s proposal, if we look at 1936 Constitution of the USSR, we shall realise how we could adopt a right to free higher education conducted in the native language, a right to rest and leisure that guarantees a working day to last not more than seven hours. We shall realise how as important it is to provide for a fundamental right in the name of religious worship, it is equally necessary to let people enjoy the freedom to conduct antireligious propaganda. To make sure that citizens are “guaranteed inviolability of the person”. where women are accorded equal rights with men without exploitations, citizens have the “right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service…”

Whatever might have been our collective past, the future still shall hold promise if we revisit what we have conventionally considered sacrosanct. We need to improvise upon our own laws, to be more inclusive, to be more sensitive, to be more egalitarian. To do away with capital punishment, to consider marital rape as a crime, to prohibit corporal punishment. To prioritise structural reforms over a penal system. To redefine what constitutes a crime: a petty theft out of hunger owing to failure on part of the State to provide for basic needs, or accumulation of disproportionate private properties no matter how legitimate the means may appear to be.

A justice system’s success does not lie in exceeding the capacity of prison cells, as ours has done. It lies in establishing conditions in such a manner that prison walls will need to be crumbled down. That is the new era we have to work towards, and hope for.

As Sahir Ludhianvi so prophetically wrote:

“Manhoos samaaji dhaancho mein jab julm na paale jaayenge
Jab haath na kaate jaayenge jab sar na uchhale jaayenge
Jailoen ke bina jab duniya ki sarkaar chalaayi jaayegi
Woh subah hum hi se aayegi”

(As crimes cease to be structural givens of societies
Justice no longer served with torture, death penalties
A new world needs no oppressive prison
We shall usher in such a new dawn!)

Fellow Decent Human Beings… (Translated)

Following is my translation of a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi: “Ae Sharif Insaanoen”

I find the poem to be deeply relevant to our times. Just when the majority of us are blaming the minority among us for criminal acts of terror caused by the militarists and suddenly believing in the words of “our” national politicians to caste doubts upon innocent people of another country, at a time when we Indians have become mute witnesses to cultural bans on Pakistan and artists from Pakistan even as racist communal elements in Bollywood such as Aadesh Srivastava or Abhijeet are gaining grounds, at a time when artists such as respected Ghulam Ali are being banned from entering the land of a country – India- whose people love him immensely, simply because suddenly some communal Hindu supremacist leaders are opposing any possible cultural exchanges with our neighboring nation, at a time when we are allowing a bunch of proven thugs – the politicians who we all know to be corrupt to the core every passing day, the politicians who have legitimized criminalization of politics in the land of the Buddha – are demanding across party lines to come up with draconic laws to silence resenting voices in India, at a time when ATS officer Karkare who was instrumental in uncovering the ugly masks of the terror from Hindu fundamentalists has been killed and has been converted into a hero by the very people he despised, such is a time to question our conventional wisdom.

Shed our blood, or theirs

Lives lost are of human race 

War on the East or against the West

Casualty is troubled peace

 

Bomb our land, or across the borders

Afflicted are souls under construction

Homeless our people, or theirs

Suppressed is oppressed expression 

 

Tanks march across or in our lands

Leave Mother Earth barren stretch

Victory cry or vanquished sighs

Countless lives mourn the death

 

War itself the biggest crisis

What problem can it ever solve?

Seeds of hatred it perpetuates

What necessities will it absolve?

 

Hence, fellow decent humans,

Better if we avert these wars 

Ours and theirs – in all the lands

Better if candle of peace sparks

 

To prove our point of advancements

Do we need to flow their bloods?

To rid our houses of darkness

Do we need to set theirs on flames?

 

Wars we must differently showcase

Battlefield’s not the sole option

Humans also exhibit intelligence

Fanaticism not the only emotion 

 

Come, in this age of bitter darkness

Let us spark some lights of care

Those steps that foster peace and progress 

Let us consider some new thoughts to share

 

War, results of heartless barbarism

Peace, results of civilized progress

War, proud catch of power structure

Peace, humble heritage of humaneness

 

War, in the name of enslaved people

Peace, to promote socially just system

War, voiced by misguided zealots

Peace, for hapless masses supreme

 

War, a shameful occupation of few

Peace, for equity, prosperity for all

Fight the war, and the war-mongers

For peace, progressives everywhere

 

(Translated by Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet)

 

  

Original poem by Sahir Ludhianvi – 

Ae Sharif Insaanoen

Khoon apna ho ya paraaya ho

Nasl-e-adam ka khoon hai aakhir

Jung mashriq mein ho ki magrib mein

Amn-e-alam ka khoon hai aakhir

Bomb gharoen par giren ya sarhad par

Rooh-e-ta’amir jakhm khaati hai

Khet apne jalein ki auroen ke

Jis’t faakoen se tilmilaati hai

Tank aage badhe ki peeche hatein

Kokh dharti ki baanjh hoti hai

Fatah ka jash’n ho ki haar ka sog

Jindegi mayatoen pe roti hai

Jung to khud hi ek mash’ala hai

Jung kya mash’aloen ka ha’l degi

Aag aur khoon aaj bakhshegi

Bhookh aur eh’tiyaj kal degi

Is liye ae sharif insaanoen

Jung talti rahe to behtar hai

Aap aur hum sabhi ke aangan mein

Shamaa jalti rahe to behtar hai

Bartari ke suboot ki khaatir

Khoon bahaana hi kya jaroori hai

Ghar ki taarikiyan mitaane ko

Ghar jalaana hi kya jaroori hai

Jung ke aur bhi toh maidan hai

Sirf maidaane kushtoen-khoon hi nahni

Haasil-e-jindagi khi’rad bhi hai

Haasil jindagi joonon hi nahni

Aao is tirabakht duniya mein

Fiqr ki roshni ko aam karein

Aman ko jinse taqbiyat pahunche

Aisi jung-oen ka ehtimam karen

Jung, baha’sat se barbiriyat se

Aman, tahaziboen irtika ke liye

Jung, magr-afreen shiyasat se

Aman, insaan ki baka ke liye

Jung aflaas aur gulaami se

Aman behtar nizm ke khaatir

Jung, bhatki huyi qiyaadat se

Aman, bewas aawam ke khaatir

Jung sharmaaye ke tas’loot se

Aman, jumhoor ki khooshi ke liye

Jung, jungoen ke falsafe ke khilaaf

Aman, pur’an jindagi ke liye

 

Vote for Taj! But find for me yet another place!

As India (and the world) goes to vote for Taj Mahal tomorrow, an ugly form of patriotism and appreciation has surfaced utilizing a monument declared to be most beautiful by some.

The claim for “seven wonders” (and one wonders why they need to have it to be only seven, and not thirteen, or a hundred) has been reduced to a competitive exercise where people representing their countries exhibit some version of solidarity to showcase monuments that have absolutely nothing in relevance to either the present, or the future.

Moreover, the past–related to sites like the Taj Mahal–also needs to be investigated further before the glorifications continue in a world where human beings have less worth than marble stones.

In our world where visual appeal and exhibitionism is so rampant as to have become a required criterion for assessment of objects, events and people, it is no wonder that huge architectures are recalled with how they merely have been standardized to generate individualist awe, and not with any form of collective remorse.

To mark this day with regret, therefore, I have translated one song which was written more than four decades ago by the great progressive Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. The original poem follows the translated version:

Taj Mahal

For you, Taj Mahal is no less a splendor of love
Amidst the eldritch, obsessed are you with its trove

My beloved! Discover for me yet another place where we can meet!

Grandeur of royal palace is deliberately contrasted
For the commoners; it’s a sordid message so crafted
We mortals have no permit to tread the paths so strewn
With baits to allure us into that maze, to dream to its tune!

Before being inveigled into the royal sparks, my beloved!
You should have descried the mammoth trickery and fraud!
You could have felt the roars of your insignificant abode!

Countless peoples in our world have showered love in abundance
Who can claim their heartfelt love ever lacked sincere affections
But they lacked the means of advertisement, of crude exhibitions
After all, they were like you and I: submitted by birth to cruel situations

This monument, this mausoleum, this unmitigated embankment
These are apparition of regal wealth and unmerited enchantment
For the records of the wretched, these disdainfully antique afflictions
Were erected upon the toil, labor and sweat of many a poor generations

O my beloved! They must indeed have been in love forever
Those that could shape such magnificence by their love’s labor
Yet not a candle is lighted in memory of those that were enslaved
Nor a lamp they could plant to cherish the love of their beloved
This opulent yard, this palatial lap of luxury that marks the ruler
Bedizened with gaudy presence of stately, colossal architecture
It’s merely an act of mockery on part of an autocratic monarch
Who usurping wealth, has smudged the poor, with this indelible mark!

My beloved! Discover for me yet another place where we can meet!

(Trans. by: Saswat Pattanaya, The Peoples’ Poet)
—-

The original poetry by Sahir Ludhianvi follows:

Taja tere lie eka mazahara-e-ulafata hi sahi
tujha ko isa vadi-e-rangina se aqidata hi sahi
mere mehabuba kahim aura mila kara mujha se

bazama-e-sahi mein gharibom ka guzara kiya maini
sabta jisa raha mein hom satuta sahi ke nisana
usa pe ulafata bhari rahazana ka safara kiya maini
meri mehabuba pase parde tasahira vafa

tune satuta ke nisanom ko to dekha hota
murda sahom ke maqabira se behalane vali
apane tarika makanom ko to dekha hota
anaginata laugom ne duniya mem mauhabbata ki hai
kauna kahata hai ke sadiqa na tha una ke jazabe
lekina una ke liye tasahira ka samana nahim
kyonke vaha lauga bhi apani hi tarah mufalisa the

yaha imarata-va-maqabira ye fasilem ye hisara
matalaqa-ula-hukma sahanasahom ki azamata ke sutum
sina-e-dahara ke nasura haim kahate nasura
jajbe hem una mem tere mere ijadada ka khuna

meri mehabuba, inhem bhi to mauhabbata hogi
jina ki sanai ne bakhasi hai use sakla-e-jamila
una ke piyarom ke maqabira rahe be nama namuda
aja taka ina para jalai na kisi ne qandila
ye chamana zara ye jamana ka kinara, ye mahala
ye munakqasa dara-o-divara ye maharaba ye taqa
ika sahanasaha ne daulata ka sahara le kara
hama gharibom ki mauhabbata ka udaya hai mazaqa

mere mehabuba kahim aura mila kara mujha se

Happy Victory Day!

My father calls this, not the Independence day, but the Victory Day.

For, on August 14-15, 1947, peoples of the brave revolutionary land of India finally won the long war against British Imperialism. The war, spanning more than 200 years was fought with occasional non-violent demonstrations of millions of people, and more importantly, was fought with organized revolutionary peasants and workers movements which finally forced the Empire to concede defeat. It was perhaps the largest victory of the landless peoples over the landlords and invaders in the history of world. In doing so, peoples from the Indian subcontinent regions demonstrated that they would not concede a wee bit either to accommodate the foreign imperialists nor allow any rule by the homegrown royal families. The “purna swaraj” declaration by the radical left freedom fighters, although facing strong opposition from religious chauvinists who were in cohort with British colonialists, finally forced the expulsion of the rulers and silenced the communal politicians.

However, religions as addictively dangerous they are by nature, spread the poison of hatred incited by the British in their centuries old misrules. The ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics of old guard imperialists continued to show colors in the divided land of India. Not only were they successful in dividing the country into India and Pakistan, two regions who shared the same history of struggles, they also left behind a legacy that continued to help their former informers—the right wing Hindu fanatics who were backed by the British authorities to disrupt the harmonious ways of living, that were characteristic of the people of the land.

Today, sixty years hence, we still feel the uprising of the right wing colonial assistors. These are the same religious elements who stop at nothing in order to create environment of suspicion and foster an insecure climate for the religious and atheistic minorities. These are still hands-in-gloves with the oppressor classes worldwide who comfortably rule in various names, but propagate hatred, war, and feelings of hostilities which help them in targeting countries that practice different religions. In the name of religion alone, they have fought all the wars of the world so far. And they believe they will continue to kill people without even facing opposition, since they have already created the notions of God, cultures of religion, and politics of intolerance.

Today they are targeting Lebanon. Yesterday they targeted Mumbai. Day before that, they targeted working people of London. All in the name of a philosophy they created to sustain their ruling class status. The philosophy is called Religion.

Sixty years have passed since the day became sacred to Pakistan and India, for their peoples’ revolutionary overthrow of the imperialists. Yet it seems the enemy grows stronger. The religious fanatics in the name of their various Gods have been ruining the peace we deserve to have in this planet.

So I thought it will be worthwhile to reflect and tell to each of us and to each of our children, that enough has been lost. Now is the time for social justice. Now is the time to regain our lost causes. Not another life in the name of religion. Not another child to be declared religious. Not another war in name of religions, nationalities and moral standards. No more Christians and Sikhs. No more Muslims and Hindus. Just human beings who respect the roots of our shared history as peaceful, cooperative peoples. Just radical human beings.

I have translated Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem “Tu Hindu Banega Na Mussalman Banega” for this occasion. The poem was addressed to a child who did not know of his parents. Naturally enough, the child had no surname yet, no religion yet and no nationality yet! And such a joy was this child to the poet!

Full of hope and twinkles of determination. Sahir was not just the voice of the landless and oppressed, orphans and women, he was also the voice of the future, of a future that belongs to all of us, without private properties, mindless competition, needless nationalities and fanatic religions. Here it is:

Happy Victory Day!

My Child, A Radical Human Being

Neither you will be a Hindu nor a Muslim will you be
A gift of this new era, a radical human being you will be

A bundle of joy you are, sans a given name
Disconnected from religions, that’s your gain

Religious texts have only divided humanity
My child! So far they couldn’t attack your sanity

Hence the clarion call for the revolution, will you be
A gift of this new era, a radical human being you will be

Mother Nature warmly nurtured us as human beings
Alas! we forced our children into Hindus and Muslims

One small world was all that we were bestowed
Bigots among us created India and Iran instead

Destroyer of barriers, of this unjust world order, will you be
A gift of this new era, a radical human being you will be

Religions preach hate–they are not designed for you
And they practice hostilities–not even an option for you

No good is this Quran since it excludes the Hindu temples
You disown the Geeta that mentions not the Islam shrines

Symbol of world peace, fighter for social justice you will be
A gift of this new era, a radical human being you will be

In garb of patriotism, these nationalists are daylight killers
Even they trade coffins meant for their warring soldiers

These rich capitalists adorned in power and fame
They barter the peoples’ peace for communal shame

Shudder them with deaths, a revolutionary you will be
A gift of this new era, a radical human being you will be

(Trans. By Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet)

The original poem by Sahir:
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