Love of the land in poetry
Language, poetry, religion, and nationalism — all evolved simultaneously during India’s freedom struggle, and they all warned against intolerance as it does not go well with the very idea of the nation, writes Madan Lall Manchanda
The first glimmerings of patriotism in Urdu poetry are manifest in “Shahr Ashob” bewailing the plight of plundered towns and ravaged cities as a result of invasions and chaotic political conditions in India in the wake of decline of Mughal Empire. “Dilli” , the worst sufferer, had witnessed massacres a number of times. Eminent poets like Mir, Hatam, Insha, Ghalib and their contemporaries bemoaned Dilli’s plight. Localities of Dill presented true portrayal of the inner travail. Every appearance was a stark picture of people’s misery and according to Ghalib. Every courtyard was in fact an execution ground even a home resembled a prison cell. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was deported to Burma (Myanmar) and died in Rangoon. The memorable couplet of the Nation’s first hero of Independence struggle makes indeed a pathetic reading. He pined for two yards of the sacred land as his burial place.
Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar daffan ke liye
Do gaz Zamin bhi na millee kooye yaar mein’
The concept of nation is a later growth and was primarily due to the impact of English language and inflow of Western ideas. The pioneering efforts of Mohd Hasan Azad and Khawaja Hali led to the evolution of this new concept. No doubt, earlier Nazir Akbarabadi sang of the land, its season and festivals in a big way. It spoke of his love for the Hindustani language and people and their tradition. But it was Hali who inspired ‘Hubb-e-Watan’ (Desh Prem) and bewailed the national decadence . Not only did he rid Urdu of artificiality and drab conventionality , he also gave it a new bend by making it worthy of reflecting the spirit of time and growing political consciousness. He stressed unity among people with different faiths and religions as the only way for the salvation of the country.
‘Tum agar chahate ho mulk ki khair
Na kisi hamwatan ko samjho ghair
Ho Musalman is mein ya ke Hindu
Buddah mazhab ho ya Brahmu
Samjho ankhon ki putlian inko’
(If you really wish well of your country, Do not for heaven’s sake consider any of the countryman as alien. Be it a Muslim living in it or Hindu. May he be a Buddhist or Brahmu. Treat them all alike as your own dear one’s)
Our sense of nationalism began with the wave of Bengali. Intellectuals like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee turned the nation into a goddess in ‘Vande Mataram’ One may recall the famous poem ‘Naya Shivala’ by Dr. Mohd Iqbal whose concluding stanza contradicts the notion and the controversy is seemingly futile:
‘Khak-e-Watan ka Zarra, har devta mujhe hai. (Every small particle of my country is worthy of veneration like a deity)
Similarly, Rabindranath Tagore’s famous song adopted as National Anthem inspires spirit of Nationalism and unification of states. These great voices of patriotism and humanism exerted great influence on poets like Saroor Jahanabadi whose poem ‘ Khak-e-Watan’ and Brij Narain Chakbast, distinguished for truly Hindustani diction, are moving examples of patriotism. Akbar Allahabadi’s patriotism is reflected in his humorous and satirical poems; Tilok Chand Mehroom’s are notable for genuine and true feelings expressed in a language as easy as natural as it is pure. In particular, his poem in his collection ‘Karvan-e-Watan’ notably ‘Bharat Mata Kyon Royee’, ‘ Har krishan ke Phool’, ‘Ek Dost ke Qaid ho Jane par’ are indeed very touching.
The poems of Brij Narain Chakbast and Dr. Mohd Iqbal are unique for their appeal for unity Iqbal”s ‘ Taran-e-Hindi’ in particular is matchless for its appeal:
Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindostan Hamara
Hum Bulballen Hain Is Ke Yeh Gulsitan Hamara
(Our India is the best in the whole world. We are its nightingales, and this our own garden.)
Again, in his poem ‘ Naya Shivala’ Dr. Mohd Iqbal is an ardent supporter of Hindu and Muslim unity:
‘Tang Aa Ke Mein ne Akhir Dair-o-Harram Ko Chohra’
(In despair, I have left both the Temple and the Mosque)
Also, there ran a parallel current as ‘Milli Shairi,’ representing Muslim Nationalism. Some have regarded it as an off shoot of Indian nationalism. National movement for Independence as Milli Shairi too was aimed at bringing about awakening in the Muslim Community and was thus closely linked with the overall National Programme. To view Milli Shairi in isolation of this fact would not be justified. Hali’s ‘Musadas’, ‘ Mad-o-Jazr Islam’, Shibli’s poems devoted to Islam. Akbar Allahbadi’s satirical poems. Iqbal’s ‘ Tarana-o-Milli’ and other poetical works devoted to Islam belong to the same pedigree.
The rant of Mahatma Gandhi’s patriotic songs in length and breadth of the country awakened the slumbering Nation:
Uth jag musafir bhor bhai
Ab rain kaha jo sovat hai
And instilled the spirit of fellow feeling:
Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je
Peed parayi jaane re
Similarly, Shyamlal Gupta Parshad’s song:
Vijayi Vishw Tiranga Pyara
Jhanda Uncha Rahe Hamara
In a situation radicalised by Mahatma Gandhi the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, the economic distress, on rush of socialistic ideas as a result of Russian Revolution the non-co-operative movement etc. generated a spirit of revolt. Josh Maleehabadi and other national poets encouraged the spirit of revolt and sacrifice
‘Sarfroshi ki tamanon ab hamare dil mein hai
Dekhna hai zor kitna bazoo-e-qatil mein hai’
(Now that we are seized of the emotion to sacrifice our head/ The strength of the slayer’s hand to chop us off is, at test)
Bhagat Singh was a martyr as also Sukh Dev and Raj Guru and scores of others who were executed before and after them by British. But it is not martyrdom that makes Bhagat Singh special. It is his thought and ideas
Irfan Habib points out that the term Bhagat Singh used was “Composite Nationalism, where fundamental tenet is inclusion. This means that Nationalism cannot be the basis for exclusion. Bhagat Singh never believed in the binary of Nationalist and anti-national. For Bhagat Singh ‘Nationalism could not be based on religion, culture, region or ethnicity.Undeniably, Bhagat Singh was a man of ideas too. “It is not out of place to mention that Pakistan is considering raising a Memorial for him in Pakistan where Bhagat Singh and his companion were hanged. Irfan goes a step further in context of Nationalism that Tagore would be an anti-national in today’s India” as Tagore loved the human kind the world over.
The onslaught of revolutionary sentiment set in motion the progressive movement in 1936. It began with zeal of a crusade and gave Urdu poetry a new vigour, a liberating conscience. The poetry of Josh, Firaq, Faiz, Majaz Makhdum, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Sardar Jafri and host of poets of young generation, notably Sahir Ludhianvi, is an impassioned expression of the age of poverty, slavery and exploitation. Majaz, Jaffri and others gave a call to the youth for rebellion
‘Mubarak dosto’ Labraz hai ab is ka paimana
Uthao aandhian, kamzor hai hai buniad-e-kashana’
(Congratulation friends ! The cup is now full to the brim, Raize mighty wind storms as the foundation of the house is shaky and unstable)
However, the dream of united India was eventually shattered. In the wake of partition, communal frenzy and barbarism took a heavy toll of human life and resulted in untold misery in the sub-continent. Ali Sardar Jafri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Balraj Komal and others expressed their deep anguish. They depicted the gruesome tragedy of partition in their poetical works. The catastrophe that shook the nation left an indelible mark in Urdu poetry.
However, India of Gandhi’s, Jawahar’s and Subash Chandra Bose’s dream started taking shape and new poetical voices brought forth a message of resurgence.
Rahee, Saghar Nizami, Naresh Kumar Shad expressed their deep anguish over the gruesome tragedy in their poetical works. Communal frenzy and barbarism took a heavy toll Partitions catastrophe shook the Nation. The sweet symphony of the music of 5 rivers drained out and the lofty Himalaya shook its peak in shame. The humanity lost all respectability. The culture helplessly bewailed the mental depravation.
Under the shock administered by Chinese invasion of 1962, the wounded spirit of the poets reacted sharply notably Ali Sardar Jafri and the remonstrative literature swept the country like a tidal wave.
The people’s resolve for the supreme sacrifice to preserve the values in our traditional culture manifest in the works of Balraj Komal, Zakia Sultana Nayar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi and others who sang about our tradition, culture, social values besides construction, rehabilitation and growing prosperity
A view is that Hindu India has remained under foreign domination for 10 centuries. Indians has been denied its fulsome Hindu expression. After Independence secular Nationalism which Indira Gandhi attempted to codify by adding the word of ‘secular’ and “socialist’ to the construction is presently under attack says Suhasini Haidar. The whole culture of differentiation has to be ended, if we have to make an equal and just society. Author Ananya Vajpeyi has recently said that if National secularism was indeed under threat, then who wants to replace national secularism with religious, nationalist are to be blamed.
India is a country which has been home to people of multiple faiths which have to co-exist in relative harmony and every section of society has to strive its best for collective progress. ‘Sab Ka Sath Sab Ka Vikas’ is still the policy pursued by our democratic government. Javed Akhtar, an eminent poet and a liberal Muslim of progressive ideas whose national credential cannot be doubted is vociferous :
Yeh lahren jab roki jati hain
To dariya kitna bhi ho pursakoon, betab hoota hai
Aur Is betabi ka agla Kadam Sailab hota hai
(When tides are suppressed, the river how so may ever calm is seized of frenzy
And next, it burst into furious flood)
‘Yeh Ram, Krishan, Gautam, Nanak Guru is basti
Paida yahan hui thi Gandhi ki nek hasti
Hinduism is a way of life, a wide range of doctrines and practices. In other words, Hinduism as defined by Shashi Tharoor is a religion without fundamentals, no compulsory belief or rites of worship, no single sacred book. Nehru had once said, “I do not believe in any religion, but only in Hinduism, I believe in Hinduism, as it has given me liberty not to believe in it.
Also, we have to remember the famous couplet of Allama Iqbal
“Mazhab nahin Sikhata Aapas mein bair rakhana
Hindi hain hum watan hai Hindustan hamara”
(Religion does not teach people to bear enmity towards one-another/We all are Indians and Hindustan (Bharat) is our Desh).
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