Indian media’s favourite pastime is to spin off controversies from issues where there are none. A section of our media has been having a glorious time ever since the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament, leading to protests which were first concentrated in the Northeast, but soon spread throughout the country as self vested groups put their souls into orchestrating them. Such a protest was also witnessed at IIT Kanpur, where a bunch of protesters were seen reciting Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge“. A faculty member, along with his colleagues and students, put forward their discomfort about the same with the administration, which subsequently set up a committee to look into the matter. This was enough for the left-liberals to conclude that Faiz’s existence itself was now brought under investigation by IIT Kanpur.
The mere mention of Faiz triggered the anti-CAA intellectual cabal. They could not fathom how a piece of Faiz was brought under scrutiny, while that was not even the case. The entire rhetoric of the committee studying whether the poem is ‘anti-Hindu’ is in itself a figment of the media’s imagination. The committee will be looking into the context in which this poem was recited, and whether there was any malafide intent of hurting sentiments of Hindus by the protesters. To insinuate anything contrary to this would be an indicator of abject foolishness.
Particularly triggered was the otherwise impassive Bollywood community. They could not understand how a god-like figure was being brought under question by some science background individuals at IIT Kanpur. They further thought in their minds that everybody should necessarily be aware of Faiz’s works, failing which, one may be considered a lesser-being. Javed Akhtar, the rational-liberal blue-eyed boy of the Lutyens was particularly outraged, to the extent that he, like all others, thought this to be worthy of only humour and gimmickry. Akhtar also further explained that ‘Goonjega an-al-haq ka naara’, which some people may find offensive, actually means ‘aham brahma’. Yes, he said that.
#WATCH Javed Akhtar:Calling Faiz Ahmed Faiz 'anti-Hindu' is so absurd&funny that its difficult to seriously talk about it.He lived half his life outside Pakistan,he was called anti-Pakistan there.'Hum Dekhenge' he wrote against Zia ul Haq's communal,regressive&fundamentalist Govt pic.twitter.com/nOtFwtfjQ9
— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2020
Bollywood actor Ranvir Shorey wasn’t far behind either even as he called those opposing Faiz’s poetry as Hindu extremists. Taking to Twitter, Shorey said, “From pulling down a Muslim Sanskrit teacher, to tearing down the poetry of #Faiz, I’m astonished at the stupidity of Hindu extremists. By departing from the core Hindu values of tolerance and openness, they’re pulling Hinduism down.”
From pulling down a Muslim Sanskrit teacher, to tearing down the poetry of #Faiz, I’m astonished at the stupidity of Hindu extremists. By departing from the core Hindu values of tolerance and openness, they’re pulling Hinduism down.
— Ranvir Shorey (@RanvirShorey) January 2, 2020
Next in line was Urdu Shayar Munawwar Rana, who explained that the scientists of IIT-K were incapable of understanding Faiz. “We cannot allow IIT to take a decision on poetry because IIT can produce one lakh scientists, but those one lakh scientists put together cannot write an epic like ‘Ramayana’,”. He further added, “They do not understand poetry and the people who will make a decision on this do not know poetry as well.”
The contention here is not with Faiz per se, but with the usage of his poetry, and its specific lines,
“…sab taaj uchhāle jā.eñge
sab taḳht girā.e jā.eñge
bas naam rahegā allāh kā
jo ġhā.eb bhī hai hāzir bhī
jo manzar bhī hai nāzir bhī
uTThegā anal-haq kā na.ara
jo maiñ bhī huuñ aur tum bhī ho…”
It must be known that Faiz had penned this invigorating nazm against the authoritarian Zia-ul-Haq regime in Pakistan. It, among the many things, has ‘revolution’ as its central theme, as Faiz was a declared Marxist. The recitation of the above quoted lines, in a place where many people may not be aware of its original meaning, and who may at first-hand feel attacked by these lines is out-rightly insensitive. Instead, the blame is being put on Hindus, for feeling insulted by these lines, when, rudimentary sense should have suggested that those shouting these lines at the top of their voice are doing so with clear intentions of claiming religious supremacy over others.
Of course, Faiz may not have shared sentiments similar to the present day protesters, but the protesters are conveniently nose-rubbing these lines against Hindus. What is more appalling is that Hindus are being derided for feeling insulted.
A personality which is otherwise loved by all, Gulzar too joined the bandwagon calling out the supposed ‘intolerance’ of Hindus. “A poet of that stature who is the founder of progressive writers movement, it is not fair to involve him in matters of ‘mazhab’ (religion), whatever he has done, he has done for the people, the world knows him and his work. He has written poems in Zia-ul-Haq’s era, and it is not right to show his work in the wrong context, it is their mistake, who is doing so. His work- poems and couplets, need to be seen in its true sense.”
Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj tweeted on the controversy too.
Tamasha around Faiz’s poem is so ridiculous. To understand the poetry, you need to feel it first. You need a certain standard of emotional intelligence which seems to be completely lacking in those who are interpreting it as pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. #FaizAhmadFaiz
— Vishal Bhardwaj (@VishalBhardwaj) January 3, 2020
Make no mistake, from the protester on the street shouting supremacist slogans against CAA, to the entitled personalities of Bollywood, all have a shared sentiment of abomination towards anyone who fails to understand ‘their art’ and ‘their icons’. Truth be told, understanding, or even knowing Faiz and his works is not necessary.
Individuals who felt insulted at IIT-K must not be derided for simply being unware of vast historical and ideological perspectives with which the nazm was penned by Faiz. It is not necessary for them to even know that it is a piece of Faiz. The entitlement of such individuals, who think it necessary for all people from all walks of life to be aware of artists is a condemnable elitist approach, to say the least.