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Pakistani poet Faiz’s work turns voice of protests in India

Pakistani poet Faiz’s work turns voice of protests in India
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Faiz’s daughter talks about controversy, relevance of her father in South Asia

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Even as legendary Pakistani Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's composition Hum Dekhenge or We Shall See, has turned into the poem of protests in India, his daughter Salima Hashmi said the events have proved that dissent is not just about slogans, but also the arts.

"Faiz’s poetry had always paved the way to lighten our pathways and act as a bridge between India and Pakistan. Recent events have only proved that his words grow more meaningful by the day,” said Hashmi, who lives in the Pakistani city of Lahore, in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

Written in 1979, the iconic poem talking about bringing down mountains of oppression and cruelty has become a rallying cry over the past one month, against India’s controversial citizenship law, believed to be discriminatory against Muslims. There are also demands to ban Faiz’s verses in India.

Last month, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology's Kanpur campus in Uttar Pradesh state complained against protesting students for "spreading hate" after they sang Hum Dekhenge.

The institute has formed a panel to probe if the poem hurts Hindu religious sentiments.

Salima, the eldest of Faiz's two children -- both daughters – said the family is amused by the controversy. The poem was written by Faiz against the military regime in Pakistan. It, however, became a symbol of resistance after a public rendition in Lahore by acclaimed singer Iqbal Bano in 1986, two years after Faiz’s death.

"Banning books or poetry is always counterproductive, especially if the ban is imposed to stop the young from having access. It acknowledges the power of the poet, lending him or her greater stature," said Hashmi.

"Investigating their content to establish if they are a danger to the public is a waste of energy and time. However, the recent debates in India regarding Faiz’s words have caused great amusement," she said.

Asked to guess the reaction of Faiz, if he had been alive, Hashmi replied, he would have just lit the cigarette and pushed aside the controversy, with a smile.

"Knowing him well as much a daughter can, I imagine he would not have been perturbed at all! He was famous for his serene temperament and his ability to smile in the face of every kind of provocation,” she added.

- Faiz, a bridge between India and Pakistan

Hashmi cited the political atmosphere and a taste for the lucid Urdu language in India as key reasons behind the popularity of her father and other Pakistani poets.

"Faiz was a secular person and an internationalist. He believed deeply in friendship and amicable relations with India. He flew to Delhi to attend the funeral of India’s freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. As an editor of the English language newspaper, The Pakistan Times, he wrote two moving editorials on Gandhi.

"He (Faiz) always considered himself a bridge between the two South Asian nations. This was intuitively understood by people across the border. Thus, I think all young people in India -- Hindu, Muslim, and others -- know he speaks for all of them and not only for his people," she said.

"I have worked in my small way to continue to support [my] father’s ideals for a peaceful neighborhood -- making networks between artists of the countries in our region," she said.

Born in Sialkot, a city in north Punjab, in 1911, Faiz had served in the British Indian Army. After Pakistan's independence, he became a leading member of the Communist Party. He was arrested and sentenced to death in 1951 as an alleged part of a conspiracy to overthrow Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.

He spent four years in jail before being released. He was the only Pakistani awarded the Lenin Prize for literature in 1962 by the now-defunct Soviet Union.

"It reminds me of the era when my father penned this poem, to protest the military rule of Gen. Zia, and [also] how it played a role to rejuvenate the country's pro-democracy forces,” Hashmi.

"And there was so much more on his mind…though Pakistan was foremost...He watched the downfall of the Shah [Reza Shah Pahlavi] and the Iranian revolution, but also saw the revolution hijacked, the hanging of [Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto, which hurt him deeply, as did the floggings and savagery of Zia's mock Islamist regime.”


- Faiz popularity transcends ideological divide

Though Faiz is particularly read and respected among the left-wing movements across South Asia because of his communist background, his poems are often recited at protest meetings and public gatherings of right-wing and religious parties as well.

"Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge has inspired countless people. His poem Bol [Speak] was [also] chanted across the subcontinent for years,” said Hashmi, who is also a celebrated artist, painter, and educator.

"It comes as no surprise that in turbulent times, young people turn to the words of writers or poets for inspiration or to anthems and songs to give them courage. Remember L'Internationale [a left-wing anthem], which was adopted by the 19th-century socialist movement as the official marching song, to be translated into so many languages and sung across the world."

"A dear friend of my father reminds me that poets live on to guide, inspire and lighten the burden of human lives in difficult times. Poets are friends of people and their compositions transcend borders,” said Hashmi, concluding the interview while reciting the verses of this famous poem:


Wo Din Ke Jis Ka Vaada Hai

Jo Lauh-E-Azal Mein Likha Hai

Hum Dekhenge


Jab Zulm-O-Sitam Ke Koh-E-Garan

Rooyi Ki Tarah Ud Jayenge, Hum Dekhenge

Hum Dekhenge


[The day that has been promised.

That is written in the book of destiny.

We will See

When the mountains of oppression and cruelty.

Will float away like carded wool. We will see.

We will See]

source: News Feed
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