This is concerning “Faiz was a bridge ….” by Sankar Ray (DE 22 Jan). The chanting of a poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz by a section of students of IIT Kanpur has triggered a controversy in the social media. Leftist thinkers and writers came out with strong support for Faiz and helped the controversy to become deeper.
Those well versed in Urdu and Farsi languages and conversant with the history of freedom movement of India, the role of Muslim League and the Communist Party of India, appreciate Faiz’s Urdu poetry. There are no two opinions about his command and usage of Urdu phraseology and his aptitude in constructing axiomatic phrases with many of them becoming the catchword for the Leftist ideologues.
Faiz’s poetry is a dirge of victim-hood and a litany of grievances against an unidentified oppressor. In Leftist idiom, the ruler is the monopolizer of power who unleashes oppression against the segment of the population that seeks its defined or undefined rights. Faiz began his poetic compositions with protest plaints against the colonial power. However, he did not think the partition of India was a disaster for tens of millions of toiling masses. He flew to India on Gandhi’s assassination less out of human or ideological emotion and more because Gandhi gave his approval to the carving of a new religion-based state on the sub-continent. He had even accompanied the vanguard of the invading tribal lashkars to Kashmir in 1947. In doing so. he had demonstrated adherence to the Comrade Adhikari doctrine that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan based on religion. Faiz’s satisfaction with the creation of a separate country for the Muslims of India was in principle the reverse of the Marxist ideology of socio-economy as the basis of the strength and perpetuity of a state.
However, when Pakistan’s President Gen. Zia thrust a theocratic programme on his nation and showed Faiz his right place, the powerful dissenting poet turned his ire against the dictator. He camouflaged his idiom in a wrapper of ambiguity and intensified his victim-hood syndrome. He very liberally used the revolutionary idiom and the hyperbole to glorify himself as the voice of the victimized populace. Nevertheless, he did not touch on the core of the issue which was the rise of radical Islamic ideology in the Islamic country he had dreamed would be the replica of the Caliphate of medieval times. He focused on the ruler (a dictator in this case) and not the ideology that became the catalyst for the ruler’s (Zia’s) use of religion for political ends.philosophy of He very subtly and cautiously sidetracked the real oppressor meaning the Islamic die-hard conservatism that was going to give a completely new shape to the nascent Islamic state. He could visualize the catastrophe awaiting the newly carved Islamic state for embracing a decadent social system.
Even the devil can quote the scripture, goes the saying. Even today, religious fanatics and revolutionaries alike quote powerful verses from Iqbal’s poetry to legitimize their voice of dissent. So do the fanatics to legitimize their radical ideology. A big difference in the ideologies pursued by Iqbal and Faiz is that the former is a critic of radical Islam and gives a clarion call for reformation whereas the latter is a vicious supplicant using victim-hood and sarcasm as instruments to assuage his hurt feelings.
K N Pandita