Poets and Hawks: On Pak India War Hysteria by Farooq Sulehria
Once again Pak India peace dialogue is underway, this time between the foreign ministers. Too much is posted and published on the various aspects of Paki India relations, basic issues, Kashmir conflicts, the newly hyped water conflict etc etc.
Here we are adding a literary angle of what poets and intellectuals think on that. As their perspectives better represent the humanitarian and culturally and historically rooted understanding. The article is from the weekly viewpoint ezine, a re-launching of the 70’s Viewpoint magazine of renowned progressive and intellectual Mazhar Ali Khan. (aliarqam)
Poets and hawks by Farooq Sulehria
War hysteria in India-Pakistan is a cyclical phenomenon that hits these countries every five-to-eight years.
The attacks on Bombay by black-hooded gunmen once again drove both countries to madness last time. Every time this hysteria afflicts India-Pakistan, both states lose sanity and reason goes into exile. Hawks, bearded and saffron, absolutely rule the roost in their respective countries. Absurdity reins supreme.
Since both countries possess nuclear bombs, the freemasonry of across-the-border jingoists never forgets to make nuclear threats. During the Kargil conflict, the two states exchanged nuclear threats at least thirteen times in three months.
While in India, ‘Hate Pakistan’ is a saffron mission that Sangh Parivar has taken upon itself to accomplish, in Pakistan, teaching hatred for ‘Hindu’ India is literally part of school textbooks. Thus the State ensures that its citizens are indoctrinated in hating ‘Hindu’ India. Politicians assert their patriotic credentials by exhibiting their hawkishness.
A ‘confidential memorandum’ penned soon after the creation of Pakistan by Sir Feroz Khan Noon, who later became Prime Minister, ahead of his meeting with US ambassador, reveals the state/establishment mindset: ”The Mussalmans in Pakistan are against Communism. The Hindus have an ambassador in Moscow, Mrs Pandit, who is the sister of the Hindu Prime Minister in Delhi, Mr Nehru, and the Russians have got an ambassador in Delhi, the Hindu capital. We the Mussalmans of Pakistan have no ambassador in Moscow nor is there any Ambassador in Karachi…. our capital. If USA helps Pakistan to become a strong and independent country… . then the people of Pakistan will fight to last man against Communism to keep their freedom and preserve their way of life”.
Even Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, considered Pakistan’s most intelligent and least provincial leader, was obsessed with India. Otherwise an avid Nehru reader, Bhutto vowed a ‘thousand-year-long war’ against India. In 1974 , when India went nuclear, Bhutto vowed to build A-bomb even if it meant ‘eating grass’: Ghas khaiN gay, atom bomb banainN gay (will eat grass but will build a bomb). If such was Bhutto’s phobia, political dwarfs like Nawaz Sharif, two-times prime minister and head of the right- wing Muslim League, can be excused for celebrating ‘ Yum-e-Takbeer’ to mark the anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear blasts.
Even when the cyclic fit of war hysteria has subsided, there is no escape from the war-mongering media and mosques. Media and mosque compete in demonising ‘Hindu’ India.
Let’s got to, for instance, Rawalpindi’s Jamia Mosque Ghousia. A taped fiery-as-usual speech by Hafiz Saeed, to mark Kashmir Day, is being played through high-pitched loudspeakers: “The holiest soil on earth is that of Pakistan and we cannot tolerate the unholy presence of Nancy Powell on our holy land. Her presence keeps us away from Allah’s blessings. Pakistan should cleanse itself from her unholy existence… Allah has told us to make atom bombs, America is telling us not to. Who should we listen to as Muslims, Allah or America? Kashmir will not be solved by talks, not by American arbitration, not by its division but only by jihad, jihad, jihad!… The Hindus were terrorists yesterday, they are terrorists today and they will remain terrorists tomorrow. We are right in seeking revenge from these spawns of evil.”
While the mosque is understandably a bearded domain, the puritans also dominate the Pakistani media, particularly the vernacular press. Inflammatory statements make front-page headlines, penetrate personalised columns and are editorialised.
The press is particularly a Jamaat-e-Islami sphere and columnists like Abdul Kadir Hassan take pride in declaring themselves ‘ Maulana Mudoodi kay PaoN ki Khak” (dust of Maulana Mudoodi’s feet). Hence, it is no surprise if JI chief Qazi occupies four front page columns to “tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.”
Mercifully, even if Hafizs and Qazis dominate mosque and media in Pakistan, the hearts and minds of Pakistan’ s ordinary people have always been captivated by her Dervish poets: Faiz and Daman, Jalib and Ayaz.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962 , has become such a legend that even Jamaat-e-Islami posters carry his verses while right-wing rags like Nawa- i-Waqt publish supplements on the anniversary of his birth. No such luck during his life time! He was a permanent scourge tormenting the authorities. Hence, he was regularly gaoled and forced to go in exile.
Due to his mass popularity, the authorities attempted to assimilate him. His humanism and commitment to peace, however, would not be reconciled with authorities busy building a confessional state. The authorities, ruling at gun point instead of fostering unity through democratic means, wanted to overcome internal differences by creating an external threat: ‘ Hindu India’.
Faiz refused to subscribe to any such nation-building project. Hence, when Pakistan went to war, whether in 1965 or 1971 , Faiz upheld the flag of peace and refused to jump on the patriotic bandwagon. Recalling the two wars, he later said: ”These two were difficult periods for me because I was under a great deal of pressure to write war songs, but I said, ‘Look here, I am not writing any war songs!’. They said, ‘Well, why not ? It is your patriotic duty.’ I said, ‘Look, firstly, because I consider these wars to be a very wanton waste of precious lives and secondly, because I know that Pakistan is not going to get anything out of either this war or that war. I am not going to write any war songs.’ But Faiz did write poems for peace during both these wars.
During the 1965 war, he composed ”Elegy” for a fallen soldier. And also ”Blackout”:
Since our lights were extinguished
I have been searching for a way to see;
my eyes are lost, God knows where.
You who know me, tell me who I am,
who is a friend, and who an enemy.
A murderous river has been unleashed
into my veins; hatred beats in it.
Be patient; a flash of lightning will come
from another horizon like the white hand of Moses
with my eyes, my lost diamonds.
During the second war, he wrote ”Stay Away from Me” and ”The Dust of Hatred in my Eyes”.
The later was written from the point of view of East Pakistan (which later achieved independence to become Bangladesh) where Khakis, assisted by Jamaat-e-Islami brigades, launched a planned genocide. Faiz hailed from West Pakistan and refused to accept this massacre in his name.
How can I embellish this carnival of slaughter,
how decorate this massacre? Whose attention could my lamenting blood attract?
There’s almost no blood in my rawboned body and what’s left isn’t enough
to burn as oil in the lamp, not enough to fill a wineglass.
It can feed no fire, extinguish no thirst.
There’s a poverty of blood in my ravaged body,
a terrible poison now runs in it. If you pierce my veins,
each drop will foam as venom at the cobra’s fangs.
Each drop is the anguished longing of ages’ the burning seal of a rage hushed up for years.
Beware of me. My body is a river of poison.
Stay away from me. My body is a parched log in the desert.
If you burn it, you won’t see the cypress or the jasmine,
but my bones blossoming like thorns in the cactus.
If you throw it in the forests, instead of morning perfumes,
you’ll scatter the dust of my sneared soul.
So stay away from me. Because I’m thirsting for blood.
According to Faiz himself, ”Well that naturally infuriated these people even more. So for a few days, I was obliged to go underground in Sindh and not to stay with the wrath of my patriotic friends.”
Sindh was not merely sheltering Faiz. Shaikh Ayaz also had to go in hiding there. Considered the greatest Sindhi-language poet in modern times, Shaikh Ayaz also refused to become hysterical when the war drums began beating.
He instead addressed Narayan Shyam, his Hindu friend and fellow Sindhi-language poet, living across the border, and said:
“Hey sangram! samhoon Aa Narayan Shayam!
Hina ja munhinja qola bi saGya, Bmola bi saGya, Hoo kavita jo kaaka-dharni, para munhinja ranga-ratola bi saGya
DHatu bi saGyo, DHolu bi saGyo, hanou bi saGyo, hola bi saGya.
Huna tay keean bandooka KhaRNa maan!
hina Khay golee keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan!”
(“There in front of me is Narain Shayam! His tales and mine are the same, our promises are the same, He is the king of poetry, but my colourful ways are also the same Land also same, beloved also same, heart also same, horrors also same How can I point a gun at him! How can I shoot him! How can I shoot! How can I shoot! How can I shoot!”)
A Lahori-Punjabi, Ustad Daman was a member of Indian National Congress. Despite an invitation by Pandit Nehru, he did not migrate to India. He was put behind bars by both Khakis and the democratically elected Bhutto for the dangerous views he would articulate in poems that would travel across Pakistan:
Wahgay naal Attari dee nai takar
Na Geeta naal Quran dee aay
Nai kufr Islam da koi jhagra
Sari gaal aay nafay nuksan dee aay
(Wagah and Attari do not exchange blows Nor do Gita and Quran engage in a fight Between apostasy and Islam, there is no bickering Only profit and loss must always be kept in sight)
Fortunately, on the other side of Wagah, in India Sahir Ludhianvi (a laureate of the Lenin Peace Prize) reciprocated Daman, Faiz and Ayaz:
Khon apna ho ya praya ho
Nasl-e-Adam ka khon hei akhir
Jang mashriq main ho kay maghrib main
Amn-e-alam ka khon hei Akhir
(Whether you kill an enemy or your own kin/ It is the blood of humanity that sheds/Whether war is in the east or the west/ After all, it bloodies world peace)
Bum gharron per gerain kay sarhad per
Roh-e-tameer zakhm khati hei
khait apnay jalain kay auroon kay
Zeest faqoon say tilmilati hei
(Whether bombs fall on homes or target the frontiers/ Victim is the spirit of advancement/When fields, whether they belong to us or the others, are set on fire/Life suffers hunger)
Tank agay barhain kay peechay hatain
Banjh dharti ki kookh hoti hei
(Whether the tank moves ahead or retreats/ It makes the earth’s womb infertile).
Fatah ka jashn ho kay haar ka saog
Zindgi mayatoon pay rooti hei
(Whether you celebrate victory or lament a loss/ Life mourns at the funerals).
Jang to khud hee aik masla hej Jang kya masloon ka hal dey gee Aag or khoon aaj bakhshay gee Bhook or ehtiaj kal day gee
(War itself is a problem/ What solutions can it offer/ Today it will cause bloodshed and fire/Tomorrow, it will bring hunger and need).
Iss leay aay shrif insano
Jang talti rahay to behter hei,
Aap or hum sabhi kay aangan main
Shama jalti rahay to behtar hei.
(Therefore, O gentle folks/ It’s better that war keeps getting deferred/It’s better the candle keeps burning/ In your homes and ours).
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