Monday, January 30, 2012

Urdu poets enchant audience at the annual 'Jashn-e-Jamhooriyat' mushaira in Lal Qila

Pt Anand Mohan Zutshi 'Gulzar' inaugurating a mushaira in Delhi
One of the most awaited Mushairas is the annual poetic soiree held on the occasion of Republic Day in the historic Lal Qila.

This year the Mushaira Jashn-e-Jamhooriyat was held just a few days prior to January 26.

Chief Minister Sheila Dixit inaugurated the event while Deputy speaker Shoaib Iqbal, Delhi Urdu Academy's chairman Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, Secretary Anees Azmi were also present.

This year many important poets didn't attend the event. Though the standard of poetry rendered from the stage was not extraordinary, still the mushaira was held successfully. The audience sat till 3:30-4 am and enjoyed the poetry.

Read a selection of couplets recited in the mushaira. Octogenarian Pt Anand Mohan Zutshi Gulzar Dehlvi's couplets had set the tempo:

maiN ajab huuN Imaam Urdu kaa
but-kadoN meN azaan detaa huuN

aajkal do jurm haiN maiN ne jinheN apnaa liyaa
ek Muslim-dosti hai, ek Urdu ka jihaad
[Pt 'Gulzar' Dehlvi]

Many important poets were missing, however, poets like Rahat Indori, Waseem Barelvi, Nawaz Deobandi got fulsome praise.

do gaz sahii magar ye merii milkiyat to hai
aye maut, tuune mujhko zamiindaar kar diyaa
[Rahat Indori]

saudaa uruuj hii kaa na tuu apne sar meN rakh
suuraj ke Duubne kaa bhii manzar nazar meN rakh
[Waqar Maanvi]

miyaaN ye maut bhii Allah ka inaam hai varnaa
musalsal zindagii se aadmi uktaa gayaa hotaa
[Tabish Mehdi]

tamaam umr kisii bewafa ke saath rahe
mere chiraaGh hamesha havaa ke saath rahe
[Wasif Farooqi]

sulah ke vaaste bazid kyuuN ho
teer baaqii nahiiN kamaan meN kya
[Salim Siddiqui]

kahaaN kii dostii kin dostoN kii baat karte ho
miyaaN dushman nahiiN miltaa koii ab to Thikaane ka
[Waseem Barelvi]

jin pe luTaa chukaa thaa maiN dunyaa ki daulateN
un vaarisoN ne mujhko kafan naap kar diyaa
[Nawaz Deobandi]

afvaah thii ki merii tabiyat kharaab hai
logoN ne puuchh puuchh ke biimaar kar diyaa
[Rahat Indori]

begunaahii ki sazaa kuchh bhii voh de sakte haiN
mohtasib unke, qalam unka, adaalat unkii
[Matin Amrohvi]

qayaamat tak na maange-gaa voh paani
taGhaaful ne jise tere Dasaa hai
[Dr Tabish Mehdi]

puuChhte kyaa ho ki ruumaal ke piichhe kyaa hai
phir kisii roz yeh sailaab dikhaaenge tumheN
[Rahat Indori]

pahle to uskii yaad ne sone nahiiN diyaa
phir uskii aahaToN ne kahaa jaagte raho
[Mansoor Usmani]

Besides, traditional romantic poetry was also read from the stage. Eminent poet Muzaffar Razmi Kairanvi, who represents the classical school along with 'Gulzar' Dehlvi, also rendered his 'shayri' that was appreciated.

Several poetesses also participated in the event. Waseem Barelvi presided over while Mansoor Usmani conducted the proceedings.

Read reports of successful Mushairas held in India in recent past at this link

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Of fanatic 'liberals', free speech flag-bearers, false journalism and Indian Muslims' restraint during Jaipur Literary Festival

1. Firstly, not a single person among India's nearly 200 million Muslims had issued any threat in case Salman Rushdie arrived here but a section of media portrayed it as if Muslims were hounding him and ready to teach him a lesson.

2. Just Deoband and one or two other groups had urged the government that he shouldn't be allowed to enter India. This is a pure democratic right, a demand.

Forget fatwas, no organisation had issued any warning or hinted of violent protest. Even government didn't say that it will stop him from coming here. A Muslim minister, Salman Khurshid, had gone ahead to say that it was Rushdie's legal right and he was a PIO and couldn't be stopped.

3. How much more responsible the community could be? But the blame is being put on Muslims and they are being termed as fundamentalists who are accused of harping over an issue even after decades.

Rushdie didn't come claiming certain underworld threat. He later accepted that he had been misled. Now who misled him, it remains unclear. He blames government but doesn't name any agency or person. Isn't it his failure that he didn't turn up. However, with the Congress-led UPA in power, the 'appeasement' theory has also been floated to defame Muslims.

4. After he didn't come to Jaipur, self-styled flag-bearers of free speech began reading excerpts from the banned book as a mark of protest. Even after this provocative act, much to TV channels' chagrin, no Muslim burnt any effigies or held any demonstration, which is also our democratic right. Just like free speech, these democratic rights should be protected as well.

5. If Jamat-e-Islami activist or any other worker said that he will oppose Rushdie, journalists with intellectual pretensions grill him asking 'how you will oppose'. In his response that 'it will peaceful opposition', the  interviewer goes ahead to ask, 'have you read the book', 'why you oppose it'. Of course, when you call Verses 'Satanic', we feel hurt, and if we simply say, 'we're hurt', you want to say, 'why you are hurt?'.

6. It was not courageous on part of Amitava Kumar, Kunzru and others to read the SV passages. If the writers had courage they should have stayed back and [possibly risked arrest]. That would have added to their reputation perhaps but they ran away. At least on this count one can recall Taslima Nasreen, who was threatened and attacked but still had the courage to stay in India for long.

Still, a section of pseudo-intellectuals have gone to absurd lengths to argue for freedom of expression. They are fighting a battle, which Rushdie backed out of. The fact is that everyone thought Muslim would protest or make an issue out of it but that didn't happen.

7. It suits their perception--either news channels or websites that publish false stories. They all were let down, so they joined the fake intellectual Jehad and tried to create an issue. There were regular reports for days that Rushdie had threat.

Who had issued the threat? Of course, there was none. Little opposition perhaps but that too not on street. And do you want to take away our democratic rights that we can't even say that 'we oppose him', almost a Nazi vision of liberty.

The fact remains that majority of this country remains moderate in terms of inter-religious issues. We won't support if they had ever tried to draw Husain's paintings again to express their solidarity with the late painter. We don't support reading the excerpts now. But we don't even create a scene after you read them out. This is our country, if we feel hurt, we will express it. That's all.

8. Sorry, I can't be liberal enough as per your wishes or your standards. In a foreign country you may burn your flag but this is not how we perceive freedom in India. I can't have gods [or deities] pictures on shoe soles or verses called as Satanic. I am not that sort of liberal.

As the ongoing issue over an Indian couple's children taken away by authorities in Norway because they fed them with their hands, suggests, there are different sets of standards--[cultural] as well as free speech]--in India and Europe.

Some of our self-styled 'intellectual' writers who still have inferiority complex fail to appreciate our diversity and freedom and get a bit too obsequious and servile when it comes to foreigners. For them Rushdie too is almost a foreigner. Thus they turn apologetic about the vast masses being 'poor', 'less liberal' et al.

9. We can't be Europe overnight. If you feel as an urbanised upper middle class Indian, you have the right to look contemptuously towards the rest, this is also bigotry. Amitava Kumar, did you utter a word when journalist David Barsamian was evicted from India?

Yes, just months back Barsamian was deported. Where were you Mr Kunzru when Husain's house was attacked and his galleries ransacked. Ruchir Joshi, whom I hadn't heard of this 'author' till recently, and who is now defending free speech in studios, wasn't seen when James Laine's book was banned by BJP-led NDA government. Later the ban was revoked.

10. Mercifully, Muslims don't have any Bajrang Dal, VHP, Shiv Sena or even Ram Sene to go to a venue with 'lathis'. I am sure, if a Muslims had even gone and raised a slogan during the course of festival, he would have been termed as a terrorist.

The writers--Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru and two others--Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi,  who tried to suck up to Rushdie without any real threat to freedom of expression or censorship were simply playing to gallery at the fest. But it was no cause. Rushdie hadn't arrived and they also didn't dare to stay back.

11. Why these writers all these years never thought about a legal battle to get the ban on Satanic Verses upturned in India. They are liberals but the arm-chair liberals who would simply enjoy celebrity status just like film stars who can't take to streets or fight for cause, and vanish if their is a slight chance that they might face discomforting situation.

12. Freedom of expression comes with enormous responsibility. In fact, every freedom. As a person tweeted, 'You hurt a billion and you want freedom of expression but if any of those hurt by you air grievance, their freedom of expression is bigotry'.

Jaipur has over half-a-million Muslims. In the season of throwing shoes, none of them even held a demonstration or protest. Because the section that is pompous enough to consider themselves as liberal and the rest of Indians as 'traditional' or 'non-progressives', don't know an iota about India or its culture.

The vast millions in India are not intellectual bigots like you. That's why this multi-cultural nation has survived despite conflicts. Rushdie's visit was a non-issue. As an Indian Muslim, I had no interest at all. But again it was turned into a 'minority issue'.

France is secular and liberal to an extent that a Sikh can't wear turban and Muslims can't wear their skullcap. In Britain, it's different. Scandinavian countries have their owns standards. The laws are markedly different in America. India can't be France or Norway.

See examples of Muslim's indifference and apathy to the issue on one hand, and on the other hand dirty journalism practiced by sections that tried to link it to UP elections. The words like 'appeasement' and 'vote bank politics' were used, even when Muslims remained silent.

Fatwa or No Fatwa, Deoband will be blamed every time
In India, even if a Hindu says 'Ram', Muslims would say Lord Rama or Ramachandra Ji as a mark of respect. Pick up any Urdu daily newspaper and you will find deities and religious heads of other faiths addressed respectfully. Similarly Hindus always use the term 'Paigambar Mohammad'. This is our culture of mutual respect.

13. After false reporting on Deoband's fatwa, Rediff again continued its unethical journalism. Read this interview with a Jamat-e-Islami leader.

They couldn't get anything sensational from Saleem Engineer and hence began the interview with a introduction, ' national secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami....the organisation which is an offshoot of whose  objective is to establish Islamic rule in Pakistan and enforce Shariah'.

14. How shrewd and how subtle! Rediff is not alone. Many TV channels and their loud anchors did the same for TRP, as it made news. Newspapers gave similar headlines. On one hand, Muslims didn't protest, uttered no irresponsible word. On the other hand, they are still being branded as 'fanatics' and 'fundamentalists'.

15. I think I have made myself clear. I oppose MF Husain's nude painting and also the attack on galleries featuring his paintings or his house. I oppose Rushdie's offensive writings and also condemn if someone threatens him. Indian Muslims have shown remarkable restraint in dealing with this controversy.

Despite the TV channels, 'intellectuals' and 'liberals' trying their best to make an issue out of it, the community remained largely silent and avoided taking to streets. I am a moderate Indian and I refuse to be judged by your fake standards of liberty or freedom.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Delhi's egoist poetic voice falls silent: Urdu poet Shuja Khawar passes away

By Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Shuja Khawar, who was probably the most distinct poetic voice in Urdu to have come up from Delhi in the post-independence era, bid final adieu to his admirers and poetry lovers.

ek uskaa saraapa* hai ki bas meN nahiiN aataa
kyaa haalat ho gayi, mere andaaz-e-bayaaN ki

[*figure, beauty]

It's not pure emotion but Shujauddin Sajid was worthy of being called the poet laureate of Delhi. This is not an exaggeration. Nusrat Zaheer in his editorial page column wrote an obituary titled 'Miyaan, Dilli Khamosh Ho gayi...', the words spoken to him by Farooq Argali at the graveyard.

Truly, it's a huge loss for the Dehli's culture as well as poetry.

raat usne dasht-e-jaaN ko gulistaa.n kar diya
hamne bhi har usuul ko qurbaan kar diyaa

But the reality was that Shuja never compromised on his principles:

thoRaa sa badal jaaye to bas taaj ho aur taKht
is dil ka magar kyaa kareN, sunta nahiiN kambaKht

Shuja reciting his couplets in early years.
The 'Qalandar' poet cared little about name or fame. It is not that he wasn't aware of tricks of the trade.

haalat use dil kii na dikhaai, na bayaa.n ki
Khair usne na ki baat, to hamne bhi kahaa.n ki

hue mahruumiyo.n ke jab ham aadi
to us zaalim ne chilman hi haTaa di

poNhchaa huzur-e-shaah, har ek rang ka faqiir
poNhchaa nahiiN jo, thaa vahii 'poNhchaa huaa' faqiir

Shuja Khar (Third from right)

After years of illness and solitude, he was once again getting back to the centre stage of Urdu poetry.

Despite the fact that I loved his poetry, I couldn't post his works except one ghazal. Now I intend to put up his ghazals selected couplets soon at my poetry site Best Ghazals.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rediff's report on 'Deoband' fatwas: Wrong facts, irresponsible journalism

Rediff article that links Deoband to Surya Namaskar fatwa
It is perfectly understandable if a religious institution is criticised for issuing frivolous or controversial fatwas, just like a post written on this blog sometime back, but it is unfair if you criticise someone by attributing decrees which they didn't issue at all.

One of the most popular sites, surprisingly posted an article that surprisingly has not just factual error but also wrongly accuses Deoband for fatwas which they didn't at all issue. Strangely, even after it was brought to their notice, they didn't bother to correct it.

There was no quote. Of course, no effort to get version and the institution was wrongly accused. I noticed the report as I had written a post 'Fatwa Factory...' sometime back on this blog. This recent Rediff article had similar headline.

The article blamed Deoband for issuing fatwa against Surya Namaskar. The seminary never issued any such fatwa. The particular religious 'opinion' was issued by Darul Ifta Bhopal. The Rediff report that doesn't carry writer's name goes ahead to say that, 'seminary has issued fatwa against Surya Namaskar....'.

It then falsely mentions the diktat against Veena Malik. Again, this was the call of All India Muslim Tehwar Committee.

They had termed that she was now 'biradari-baahar' [to be ex-communicated, huh! who is listening and who is bothered?], a sort of call that khap panchayats issue. Of course, condemn-able but why accuse Deoband.

Cleverly, the article says 'Majlis-e-Shoora' but doesn't tell reader that this 'Majlis' was that of Tehwar Committee, not Deoband.

By any journalistic or ethical standards, this is unusual. If Rahul Gandhi makes a statement, how can simply attribute it to Nitin Gadkari and then accuse the latter again and again through similar other misrepresentations? This is not just shoddy reporting, it is unethical and gives bad name to media. 

The article further says that in defence the seminary says it's opinion that is not binding. When the writer didn't contact the seminary for version, they themselves wrote this line to support the article. Had they spoken to Ulema, they'd have been told that the above mentioned diktats were not issued by Deoband.

Rediff article that links the Veena Malik 'diktat' to Deoband
Deoband has issued several controversial fatwas in the past. If Rediff reporters made a slight effort, they could have made a good case against Deoband but they sullied journalism through such a false story. It is such news reports that create impression among citizens that journalists are irresponsible guys.

In which other profession, you can make such blunders. In print media also, you can lose job for such errors. Of course, it's easy to make changes on the internet. Still, even after being informed in comment section by readers and through other media, they haven't bothered to cross-check the facts or rectify mistakes in the last two weeks.

Even the most careless person would make such errors. Journalists can't generally get away with such factual inaccuracies. Then, how could the site that grabs millions of eye balls act with such carelessness? They could have either done groundwork to mention the really controversial fatwas of Deoband or simply written on the trend of fatwas issued from the seminaries [and such so-called moral guardians].

Why they got so irresponsible? Any answers

[My article that was critical of such fatwas in the past. Read it here]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saffronisation in Madhya Pradesh: Isn't it BJP's appeasement of the majority community?

Towards a Saffron state!
We hear the BJP make so much noise about appeasement of minorities, particularly Muslims. But does anyone use the term 'Majority [or Hindu] appeasement' when the party goes all out to ensure Saffronisation in a state.

In Madhya Pradesh, BJP seems to have steadily taken the RSS agenda quite far without a whimper. As a commentator in a national newspaper recently remarked that by keeping a low-profile BJP leaders in MP have silently pushed the Hindutva plan ahead.

But in the last few months, people have begun to see the design. Either it is the stringent law against cow slaughter that will put onus on any cattle trader if he is 'caught' taking bovines to prove his innocence or the introduction of Gita in school syllabus, MP is clearly outpacing Gujarat as the Hindutva lab.

1. The 'Surya Namaskar' may seem to be a innocuous activity akin to Yoga but the seriousness of the government in implementing it, clearly shows that it wants majority community's style of worship to enter hitherto secular schools. Personally many people won't find it too disturbing.

2. The party had proposed renaming Bhopal as Bhojpal in an apparent move to get rid off its Muslim heritage. The founder of modern Bhopal was Dost Mohammad Khan, the first Nawab and ruler of the medieval dynasty. On the ramparts of his fort in the lake, the huge statue of Raja Bhoj was erected.

Was it not majority appeasement? It didn't work though as party understood the popular mood was against the proposed name, Bhojpal. There has been no end to such decisions during the last few years. You may find them innocuous at your own risk.

3. Even when Abhinav Bharat members were caught for acts of terrorism, no statewide hunt was launched by MP police. But when Kashmiri youths were caught, they were immediately dubbed as terrorists. They were later released when it was realised that there was no case against them.

Further a campaign was launched against Kashmiri students in Bhopal. It was alleged that if Kashmiris would be allowed to come in such large numbers, this would facilitate the entry of militants who could then sneak into the state.

4. Steps were taken to ensure that Kashmiri Muslims didn't come for studies in MP in large numbers. It became a national issue. Similar was the case of stringent law against conversion and the religious profiling of Christians that was stopped after it came in open. Isn't all this clear case of Hindu appeasement?

5. The issue is that there is clearly a larger design. When Gita lessons were about to be introduced, the leaders of Sikh, Christian and Muslim communities opposed it. They termed it a step to turn all state-run schools into Shishu Mandirs.

Then, the State government, said that it had no objection to add teachings from scriptures of other communities as well. It was cleverly aimed to mollify the protesters.

When the opposition died down, the BJP government silently introduced the Gita chapters in the curriculum in schools.

As long as it is a secular state bound by constitution, there has to be a limit to this form of appeasement. Muslims can teach Quran in Madarsas and Hindus can teach Gita or other scriptures at private run schools or Saraswati Shishu Mandirs.

6. Public memory is short. Sometime back the decision to ask students recite 'Bhojan mantra' was also taken in the state. The education department had then insisted that it was not 'objectionable'. It is not that everybody is a fool. They try, see the response, then either act or stop and reintroduce things slightly later.

7. It is not the state government is concerned about education or students. The state run schools are in a mess. There is little interest to save schools, let alone open new ones. The buildings are in poor state. Of the 1.3 lakh government schools, over 25,000 schools have no toilets.

8. Government teachers, students are used to swell crowds by all parties. They come free and can't question the decisions. So it's easy to force them to attend rallies or mass Surya Namaskar. Unlike party workers brought from far-flung areas at the cost of transportation, the children won't even ask for money or lunch.

9. Schoolteachers are forced into election duties, regular vaccination drives and all government functions. The truth is that there is no concern about schoolchildren's fitness or education standards in these schools. The interest is just to further the agenda.

10. In fact, MP is a classic case. Unlike Gujarat, where Chief Minister Narendra Modi was till a few years back quite vocal and often made crude statements about Muslim community, BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have been silent and have projected its image as an inclusive party.

In MP that has 50 lakh [five million] Muslims, the BJP has held conventions for Muslims. The CM's pet Kanya Daan scheme for Hindu couples has been extended to include 'mass nikaahs' that are held at the expense of the government.

When there was criticism that advertisements for 'Beti Bachao' scheme, the hoardings were quickly changed. The photographs of Muslim girls adorned them. The couplets like 'HadithoN [HadeesoN] ki zeenat haiN betiyaaN' were also introduced as slogans.

On the law-and-order front, the riots were controlled quickly and there were no major communal clashes. The activities of Bajrang Dal and other allied Hindutva groups were kept under control. No wonder, a section of Muslims felt comfortable with Chouhan as Chief Minister.

The down to earth approach of the Chief Minister has made him popular among Muslims also. Party is expecting Muslim votes in the upcoming Assembly elections. Many BJP leaders had got Muslim votes in the last election and this was a surprise for the party.
Then what prompts the State BJP to take decisions that are now leading to controversies. Everybody in the power corridors in MP knows that the top state leadership doesn't want any issue that will cause disharmony or unnecessary controversy.

10. Clearly, good governance and popularity are not enough. The RSS doesn't want the BJP to become a Congress' version 2.0, even if it outperforms the latter on various indicators. In the last two terms, all Sangh institutions in MP have got so strong that even if the party doesn't come to power for decades, they won't face any problem.

Huge chunks of prime land have been given to them. If a BJP leader wants to keep his chair safe, then the first thing he must do is to keep the RSS in good humour. Once he is done with that, he can be assured that there is no internal threat to his rule, and focus on politics and governance.

Unfortunately for the party, the President's nod for the bill came just now when Surya Namaskar was to be organised. The controversy over Gita lessons hadn't died. For years, BJP has raised the issue of 'alpasankhyak tushtikaran', now they are doing aggressive appeasement of the bahusankhyak [majority] and not many seems to notice!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

No cartoons, No comics: Urdu newspapers, magazines neglecting children

Khilauna published foreign comic strips

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Despite fears about survival of Urdu in the decades after independence, the language continues to thrive in India, 64 years after independence.

But it's surprising how Urdu newspapers and even magazines continue to neglect children. Surprisingly, even the kids' magazines have few cartoons.

It is this segment--the kids--that will grow up to read the papers and if circulations fall in future, the reason would be lack of any effort to draw the young generation towards the language.

In fact, most of the Urdu papers have no concept of cartoons or comic strips (except political cartoons in a few papers). None of the Urdu newspapers published from Delhi, Hyderabad or Lucknow have a single cartoon for kids. Though there is no dearth of cartoonists in the country, they have neither any cartoon nor any translated comic strip.

Foreign cartoon strips--Dennis the Menace, Phantom, Archies or Richie Rich are translated and published in other vernacular papers. One could understand that many papers don't have resources to pay for the strips as they are expensive but the reality is that there is no serious effort to get indigenous cartoon strips either.

Children in the age group 4-10 get attracted towards papers if they see a cartoon, a sketch which they are asked to colour or similar activity. If they find such stuff, then they evince interest and without anybody's effort start reading over a period of time.

But despite umpteen conferences regarding future of Urdu, this aspect remains neglected. Only recently Urdu editors' conference was held in Hyderabad. Though Vice-President Hamid Ansari advised the papers to draw youngsters, I wonder if anyone of the seasoned editors could understand the essence of his speech.
Comic strip by Shakil Anwaar Siddiqui

Excessive focus on politics is harming Urdu press. Till 80s, Shama publications' Khilauna [do you call it Khilona?] published Richie Rich, even Archies and other international comics. Apart from these translated strips, there were Indian authors' who drew awesome comics. 

A case in point is 'Shuja'at', the thrilling strip by Shakil Anwaar Siddiqui that continued for a long time and had kids hooked.

There is ample official patronage and money for Urdu in India. Apart from over a dozen Urdu academies, there are big institutions like NCPUL.

But Urdu media remains obsessed with politics. If those who love the language want Urdu to survive and thrive, they must focus on getting children interested in reading Urdu magazines and papers. This is the need of the hour.