Some 35 years ago when Hindu-Muslim riots in Jamshedpur were raging with full force, Zaki Anwar raised the banner of Hindu-Muslim unity and brotherhood and decided to reside in an exclusively Hindu locality to spread the message of unity between Hindus and Muslims. However, only three or four days later his charred body was discovered in a well of that locality. I remember that not only the literary figures and writers of other Indian languages but even the poets, writers and intellectuals of Urdu language kept silent on this merciless murder of an Urdu writer trying to promote Hindu-Muslim-unity and kept mum and slept like Kumbhakarna.
By Azeem Akhtar
This is a very pleasing and encouraging aspect of the general academic, literary, social and cultural circles of our country that the intellectuals, thinkers and writers—who had been in the Kumbhakarna-like deep sleep and had been silent over the massacres, from Hashimpura to Muzaffarnagar, that have taken place during the last 30-40 years—have now woken up to the voice of their conscience. Surely their decision to return their Sahitya Akademi Awards in protest against the brutal murder of a Kannada-language writer, the victim of the aggression and barbarism of a particular section of the country, is an attempt to perform farz-e-kafaya [a duty performed on behalf of whole society].
The first victim, in fact, of such an aggression and bloodthirstiness of this directionless and astray section, growing like weeds and spreading like dodder, was the fiction writer of a language like Urdu, the flag bearer of Ganga Jamni Tehzeeb, known in Urdu literature as Zaki Anwar.
Some 35 years ago when Hindu-Muslim riots in Jamshedpur were raging with full force, Zaki Anwar raised the banner of Hindu-Muslim unity and brotherhood and decided to reside in an exclusively Hindu locality to spread the message of unity between Hindus and Muslims. However, only three or four days later his charred body was discovered in a well of that locality. I remember that not only the literary figures and writers of other Indian languages but even the poets, writers and intellectuals of Urdu language kept silent on this merciless murder of an Urdu writer trying to promote Hindu-Muslim-unity and kept mum and slept like Kumbhakarna. It did not stir the conscience of any of the writers of any language at all. Not even the faintest and remotest protest was made against the religious bigotry, narrowmindedness, aggressiveness and brutality that devoured a flag bearer of Hindu-Muslim-unity and a writer. Through this bloodletting the murderers assuaged their belief in intolerance. It was this mind set and this behaviorism the naked display of which was exhibited in the ruthless riots of Muzaffarnagar and later in the barbaric murder of Akhlaq in Dadri.
The return of government awards by the writers and poets of different Indian languages was a protest against the murder of late M. M. Kalburgi. But the announcement made by Munawwar Rana, who caters for the low standards of present day audience, who are devoid of any real literary taste and lack poetic and literary sense, to return his Sahitya Akademi Award has changed the nature of this protest.
Few days ago, while changing TV channels, when I saw Munawwar Rana talking with his folded hands, I was taken aback.
Folding one’s hands before others in the social gatherings of the majority community is a practice and a cultural habit. But for a Muslim it is not permissible to fold his hands before anyone except Allah SWT. The innovation of thanking and pleasing audience by folding one’s hands in a Mushairah was started by Basheer Badar and has reached to Munawwar Rana, a poet who is an unavoidable part of any of today’s Mushairahs. Anyway, folding their hands before the audience has become a professional and ritualistic norm of these bards to show that they are being appreciated by them in Mushairahs today.
When I saw Munawwar Rana in a live show singing in tune with the protesting writers and poets I was surprised. I was reminded of the Munawwar Rana who, until three days ago, with his hands folded as usual was criticizing the protesting poets and writers. I was anyway now pleased to see that at last the conscience of this sensitive poet who had reached heights of fame by making the emotional relation of a ‘Mother’ the theme of his poetry had now woken up.
But after that from his statements in newspapers I learnt that his conscience that had woken up against the ever rising religious bigotry had merely taken a side turn in his slumber and that it was the sense of expedience and fear that had stirred his sub-conscience and had made him go back to sleep.
There are reports that the Prime Minister has invited Munawwar Rana for a chit chat. About 40 of poets and writers all over the country have so far returned their awards but the fact that only Munawwar Rana has received a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office for a meeting raises innumerable questions.
As far his stature in the field of literature is concerned Munawwar Rana is not a poet of a high category. Like Waseem Barelvi, Rahat Indori, Manzar Bhopali, Jauhar Kanpuri etc. he is one of the pop poets who cater for the standards of poetic appreciation of audience of low literary sense. Sahitya Akademi Award had indeed made him wear high-heels but the message from PM house for a meeting has made him the focal point of this whole episode. As of now he has only received a message for a meeting and he has not yet climbed the stairs of Prime Minister’s Office but the decision by the Prime Minister to see him has brought an obvious change in his tune. In a newspaper statement he said: ‘When our eyes will meet each other we will both want to hug each other. I will want to recite to him a couplet of my teacher: “Aa mere bhai gale lagja, phir kabhi socheN ge kia lena hai kia dena hai.” [Come on, o my brother, let’s embrace each other; what we owe to each other we will think later on.].’ Then Munawwar Rana also said: ‘If the situation in the country is bad then as citizens we are all responsible for this. To say all the time in front of a camera that we are conspiring to defame Modiji is wrong. What do I have to do with Modiji? He is the Prime Minister of our country. When I will see Modiji I will not be able to speak. Both of us will see in each other’s eyes and will start crying. I will remember my mother and cry and Modiji will remember his mother and cry.’
Before this Munawwar Rana had said: ‘Excuse me please! I hail from Raebareli. Power gets to the ramparts of Delhi through the gutters of our city. I proclaim I will never accept any government award in my life.’
How Munawwar Rana will behave when he meets Modiji in his office is not my concern. However, [I have to admit that] like a successful businessman he has sent the trademark of his poetry in Prime Minister’s office so that owing to this trademark his baked or half-baked merchandise keeps on trading and like the politicians who remain alive by getting space in newspapers, he too gets reported in the news.
One has no idea of the game being played behind the scene. What is, however, obvious is that after the invitation from Prime Minister’s office Munawwar Rana’s tune has changed and according to Lucknow daily Inquilab, talking to some journalists at his residence he went as far as saying: ‘Personally I have a great regard for Prime Minister Modiji. In the capacity of an elder brother if he asks me to carry his shoes I will gladly do so. If the Prime Minister asks me not return the Sahitya Akademi award then I am quite willing to do so provided communal harmony is restored in the country.’
Similarly, according to Hindi language daily Navbharat Times, one of those who have announced to return their awards, Munawwar Rana said: ‘If Modiji asks me to take the award back I will obey him. Modiji is like my elder brother. If he asks me, in this capacity, to carry his shoes I am ready to do this.’
From Munawwar Rana’s statements it appears that before his meeting with Modiji he is busy in damage control exercise so that after the meeting not only does he remain ‘clean’ but his path to Rajya Sabha also remains clear.
If, after his meeting with the Prime Minister, Munawwar Rana reverses his decision of returning his Sahitya Akademi Award then it will be his personal matter. But for God’s sake Munawwar Rana, please do not get to the level of sycophancy that promises nothing but humiliation and ignominy. Surely he must carry the shoes of his mother as this will be of great use in the hereafter but he should not talk about carrying Modi’s shoes as this will serve no purpose except make his future lineage feel embarrassed.