Skip to main content

Relevance of Kaifi Azmi's birth centenary year in times of "rising" communal tension


By Sheshu Babu*
The above poem 'Doosra Banvas' by Kaifi Azmi, written in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, reveals the contradictions of the movement that caused it, and is relevant even today. "I was born in a slave India, grew up in an Independent India and would like to die in a socialist India", was his dream. This dream remains unfulfilled as the present system of inequality is growing very rapidly.
Sayyid Akhtar Hussein Rizvi (Kaifi Azmi) was born on January 14, 1919 in Mizwaa(n) village of Azamgarh district in UP in a deeply religious landlord family. He was sent to a 'madrassa' in Lucknow for religious education. But he soon developed social consciousness, organized students and held demonstrations. He became 'comrade' and not a 'moulvi'. He was a man of conviction and never deviated from the ideology. In his early 20s, he became a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and had the CPI card in his 'kurta' even at the time of his death.
Kaifi wrote fiery poems for the deprived, the disadvantaged, dispossessed, downtrodden and underprivileged. He recited them in poetry congregations. Eminent poet late Nida Fazli in his book 'Chehre' writes, "Kaifi's entire poetic work is the story of those tears in different words".
Being born in a Shia family, he had mourned for the 72 martyrs of Karbala. After becoming a communist, he mourned for the thousands of sufferers in the world. Nida Fazli mentions in his book that Kaifi's style of poetry recitation was a part of tradition that he inherited during his childhood in Muharram gatherings.
A pioneer in Urdu and Hindi poetry, he could publish only a few collections of his poems: 'Jhankar(1943) , 'Aakhir-e-shab' (1947) , 'Awara sijde' (1973) and the collected poems Sarmaya (1992) which consist of not more than 125 poems. Many of his writings are uncollected. Despite suffering from cerebral stroke that left him partially paralysed for 25 years, he did not stop writing. He was a master of prose too. He wrote a column in Urdu 'Blitz', which was simultaneously published in Hindi between 1964 and 1972, collected in two volumes titled 'Nayi Gulistan'.
Kaifi Azami was a poet activist and led many strikes and participated in many protest demonstrations. He was a socially and politically committed shayars and belonged to the legendary poets club of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Maqdoom Moinuddin, etc. His poetry and his political activities are inseparable. His poems like 'Andhi' (Storm) and 'Bekari' (Unemployment) depict anger, passion and commitment. In his 'Istiqlal' or (Resolve), he visualized the dangers of fascism.
His epic poem 'Aurat' was so inspirational that Shaukat, who was listening to his poem recital at a congregation, proposed and made him her life partner. In 'Shanti van ke quarib' (Near shanti van), he visualizes democracy as a woman riddled with darts. In 'Jel ke dar par' (At the gate of a jail) he movingly depicts the emotions of two women and a child visiting their incarcerated bread winner. In 'Bewa ki khudkushi' (The widow's suicide) he graphically narrates the tale of a young widow killing herself.
To support financially, he wrote lyrics for the films like 'Buzdil' (1951), 'Kagaz ke phool', 'Shama', 'Haqeeqat', 'Anupama', 'Pakeeza', 'Arth', etc. He wrote about 240 songs for 80 movies. For 'Heer Ranjha', he not only wrote Punjabi-flavoured songs but also entire screenplay in verse. He also did a cameo screen role in 'Naseem', wrote dialogues for MS Sathyu's classic 'Garam Hawa' and screen play for Shyam Benegal's 'Manthan'.
He was honoured with many awards, including Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri and for his dialogues in 'Garam Hawa', and received Afro-Asian Lotus Award. But his major role in political and social movements and poetry for the masses makes him one of the greats who influenced post-Independent socialist thinkers and writers.
Celebrating his centenary, one should strive to achieve his dreams -- socialist India with communal harmony. In this year, when there is every likelihood of rising caste or religious bigotry, Kaifi's works should be a source of inspiration in combatting communal tensions and senseless violence.
---
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere is a supporter of communal harmony

Comments

TRENDING

HSBC shareholders seek exit from funding Adani's 'contentious' Australian coalmine

By Our Representative  In a move that may embarrass India's top business house known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shareholders of HSBC, a British multinational investment bank, the largest in Europe with total assets of US$2.715 trillion, are likely to decide at its AGM on May 28, 2021 a plan to exit coal financing related to the Adani Group, as it begins digging the Carmichael mega coal mine in Australia, reports Melbourne-based South Asia Times.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Ciminalising 'tool' created, name: Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Rejitha Nair* The year 2021 in Gujarat opened its account with 647 alleged land grabbing cases under investigation, 16 FIRs filed against 34 land grabbers within 35 days of Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020 (GLGPA), as informed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Gujarat State, in a press conference on January 22, 2021. He further informed that of 647 alleged cases, 605 applications of land grabbing were received by different collectors who have initiated suo moto proceedings in 42 cases. The total land in these cases is estimated to be around 1.35 lakh square metre, worth Rs 220 crore as per jantri rates (ready reckoner of land prices in different parts of the state). By March 15, 2021, at least six even cases are before the Gujarat High Court. Of about 11 cases reported in the daily newspapers, in three cases, grabbing of government land is charged, and the rest are land disputes between two individuals. The promptness of the district collect

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.