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

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…