Diminishing A Poet

Attempt to reduce Kazi Nazrul Islam to a ‘Hindu’ writer is a travesty of his legacy

Written by Ankan Kazi | Published:June 14, 2017 12:00 am
Kazi Nazrul Islam, Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, Hindu Writer, Hindu, India News. Indian Express, Indian Express News Kazi Nazrul Islam (Source: wikipedia)

After reading several news reports around the time of his birth anniversary this year, it would appear that in our increasingly communal and divisive public sphere, the poet Kazi Nazrul Islam has attracted the favour of Hindutva parties that are normally committed to the fabrication of a mythical nation-state, populated by a singular culture and people. Nothing could be further from the complex world-view that Nazrul constructed in his work and through his life, over the course of many troubled decades, leading up to India’s independence in 1947. It should hardly come as a surprise that the most radical instinct in his work today is not his dedicated opposition to an occupying foreign rule — it is the vision of a secular society that he embodied in his poetry, songs, prose and his own life.

It is this vision that seems to be under threat from new dispensations that seek to flatten the plural traditions that inform our sub-continental practices of syncretic worship and existence. This makes Nazrul’s work relevant for our time, but also increases our responsibility as readers to remain wary of the politics of cultural appropriation, so important for political parties to create legitimacy for themselves across the country. For those seeking to make a quick political broadside using Nazrul, it might be useful to look at some of his ideas about his position in the nation.

In a speech delivered in Kolkata’s Albert Hall on December 15, 1929, he said: “Just because I was born in this country and society, I do not consider myself to be solely a subject of this nation and my community. I belong to every country and everyone. The caste, society, country or religion within which I was born was determined by blind luck. It’s only because I managed to rise above these trappings that I could become a poet.”

This attempt to “rise above” any markers of identity wasn’t a simple desire to get rid of them or pretend they did not exist, but rather, a call to recognise these barriers as man-made and, therefore, constantly negotiable, even changeable in order to create our place in the world. Thus, it is completely misguided to think of him as a “Hindu” poet — good or bad — or even a “Muslim” poet, considering his avowed position as a common member of humanity: “I sing the song of togetherness/ nothing is greater than humanity/ nothing more worthy” (‘Manush’/ Humanity).

He wrote Shyama Sangeet lyrics: Songs and poems in praise of Kali, part of a popular tradition in Bengali poetry, stretching back to at least the early 18th century; but he also wrote poetry and songs in the tradition of Islamic ghazals, couplets and translations from Hafiz and Omar Khayyam. He engaged, almost promiscuously, with a wide variety of sources and traditions across the Subcontinent and beyond, struck up intellectual kinship with political figures as different as Lenin and Ataturk and was committed to imagining a more just and secular nation than propagated by the leaders of our ruling parties.

The attempt to appropriate him as a model “Hindu” poet and celebrate his birth anniversary based upon these dangerously misunderstood, narrower terms of engagement is a travesty. It should provide the secular stakeholders of our nation a platform to resist this programme of action.

The writer, a research scholar at JNU, is the great-grandson of Kazi Nazrul Islam

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    TRP
    Jun 15, 2017 at 8:44 am
    Pankaj Scientific thought and practice has two components one - theory, second - proof. I would love to buy into your optimism that Pan Bhramanism (of a certain ilk) is the salvation of India, however you have (non-selective) history which says differently.. I want to believe that some esoteric knowledge/practice of this certain ilk will bring me protection, peace and prosperity. In reality I see these things accruing only to this ilk.... So I look outside... and hey there are `Bhramins' (Mullas, Priests, Rabis, Peers...) in other societies too and some of what they said have stood the test of time, even taken their societies ahead, inspite of the regional differences in the country they were born. I conclude some of what this privilege-cornering ilk in my own country are stating and doing is patently humbug and false, and hey here comes a `chatur baniya' (and his ilk) there is more hope for me in trusting him than this privilege-cornering ilk. I rest my case
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      TRP
      Jun 15, 2017 at 8:45 am
      And no I am not changing my name for `your' convenience. You can call be Pankaj if you like.
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        pankaj
        Jun 17, 2017 at 12:47 am
        The Brahmins of Hindus can be proven to be better than Brahmins of all other religions, not egoistically, but statically. and on lie detector, if i ask you to deny this statement you will most probably fail. Such is the truth behind Hinduism. Do you know the concept of different phases of life/Ashrams in Hinduism. Do you know that after 50 years people are supposed to leave family life and all iden ies and live life for society and that after 75 years they leave society as well and live life for only God and self? Do you know why a culature will create numbers small and large, 0 and infinity, full fledged decimal number system (they basically taught it to world, thanks to Brahmins).. Check all the Nobel Laurets and all the modern and ancient mathematicians of India, see how many of them are Brahmins. Now tell me how many scriptures Hindus have and tell me how many of them have anything stupid/anti-human like you can find in other religions.
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        pankaj
        Jun 17, 2017 at 12:26 am
        TRP, First thanks for writing with conviction. Secondly, as long as what you say is understood by you as truth you are good, then how i take it, how world takes it is there problem. Idea is that if you say things on lie detector and find all that you say is truth as per your mind, you are not in conflict with your own mind. And you are as good as you should be. The second part is that if I feel equally convinced about my ideas than we can have a good dialogue and result doesn't matter. My comments here do not worry about any result other than ensuring that people shun the lies and deceptions that there mind already understands. This can be done eaisly with lie detector and I hope in one decade or so, we get lie detectors as part of wrist watch or google watch and we force politicians/public celebrities to make public statements on lie detectors. Now you won't believe me but it will change the world more than what you have seen in last 100 years.
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          pankaj
          Jun 17, 2017 at 12:42 am
          Ok, can't see my first reply... continuing.. your liberty of having your own thoughts and expressing them in public ends the moment there is a lie in it... but as I said earlier, as long as you are speaking the truth known to your mind, you are good and if it is incorrect than my problem or problem of that person who knows the correct version... ----------------------------- Now neither your paraphrase was OK, nor your theory. I do not say anyone of them. Brahmins of Hinduism are better than Brahmins of all other religions and if there was a lie detector or you had a machine this ocean of thoughts, philosophies, cultures that we call Hinduism is better than all other religions found everywhere else... perhaps most of them are offshoot of this religion as zoroastrianism that is oldest of the abrahmic religions is actually a branch of this hinduism (they have sur-asur etc, read on it). However, Hinduism didn't become narrow and remain organic that new thoughts were never suppressed.
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            pankaj
            Jun 17, 2017 at 12:52 am
            Now I am not saying you need to think Brahminism will or will not bring anything to you or society. We are first dealing with what it has done till date but instead of fooling around with self deception we want to deal strictly, a la lie-detector style, not diffident inferiority complex driven decepetive haters of hinduism.. In science you observe data available to make theory, data may not be always enough. But if you cannot prove in reality that Hinduism was worse than any other religion in any way (in case of slaves or slavery also Hindu scriptures support none and hindu society had much more lenient version) than at best you can discard hinduism by saying that i do not care about religions as such, but the moment you want to compare it to any other religion, guess what, you are done, truth will hit you at one time or other. Same for Brahmins, you can ignore iden ies, including Brahmins, but do not compare them, they will surely beat your choice.
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              pankaj
              Jun 17, 2017 at 12:57 am
              Lastly, if you have to find solace and purpose in working against Hinduism or Brahmins while not working against all religions and iden ies at the same time, rest assured you are defeated, it is only matter of time you mind will have to realize truth. You cannot compare any one of them with counter parts or other options available. Work against iden ies and dilute them, otherwise you are just working on creating lost generations, generations lost on negative iden ies and conflict who will have to bear the truth, accept it one day. Brahmins were not worse than any other social iden y on earth, they may be better than most of then though, history has proof and this will be accepted as such eventually. Same about Hinduism, it is not worst, it is one of the best or best. But none of those iden ies are needed, you do not need to be religious in this modern world, you do not need to have a social caste or iden y in this modern world BUT BEWARE OF COMPARISON.
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                pankaj
                Jun 17, 2017 at 2:20 am
                ok, there were three more replies but diffident, scared, coward guys didn't publish it, i see only first one.
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                  pankaj
                  Jun 17, 2017 at 2:37 am
                  The guy who is moderating comments here is either islamist or deceptive communist, eliminated 3 of my replies to this comment, leaving only the first one. Why you guys are in the business of "thoughts" when you cannot even digest little bit of truth and by just removing replies you cannot remove the logic behind them from this world. You will need to force your next generation to be dumber than you to ensure they believe in your reasoning, because by default nature/world will provide them with more opportunities to understand the truths
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                  Venkat
                  Jun 15, 2017 at 5:51 am
                  Whether or not the Hindus call him or Abdur Raheem Khankhana or Raskhan - a Hindu, Hindu heavens are open to each one of them. Simple Question: Will Muslims accept him as Muslim after his Hindu leanings?
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                    Venkat
                    Jun 15, 2017 at 5:47 am
                    Whether or not the Hindus call him or Abdur Raheem Khankhana or Raskhan - a Hindu, Hindu heavens are open to each one of them. Simple Question: Will Muslims accept him as Muslim after his Hindu leanings?
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                      Pork Kabab
                      Jun 15, 2017 at 4:50 am
                      I think author of this article is living in a dream world. Which Hindutva party has claimed Nazrul to be Hindu? Let him name a few of them. I think this is his figment of imagination.
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                        Aditya Gaiha
                        Jun 15, 2017 at 1:18 am
                        By trying to blame everything on Hindutva the author displays the very common 'victim' mentality of pseudo seculars and leftists. Hindutva is not a single monotheistic concept like the Abrahamic religions and their ardent followers would have us believe. yes hindutva does say there is a common thread in all people in India and that is cultural and not so much religious. By denying this common thread leftists and pseudo seculars (sometimes unwittingly and sometimes knowingly) follow the Wester 'tradition' of divide and rule. Artificial divide has been created by misconstrued and misrepresenting history by the western historians and their leftist disciples... frivolous and factually and scientifically defunct theories such as Aryan-Dravidian divide and the Caste system and so called benign rule of invading armies has divided and destro the common fabric of our nation. It is time we all collectively stood up to say we are one India with no divisions...
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                          pankaj
                          Jun 15, 2017 at 12:06 am
                          -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------- so basically if as an individual you claim earth is flat or sun goes around earth, then you lost your claim to not being called a d-u-m-b... and that is not to disrespect you but to ensure it works as a social deterrent for people adopting falsehoods, same for deceptions and lies of all sorts.. society needs a framework and always has right to infringe on your individuality if what you practice as individual hurts the society--------------- --------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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                            pankaj
                            Jun 15, 2017 at 12:05 am
                            individuality is not an objective, being a social animal, your social behavior is mandatory and under some laws.. but your individuality you may or may not have it, nobody cares.. however, if all you want for your individuality is things against society, known truths etc than you cannot have that individuality by way of definition of good society itself... make sure you understand that you cannot make anything arbitrary as objective.. and your individuality doesn't prevent social obligation, nor allows you to believe in things that are not known to be truth... --so basically if as an individual you claim earth is flat or sun goes around earth, then you lost your claim to not being called a d-u-m-b... and that is not to disrespect you but to ensure it works as a social deterrent for people adopting falsehoods, same for deceptions and lies of all sorts.. society needs a framework and always has right to infringe on your individuality if what you practice as individual hurts the society
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                              TRP
                              Jun 15, 2017 at 12:39 am
                              Come now we are entering semantics are we... lets see... (trying to get the discussion back on track) your absolute (majoritarian) opinion is that whatever is against you is falsehood and that, is against my absolute (minority) view that I will not be part of anything that forces me against my will. Nice paraphrase? You say you are protecting me since I am a moron, I say thankyou very much, I dont want your protection - just keep those knives away.... and I am still to challenge your absolute assertion in the first line which says my individuality is not objective since I am a moron know to believe in fairy tales/myths in comparison to your objective individuality and how about the known truth that Non-vegetarian food is more easily available and digested than Vegetarian.
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                                pankaj
                                Jun 15, 2017 at 12:57 am
                                what paraphrase?.. read it completely.. did you read this part below.. what kind of semantics suggest you to paraphrase below as what you said??? what do you understand by semantics, how do you derive meaning out of a statement? You think if you say earth is flat or sun goes round earth, I will wait for you to tell me "no thank you" before telling that you are d-u-m-b, you think i will be so diffident of my understanding and purpose of why I am calling you d-u-m-b in that case that i need your approval... well, "no thank you" for your no thank you, [[[ --so basically if as an individual you claim earth is flat or sun goes around earth, then you lost your claim to not being called a d-u-m-b... and that is not to disrespect you but to ensure it works as a social deterrent for people adopting falsehoods, same for deceptions and lies of all sorts.. society needs a framework and always has right to infringe on your individuality if what you practice as individual hurts the society ]]]
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                              Vidya
                              Jun 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm
                              The 3 M people delight in ad- nauseum repeating the lie that Hindutva parties want a single culture. Arey baba, we want diversity...we don't want the single oppressive illogical culture of the clergy of an imaginary Jewish lord god and his imaginary children lording over us. Stop conversions, enjoy diversity within the boundaries of Dharma..and If Kazi Islam was indeed a Hindu why shouldn't he be identified as one? Why the kolaveri di.
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                                TRP
                                Jun 14, 2017 at 10:01 pm
                                Does your diversity include No Cow meat to start with (would appreciate if you eventually go totally vegetarian), No religion other than Hinduism for India (we will call it the sickular term `way-of-life' which by mistake we threw away), No conversion because the way-of-life we have determined is the only one we will allow. No critical views of our` holy-cows' else we will eliminate you. No criticism of our Leaders, Babas, Proponents even when they are as shallow and hypocritcal as they come. No exception to yoga as a form of excerise. No appreciation of anything or anybody else until they directly or indirectly have effuse praise for the `way-of-life'. No right to live if anybody chooses anything other than `our' way.... The history of strife and wars is lined up with such bigoted thoughts, the sooner we learn from it the better. The UN was formed half a century ago to let all men everywhere live and let live.
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                                  pankaj
                                  Jun 15, 2017 at 12:43 am
                                  You should prioritize your handling of things and ensure that you do not have to use name other than TRP very soon. If your focus is just to get rid of what all you mentioned, you will probably be very happy in just a couple of years, because one way or other cow vigilantism will be gone, your meat issue will be settled. And perhaps Yoga will be so popular that hindus won't find people to force it upon them. So your own next generations may like Yoga and meditation that much. ............................. But if you want to help society then find root causes of what is creating bigger divisions in indian society... assuming that people have to become wiser (in the long run) to be able to live in an age of quick communication, quantum computers and a need for intelligent mind, you can almost guarantee that people will love to think about hinduism even when religions will be gone.. not because of what you are mentioning but because of what it gave to society as a refined psychology.
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                                    pankaj
                                    Jun 15, 2017 at 12:50 am
                                    Continuing from my earlier comment below..... however your conflict creating, negative psychology supporting leftist iden y based politics will suffer a heavy loss, it will eventually be remembered as something that made a good idea of society (one that helps everyone in it, say half of what Marx said) into a bad conflict/class fight and converted it into a bad disease.. you won't believe me, because you might have read too many leftist books which start at nothing and end at nothing giving false hope to their cadre like Islamists and their propaganda, but this is what you have to witness in next couple of decades... no terrorism, propaganda, leftist/rightist ideology can survive more than couple of decades.. as humans we can't go back to being monkey and have to discard negative psychology/iden ies very soon.. .... India need to convert its own population into people committed to betterment of India than of Arab/Chines or supporting/expanding negative iden ies..
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                                    TRP
                                    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:10 pm
                                    The UN Charter of Human Rights which reflects the best Cons utional practices of the best democracies (including ours) did not suddenly appear. It was formed by the blood, sweat and toil lost in past when men did not respect the rights of other men. Lets learn from the best (even supposed imaginary Jewish/Arabic characters) from the world rather than the worst. Remember you are treated the way you treat others in your own country. Beware your fame precedes you in most cases than not! Even the `chatur baniya' gained the respect of his adversaries worldwide because it was a consistent and altruistic stand, though back home the dark, divisionary forces were effectively undermining his lifework - the country we have now.
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                                      pankaj
                                      Jun 15, 2017 at 12:21 am
                                      Lallo, Not just Chatur Baniya, the reason Indian Civilization was called mother of all Civilizations by Will Durant or why Greeks considered Brahmins to be wisest people on earth or why Voltaire called them first philosophers or why Alexander came to meet Dandamis (Dandi Swami) or why every traveler from Chinese Hwin Seung to Megasthense was in all praise for Indian society was because for centuries these people were setting examples without caring what others are doing. The Mughals, not just Dara SIkoh, who considered Upanishads to be the Kitab-al-maknum talked about in Kuran, but even those like Akbar, understood that Hinduism and Upanishads have some of the most amazing/profound philosophical thoughts. We have created divisions by supporting iden y and conflict based politics, which then was used by vote bank politics. What you see today is a reaction to that but may be hard for you to understand. Eventually, it will be gone when most Indian will realize that at DNA level.
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