Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.” The famed talisman by Mahatma Gandhi hung above the simple, flower-less platform as Carnatic classical vocalist and Magsaysay awardee TM Krishna took the stage at Delhi’s Constitution Club “to reclaim the country we call India”.To reinforce his point, he sang one of Gandhi’s favourite hymn, Vaishnav jan toh, Muslim jan toh, Boddh Jan toh, Christian jan toh, Jain jan toh… tene kahiye je, peed paraayi jaane re… “This is how they sang it at Sabarmati Ashram; I am not the first one to do it,” said Krishna, who also attempted to reclaim Lord Ram and Allah through a Tyagaraja krithi and an Arabic hymn Salatullah Salamullah respectively. “In this country we need to reclaim Ram and Allah,” he said.
Titled “Jashn-e-Suroor”, a day of dissent, through music comprising songs that defined the idea of India’s resistance and protest poetry, it was organised by Sahmat, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, on Wednesday, to commemorate the death anniversary of activist-playwright Hashmi.
Earlier in the day, Iqbal Bano’s Hum dekhenge and Habib Jalib’s famed poem Dastoor with words Aise dastoor ko, subhe benoor ko, Main nahi jaanta, main nahin manta reverberated in the auditorium. The two pieces were sung by Rini Singh. While Indian Ocean frontman Rahul Ram and stand-up comedian Sanjay Rajoura spoke and sang of the current times through their outfit Aisi Taisi Democracy, professor and vocalist Madan Gopal Singh took one on a journey of Sufi poets. He made the mood sombre with Alif Allah chambe di booti, a poem by 17th century Sufi mystic and poet Sultan Bahu from Punjab (present-day Pakistan).
The venue also hosted an exhibition featuring photographs from protests in the Capital, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. “What happened in Jamia shocked the whole country, and after that, I have noticed people are no longer afraid to protest against the government. It was amazing to see youngsters and women lead the protests, and I had never seen cut-outs of leaders such as Maulana Azad, Ashfaqullah Khan and Savitribai Phule at protests, so it felt like the spirit of the Indian freedom struggle is back,” said photographer Ram Rahman.
At the one-day exhibition, which displayed over 200 photographs by a dozen photographers, were those by writer-photographer Vijay S Jodha. His series of postage stamps titled ‘Most of My Heroes’, showed portraits of men, women and children, who died during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.
Parthiv Shah’s work from 2008, documented the survivors of the 1987 Hashimpura massacre. A series of woodcuts from artist Riyas Komu from his 2018 exhibition “Holy Shiver” documented violence from every decade of independent India from 1947 onwards. Then there was Javed Sultan’s photos from the Rohingya refugee camps in Delhi that showed the stateless and the “most persecuted ethnic community of the world”. “What do these different stories echo — the fight for basic democratic rights, the right to exist, land right — and all are eventually connected to the struggle to maintain a democracy,” said writer-filmmaker Sohail Hashmi.
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