Art and Obscenity: The Case of Manto

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Written by Randeep Singh

The Urdu short-story writer Manto was charged with obscenity six times for his short-stories, three times in India before 1947 (‘Dhuan,’ ‘Bu,’ and ‘Kali Shalwar’) and three times in Pakistan after 1947 (‘Khol Do,’ ‘Thanda Gosht,’ and ‘Upar Neeche Darmiyaan’). He was fined only in one case. The charges of obscenity haunted him nevertheless until his death: “I am not a pornographer but a story writer,” he would defend himself.

Under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and the Pakistan Penal Code in Pakistan’s early years, a book or writing would be considered obscene if “it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect … if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”

The book or writing would not be found obscene however if it was “justified as being for the public good on the ground that such book, … writing… is in the interest of … literature, art … or other objects of general concern.”

Manto wrote about his experiences at the trial and appeal hearing of “Thanda Gosht” between 1949 and 1952. A witness at trial for Manto, Syed Abid Ali Abid, the Principal of Dayal Singh College, testified: “from Wali to Ghalib, everyone at some time, has written what is generally labeled as obscene. Literature can never be obscene. And, what Manto writes is literature.”

One witness, Dr. Saeedullah, gave Manto the title of “musavvar-e-hayaat,” the painter of life. Soofi Tabassum, a professor of Government College, deposed that “immoral writing is where the sole object of the writer is to undermine morality” and that “Thanda Gosht” did not affect public morality.

In Manto’s testimony, “Thanda Gosht” was a story “telling human beings that they are not separated from humanity even with they become animal like.” Like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary which had also been charged with obscenity, “Thanda Gosht” was a serious story filled with melancholy. As for the potentially corrupting influence of his stories on the public, Manto remarked, “my stories are for healthy people, normal beings, not for minds who dig  up carnal meanings in innocent and pure things.”

The case of Manto is relevant to the question of what is art and what is obscenity. The following questions are worth considering:

  1. What is the artists’ intention in writing the story (to arouse sexual excitement etc.)?
  2. Is the sexual element of the story the primary or dominant value of the story or is it subordinated to the writer’s aesthetic goals?
  3. How does the reader experience the story? Does it appeal more to his or her aesthetic judgement or mostly to his or her senses and carnality?
  4. Does the aesthetic experience of reading the story do away with the reader’s “practical, operational” ways of viewing its characters and situations as if they were real people or situations?

If the story’s primary or overriding goal is to sexually arouse the reader, then the work can be considered obscene. If the story’s primary or overriding goal though is to use sexual or erotic scenes for some larger artistic purpose related to theme, setting etc., the story can be considered literature. A story moreover may have sexual situations or scenes which by themselves may be considered obscene but which have some meaning in the story’s overall context.

In “Thanda Gosht,” Manto tells the story of Isher Singh, a Sikh, who tried to rape an already dead Muslim girl, a heap of “cold flesh.” In “Khol Do,” a brutalized, unconscious  girl on the verge of death, Sakeena, opens her shalwaar qameez after the doctor examining her utters the words “khol do” (‘open’) to a nurse to open a window. The suggestion of raping a corpse or a girl opening her shalwaar on hearing the words “open (it)” by themselves may have been obscene; in their proper context, they illustrate the extent to which women were brutalized in the Punjab in 1947.

Manto was not only holding up a mirror to the dirt, hypocrisy and puritanism in Indian and Pakistani society; he was showing a way out of it. Ismat Chughtai wrote in her memoir “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan” that Manto’s “flinging it (dirt) about makes it visible and one’s attention can be called to the need of cleaning it.”  His stories unsettle us because they take us to the darker corners of our psyche, to desires repressed and to the ugliness that results. South Asia still struggles with the brutalization of women, sexual repression, sexual abuse, a growing AIDS menace and with discussing sex or sexuality openly.

Manto is still holding up the mirror to ourselves.

Further reading:

Ayesha Jalal, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Aziz Akhmad, “Manto Ka Muqaddama: Obscenity Trial”:  http://pakistaniat.com/2009/09/29/saadat-manto-trial/

Urdu Poetry and Iqbal

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Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) once said that he did not consider himself a poet. It is no use to compare him to Ghalib, Rumi or Tagore. There is little flight of imagination or profound silences in Iqbal’s poems. And yet, he influenced Urdu poetry.

First, Iqbal moved Urdu poetry from the classical poets’ inner world of anguish to the world of action. More than any other modern Urdu poet, Iqbal made Urdu poetry a tool for critique, a vehicle of social change, a quest for meaning and an affirmation of the human spirit. While many point to Faiz’ transformation of moth and flame into modern metaphors of revolution, it was Iqbal who first oriented Urdu poetical metaphors towards the moral and social revitalization of man and society.

Second, the musicality of Iqbal’s verse enriched the melody of Urdu. Faiz notes Iqbal’s use of unconventional metre (as in ‘Masjid-e-Qurtaba’), his use of unfamiliar (yet simple) words, his unprecedented use of proper names such as Delhi, Hejaz and Misr and his deliberate patterning of vowel and consonantal sounds, produced entire lines and quatrains that are a spectrum of sound and melody.

So, in “Ek Shaam” (‘One Evening’), Iqbal marries the picture of the hushed atmosphere over the valley to the sibilant consonants of verse (‘vaadee ke nava farosh khaamosh/kahsaar kee sabz posh khaamosh’), lulling the reader into silence. He rouses us from slumber through dramatic assonance (‘Ae Khuda Shikwah-e-Arbab-e-Wafa Bhi Sun Le/Khugar-e-Hamd Se Thora Sa Gila Bhi Sun Le’ in the poem ‘Shikwa’) and strings together sounds at the end of words (Rang ho ya Khisht-o-sang/Chang ho ya harf-o-saut) as if beating an Indian dafli drum.

Third, the range of themes and influence in Iqbal’s poetry is considerable, opening up horizons for Urdu. Through Iqbal, Urdu poetry pulses with the spirit of Keats, Nietzche, Bergson, Goethe to Rumi, Ghalib, Naziri and Bedil. His range of forms include ghazals, nazms, qita, rubiyat and mussadas verse forms; his range of subject matter, childrens’ poems, the nation, cinema, self-realization and imperialism; and his reader travels from the banks of the Ravi to the shores of Sicily to the Himalayas. Iqbal’s poetry is as much a epic history of twentieth century Asia as it is a philosophy of life.

He may not have considered himself a poet. Yet in making poetry the medium through which to express his message, Iqbal transformed the content, range and direction of Urdu poetry, suggesting an almost boundless range of place, theme and subject.

Written by Randeep Singh

Further Reading:

V.G. Kiernan (trans.), Poems from Iqbal: Renderings in English Verse with Comparative Urdu Text (Oxford University Press, Pakistan: 2013).

Sheema Majeed (ed.), Culture and Identity: Selected English Writings of Faiz (Oxford University Press, Karachi: 2005).

Barbara Metcalf, “Iqbal’s Imagined Geographies: The East, the West, the Nation, and Islam” in Kathryn Hansen and David Lelyveld, A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in Transnational Perspective (eds.) (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005).

Iqbal Singh, The Ardent Pilgrim: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Mohammad Iqbal . (Oxford University, New Delhi: 1997).

Hindi and Urdu: Sa’adat Hasan Manto

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This is Muhammad Umar Memon’s translation of an article by Sa’adat Hasan Manto.

The translation first appeared in The Annual of Urdu Studies.The Hindi-Urdu dispute has been raging for some time now. Maulvi Abdul Haq Sahib, Dr Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi know what there is to know about this dispute. For me, though, it has so far remained incomprehensible. Try as hard as I might, I just haven’t been able to understand. Why are Hindus wasting their time supporting Hindi, and why are Muslims so beside themselves over their preservation of Urdu? A language is not made, it makes itself. And no amount of human effort can ever kill a language. When I tried to write something about this current hot issue, I ended up with the following long conversation:Munshi Narain Parshad:  Iqbal Sahib, are you going to drink this soda water?

Mirza Muhammad Iqbal: Yes, I am.

Munshi: Why dont you drink lemon?

Iqbal: No particular reason. I just like soda water. At our house, everyone likes to drink it.

Munshi: In other words, you hate lemon.

Iqbal: Oh, not at all. Why would I hate it, Munshi Narain Parshad? Since everyone at home drinks soda water, I’ve sort of grown accustomed to it. That’s all. But if you ask me, actually lemon tastes better than plain soda.

Munshi: That is precisely why I was surprised hat you would prefer something salty over something sweet. and lemon isn’t just sweet, it has a nice flavour. What do you think?

Iqbal: You are absolutely right, but…

Munshi: But what?

Iqbal: Nothing. I was just going to say that I’ll take soda.

Munshi: Same nonsense again. I’m not forcing you to drink poison, am I? Brother, what’s the difference between the two? Both bottles are made in the same factory after all. The same machine has poured water into them. If you take the sweetness and flavour out of the lemon, what’s left?

Iqbal: Just soda… a kind of salty water…

Munshi: Then, what’s the harm in drinking the lemon?

Iqbal: No harm at all.

Munshi: Then drink!

Iqbal: And what will you drink?

Munshi: I’ll send for another bottle.

Iqbal: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking plain soda?

Munshi: N… n… no harm.

Iqbal: So then, here, drink the soda water.

Munshi: And what will you drink?

Iqbal: I’ll get another bottle.

Munshi: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking lemon?

Iqbal: N… n… no harm. And what’s the harm in drinking soda?

Munshi: None at all.

Iqbal: The fact is, soda is rather good.

Munshi: But I think that lemon… is rather good.

Iqbal: Perhaps, if you say so. Although I’ve heard all along from my elders that soda is rather good.

Munshi: Now what’s a person to make of this: I’ve heard all along from my elders that lemon is rather good.

Iqbal: But what’s your own opinion?

Munshi: And what’s yours?

Iqbal: My opinion… hum… my opinion. My opinion is just this… but why don’t you tell me your opinion?

Munshi: My opinion… hum… my opinion is just this… but why should I tell it first?

Iqbal: I don’t think we’ll get anywhere this way. Look, just put a lid on your glass. I’ll do the same. Then we’ll discuss the matter leisurely.

Munshi: No, we can’t do that. I’ve already popped the caps off the bottles. We’ll just have to drink. Come on, make up your mind, before all the fizz is gone. These drinks are worthless without the fizz.

Iqbal: I agree. And at least you do agree that there’s no real difference between lemon and soda.

Munshi: When did I ever say that? There’s plenty of difference. They’re as different as night and day. Lemon is sweet, flavourful, tart-three things more than soda. Soda only has fizz, and that’s so strong it just barges into the nose. By comparison, lemon is very tasty. One bottle and you feel fresh for hours. Generally, soda water is for sick people. Besides, you’ve just admitted yourself that lemon tends to be tastier than soda.

Iqbal: Well, that I did. But I never said that lemon is better than soda. Tasty doesn’t mean that a thing is also beneficial. Take achaar, it’s very tasty, but you already know about its harmful effects. he presence of sweetness and tartness doesn’t prove that something is good. If you cnsulted a doctor he would tell you the harm lemon does to the stomach. But soda, that’s something else. The thing is, it helps digestion.

Munshi: Look, we can settle the matter by mixing the two.

Iqbal: I have no objection to that.

Munshi: Well, then, fill this glass halfway with soda.

Iqbal: Why don’t you fill half the glass with your lemon? I’ll pour my soda after that.

Munshi: Makes no sense. Why don’t you pour your soda first?

Iqbal: Because I want to drink soda-lemon mixed.

Munshi: And I want lemon-soda mixed.

By Shivam Vij. Reproduced from Minds@UW and posted December 5, 2011 in “Kafila” at http://kafila.org/2011/12/05/hindi-and-urdu-saadat-hasan-manto/

Meera Ji’s 100th – ‘Ambiguity itself’ by Sarwat Ali

 Meeraji
May 25, 1912 – November 4, 1949

On his hundredth birthday that falls on May 25, 2012, Meera Ji’s experimental poetic expression can be evaluated more objectively

Meera Ji died young, not fully appreciated for a poetic expression that was very experimental and hounded for his unconventional lifestyle.

Given the current situation where the ideological divide between the right and left is no longer the decisive criteria in assessing a work of literature, some newer critical canon is waiting to be established. Since the erstwhile divide imposed with rigidity posited literature as front for an ideological battle, it was not always assessed on the basis that was its very own.

Meera Ji’s life was difficult because he decided to swim against the current of the mainstream Progressive Writers Association. His was a distinct voice, very individual, extremely subjective and sensitive to the smaller issues and feelings which otherwise get swarmed by overwhelming questions.

He wrote nazms (poems)and was obviously inspired by much that was happening in the West in literature and other disciplines like psychology. Initially the nazm was a revolt against the highly stylised dominant form of the ghazal (rhyming verse). It was considered to be less well-wrought, less dependent on associated references and loaded metaphors. It was closer to being a statement and this objectivity was a much cherished aim in the 19th century but, by the time nazm came within the creative grasp of Meera Ji, it became the poetic manifestation of an inner voice.

Meera Ji’s inner voice was of suppressed instincts that did not find an outlet in poetry directly but only in the well-wrought framework of an inherited tradition. The instincts were given a form that was artistically closer to the chaos and anarchy of the instinctual aspects of a human being and its expression too had to be reflective of the turmoil that makes up the essential self of man.

Before Meera Ji, Noon Meem Rashed had written the nazm inspired by the late Romantics and the Imagists. Rashed really worked on his poems, and at times the hardwork showed. But where Rashed’s effort was contrived, Meera Ji wrote with an effortless ease. This is not to say that he did not work on his poems and wrote in a fit of inspiration, only that his effort did not become obvious and his craft was more honed than some of his contemporaries.

Meera Ji’s work was seen by some as directly flowing out of sexual energy and was libidinal, as if what he wrote was actually an expression of the lack of an outlet for sexual expression as well. But this was only a selective reading of his works. He was less concerned with repression and its lack of outlet and more with the mysteries of the sex drive, the basic instincts that filled human life with the force and the energy to think beyond the precision of the event. It was fully comprehended without wrapping it in an elaborate system of thought. Meera Ji had the spontaneity of a super craftsman.

In his earlier phase, Meera Ji wrote nazms that were formalistic and structured. In the later phase, under the influence of the geet (song), he wrote poetry that was extremely lyrical but did not follow any formalistic design. The geet does not, as a genre, follow a formal structure and is quite accommodating in its pattern and rhyme scheme; the only criteria being that it should retain its lyrical quality. This criterion was fulfilled with great promise by Meera Ji. His geets were extremely lyrical and did not follow the form of a nazm. He was in the process of discovering an inner structure for the unity of the poem as compared to a more formal one. The association of meaning, the references and the allusions, all knitted his nazm to give it a sharpened edge that possibly could not have been achieved if the dictates of a formal structure had been lurking in the background during the act of creation.

As the inner structure was not apparent, Meera Ji was criticised for being ambiguous. The subject that Meera Ji found to be potent was ambiguity itself and the initial reaction of the reader to be lost in the maze of an experience, though overwhelming, was shrouded in mystery and questioned by many. The subject itself was not cut and dried and laid down in any order. This ambiguity was the consequence of the magical environment that Meera Ji was able to weave in his poems, the atmosphere that he created, full of indirections with no direct linkages.

Meera Ji was a very well-read man and extremely educated about the poetic forms of the past and the age that he was living in. The greatest proof of that are his extensive prose writings on various poets and literary movements. As a critic, Meera Ji was a critical observer looking very closely at the writings and poems, developing arguments backed by historical references and contemporary instances. His critical pieces had no ambiguity, no magical maze — instead, only clarity of thought and a forcefulness of reasoning.

His understating of contemporary poetry and the reasons that gave birth to such a poetic expression was quite astonishing. The poetry closer to his own was ruthlessly scrutinised and he found these either truly inspirational, or at least the words resonating his own poetic experience.

Meera Ji was not alone in that ambiguous mysterious, haunting world; it was the sensibility of an age that he was only sharing. The European poets of the late nineteenth and twentieth century had moved away from the formal structures to explore an area of experience that could not be grasped by rationality and scientific explanation. New doubts had arisen and questions were being raised also by poets, some directly and some not so directly. As in those poets, in Meera Ji too, childhood played a critical part. For authenticity, he could relate to that primal experience and then to its sublimation, mythology, which gave an artistic cover to the hopes, aspirations and foibles of human existence.

The personality of Meera Ji too was put under the microscopic lens and many moral issues were raised regarding his conduct in society. But he was essentially a poet in rebellion against the mainstream culture of his times. For him truth lay beyond social norms and manners, even if it involved sacrificing mundane living. His love for poetic truth was just as sincere as his love for Meera Sen. He lost in love but succeeded in immortalising the supremacy of love through his poems.

From http://jang.com.pk/thenews/may2012-weekly/nos-20-05-2012/lit.htm#1

Recommended by Ijaz Syed
syedi@sbcglobal.net

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A poem by Meera Ji

Piyaare lamhe aayen ge aur majboori miT jaye gi
Hum dono mil jayen ge aur sab doori miT jaye gi

Har dam Behne wali aankhon ki mala bhi TooTay gi
Teri meri hasti iss bairi bandhan se chooTay gi

Lekin yeh sab baatein hain apne jee ke behlaanay ki
Dukh ki raat main dheere dheere dil ka dard miTaanay ki

Rotay rotay hanstay hanstay ruktay ruktay gaanay ki
Sukh ka sapna sookha hai aur sookha hi reh jaye ga

Sooni saij pe prem kahani premi yoon keh jaye ga
Hote hote sara jeewan aankhon se beh jaye ga

Text from: http://www.urdupoetry123.com/urdu-nazam/meera-jee/poetry_shayari_sad_romantic_poem_02.htm

More on Meera Ji
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meeraji
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Celebrating 100 years of Saadat Hassan Manto (May 1912-2012) – Lahore May 14-17/12

By Kanwal Dhaliwal from Uddari Art

Celebrating 100 years of Saadat Hassan Manto (May 1912-2012)
AJOKA THEATRE
In collaboration with the
Lahore Arts Council
Presents a
Tribute to Manto
On 14th, 15th , 16th & 17th May 2012 at 7pm
VENUE: Hall #2, Alhamra the Mall, Lahore.

You are coordially invited to the following events
14th and 15th May
Performances
Siyah Hashiye
Toba Tek Singh
Khol Do
Adapted by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Dramatised Readings
Akhri Salute
By Naeem Tahir

16th and 17th May
Performances
Naya Qanoon
Adapted by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Naseem Abbas
Dramatised Readings
Sawerey Jo Kal Ankh Mairee Khuli
Pardey ki Baatain
Dekh Kabira Roya
Uncle Sam Ke Khatoot
By Naveed Shahzad, Naseem Abbas, Furqan Majeed

More Information:
Ajoka: 042-36686634, 36682443, 36677047 Alhamra: 99200917-8

Note:
Children under 12 are strictly not allowed
Mobile phones must be switched off before entering the hall
Doors shall be closed upon commencement of the performance
Consumption of eatables & drinks in the hall is not allowed

Website: www.ajoka.org.pk
Email: ajokatheatre@gmail.com
Facebook: AjokaTheatrePakistan
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Tribute to revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Bradford UK, June 15/11

We cordially invite you to attend a centenary event to pay tribute to one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize. Although imprisoned for his political views in the 1950s, Faiz continued to fight against oppression and exploitation. Even in death, Faiz’s extraordinary ability to bring together nations, often entangled in bitter disagreements, persists. His continuing importance, to the 21st century, as a major literary voice whose words continue to have the power to move peoples’ hearts and minds the world over cannot be overstated.

We are delighted to announce that
Abid Hassan Minto, a veteran politician, life-long campaigner, progressive writer and thinker, human rights activist and the president of Workers Party Pakistan will be the main speaker in Bradford.

4.30 p.m.
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Council Chambers, City Hall
Centenary Square, Bradford BD1 1HY

Other contributors include
Raza Ali Abadi, Mohammad Ajeeb, Ghazanfer Khaliq, Kevin Donnelley, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya and Sarwan Singh

Cultural Programme will be presented by
Mehmooda Hadi, Amal Podder, Karl & Gloria Dallas.

RSVPCo-ordinators:
Mohsin Zulifqar, 07540 829564
Lala M. Younas, 07878 996658
Ajit Singh, 07720 400242
Sarwan Singh, 07989 062965
Khalid Saeed Qureshi, 07869433475
Prof Nazir Tabassum, 07828 174854
Pervez Fateh, 07958 541672
Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, 01274 303340
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986

Jointly organised by
Kala Sangam
Bradford & Leeds Faiz Centenary National Organising Committee (UK)

Best regards
Pervez Fateh
Secretary, Fational Centenary National Organising Committee UK
www.faizcentenary.org
http://uk.faizcentenary.org
www.sapfonline.org
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
E-mail: pervezf@yahoo.com

Download PDF
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Faiz Celebrations in Birmingham – three events in June‏

As part of revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz centenary celebrations, National Organising Committee UK for Faiz Centenary celebrations in conjunction with various socio-political, cultural and literary organisations particularly The Drums and Fanoos is holding three big events in Birmingham in June 2011.

Event 1
Documentary on Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Thursday, June 9

7.00pm. at The Drum
144 Potters Lane, Aston
Birmingham, B6 4UU
This moving and revealing documentary on the life and times of the Pakistani national poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, narrated by the writer and political activist Tariq Ali, has become a cult classic. Using archival and original footage including interviews with his family members, intellectuals and activists, and Faiz’s poetry itself, the film tells the story of how the writer, trade unionist and political activist used his creative endeavours to defend human rights and further the universal causes of social justice and liberty, and of his imprisonment and eventual exile.

Event 2
Symposium on Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Sunday, June 12

3.00pm. at The Drum
144 Potters Lane, Aston
Birmingham, B6 4UU
This special symposium brings together prominent academics, poets and political activists to mark and celebrate the life and poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Confirmed speakers
Abid Hassan Minto – President Workers Party Pakistan
Robert Griffiths – General Secretary Communist Party of Brittan
Dyal Singh Bhagri – President Indian Workers Association UK
Raza Ali Abadi – Prominent broadcaster, writer, poet and Faiz’s fellow
Expected speakers
I.A. Rehman – Former president Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Tariq Ali – Prominent Intelectual, Writer, Activist, and others

Event 3
International Mushaira in memory of Faiz
Saturday, June 18

2.00pm. at The Birmingham Library Theatre
Paradise Place
Birmingham B3 3HQ
As part of the Faiz centenary celebrations, this Mushaira promises to be one of the largest and prominent gatherings of renowned Urdu and Punjabi poets in the United Kingdom. Birmingham poets will be joined by leading poets from all over the UK and abroad to pay homage and honor the memory of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Taking inspiration from Faiz’s work, they will recite their poems and make reference to the impact and influence of Faiz on their poetry. Invited poets include Saaki Farooqi, Iftikhar Arif, Bashir Kazmi, Sadaf Mirza, Yasmeen Habib, Raiz Majeed, Zahid Fakhari, Iqbal Naveed, Sabir Raza and many others.

A must for all writers, poets, activists and connoisseurs of Urdu/ Punjabi poetry.

Contacts
Abbas Malik
abbasm786@yahoo.com
Tel: 07956855569
Mukhtar Dar
m.dar@the-drum.org.uk
Tel: 0121 333 2406

From
Pervez Fateh
Secretary – National Organising Committee
Faiz Centenary Celebrations UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
www.faizcentenary.org
http://uk.faizcentenary.org
pervezf@yahoo.com
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Faiz Centennary Fundraising Dinner: Oxford UK May 14/11

Faiz Centennary Celebrations 2011
Fundraising Dinner
Date & time
Saturday 14 May 2011
7:00 pm
Venue
Asian Cultural Centre
Manzil Way, Oxford OX4 1GH
Programme
Food with documentary from 7:00 to 8:00 pm
Asian homemade food (with vegetarian + non-vegetarian options) will be served.
(8:00 to 9:30 pm)
Featuring
Sam Lathem (Shakespearian / Classical Actor, writer & director)
Helen Phillips (Young Classical Actress)
Munib Anwar (Faiz contemporary & political activist)
Saqlain Imam (BBC Urdu Service, ex-editor The News, Jang group)
Amarjit Chandan (Punjabi poet and writer)
… and our very own Oxford talent..!
Entry
Standard: £10/- per person (Students: £8/-)
Children free
Funds will be raised for Faiz Mela London
Organised by
1. Anjuman-e-Adab Oxford
Mrs Nuzhat Abbas
Gen Secretary Anjuman-e-Adab & Oxford Coordinator FCCCUK
07962 426065
Altaf Khan
Prog Coordinator Councillor
07931 345554
2. Oxford University Pakistan Society – OUPakSoc
Mr Ayyaz Mallick
07853 137930
3. Faiz Centenary Celebration Committee UK
Mr Tanveer Zaman
07957 546139

Entry by booking only.
Booking closes 12 May 2011

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Faiz Peace Festival Toronto 2011 on May 22

Faiz Peace Festival Toronto 2011

What: Faiz 1911- 2011 Centenary Celebration in Canada
Around six hundred people will join to celebrate with poets, writers, intellectual, human rights and political activists from greater Toronto area to celebrate.

Where:
Port Credit Secondary School Auditorium
70 Mineola Road, Mississauga
Ontario, Canada

Who:
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan Author, Poet and Former Federal Minister
Iftikhar Arif
NOAMI LEZARD

When: Sunday May 22, 2011
At 6: PM

For further Info:
Ashfaq Hussan: 647-588-3499
Barrister Hamid Bashani: 416-399-7602
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Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 5:35 am  Comments (1)  

‘Faiz Ahmad Faiz as a World Poet’ by Javed Majeed

FAIZ BIRTH CENTENARY 1911-2011
Presentation at Poet in the City, King’s Place, London Jan 17 2011

First I would like to thank Anita Mir and Graham Henderson for organising this event and for inviting me to talk at it. Thank you also to all of you for coming. I am going to talk about the distinctive nature of Faiz’s poetry and why he is a world poet.

Faiz’s poetry needs to be interpreted against the background of the political upheavals of the twentieth century. His life spanned the two world wars, the rise of fascism in Europe, the growth of religious nationalism in the Indian subcontinent, decolonisation and the partition of India, and the uncertainties of postcolonial nationhood, most vividly brought home by the break up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

His poetry raises three important questions. First, how do you recover hope from political disillusionment? How do you create spaces of hope out of the degraded conditions we find ourselves in?

Secondly, how do you write politically committed poetry that is not mere propaganda or excessively moralising? What Faiz does is to express the difficulties of making political commitments, the range of emotions it involves, and the inner struggles of the individual who is politically committed. He does not simplify political commitment; instead he shows how complex it is.

Thirdly, how does a poet work with the tradition he or she has inherited in order to produce original and new poetry? Faiz is steeped in the classical traditions of the Urdu ghazal or love lyric, its symbols, images, and characters. These characters include the lover (ashiq), the beloved (mashuq), the rival (raqib), the friend who gives the lover useless advice (nasih), the cup-bearer at the wine party (saqi), and the strict religious moraliser (sheikh). Faiz draws on these symbolic figures and the history of their subtle descriptions in Urdu poetry to produce political verse. He also draws on the imagined places of the Urdu ghazal, such as the wine tavern or meh khana, the street of the beloved, the gathering (mehfil), the mosque, the temple, and the garden. In his poetry, without sacrificing the history of their meanings, these places become spaces of political oppression and hope.

Furthermore, Faiz generally writes in the classical metres of Urdu poetry. Using the couplet, he combines tightness of form with expansiveness of meaning. This aspect of Urdu poetry is hard to capture in English, not least because English is a stress-timed language while Urdu is a syllable-timed language. Urdu is scanned by quantity not stress and hence translations of Urdu poetry into English often look prosaic.

I am going to talk about three poems Faiz wrote while in prison on his experience of imprisonment. I have chosen the prison poems because in many ways prisons and camps of various kinds (such as the concentration camp, the POW camp, and the refugee camp) were the defining spaces of the twentieth century.

The poems are ‘Zindan ki aik shám’ (A Prison Evening), ‘Zindan ki Aik Subha’ (A Prison Morning), and ‘Qaid-e Tanhai’ (Solitary Confinement). In these poems Faiz explores issues of freedom and constraint, the creation of hope in the midst of despair, and the use of the language of the Urdu ghazal or love lyric and Sufi poetry to create a sense of political commitment.

The first thing to note about these poems is that his writing of poetry in prison is itself a defiance of his imprisonment; Faiz is able to use prison cell creatively. So if we look at ‘Zindan ki aik sham’ (A Prison Evening) we can note three things. The poet finds inner freedom in prison by observing and describing carefully the coming of evening and the changing nature of light in his prison cell, which he expresses in a series of images such as:

Shana-e bam par damakta hai
Mehrban chandni ka dast-e jamil

On the crest of the roof is glittering
The beautiful hand of the gracious moonlight

Defiantly, the poet describes the sweetness of the moment of nightfall in prison, sweet because of the calming effect of the moonlight, and because he has survived another day in prison. This leads him to consider how limited the power of tyranny might be, since these tyrants cannot extinguish the moon from which he draws comfort. At the same time, the moon is often a symbol of the beloved’s beauty in Urdu poetry, and mehtab or moonlight describes the glow of the beloved’s shining face. In Urdu poetry generally, the separation of the lover from the beloved is described in a variety of ways, and much attention is paid to evoking the pain of separation and the fluctuating moods of the lover. In this poem, Faiz uses the language of separation from the beloved to describe the changing colours of the sky. These wavering colours are like “the waves of pain for separation from the loved one” coming into his heart:

Nur mein ghul gai hai ‘arsh ka nil
Sabz goshon men nilgun sa’e
Lahlahate hain jis tarah dil men
Mauj-e dard-e firaq-e-yar a’e.

The blue of the sky has dissolved into the light
Dark blue shadows in green corners
Waver as if waves of the pain of separation
from the beloved had stolen into my heart

Thus while previous poets lament their separation from the beloved, for Faiz the observation of changing light in his prison cell and the pain of separation from the beloved creates the energy of hope while in prison. Paradoxically, the anguish of separation becomes a condition of hope and makes possible the energy of political commitment and the poem that expresses it.

In his other poem ‘Zindan ki aik subh’, ‘A Morning in Prison’, again the poet draws a vivid picture of the changing light in his prison cell as dawn breaks, and mixes it with the language of lost lovers. He imagines his companions being united in their “grief of country, their sorrow at their separation from the face of the beloved” (des ka dard, firaq-e rukh-e mehbub ka gham).

But more importantly, the poet also imagines that the guards themselves might be oppressed by prison, as they too are poor and hungry. Remarkably, then, the imprisoned poet sympathises with the oppressed condition not only of his comrades, but the guards themselves, whom he describes as “yellow, tyrannized by hunger” (zard, faqon ke sata’e hu’e).

In his poem ‘Qaid-e tanhai’ (‘Solitary Confinement’) Faiz mixes a picture of the changing light in his prison cell with what he calls the “anguish of hope”, but here he very skilfully combines a key concept from mystical poetry with the language of the Urdu love lyric. Thus he imagines the beloved walking past the prison and he writes:

Ko’i naghma, ko’i khushbu, ko’i kafir surat
‘Adam abad-e juda’i mein musafir surat
Be khabar guzri, pareshani-e umid liye

Some melody, a scent, a transgressively enchanting face
In separation’s abode of non-existence a travelling face
Passed heedlessly by bringing the anxiety of hope

For Muslim Sufi poets, the abode of non-existence refers to our unreal existence separated from God, who for them is the only real existent being in the Universe. For Faiz, this abode is likened to his solitary confinement in his prison cell, where one quickly loses any sense of concrete reality. In this way he secularises this image from Sufi poetry. But what revives him is his imagined glimpse of the beloved, for Sufis this would be God, for Urdu poets the woman or man one is in love with. Faiz works with the history of these meanings, to create a figure of the beloved as the scent, the melody, and the countenance of freedom. All these create what he calls the “anxiety of hope”.

In this poem Faiz also uses the imagery of wine and the saqi or wine pourer, to describe his sense of solidarity with his comrades:

Des pardes ke yaran-e qadahkhwar ke nam
Husn-e afaq, jamal-e lab-o-rukhsar ke nam

In the name of my cup-drinking friends here and abroad
In the name of the beauty of the horizons, the loveliness of cheek and lip.

Urdu poets often celebrated the wine drinking assembly, where the poet and his rivals were imagined to sit around the beloved, their glasses filled by the wine pourer as they recited their poetry in praise of her or him. In Sufi poetry, the saqi becomes the spiritual leader, the wine the truths the disciple imbibes, and different levels and kinds of drunkenness represented different stages of closeness to God. Faiz inherits these two senses of the assembly and drunkenness. The wine drinking and poetry-reciting assembly becomes an image of solidarity in a world wide political movement whose bonds are created by drinking, as it were, from the same glass of politics.

There is a lot more that one could say about Faiz’s poetry, such as the measured pace of his couplets that strike a note of sorrowful reflection, and his use of the grammatical properties of Urdu and Persian to create compounds of meaning and shades of subtlety that evoke the complex energies of political commitment.

Let me end, though, by thinking about Faiz’s pen name or takhallus. The pen name Faiz means ‘bounty’, ‘liberality’, ‘generosity’ – but it also has the connotations of grace and graciousness. Faiz’s poetry is indeed graceful and elegant, but it is also generous in three ways.

First, it is generous in its empathy for the suffering of others, including the guards in his prison, and in other poems, for the politically subjugated, the economically exploited and the sexually oppressed, and this empathy becomes the basis for solidarity across cultures and nationalities in a kind of radical humanism grounded in an acute awareness of human suffering. Secondly, in many of his poems Faiz expresses his inner turmoil and confusion, and his doubts and anxieties openly. He doesn’t try to hide or disguise these, and he gives of himself generously in his poetry. Thirdly, his poetry is generous in that he takes a risk with it by working within the traditions of classical Urdu poetry and its polished culture to create new meanings for an Indian and Pakistani socialist poetry. In this sense, I think you will agree that the pen name Faiz suits his poetry admirably. •


Professor Javed Majeed read English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, University of Oxford from 1981 to 1984. He was awarded First Class Honours. After completing his doctorate at Magdalen, he held Research Fellowships at Churchill College, University of Cambridge and the Centre of South Asian Studies, also at Cambridge. His publications include Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism (Clarendon Press, 1992), Hali’s Musaddas. The Ebb and Flow of Islam (OUP, 1997, with Christopher Shackle), Autobiography, Travel, and Postnational Identity: Gandhi, Nehru and Iqbal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and Muhammad Iqbal: Islam, Aesthetics, and Postcolonialism (2008). Professor Majeed currently teaches at the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London.

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Conference on Faiz, Woodbridge, Feb 5/11

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika
(Literary Friends Network of North America)
61st meeting
To celebrate the 100th Birthday of Pakistani Revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz
- Time: 1:00 PM
- Day & Date: Saturday, 5 February 2011
- Location: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building (Cafeteria)
- 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191 USA
http://www.pwcgov.org/default.aspx?topic=040059000300001675#2

Subjects of Discussions
1. FAIZ AHMED FAIZ
Pakistani Urdu poet, journalist, editor, author of books and human rights defender
http://www.faiz.com
http://www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/delhi/salrp/faiz.html
- Videos of Faiz’s Revolutionary Poem ‘We Will Witness’
- Pakistani Singer Iqbal Bano
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbOrdBRtIUw
- Pakistani Singer Masooma Anwar
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPmxIeZmO6g
- TV Video Biography of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYyZidwlvVE
2. Mr. KHALID HASAN
Pakistani journalist, translator and author of books
http://www.khalidhasan.net

Speakers
1. Mr. AKMAL ALEEMI
Pakistani journalist, editor, ex-VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and author of books
http://www.AkmalAleemi.net
http://www.facebook.com/akmalaleemi
2. Dr. MOAZZAM SIDDIQI
Pakistani journalist, professor and ex-VOA Asia Director
3. Dr. SATYAPAL ANAND
Pakistani/Indian poet, professor and author of books
4. Other eminent persons

Features
Pakistani-American singer and music composer Omar Waqar will sing his English poem about Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Other Pakistani singers will recite the poetry of Faiz

Admission to this public event is FREE

For more information
Dr. ABIDA WAQAR RIPLEY
Pakistani journalist, VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and teacher/educator.
Program Coordinator
Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika (HAZSA)
E-Mail: abidaripley@gmail.com
Telephone: 703-799-6666
.
.

‘Masters Not Friends’ an Urdu Poem by Masood Munawar

ماسٹرز ناٹ فرینڈز
مسعود مُنّور

View in roman script

بن کر فرینڈز بیر کماتے ہیں ماسٹرز

چھت پر مری ڈرون اُڑاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

مونچھوں سمیت بھُون کے تارا مسیح کا بھوت

کیسی چِتا فضا میں جلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

بُو لہب ، کیپ پہن کے بیٹھا ہے جیپ میں

ریموٹ سے وہ جیپ چلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ایتھنز سے چُرا کے جو لائے تھے بیگ میں

سقراط کا وہ زہر پلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ڈالر چڑھا رہے ہیں وہ داتا کی قبر پر

درویشیوں کا جال بچھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

القاعدہ ہے اُن کی ہی ایجادِ بے مثال

اس شعبدے کو روز دکھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

کل جو مجاہدین تھے اب طالبان ہیں

کایا کلپ کا پہیہ گھماتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اِک بد نصیب مُلک کے بد کار حکمراں

جن کو حرام مال کھلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

رکھتے ہیں اُن کے دینی عقائد پہ بھی گرفت

اک قوم کا مذاق بناتے ہیں ماسٹرز

یہ آرمی کا چیف ہو یا صدر مُلک کا

ہر ایک کو پریڈ کراتے ہیں ماسٹرز

داڑھی پہن کے چڑھتے ہیں منبر پہ روز و شب

پٹی منافقت کی پڑھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

آئے گا کس طرح سے گلوبل ولیج میں امن

جب جنگ کا بگل ہی بجاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اسلام دشمنی سرِ فہرست ہے حضور

کب دوستی کا ہاتھ بڑھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

جن کو وہ حکمران بناتے ہیں سازشاً

اُن بندروں کو خوب نچاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ہیں مسجدوں میں اُن کے ایجنٹوں کا کاروبار

بیوپار ہی میں مال لگاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اِن نابغوں کے پیچھے ہو مسعود کیوں پڑے

کیا تیری گائے بھینس چُراتے ہیں ماسٹرز

Masood Munawar


View in roman script

Masters Not Friends
Masood Munawar

bun ker friend baer kmaatay haiN masters
chhuth per meri drone urratay haiN masters

monchhoN smait bhoon ke Tara Masih ka bhoot
kaisi chita fiza maiN jlaatay haiN masters

boo lehb, cap pehn ke beThha hai jeep maiN
remote se vo jeep chlaatay haiN masters

Athens se chura ker jo layay thay bag maiN
Sucrat ka vo zehr plaatay haiN masters

dollar chrrah rahay haiN vo data ki qabr per
derveshiyoN ka jaal bechhaatay haiN masters

Al-Qaida hai unn ki hee aejaad bemisaal
uss shobday ko roz dkhhaatay haiN masters

kal jo mujahedeen thay ab taliban haiN
kaya kalap ka pehia ghumaatay haiN masters

ik bad naseeb mulk ke badkaar rehnuma
jin ko haraam maal khhilaatay haiN masters

rakhhtay haiN unn ke dinee eqayed pe bhi grift
ik qaum ka mizaaq urraatay haiN masters

ye army ka chief ho ya sadar mulk ka
her aik ko parade kraatay haiN masters

daarhee pehn ke churrhtay haiN mimber pe rozo shab
paTee munafqat ki pRhaatay haiN masters

ayay ga kiss taraH se global village maiN aman
jab jung ka bigl hee bjaatay haiN masters

islaam dushmani sare fehrisst hay huzoor
kab dosti ka haath barrhaatay haiN masters

jin ko vo hukmaraan bnaatay haiN sazeshan
unn bandroN ko khoob nchaatay haiN masters

haiN masjadoN maiN unn ke agentoN ke karobaar
bewpaar hee maiN maal lagaatay haiN masters

inn nabghooN ke peechhay ho masood kiyuN parray
kia teri gai bhens churaatay haiN masters

Masood Munawar

From Ijaz Syed

Prof Hari Sharma (1934-2010)


Southasian activist, academic, visionary
Prof Hari Sharma (1934-2010)

‘It is with deepest sorrow that we announce the death of our friend and comrade, Hari Prakash Sharma, on March 16 following a prolonged battle with cancer. Hari took his last breath in his home of 42 years at Burnaby (a suburb of Vancouver), British Columbia, surrounded by his comrades Harinder Mahil, Raj Chouhan, and Chin Banerjee. All of them had come together in 1976 to form the Vancouver Chapter of the Indian People’s Association in North America (IPANA), which had been founded by Hari and many others at a meeting in Montreal in 1975.

‘Hari was born on November 9, 1934 at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh though his family came from Haryana. His father was a railway employee, so he moved from one place to another wherever his father was posted. Hari received his BA from Agra University and his Master’s in Social Work from Delhi University. The insight into the social life of India Hari got from his travels by train enabled by his father’s employment in the railways and his extensive travels by foot through the villages of India stimulated Hari to start writing short stories in Hindi. Hari is regarded as one of the finest writers of short stories in Hindi and many people had urged him to resume his writing in Hindi. One of his stories was adapted as a play and staged in New Delhi.

‘Hari moved to the US in 1963 for further education and did his Master in Social Work from the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1964 and Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY in 1968. He taught briefly at UCLA before accepting a position at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia in 1968, where he stayed till his retirement in 1999. He was honored by the University as Professor Emeritus.

‘Hari, like many enlightened academics of the 1960′s plunged in the anti-Vietnam war movement in the US and Canada. This is also the period when he espoused Marxism, which ideology he held dearly and steadfastly until his death.

‘As a member of the Faculty of Simon Fraser University he became a champion of the academic rights of colleagues who were faced with the threat of dismissal for their support of the student-led movement for democratizing the university. He became an associate and friend of another Marxist Kathleen Gough, who was suspended for her political activities. Kathleen Gough and Hari P. Sharma co-edited the 469-page book, Imperialism and Revolution in South Asia, which was published in 1973 by the Monthly Review Press, New York. The book was sought by political activists of that time and many people know of Hari as an eminent leftist scholar because of that book.

‘The 1960′s were a period of international revolutionary upheaval. The Naxalbari peasant uprising happened in the spring of 1967. Hari was greatly inspired by it. He went to India and visited Naxalbari area. It is then he got committed to the path opened by Naxalbari and retained his faith in its ultimate success until his last days, while many of his comrades had simply written off Naxalbari as a thing of the past. Hari developed contact with peasant revolutionaries and maintained a living contact till his last days.

‘While associating with the Naxalbari movement in India, Hari carried on anti-imperialist work in Vancouver through the weekly paper, Georgia Straight, published by the Georgia Straight Collective, of which he was a founding member. In 1973 Hari went to the Amnesty International in London and the Commission of Jurists in Geneva and sent a written representation to the UN Human Rights Commission to publicize the condition of more than thirty-thousand political prisoners in Indian jails.

‘In 1974 he and his comrade Gautam Appa of the London School of Economics organized a petition of international scholars to protest the treatment of political prisoners in India, which he handed to the Indian Consulate in Vancouver, BC on August 15 of the same year.

‘In 1975 Hari enthusiastically accepted an invitation from his friends in Montreal. He along with many others founded the Indian People’s Association in North America (IPANA) on June 25, 1975, exactly on the same day on which Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency in India. Hari’s tireless work against dictatorship in India and in defense of political prisoners and oppressed peoples, and his energetic organization of progressive people across North America in the struggle against imperialism and for social justice, led to the revocation of his passport by the Indira Gandhi government in 1976.

‘Having engaged in various anti-racist struggles in the 1970s, IPANA in Vancouver, under Hari’s leadership became a primary force in the formation of the British Columbia Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR: 1980), which proved to be an extremely effective instrument against the tide of racism in the province at the time. Hari and IPANA also played a leading role in the formation of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union (CFU: 1980), which for the first time took up the cause of farm workers who had been historically excluded from protection under the labour laws and any protective regulation.

‘From the 1980s Hari’s work also began to focus on the condition of minorities in India, which came to a crisis with the attack on the Golden Temple and the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Hari stood firm in his defense of the human rights of Sikhs and, increasingly of Muslims who became the primary targets of the rising Hindutva forces gathered under the banner of the Bhartiya Janata Party. He organized a parallel conference on the centralization of state power and the threat to minorities in India to coincide with the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver in 1987.

‘In 1989 Hari brought large sections of the South Asian community together to form the Komagata Maru Historical Society to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, in which Indian immigrants traveling to Canada on a chartered ship were turned away from the shores of Vancouver by the racist policies of the Canadian Government. As a result of the society’s work a commemorative plaque was installed in Vancouver. In 2004, during a screening of the documentary film on this incident by Ali Kazimi, Continuous Journey, the Mayor of Vancouver presented a scroll to Hari dedicating the week to the memory of Komagata Maru.

‘Following the attack on Babri Masjid in December 1992 Hari became the prime mover in the formation of a North American organization dedicated to the defense of minority rights in India called, Non-resident Indians for Secularism and Democracy (NRISAD). This organization brought together Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians of origin in South Asia through educational and cultural activities. It had its most significant moment in Vancouver in 1997, when it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the independence of India from colonial rule by bringing together people from the entire spectrum of the South Asian community to focus on how much remained to be done on the subcontinent and the urgent need for peace between Pakistan and India.

‘Recognizing the need to build a North American front against the growing menace of Hindutva fascism in India, Hari travelled to Montreal in September 1999 to join the founding of International South Asia Forum (INSAF). He became its first President and organized the Second Conference in Vancouver from August 10-12, 2001.

‘Hari’s leadership again led to the development of NRISAD into South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) in Vancouver to embrace the necessity of going beyond a focus on India to the entire South Asian region in the quest of peace and democracy based on secularism, human rights and social justice. SANSAD has pursued these goals vigorously, condemning the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 (for which he was denied a visa to go to India), championing the human rights of Kashmiris, promoting peace between Pakistan and India, supporting the rights of women in Pakistan, condemning violence against journalists and academics in Bangladesh, supporting the movement for democracy and social justice in Nepal, and defending the human rights of Tamils under the attack of the Sri Lankan state.

‘Besides being an able political organizer and a gifted writer of short stories, Hari was also a talented photographer. He photographed the common people of India, their lives and struggles. His photographs hang in many homes and have been displayed in many exhibitions. He proved himself to be an excellent director of political drama.

‘Political ideals remain steadfast. However, there has, naturally been, divergence of opinion on the strategy and tactics of achieving these ideals. During the course of long political activity of more than 50 years, Hari made many friends and comrades. It is natural that among these comrades there also arose disagreements on many issues. Nevertheless, Hari remained a comrade or a friend of all of them and they all are deeply saddened by his passing away.

‘Hari leaves behind him a legacy of activism in the service of the oppressed. He is an inspiration to engagement in the struggle for a better world, to a never-flagging effort to create a world without exploitation, without imperialist domination, without religious, caste, ethnic or gender oppression, a world that Marx envisioned as human destiny.’

Chin Banerjee
Harinder Mahil
Raj Chouhan
Daya Varma
Vinod Mubayi
Charan Gill
SANSAD

From Ijaz Syed at syedi@sbcglobal.net

Parveen Malik: Punjabi MaaNboli Writer

Parveen Malik is a writer of fiction, teleplays and radio programs; a known literary personality on radio and TV; and, a highly respected publisher of Urdu and Punjabi literary books.

Parveen has published two collections of short fiction titled ‘Ke JanaN MaiN Kaun’ and ‘Nikkay Nikkay Dukhh’, an Urdu novel ‘Aadhi Aurat’, and a translation in Urdu titled ‘Siseskatay Log’. At this time, her autobiography is being serialized by Monthly Swer, and her travelogue by Quarterly Punjabi Adab in Lahore.

Parveen wrote a literary column titled ‘Punjab Rut’ for Lahore Radio that continued on from 1988 to 1998. During this time, she wrote a seriel ‘Dukh Sukh Saaday’, and many other plays and programs for Pakistan Radio.

From 1983 to now, she has written numerous screenplays for Pakistan Television including ‘LameyaN VaaTaN’, ‘Ke JanaN MaiN Kon’, ‘Junj’, and ‘Nikkay Nikkay Dukh’. She also initiated and anchored a literary discussion program called ‘Likhari’ for Lahore TV.

Parveen was born in District Attock where she completed her school and college before coming to Lahore to study Journalism. Her first job assignments were with Daily Azad and Weekly Nusrat. She also worked as Chief Editor with Urdu Monthly Mahe Nau and Monthly Pak Jamhoriat. Later, she moved on to serve as Deputy Director of the Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and then Secretary of Punjabi Adabi Board.

Parveen began Sarang Publications in 1995 to provide a select list of Urdu and Punjabi literary titles. Earlier, she had published monthly magazine Palak from 1983 to 1985.

Following is a list of Parveen’s awards and distinctions:
- PTV Award 1998, for her play ‘Nikkay Nikkay Dukh’
- Award from Punjabi Adabi Society for writing, screenwriting and radio compering
- Masood Khadarposh Award for her book ‘Nikkay Nikkay Dukh’
- Baba Fareed Award for her writings and other creative works for radio

Contact Parveen Malik at maliknoumana@gmail.com

Information provided by Nouman Malik

C.M. Naim on Gopi Chand Narang

There was a time when people wrote a literary piece and then ascribed it to someone whom they held in high esteem out of love, admiration, reverence or some other strong sentiment. Jalaluddin Rumi wrote a magnificent volume of ghazals but did not put his name to it. It has always been known as Diwan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz (The Diwan of Shams of Tabriz). An unknown poet wrote another, smaller diwan of ghazals and ascribed it to Khwaja Mu’inuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Later some other people concocted ‘table-talks’ of some of the Chishti Sufis and circulated them as genuine collections. In Urdu literary history, two examples of something similar immediately come to mind. When Muhammad Husain Azad desired to publish a definitive edition of the ghazals of Shaikh Ibrahim ‘Zauq,’—the first poet laureate of Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’—he felt no qualms in composing new ghazals and verses to fill in the gaps he felt his beloved master would have filled in himself. Then there is the fascinating case of one of the foremost modern poets in Urdu: when Sana’allah Dar took on the name “Miraji” after a woman named Mira whom he obsessively loved, he might have had in mind the exemplary bond between Rumi and Shams.

Urdu literary culture, however, has known many more cases where someone took the work of another person and claimed it as his own. Particularly among the poets. The practice of ustadi/shagirdi in Urdu poetry encouraged it. Many an ustad or master poet earned his meagre living by giving away his verses to his pupils or shagird, who in turn provided for his needs. Some ustad openly sold verses to anyone who came with money the night of a musha’ira (a gathering of poets). A nawab or king would appoint some good poet as his ustad and then quite as a norm expect him to put together a volume of ghazals in his name.

It also happened in prose. Imam Bakhsh ‘Sahba’i’, a contemporary of Ghalib and teacher at the famous Delhi College, reportedly wrote for a Mughal prince a tazkira or account of the poets of his time. The book, Gulistan-i-Sukhan, carries the name of Qadir Bakhsh ‘Sabir’ as its author, but Ghalib always referred to it as “Sahba’i’s tazkira.” Much later, when the Anjuman-i-Taraqqi-i-Urdu (“Association for the Development of Urdu”) published The Standard English-Urdu Dictionary in 1937, the organization’s Secretary, Maulvi Abdul Haq (a.k.a “Father of Urdu”), put his own name on the cover as its editor, instead of the Anjuman’s. But at least he was honest enough to clearly acknowledge in the Introduction that the work had mainly been done by Dr. Abid Husain of Jami’a Millia. Since then, however, things have been going downhill in Urdu, particularly in its academia. The late Azhar Ali Farooqui of Allahabad earned his living by writing Ph.D. dissertations for others, with the full knowledge of the university’s professors. I personally witnessed how he worked.

In the old literary culture plagiarism of the ordinary kind was also common and not made much of. The stakes were not high then. But now the stakes are quite high in the academic world. Ambitious university teachers no longer can make do by merely taking care of their patron’s grocery shopping and milk cows—I witnessed both at Aligarh. Now they must publish “research” in order to get coveted promotions and titles. Sadly, quite a few take to plagiarism as the shortest route. I became involved in the case of one such ambitious academic at Aligarh back in the early 1980s.

The Department of Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University, had obtained some money from the government for a professorship in Aesthetics, and advertised the job. One of the candidates was a Reader in the department, who was far better known for his fiction than research—he wrote at least one superb novella that will always be admired. In no time that gentleman managed to publish a volume on Urdu Aesthetics. I was most surprised when I came across the book in our library at the University of Chicago. Having known the person since our shared college days, I couldn’t imagine him as the author of the book. A couple of hours of digging around in the library solved the mystery. The talented academic had taken a well-known book on Aesthetics in English by a Bengali scholar and diligently translated most of it into Urdu. Dutifully I prepared a short article, presenting page-and-line references to the original. It was published in Urdu, and received plenty of notice. But nothing actually happened. The gentleman didn’t get the job—no one did, as I remember—but he went on to become a full professor, and soon chaired the department for a while. Needless to say he received—justly, I must add—a ‘Padma Shri’ as a fiction-writer.

Presently the Urdu literary/academic world has been violently shaken by what must be termed “the mother of all plagiarisms”. Instead of the out of fashion field of Aesthetics, it is the currently much more fashionable field of Literary Theory that is at issue, and the person at the ‘heart of darkness’ is no less than Dr. Gopi Chand Narang, Professor Emeritus, Delhi University, who from 2003 to 2007 presided over the Sahitya Akademi and has received two “Padma” awards from the Indian state—the latest being “Padma Bhushan” in 2004. (A full list of his honours and publications may be seen at his website.

At the centre of the scandal is the book Sakhtiyat, Pas-i-Sakhtiyat Aur Mashriqi Shi’riyat (“Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Eastern Poetics”), for which Dr Narang received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1995. Though the title suggests that it might be a comparative study, bringing out the commonalities and oppositions between two contemporary Western literary/linguistic theories and their counterparts in Sanskrit and Urdu—a rather curious undertaking—but in reality it only describes and explains the three topics in the book’s title, and the major thinkers who contributed to them.

As far back as 1997, an Indian Urdu critic named Fuzail Ja’fari had explained in some detail how Dr Narang’s book shied away from original thinking and analysis, limiting itself simply to what X wrote and Y said in Western languages (Zahn-i-Jadid, Delhi, #22-3). In fact, he described the book as a “compilation” (talif), adding that it was not an original piece of writing (tasnif). Now a young scholar Imran Shahid Bhinder, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham, U.K., has made a much more serious charge. Bhinder published in 2006 in the annual issue of Nairang-i-Khayal, a Pakistani journal, an essay entitled “Gopi Chand Narang is a Translator, not an Author.”

A year later, a revised and expanded version of the essay appeared in the journal Jadeed Adab (July–December, 2007), which at the time was printed at New Delhi—now allegedly stopped under pressure from certain people—and published from Germany. (It is also available on the web). In 2008 Bhinder published two more articles in Jadeed Adab, the first in its January–June issue, entitled “Plagiarism in Urdu Literature – How Long will it be Defended?” and the second in the July–December issue, entitled “Gopi Chand Narang’s ‘Truth’ and ‘Context’ [as] Thievery.” Both articles found plenty of circulation in both India and Pakistan, and excerpts were reproduced in a couple of Indian journals. Now a Pakistani journal, ‘Akkas, published from Islamabad, has brought out a special issue devoted to Dr Narang’s oeuvre and career, including a more detailed analysis by Bhinder.

In summary, Bhinder has most convincingly established that Dr Narang’s achievement in that award-winning book is not that of an author but only of a translator, and that too of a reprehensible kind. According to Bhinder, Dr Narang did not read the original authors—Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude LeviStrauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, and others. He read only their well-known interpreters, and then transferred the latter’s analyses and interpretations into Urdu, doing so verbatim and without giving the reader any indication of what he was doing. In his third article mentioned above, Bhinder has given extraordinary details of the Dr Narang’s “authorial” enterprise. He has quoted excerpts from the Urdu book and then placed them next to their unacknowledged English original. Further, he has listed with precision the countless pages in Dr Narang’s book that correspond almost word-for-word with the English pages of American and British scholars. For example, pages 79–106, 234–240, 243–267, and 288–329 of Dr Narang’s book, according to Bhinder, are exact translations of pages 27–42, 149–158, 86–103, and 49–70, of Raman Selden’s book, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (1985). The other exploited scholars that Bhinder similarly identifies are Terence Hawke, Catherine Belsey, John Sturrock, Jonathan Culler, Christopher Norris, and Robert Scholes. (I must add that Bhinder’s critique has some other dimensions too that are important and relevant for all academics in a general manner.

The evidence Bhinder presents is quite irrefutable. When, for example, I checked the pages he points out in Selden’s book, they indeed turned out to be the unacknowledged source of Dr Narang’s remarks. I also stumbled upon something equally interesting. Dr Narang has a note on Michel Foucault (pp. 193–8) in the second chapter in his “Book Two,” i.e. the second section of his book. The text on pages 194–6, as pointed out by Bhinder, is merely a translation of pages 158–9 in Selden’s book.

I checked the “sources” that Dr Narang’s has helpfully listed for each chapter, and found that he does list Raman’s book as a source for that particular chapter. And gives exact page numbers too: 79–84 and 98–102. The first reference, however, turned out to be where Selden discusses Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin The second was equally curious: in Selden’s book, page 98 deals with Frederic Jameson, but pages 99–102 contain only a bibliography. Again, the opening paragraph of Dr Narang’s note on Jonathan Culler (pp. 318–9) is, as per Bhinder, entirely Selden’s (p. 62). But in the sources, Selden’s name is listed with page numbers 106–27! In other words, while Dr Narang twice went to the trouble of indicating precise—though unrelated—pages in Selden’s book, he somehow failed to include the pages he had actually abused.

Bhinder’s charges are extremely serious. They are also thoroughly documented. First made three years ago, his accusation has remained unchallenged—unlike in the past when the slightest criticism of Dr Narang promptly produced a spate of articles in his defence and diatribes against the critic. This time he and his admirers are remarkably silent. And for good reason. They understand that any attempt would only bring more notoriety. Sadly, they also know that the academic circles in India in general, and the university departments of Urdu in particular, take no notice of inconvenient details. With them it is always “business as usual.”

After all, soon after Bhinder’s original article came out in 2006, Dr Narang received the degree of ‘D.Litt. Honoris Causa‘ from the Central University at Hyderabad. Then after two more articles, two similar honorary degrees were conferred on him in the past six months, by the Maulana Azad National Urdu University and the Aligarh Muslim University.

Sahitya Akademi has an excellent policy of making its award-winning books available in other major languages of India, including English. Dr Narang’s book received the award some fourteen years ago, but, to my knowledge, it has so far been translated only into Hindi (2000). May I ask the Akademi to do a major favour to Urdu letters? Marathi and Bengali scholars, in my experience, are usually far more knowledgeable about modern and pre-modern literary theories than an average Urdu academic. (I very much include myself among the latter.) The Akademi should have Dr Narang’s award-winning book translated into both Bengali and Marathi so that it can properly be judged by his peers in India. Given the international protocols on copyright, however, an English translation might not be advisable at this time.

C.M. Naim is Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago

Text provided by Ijaz Syed