Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi on Thursday said people should not be sad about the decision of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur to set up a panel to investigate if her father’s poem Hum Dekhenge was anti-Hindu.
“A group of people investigating the poem’s message is nothing to be sad about, it is very funny,” she told PTI in an interview. “Let’s look at in another way, they may end up getting interested in Urdu poetry and its metaphors. Never underestimate the power of Faiz.”
Hashmi said she was not surprised that Faiz’s words continue to resonate on either side of the border, adding that she was told that the poem was sung in Nepal during “their days of democratic struggle”. Poets and their words get claimed by whoever needs them as they give voice to people, she added.
“In itself, poetry cannot fight fundamentalism but it can create circumstances for change by helping in mobilising people, giving them a sense of shared aspirations and dreams of a better future,” Hashmi told the news agency. “All of which is anathema to fundamentalist thinking which thrives on exclusion of the ‘other’ and a strange kind of self-hatred which spews hate for others.”
Hashmi said Faiz, who died in November 1984, was a controversial personality but his work appealed to even those who hated his ideas. She pointed out that controversies had always made curious people search for the source, and hoped that people would succumb to the power of her father’s poetry.
“Poem is an instrument of focussing the fervour and passion of young people – leading them towards an understanding of how they must move forward – very upsetting for the powerful who can sense the fragility of their position, once people’s energies are unleashed,” Hashmi said. “Thus poets, writers, singers and indeed all creative people have been the natural enemies of dictators.”
Earlier in the day, Hindi film lyricist Javed Akhtar described IIT-Kanpur’s decision as absurd and funny. He also pointed out that Faiz was called “anti-Pakistani” and Hum Dekhenge was written in protest against Pakistani dictator Zia ul Haq’s communal, regressive and fundamentalist government.
A police crackdown on students of Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi on December 15 evoked a strong reaction from education institutions across India. The students were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. During a campus demonstration on December 17, the IIT-Kanpur students recited Faiz’s poem to express solidarity.