ENGLISH BAZAAR PATRIKA

A FIR was registered against 10 Assamese poets (July 10, 2019). These poets mostly Muslims; have been pioneers and are leading lights of what has come to be known as Miyah Poetry. One sample, by the initiator of this trend; Hafiz Ahmed goes like this

Write, Write Down,

I am a Miya, My serial number in the NRC is 200543, I have two children
Another is coming Next summer. Will you hate him, As you hate me?

Many of these poems are reflecting the anguish of the Muslims who are labeled as Bangla Deshis and face the ignominy of being called foreigner. These poems are in different local dialects, some in Assamese, and some in English. The FIR states, “By these lines the accused persons are creating an image of our state as a barbarian state in the eyes of the world which is a threat to the security of the Nation in general and Assam in particular…”

Some critics said that this poetry, since it uses local dialects is an insult to Assamese language. In the face of this criticism Ahmed apologized. He also stated that he has been a part of Assamese language promotion movement, so there is no question of his being against Assamese language. The issue which the whole episode raises is multiple. To begin with all this is taking place in the backdrop of citizenship in Assam. Assam had a significant Muslim population at the time of partition, to the extent that Mr. Jinnah wanted Assam to be part of Pakistan. On the top of that Assam saw multiple migrations of Hindu and Muslims both at the time of India’s partition in 1947 and later with the formation of Bangla Desh. There has been a continuous flux of population, and the immigrants were both Hindus and Muslims.

With the NRC process going on in Assam, the tragedy has hit nearly 40 lakh people as they do not possess the relevant documents, and their names are missing in the first list. As agenda of Hindu nationalism is unfolding itself at rapid pace; the Citizenship Amendment Bill talks of granting citizenship to Sikhs, Jain and Hindus but not to Muslims. As the final list of NRC is going to be out on August 31, the tension all round is that from those excluded in the register, the Hindus will fit in to the amended bill and gain citizenship while Muslims will have to suffer exclusion. The recent case of Md. Sanaullah, a retired army officer, being sent to the detention camp shows the possibility of very legitimate citizens being expelled and deprived of their fundamental rights. Mr. Amit Shah's intent of extending the NRC exercise to the whole country is fraught with possibility where the citizenship is likely to be linked to religion.

What does this Miya Poetry, the poetry of protest reflect? To begin with it is very clear that it is not against Assames or against Assam. Mostly it is an expression of anguish and pain of Muslims. The local citizens have been continuously facing the charge of being ‘foreigners’. This includes mostly Muslim. First the whole exercise of ‘Doubtful voter’ D Voter, then the Foreigners tribunal pushing people into detention camps, and this exercise of National Register of Citizens. The citizenship of people has been on a continuous Test. While Hindus, Bangla speaking, are also targeted, there is a respite for them in the Amended Citizenship bill which regards Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains as refugees and Muslims as infiltrators. As such the Muslim community has been undergoing a constant labeling. The process of singling out Muslims as foreigners, ‘Go to Pakistan’, being the constant threat to some Muslims leaders and prominent citizens, who express their opinion or criticize the ruling dispensation.

During last couple of decades the global Islamophobia, in the aftermath of 9/11 2001 and associating Islam with terror, the politics of control of oil being given a garb of religion, has gone on at global level. At national level, with the massive violence of 1992-93, Gujarat 2002 and Muzzarfarnagar 2013, the popular perceptions about Muslim community have taken a nose dive. Indian Muslim community, which shares with other religious communities, the syncretic traditions of the land and has been the part of the social life here, has been propagated to be the threat to the majority community. The responses of the targeted community come in various forms. My first surprise was around 2005-2006 when major section of Indian Muslims, writers, social workers, scientist came together to discuss the theme ’What it means to be a Muslim in India today?’ The growing ghettoization is the major response of current times. The rising hold of conservative elements within the community is directly the outcome of the insecurity being perceived by this community.

The Miyah poetry, in a way expresses the turmoil through which Muslim community is passing in Assam in particular. Many of this turmoil are applicable in other parts of the country as well. The citizenship recognition is basic to the life of individuals. In Assam, Miyah, which are normally honorific title; has come to mean Bangladeshi Muslim; an infiltrator; a foreigner. It is used as a derogatory term in popular parlance. Those who value democratic ethos need also to look into the inner turmoil’s of the community, which is being targeted, is looked down upon.

The expressions of anguish are multi-layered. We saw the protest of dalits in the powerful poetry of the likes of Namdeo Dhasal, J V Pawar among others. The women’s movement has thrown up the rich literature in India, reflecting the travails of the ‘Half the sky’. All this needs to be received as the pain of fellow citizens as we aspire to build a society with equality. The touching poems need to be honored and respected. Attempts should be made to work towards an India where the values of freedom movement, which united us into a single fraternity are promoted and upheld.       

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

'Prakashotsav' — an Intoxication

Ashok Karania
21-07-2019

Intoxication found at Gujarat Vidyapeeth premises! Intoxication of love, respect and admiration for Prakash N Shah (પ્રકાશ ન. શાહ  ka નશા)

The occasion was the public felicitation of Shri Prakash N Shah - the many with many roles! The auditorium was overflowing with double its capacity and people occupying the aisles, areas between dais-chair, service area - whatever space one could find. The Saturday evening distractions or the 40 degree heat did not stop the admirers to throng at Gujarat Vidyapeeth. The audience grabbed every word like a gem and the 2.5 hour event ended too soon - never mind the endless sweating! 

‘Prakashotsav’ - The festival celebrating Prakash N Shah was organised by his friends, well-wishers and Sarthak Prakashan team. 

The evening started with a mock court where the most loved culprit Prakash N Shah was produced in the court of judge Hasmukh Patel. The lawyers Ketan Rupera and Urvish Kothari conducted the proceedings with the help of Ashish Kakkad. The public prosecutor Urvish Kothari produced a stellar list of witnesses to prove the charges against Prakash N Shah. Ratilal Borisagar, Ashish Mehta, Ashween Kumar Chauhan, Binit Modi, Biren Kothari, Nayanbahen Shah and other stellar figures accused Prakash Shah of several crimes - the burning ambition of being a prime minister, torturing the world with his cryptic and incomprehensible language, creating a cult of his own, communist leanings, hidden acting skills, etc. The court proceedings were ably proved with strong logic, evidences and confessions of the witnesses.

The mock court was followed by the release of Urvish Kothari’s book on Conversations with Prakash Shah. Prakash N Shah was felicitated by the a section of citizens of Ahmedabad.

The grand finale was the speech of Prakash N Shah. He expressed his gratitude for the great gesture.

He recounted his journey. His central thought was - Yukta and Mukta. He spoke about Gandhi. He spoke about the impact of three primary books on his life. The audience was listening as hypnotised by David Copperfield but time came calling….

Prakash N Shah’s intoxication and values will remain…An evening to remember for a human to never forget …..

==

The white clothes, the simple spectacle and the straight from the heart laughter is how I visualise him whenever we say Prakashbhai. His simplicity, his vision, his clarity and his friendliness is his magic that drives us to him again and again.

Thanks to Vipool Kalyani and Gujaratilexicon, I have the greatest fortune of spending lot of time with him and knowing him. The Nireekshak Digitization and other initiatives got us working together.

Prakash N Shah is a towering personality but he is our Prakashbhai. Our DadaGuru….Sri Sri Sri Dada Guru…Not many can see the Halo behind him…So you see he does have a cult! He is also the business partner of my spouse - they are still searching for their Eureka moment! 

e.mail : [email protected]

photo courtesy : The Facebook wall of Jugalkishor J.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features