Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge is “ a poem of hope, of justice and equality ”: Sahitya Akademi winner Rahman Abbas, poet Nabina Das


Compiled by Mitali Chakravarty

In 1980, Satyajit Ray made a movie with a story he had written which won him both national and international acclaim — Hirak Rajar Deshe (In the Land of the Diamond King). A sequel to his earlier Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, this film depicts a tyrant who brainwashed people with a machine to think: “Lekha pora kore je, anahare more she (Those who study, die of starvation).”

Does this strike a chord? 

Perhaps that is why we find educational institutions coming under flak and violent strikes on professors and students who are trying to study and lead a peaceful life. The attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University students yesterday has the social media filled with empathy for the victims. Is this reenactment of Hirak Rajar Deshe?

Poetry by well-known writers of yore used to  express student solidarity and hope has also been coming under attack. In Kanpur,  IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) students organised a meet to show solidarity towards the students of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and recited a well-known poem  by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a 20th century legend who was even nominated for the Nobel Prize. One of the faculty and fifteen students initiated a complaint  and demanded expulsion of the protest organisers, accusing them of “spreading hate against India”. A panel was set up to ban the poem. The empowering poem that led to all this controversy  is called ‘Hum Dekhenge’ (we will see). 

Rahman Abbas
Rahman Abbas

Rahman Abbas, the 2018 Sahitya Akademi winner for Urdu, had much to say in favour of Faiz’s poem: “It is disgusting to have to give clarifications of Faiz’s poem ‘Hum Dekhenge’ to absolve it from being called critical of the Hindu faith or any faith. It is as absurd and laughable as  absurd as claims such as the RSS was a cultural wing of the Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan, or Rabindranath Tagore’s Novel Gora was anti-Christian, or Kabir had mocked Charlie Chaplin in his dohe*. Such absurd parallel could only be drawn by an insane or moron appointed to create deflection and disharmony.

“Faiz Ahamd Faiz is best known for being a revolutionary poet who aesthetically merged romanticism with the desire for a revolution, a social struggle or peoples uprising against the tyrant rulers. His poetry and life were a struggle to become the voice of the voiceless — it challenges dictatorship and repression. ‘Hum Dekhenge’ can be seen as the voice of the masses against the tyrant rulers or dictators who have subjugated poor people. The poem is a beacon of hope against darkness spread by authoritarian regimes. The poet imagines a world where tyrannical persecutors would be defeated and people will govern crushing falsehood and its followers. The tyrant rulers will be humiliated when their crowns will be thrown off and the people will reclaim being the God of the planet. The people will rule — we all are people — and we should celebrate that time and that day as it is a victory of people over tyrannical systems.

“In addition, this poem rejects the dominant interpretation of Islam and insists that after revolution and the defeat of tyrant rulers there would remain the name of Allah. However, his Allah was not the Allah of dominant Islam but an interpretation of Islam known as Sufism. It is very similar to the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta , which states that there is no difference between the worshipper and the one being worshipped. Faiz in this poem contends that in  post revolution society there will be no difference between the ruler and those being ruled. It is a poem of hope, of justice and equality against an era of repression.

“ That might be a reason why an idiot affiliated with the fundamentalist group conspiring to subjugate the people in the name of religion might have been hurt by ‘Hum Dekhenge’.”

Nabina Das
Nabina Das

Nabina Das, a well-known poet from Hyderabad added: “I was reading an article by Aligarh Muslim University professors Mohammad Asim Siddiqui and Aftab Alam that starts with a tongue-in-cheek remark: ‘The British literary theorist Terry Eagleton narrates in his book, How to Read a Poem, an amusing—perhaps apocryphal—anecdote about the Victorian poet, Robert Browning. When asked what one of his poems meant, Browning apparently replied that at the time of writing it, God and Robert Browning knew its meaning; now, God knows.’

“Siddiqui and Alam go on to analyse the pros and cons of reading/reciting an iconic poem by Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz that begins by saying: ‘Hum Dekhenge’ Their points are very much in sync with how I see the recent political brouhaha around the poem, mainly the accusation that it is anti-Hindu.

Born a Hindu and a voluntary atheist since age thirteen, I’ve been steeped in all kind of religiosity via my devout paternal grandmother and also to some extent my mother. None of it was rabid, hateful, or even segregationist as per caste and class paradigms. I sincerely think the lumpen fringe, the Right Wing, the Sangh outfit members, the ruling BJP party, and their cohorts, have no clue how to read a poem. In fact, how to read literature in general or even just read, let alone read Faiz.

“The first line ‘Hum dekhenge’ itself is a broad hint about what the poet, a Marxist, an atheist, a revolutionary in his word and spirit, is going to bring to the table for us readers. ‘We shall see’ is a declaration of collective will, a will to change a rotten order and bring about peace and sanity. And how can one miss the meaning of these expressions ‘Uthega Analhaq ka Naara Jo Main bhi Hun aur Tum bhi ho’ (There will rise one cheer – I am God!/ Who I am /and so are you) or, ‘Raj karegi khalq-e-Khuda Jo main bhi hun aur tum bhi ho’ (Then the masses, people of God will rule/Who I am/and so are you) to be read along with the reference to ‘but’ and ‘Allah’ and misrepresent them as anti-Hindu? Faiz wrote this poem specifically as a mark of protest against the cruel regime of Pakistan’s General Zia-ul-Haq, and was banned. Iqbal Bano defied orders and sang this in a stadium packed with 50,000 people, wearing a black sari, a colour that was banned then and an attire that would irk the authorities.

“Once one reads the deep metaphorical meaning where the poet exhorts a world ruled by people themselves, where people assert ‘I am the truth’, how can one remotely imagine any religious overtone in the lines? ‘But‘ or fake idols i.e. rulers that make godheads of themselves in subjugating the oppressed and ‘Kaaba‘ which is a metaphor to designate the state of supreme truth, and ‘Allah‘ that signifies truth. A poet who believed in Marxist ideology and the power of the people can alone string along such rich imagery and proclaim that ‘khalq-e-khuda‘ or commoners will inherit the earth. The tyrants in power often operate through a narrow lens. Therefore, to reduce Faiz’s amalgamation of Sufism, Vedantic philosophy, Vaishnavism, and dreams of liberating the proletariat to ‘anti-Hindu’ only smacks of their political and moral bankruptcy. May those forces be defeated.”

 

A video of Faiz reciting ‘Hum Dekhenge’ and Maniza Naqvi’s translation bears out what Abbas and Das have to say.

We Shall See by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

(Translated by Maniza Naqvi)

We shall see
Certainly we, too, shall see
that day that has been promised to us!

When these high mountains
Of tyranny and oppression
turn to fluff and evaporate
And we oppressed
Beneath our feet will have
this earth shiver, shake and beat
And heads of rulers will be struck
With crackling lightening
and thunder roars.

When from this God’s earth
All falseness will be removed
Then we of clean hearts – condemned by Zealots those keepers of
Faith,
We, will be invited to that altar to sit and govern –
When crowns will be thrown off – and over turned will be thrones

We shall see
Certainly we, too, shall see
that day that has been promised to us

The God’s name will remain
Who is invisible and visible too
Who is the seer and is seen
There will rise one cheer – I am God!
Who I am too
and so are you

Then the masses, people of God will rule
Who I am too
and so are you

 

There will rise one cheer- I am God!
Who I am too
and so are you

 

 

*Religious couplets

 

 

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