Faiz Ahmed Faiz poetry


The following piece seeks to present yet another easily dismissive view (read rant) of a Muslim in India. All names, people and incidents mentioned are NOT fictitious. Resemblance to any past event of dictatorship and fascism is NOT AT ALL coincidental. Any attempt to debase the piece as “anti-national” comes from a shrouded majoritarian privilege.

Few days back while I was flipping through the memories laden pages of my eleventh standard Political Science NCERT textbook revelling on the old nostalgia, I chanced upon Faiz Ahmed Faiz lines in one of the cartoons.

Hum to thahre ajnabi kitni mulakato ke baad

Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge kitni barsaaton ke baad

(We remain strangers even after so many meetings

Blood stains remain even after so many rains.)

Indeed, the ongoing insurgency of our once dear democracy in the hands of the incumbent government gave new meanings to these lines. It is a known fact that the constant othering of the Muslims and other minorities has been normalised and conveniently subsumed in the state apparatus in the recent years. This manufacturing of hatred by the ruling party is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the extent to which it is practiced is certainly something that cannot be easily dismissed. The dehumanisation and humiliation experienced by certain sections of the people, especially religious minorities, cannot be easily language-d.

An imam stabbed and shot to death in a mosque that was burnt to the ground. A young doctor, walking home, set upon by an armed mob who thrashed and molested her. A teacher asked a kid to slap his classmate. An MP ridiculing another MP “terrorist” and hurling dehumanising slurs in the Indian Parliament. The incidents which took place in India over the last few months (and are increasingly a common sight), are seemingly unconnected, yet the victims were united by a common factor: they are all Muslims.

“In the early days of my college, in a class of 80+ students, my friend who was sitting beside me and I were made to stand up, our identities assumed because we were wearing hijab and asked by one of our senior professor, in a very condescending tone, if we ever faced discrimination in India,”

-a second year student of Delhi University.

A socially identifiable Muslim that fits in the perfect imagination of a stereotypical archetype is often seen at odds with the usual surroundings–worthy of suspicion, stares and second looks. In times of blatant and unapologetic Hindutva outfit of the government, practicing religion in public has become an increasingly dangerous exercise. A burkha donned lady is more carefully and suspiciously frisked at the metro station so does a cap wearing long bearded Muslim is exoticised and immediately seen as out of the place. Last month, when the violence against Muslims broke down in several parts of the country, I remember my father telling me that he has removed the hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror that had the verses of Qur’an written on it, as a step towards “precaution”. Muslim families are increasingly moving towards, what they consider, “religious neutral” names like Alia, Amir, Ayesha etc. to avoid being outrightly identified as Muslims. People avoid putting nameplates on their front doors for the fear of becoming targets of Hindutva outfits in the next communal violence. In such a political environment of Right-wing extremism, the public practice of religion for the minorities is becoming difficult day by day.

Another second year student who wishes to remain anonymous expressed her grief,

“I see way too many people than I’d like, defending violence against Muslims by turning the table and just blaming the Muslims for committing the violence themselves. Most of the times it’s my acquaintances or even friends; it makes me wonder how they actually perceive me.”

Being an ordinary Muslim in India involves waking up to at least one Islamophobic news and then for the rest of the day dissimulating your own identity for the fear of being identified. After a point our identities are just subsumed in the mere everydayness of these stories of discrimination and violence. The identity of a Muslim is battered against the social realities of the present systemic state oppression and is mutilated every single day–the vilified hypersexual outlook of Muslims that feed into the insecurity of the hyper-masculine Hindutva narrative of the nationalist discourse. The ritualistic nature of endless and unresponsive humiliation has led to conscious effort to not socially “appear as Muslims”; running away from our own identities. Will an ‘Indian Muslim’ continue to be an oxymoron? How long will our words of endearment—ammi, abbu, bhaijan, aapa will be misappropriated to give perverse connotations? How long our citizenship questioned, our identities thwarted, our cultures denigrated and our existence diminished? Maybe in the end of the day, what remains is the tiredness and a helpless resignation when we are questioned and made to question ourselves—who are we?

Read Also: Islamophobia in Delhi University’s Student Community: A myth or Reality?

Image credit: The Indian Express 

Samra Iqbal

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“I will love you if I never see you again, and I will love you if I see you every Tuesday”- Lemony Snicket.

To all the people in long-distance relationships out there,

I know it hurts. I know it hurts seeing everyone have that special someone to celebrate with, while you, despite having that special someone, are sitting and making plans with your single friends. I know it takes everything in you to not make a “big deal” out of it or to brush things off as a joke because you know that if you don’t, it is going to hit you. It doesn’t really seem fair, does it? When the couples get to go on (physical) dates together and the singles get to swipe and flirt, you are stuck in the middle of these two worlds, belonging to none. You get to have video calls that cut into your sleep schedules and dates that rarely ever happen because of the time difference. You get to wake up when they go to sleep and you get to look at them only through a screen. You get to see your I love you’s turn into I miss you and you get to learn to love them through distance and time and layers of screens in between. You get to not talk about them because they’re so far away and you get to miss talking about them because they’re so far away. You get to end all your conversations with a “come back soon” and you get to get used to missing them (every second of every day).


In a world of hookups and one-night stands, rare relationships and rarer love, it seems too early, too soon to be experiencing this kind of pain. Your friends know you hurt and that this hurts but I don’t think anyone can really know how much. Sometimes it feels physically impossible to hurt this much. It feels as if the hurt will drown you— not letting you come up for air, not giving you the permission to really hurt, not letting you weep your tears. Your days are spent convincing yourself that it’s okay and you’re okay and things are okay and everything’s going to be okay, while that voice inside you keeps holding on to all that sadness and misery that you constantly feel. You don’t allow yourself to feel the pain because it is a pain of your own choosing, a bittersweet one, if you may.  


People around you have expiry dates for their relationships— when school ends, when we graduate from college— as if relationships are nothing but an exercise in convenience. Oh, I wish it was that convenient. I wish it was that easy. “Less than 50% of long-distance relationships actually work out,” they say. They don’t think you already know that? You have searched over and over the same questions, trying to convince yourself more than convincing them. They say it gets easier, that it’s supposed to, and that time makes things better in the end, but it’s been a year and they’re there and you’re here and it still, somehow, makes no sense.


You hold on to the hope that if not this year, then maybe next. You convince yourself that at least you’re under the same sky, and the same moon, and the same sun. You find solace in having someone to love for yourself and you end up finding solace in convincing yourself that “Aur bhi dukh hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke siwa, raahatein aur bhi hain vasl ki raahat ke siwa”.


Feature Image: Bustle


Manasvi Kadian

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Since ancient times we humans have expressed our ideas and ideologies via imageries like literature, paintings, and symbols. But in recent times we have, seemingly, forgotten to appreciate the art.

The recent controversy on Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s nazm, Hum Dekhenge (We shall witness), highlights the very fact that we as Indians have to develop a sense of political humour and tolerance. Politics is a part of our daily life and still, we miss its satirical quality. Faiz’s poem, Hum Dekhenge, written in 1979, was a clarion call for resistance against Zia ul Haq’s authoritarian and fundamentalist rule. Written for a predominantly Muslim audience it effectively used Islamic imagery to denounce the fundamentalism and authoritarianism that had become the hallmark of the regime.

Though Faiz was a leftist himself but wrote the nazm using Islamic imagery which made the nazm all the more effective, moving and revolutionary. In 1986, it became extremely popular after Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano sang it in the presence of 50,000 people in Lahore. The fact that she wore a saree made the rendition even more defiant, for Zia had banned the saree, calling it Hindu.

It is the art of political satire that remains relevant even after decades. The couplet, “Yeh daagh daagh ujaalaa, yeh shabgazida seher; Woh intezaar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin (This blemished light infused with the darkness of night; Surely, this isn’t the dawn we waited for so eagerly),” is relevant for the so-called ‘Communist Nations’ like China and North Korea, even today.

The easiest thing to do these days is to hurt someone’s sentiments, we have been made to believe that it is only by asserting our view that it prevails. The art of political graffiti and literature teaches us the tolerance of dealing with various views or thoughts. A piece of literature never dictates its interpretation in the reader’s mind. Similarly, political graffiti just showcases the thoughts of the artist and doesn’t force itself on anyone. If we understand that various views be it rightist, leftist or liberal can thrive in our world then, we won’t have any more controversies like the ones in Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge and the arrest of Ganzeer.

Political leaders talk about the lack of tolerance in India, however, they are its flag bearers. We see the right-wing always criticising the leftists and vice-versa. This daily act is the testimony of the fact that nearly all the ideologies around the world, be it religious or social or political always tries to subsume the other. A world without dissent is either a utopian one or a dreamland itself. In a time of political and economic uncertainty, the role of art and expression has never been more important. Cultural leaders – from filmmakers to cartoonists – bring new perspectives to tackle challenging issues and inspire people to fulfil their potential.

But artists around the world are under threat, with many arrested or even killed for expressing their ideas and showing any signs of dissent. It is important to understand that we need to create a long-term goal of what we want to achieve in a social space wherein all forms of art, ideologies, and thoughts thrive.

If we understand that humanity can achieve greater heights only when there is dissent and freedom, we can move a step towards a better society. If we can understand that forcing an ideology on someone just because you find it to be the ‘correct’ one would only result in triviality. No one can change their thinking in just a moment, it instead takes years on end. And we should be patient enough to let dissent thrive and give it time to change into an agreement. Lastly, I would be perfectly fine if you do not agree with my opinion and think otherwise!

Featured Image Credits- Sabari Venu

Aniket Singh Chauhan

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