politics and art


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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