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Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s 'Hum Dekhenge': We will not determine if poem hurt sentiments, says IIT-Kanpur panel head

Manindra Agrawal. File

Manindra Agrawal. File   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

He said multiple complaints had been received from two groups of students and faculty, those who supported the protest and those against it.

An investigating committee formed by the IIT-Kanpur is not going to probe whether the recital of Hum Dekhenge, a poem by Pakistani revolutionary Faiz Ahmad Faiz, at a campus protest last month had hurt sentiments or not.

“One of the complaints was regarding the poem, that it hurt sentiments,” the IIT’s Deputy Director, Manindra Agrawal, told The Hindu. He said multiple complaints had been received from two groups of students and faculty, those who supported the protest and those against it.

“Of course, we are not going to determine whether sentiments were hurt or not,” he clarified when asked what exactly the panel was investigating. Instead, the six-member panel would investigate if there was any “deliberate mischief”, he said.

Dr. Agrawal’s comments come in the wake of widespread outrage spurred by reports that the panel would determine if the poem was “anti-Hindu,” “anti-national” or had “hurt Hindu sentiments.”

The poem

The poem at the heart of the controversy was written in 1979 as a form of protest against Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul-Haq. These are the lines that have caused heartburn: “Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se, sab buut uthwaaye jaayenge...Bus naam rahega Allah ka...” On a video of the December 17 protest held in solidarity with students of Jamia Millia Islamia, the English subtitles read: “When from Allah’s place, all idols will be removed... only Allah’s name will remain...” Other translations render those lines as, “From the abode of God when icons of falsehood will be taken out...only the name will survive...”

“Some students felt that the words of the poem were objectionable. They saw it as being linked to the history of Muslim invaders who came to India and destroyed Hindu temples,” said Dr. Agrawal. “But there is another aspect to this. Faiz did not mean this literally. He was alluding to something else.”

Commentators have pointed to the allegorical nature of the poem, through which the Communist Faiz spoke out against a dictator using conservative Islam as a tool of repression. The poem became a popular protest anthem following its 1986 rendition by Pakistani ghazal singer Iqbal Bano.

“Each perspective has some truth to it. Someone who has no background in literature, who has not studied Faiz in depth, may not understand the allusions when he encounters those words, may take them at face value. All parties need to be respectful of both viewpoints,” explained Dr. Agrawal.

Report in ten days

There were also complaints that the protest was illegal and that posts on social media caused fear and a sense of intimidation among students from both sides of the divide. “Clearly, there was provocation which made people agitated. Was it deliberately provoked? Was it planned to cause disharmony? That is one of the things we will be looking at,” he said. “If we find evidence of deliberate mischief, there will be further action.”

As an initial step, the panel is talking to all groups concerned and has pushed them to take down social media posts on the issue. It will submit a report in the next ten days.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 2:37:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/faiz-ahmad-faizs-hum-dekhenge-we-will-not-determine-if-poem-hurt-sentiments-says-iit-kanpur-panel-head/article30463711.ece

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