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Indo-Pak Cultural Exchange must go on: Eminent Urdu Poets

Artistes have no religion, no country, for them art is everything

A text written in Urdu language , Wikimedia

New Delhi, April 15, 2017: Indo-Pak relations have been under speculation since an age old time. Governments shake hands towards an era of peace and certain “forces” are always in action to worsen the ties.

However, art is a field which has bound the common masses of both the nations. Pakistani singers like Atif Aslam enjoy huge popularity in the nation and Indian actors and Bollywood movies are loved all around the neighbouring country.

Poetry is one such field. India is home to many famous urdu poets and Pakistani poets are also invited to participate in the “mushairas” organized in the nation. However, in the wake of recent events (Death sentence of Kulbhushan Jadhav)- Indo-Pak relations are once again souring and the Indian Urdu poets do not want this to affect the rich cultural exchange between the nations.

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Eminent Urdu poets believe cultural exchange between the two countries and visits of artists must be kept away from the purview of politics. Many Urdu poets expressed this desire on the sidelines of the Jashn-e-Bahar Mushaira here last evening.

A galaxy of poets, including Javed Akhtar, recited their poetry at the mushaira (symposium) to a packed house. In its 19th edition, this was the first time the Urdu poetry symposium had no representation from Pakistan amid growing Indo-Pak tensions.

However, Kamna Prasad, the founder of the non-profit Jashn-e-Bahar Trust that organises the event, attributed the absence of Pakistani Urdu poets at the event to “mathematics” of how many poets can be invited and the Trusts aim to get poets from places where interest in Urdu was rising.

Poets at the event strongly pitched for cultural exchange between India and Pakistan despite tensions. They also agreed that inviting poets from Pakistan could be troublesome for any event in the current scenario.

“When Pakistani poets used to come, it used to be a great congregation. If they are called now, there will be an uneasy atmosphere, people will come opposing it,” Syed Aijazuddin Shah, famous as Popular Meeruthi, told PTI on the sidelines of the event.

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Echoing Shahs views was Hussain Haidry, a young Urdu poet from Mumbai, who said culture and politics must be kept separate.

“When 100 people stand up and say why poets and artistes from Pakistan cannot come, 10 people who are currently opposing their coming will go away,” the 31-year-old said.
Songs like Purani Jeans or Atif Aslams numbers are loved on both sides of the border.

Artists have no religion, no country, for them art is everything, Haidry said. Further, poet Minu Bakshi saidPolitics and culture should remain completely separate. Naseem Nikhat, a poet from Lucknow, said, “We must call them (Pakistani artistes) as we are known to be soft-hearted and welcoming. We must be open-minded. Barring cultural exchanges will yield no results.”

However, poet Mansoor Usmani said Indo-Pak relations were very sensitive and caution needs to be exercised. Other poets who recited their poetry were Abdullah Abdullah from New York; Jawaid Danish from Toronto, Basir Kazmi from Manchester, Shahjahan Jaffery from Kuwait City and Aziz Nabeel from Doha.

It was Akhtar, who drew the loudest cheers from the crowd for his couplets and nazms.
Prasad exuded confidence that Urdus future was bright with young people still enamoured by the beauty of the language.

“The young generation, when they send sms they send it in Roman script but couplets are still in Urdu. If you want to learn Urdu, be in love and if you want to be in love, learn Urdu,” she told, mentioned PTI.

In her opening remarks at the event, Prasad strongly condemned the trend of hate poetry.
Among the eminent personalities present during the evening were Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, former Union Minister Farooq Abdullah and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar.

Member of Parliament and actor, Shatrughan Sinha, who was the Chief Guest at the event, said, “Indian film industry owes its existence to Urdu. All our immortal dialogues and songs are heavily dependent on Urdu.”

The event was presided over by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, leading Urdu poet and critic.
Amarendra Khatua, Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, was the Guest of Honour at the poetry symposium. Among the Indian poets, Aqeel Nomani, Nusrat Mehdi and Aalok Shrivstav also participated.

-prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram Twitter @NikitaTayal6

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)