By K.N. Pandita

In collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Jammu Civil Society for Art and Literature (JCSAL) organized a 2-day Jashn-e-Faiz memorial function at Zorawar Singh Auditorium of Jammu University. It was to commemorate the birth anniversary of the outstanding progressive poet and thinker of the sub-continent, born and lived in Pakistan. For his generation and those following, Faiz has been and shall remain a vital source of inspiration. Faiz is the poet of humanity, the poet of deprived and discriminated people, the poet of suppressed and subdued instincts that ask to be heard and understood. Faiz was a revolutionary who rose against social and political forces determined to usurp the freedom and rights of ordinary men and women for gratifying their lust for material benefits and comforts.  

He made himself an enemy of military rule of Pakistan which is traditionally made up of landlords, military brass and top bureaucratic echelons all closely linked by vested interests. Faiz was maltreated, demonized and imprisoned. He was denied the freedom of expression and branded almost an outcast in his own nation and country. Faiz suffered all this incarceration but did not submit to the institution that worked against the interests of the people. His voice went across borders, lands and climes. His ideas transcended differences, hatred and animus among peoples of the sub-continent because he touched the very core of human suffering.

Intellectuals, writers, poets, artists, music lovers and journalists from Pakistan and India have come together on this occasion to pay homage to the great Asian celebrity who had broken the walls that separate the two nations of Indians and Pakistanis. And all these people have come voluntarily to express solidarity in humanism and human association so close to the heart of Faiz. Faiz lamented the lot of his countrymen who were ruled by arbitrary regimes and whose voice was stifled. He pleaded their case with poignancy: mata-e lowh o qalam chhin gai to kya gham hai/ kih khun-e dil main dabo li hain unglian main ne” To Faiz nothing was more precious than the freedom of thought and expression.  The eminent British philosopher Bertrand Russell was asked what he loved most. “Freedom” was his answer.

But if the fans of Faiz in the sub-continent want to pay him the real tribute and appreciate his contribution to the struggle for human freedom, then they need to stretch every nerve to create goodwill and mutual understanding between the people of India and Pakistan. We need to change our hearts and minds; we need new thinking and new approach to our problems and our relationship. The air of estrangement must change into warmth of cordiality and human relationship. After all we have more in common that binds us together than what divides us. Language, history, culture, religion, and life style nothing is an obstacle to our good and cordial relationship. When there is people to people interaction on large scale and with full warmth of good neighborliness borders get melted, dividing lines fade and paths open up for free movement. When that happens, the dream of Faiz and others like him on both sides of dividing line will find realization. We may have divided lands and territories but we cannot divide culture, thoughts, aspirations and hopes. We did divide our assets and material possessions but we cannot divide Ghalib, Iqbal, Faiz, Josh or Harivansh Rai Bachhan. How realistically cosmopolitan was Firaq Gorakhpuri who said: “ sar zamin-e Hind par aqwam-e alam se Firaq/ Qafile ate gaye Hindostan banta gaya”

The destiny of the people in two countries is interwoven. It has no space for exclusiveness or isolation. Cobwebs of misunderstanding need to be cleared up. Blurred vision needs to be set right and we need to look at our problems, hopes and aspirations with a vision that will look beyond decades and centuries. We consider the holding of Jashn-e-Faiz as a step in the right direction and such ventures will always be considered precursors to the ushering in of a new and healthy era in our bilateral relationship. We welcome the guests from Pakistan whose earnest desire of establishing bridges of understanding is equally and more forcefully responded by their Indian counterparts.

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