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Muslim men of letters being ignored

Every year when national awards like ‘Bharat Ratna’, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri etc are given on the occasion of Republic Day, I become sad when I think about the low priority given to literature and uneasy questions arise in my mind, such as:
» Does literature occupy third or fourth position in the eyes of the government?
» Is the stature of painters like Satish Gujral or M.F. Hussain much higher than personalities like Ali Sardar Jafri, Majrooh and others?
» Are those singing and dancing ladies (please excuse me for these words) higher in status as compared to men of letters?

Is an ordinary wrestler more important than a poet or an author?

These questions need to be very seriously considered. I have been hearing and reading about the importance and utility of literature right from my childhood. But when I opened the ‘third’ eye of sanity I realised that the literature of which I was so fond has no value and importance even in the eyes of the government.

Just see, even Sitara Devi turns down the award of Padma Vibhushan and demands Bharat Ratna but our poor Urdu writer or poet even after attaining heights of fame, fails to come up to the desired standard if he is judged from the point of view of national solidarity because his religion becomes the stumbling block. Gyan Chand Jain takes away Padma Bhushan (with apologies to Ram Prakash Pakore) but the Muslim literary figure writing in Urdu curses his fate because the list of literary awardees whether in Qatar, Doha or India, is examined to see which of the Hindi writers or poets are left out and who else have not so far been honoured with awards. (M.M. Joshiji, are you listening?)

Among the writers or poets who brought Urdu on the international scene, no names are to be found in the list of Bharat Ratna awardees. Urdu lovers or promoters are nowhere to be found. Even if his name is mentioned somewhere, it is in some obscure place or column. Grand titles like Bharat Ratna and Padma Bhushan etc are awarded to ‘Tabla’ masters, flutists, singers and dancers. Rather, every year most of these people or ‘artistes’ take away these awards or else, importance is given to sports at national level. Sportsmen repeatedly losing the games are also given awards. Wrestlers of ‘akharas’ are also given awards, but not the poor Urdu men of letters.

Atalji and Advaniji have changed the schools syllabi. Even the national awards are subjected to the black paint of hatred and bias. During the history of the past 54 years, the ruling party has done its job slowly, surreptitiously and successfully. Now every Muslim is considered a terrorist. If you don’t believe so now, you will come to believe soon. Muslims have reached this position because of their own weaknesses. Therefore, if this nation or community is being humiliated and degraded, only Muslims are responsible for it.

Sorry, I am deviating from the main topic. I was talking about national awards. Ruling powers have at last succeeded in giving national awards and honours a communal colour too. Why this award was given to 80- year old Gyan Chand Jain who has now formally declared his intention to keep a distance from literature. Just read his letter published in ‘Baadban’ issue No. 7 and scratch your hairs:
‘I am now living with my son in Arwaton city which is a suburban locality near Los Angeles. Neither I have time to write articles nor any liking to do so. I strongly request you not to waste your magazine by sending it to me.’

Gyan Chand Jain’s letter of the type mentioned above is not only published in ‘Baadban’. I have seen his letters in many other magazines. He is so angry and indifferent that he does not even want to see Urdu magaziness. Under these circumstances, how and why does the need arise to honour him with awards like Padm Bhushan or Padm Shri in the name of Urdu? As a matter of principle, he should not have accepted this national award which was given to him for Urdu.

The government should pay attention to Muslim writers or poets also because Muslim writers who have been enriching literature for years also want that they should be honoured with such national awards and honours. At a time when accusing fingers are being raised at our identity and their patriotism is being suspected, such honours and awards will go a long way in creating a sense of belonging, enthusiasm and oneness with other compatriots. You must honour and reward the services of Nirmal Varma, Joginder Pal, Ratan Singh, Nand Kishore Kapoor, Ram Prakash Vishwa Gkarma and others but do not ignore Muslims.

On the whole, I wish and pray that:
» Literature should be given preference or priority over band, drums and other musical instruments.
» If people like Gyan Chand Jain are given awards, Muslim writers’ rights should not be forfeited.
» Young writers like Alka, O.A. Prakash, Sayed Mohammad Ashraf, Prof. Jaabir Hussain, Abdus Samad, Shaukat Hayat, Swayam Prakash, Prinod, Giri Raj Kishore, Gulzar, Ali Imam Naqvi, Salaam bin Razzaq, Iqbal Majeed should also be kept in mind along with Nirmal Verma.

Here I have deliberately included the names of Urdu and Hindi writers lest my friends should accuse me of being communal-minded. I do not believe in the division of languages; but at a time when deep chasms of doubts are being created at every step for Muslims, writers like us too have lost faith and hope for future. Mist is getting thicker and deeper. It appears that in the field of literature also Muslims are being deprived of their rights every where and deliberately under some well thought-out and planned scheme. Hence a war or campaign will have to be started from somewhere and by somebody.

I have given the call. What about you? (Translated from Urdu)

¯ Musharraf Alam Zauqi

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