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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Tribute: Jagan Nath Azad – some reminiscences

By Balraj Puri 

I first met Professor Jagan Nath Azad around fifty years ago in the office of Urdu Journal Ajkal, published by Publications Division of the Government of India where he was then working as assistant editor. Our friendship continued to grow almost in the same proportion ever since as his fame. It was unlike the usual experience where such a relationship is inversely proportional to each other and is an eloquent testimony to the fact that he was a rare combination of greatness and modesty. I may not be an exception in enjoying his affection,. For apart from creating a rich literary capital, he had made a rich, what may be called, social capital spread all over the Urdu world. 

Jagan Nath Azad at a glance

Poetic Collections
1) Tabil Wa Ilm (1948; 2) Bekaran (1949); 3) Sitaroun Se Zarroun Tak (1951); 4) Watan Mein Ajnabi (1954); 5) Intikhab-e Kalam (1957); 6) Nawa-e-Pareshan (1961); 7) Kahkashan (1961); 8) Bachchoun Ki Nazmein (1976); 9) Bachchoun Ke Iqbal ((1977); 10) Boy-e-Rameeda (1987); and 11) Gahwara-e-Ilm-o-hunar (1988).

1) Tilok Chand Marhum (1959); 2) Iqbal Aur Uska Ahad (1960); 3) Mere Guzishta Roz-o-Shab (Autobiography, 1965); 4) Iqbal Aur Maghribi Mufakkerin (1967); 5) Iqbal Aur Kashmir (1977); 6) Aankhein Tarasti Hein (1981); 7) Fiqr-e-Iqbal Ke Baa’z Aham Pehloo (1982); 8) Nishan-e-Manzil (Critics, 1982); 9) Kolambas Ke Desh Mein (Travelogue, 1987)
19) Hindustan Mein Iqbaliyat (1989) e.t.c

Book in English
Iqbal; His Poetry & Philosophy (1965)

Imtiyaz-e-Meer (1975) from All India Meer Academy, Lucknow; Award from Urdu Academy, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on his contributions on Iqbal and Western Philosophers; Various Awards from Iqbal International Conference, Lahore held on 1977; Awards from Bihar Urdu Academy, Patna, World Muslim Center, London, Punjab University, Lahore, Bhasha Vibhag, Patiala and et al. 

Once I was planning a world Urdu conference, after consultation with Muhajir leaders of Pakistan to focus attention mainly on the sociological problems of Urdu speaking community of the Subcontinent. I turned to Azad for a list of prominent Urdu-speaking personalities around the world. In almost no time he prepared a list and gave it to me. That the proposed conference could not be held is a different matter.The point I am emphasizing is that once Azad made a friendship, he maintained it. 

In my case, the additional factor was commonality of our interest; which included love for Urdu language, Indo-Pak relations, Iqbaliat and Islamiat. I am the founder president of the Anjumman-i-Tarraqi Urdu (Hind) Jammu branch of which he became the national president. At one stage, I wished to retire from the responsibility. But so forceful was his insistence on my continuing the responsibility that I had to submit to his wishes. 

Once he gave a lecture on Iqbal over thirty years ago in the University of Jammu. I raised a few points. After the lecture he pursued a discussion on them. We walked the entire distance to my home which is at the other end of the town and continued our discussion till almost midnight. Even though he had been acknowledged as the greatest scholar on Iqbal, he would not miss an opportunity to get an extra knowledge from however humble a source it might be. 

We often debated the possible impact on Pakistan’s make-up and its relations with India if he had remained a citizen of Pakistan and enjoyed a respectable status there as he was enjoying now. He would often become nostalgic about the possibility. The very fact that it was he who was asked to write the first national anthem of Pakistan within less than a week before its formal birth indicates the potentiality of its happening. 

It is interesting to recall that writing the national anthem of Pakistan was made at the behst of its founder Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The request was in conformity with his famous speech of 11th August 1947 in which he had said, "Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State." His request to a secular Hindu poet filled into his vision of Pakistan. Alas he did not live long to put that vision into practice. The National Anthem of Pakistan was not only broadcast on its independence but continued to be used for over a year. I can quote only a few lines of that anthem at the moment which are as follows:
Aey sarzameen-i-pak 

Zarrey terey hein aaj sitaron sey tabnak
Roshan heh kehkashan sey kahin aaj teri khak"

(Oh land of Pakistan each particle of yours is being illuminated by stars. Even your dust has been brightened like a rainbow.) 

After the death of Jinnah another anthem composed by Hafiz Jallandhari was finally adopted by Pakistan.

Azad did stay in Pakistan for almost a month after it came into being. But the situation continued to deteriorate in Lahore where he was advised by his friends to leave. His last wish, however, was to pen a "song of peace" that would be common to both countries and sung by millions of Indians and Pakistanis. It is my wish that one day the people of the two countries will sing the songs of love instead of hatred.

He must have been the most frequent visitor of Pakistan from India and its best peace ambassador. He was equally respected in both countries. It is difficult to measure the extent of loss that his death has caused Indo-Pak peace, secularism, human values and Urdu literature (of which he was the most renowned scholar.)
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