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Home > 2023 > And Now They Target Poet Mohammad Iqbal | Humra Quraishi

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 23, June 3, 2023

And Now They Target Poet Mohammad Iqbal | Humra Quraishi

Friday 2 June 2023, by Humra Quraishi


31 May 2023

How very blatant the targeting gets! The long-dead Mughal emperors, poets, philosophers, political leaders, and significant personalities are not spared. The entire chapters on them are getting off the syllabus. The latest to be off the syllabus is the poet whose verse reigns in this subcontinent: Mohammad Iqbal.

It is significant to mention the basic background of Mohammad Iqbal. He lived from 1873 to 1938. He received his PhD (Heidelberg) and Barrister at law (London) and also received doctorates in literature and philosophy from many other universities. He is one of the best-known poets in this part of the world. There seems an instant connect with his verse, as he wrote in both Urdu and Persian. His verse is simply worded and directly put. Nah, nothing really flowery nor complicated but all too stark.

Alas, today’s communal politics of the day hasn’t even spared him, and with that his verse. Pointers and relays took off last year itself. If you’d recall last year Uttar Pradesh police decided to slap charges on a particular government school headmaster and a teacher in Uttar Pradesh, after a video of students reciting Mohammad Iqbal’s famous Urdu poem (probably written around 1902) “lab pe aati hai dua banke tamanna meri…” went viral on social media.

Why all the uncalled-for hungama? It is reported that a particular Right-Wing group objected to the poem, to a particular line of the prayer, “Mere Allah buraie se bachana mujhko.”

As school children, we used to recite this poem along with many more songs and poems. Needless to say, we’d recite without fear or fright because then fascism and fascists hadn’t hit us, our very identity and survival. Teachers and students were not threatened and hounded and bullied and hounded by the Right-Wing.

What’s taking over our basic sensitivities? Today it is absolutely painful to see the deterioration spreading out. Yet, like mute spectators we are letting the decay spread, murdering an entire culture, the basic tahzeeb, the very fabric.

A headmaster and teacher rebuked, threatened and almost ousted from service for making school children sing Mohammad Iqbal’s verse after the so-called complaints or objections came in from one of the Right-Wing brigades, which were actually acted upon by the administration! There is little to guess who is ruling!

What if the targeted headmaster and teacher were found reciting one of those more heady verses of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi? Sure, the hapless would have been lynched by the goon brigades, if not imprisoned for reciting revolutionary verse!

This makes me cry aloud: Why didn’t all the present-day poets of the country stand up in support of that targeted headmaster and teacher? Where are the rebel poets and writers of the day? They ought to have been marching in support of poets and poetic verse and lovers of it! Also, progressive education enthusiasts should have intervened and offered the targeted a job in one of the schools of New Delhi. A teacher’s dignity and status ought to be maintained. After all, what was the crime? Nothing at all except making the children recite a verse or two in Urdu written by none other than poet Iqbal!
Also, it is not a question of one schoolmaster or headmaster but there’s that bigger and bleaker picture that looms large. Which school teacher in the State of Uttar Pradesh or for that matter in any of the Right- Wing ruled states will now carry the grit to make his or her students recite any of the Urdu verse? After all, he or she cannot risk livelihood and even his or her life!
Aren’t we depriving an entire generation and future generations of the best of poetry, brimming with varied emotions and intense passion; poetry that encourages and nudges one to think much beyond the mundane?

Yes, a strange level of bruising and destruction and denting seems on. Slow death, with lingering levels of pain and turmoil. Yet, the actual murderers will never be caught nor punished. After all, in these deaths, no actual blood flows out. Just an overflow of painful emotions and bruised sentiments and hurt, where daily survival gets almost impossible. Also, even if the destroyers- murderers from the hate brigades can be named, they could get going!

Don’t you see what’s been happening in the case of the sexual exploiter? Sitting untouched! Even when the country’s top women wrestlers have been pleading and crying and asking for justice, there seems little action against the culprit. These hapless women are the ones getting hounded but the culprit left untouched. The irony is just too painful and much too hitting to describe in words and phrases.

In fact, several years back, an auto driver driving me around Srinagar city, had told me that in Kashmir if A murders B then it will be C who would be caught. Never mind if that hapless C was only a bystander! Well, today this grim reality is not confined to the conflict-hit region of Kashmir but seems spreading out.


Leaving you with Mohammad Iqbal’s verse from Khushwant Singh’s book – ‘Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry-Selected by Khushwant Singh & Kamna Prasad. Translated with An Introduction by Khushwant Singh’ (Penguin Viking).

Mohammad Iqbal’s verse titled, ‘Man of Faith:
You ask me for the signs of a man of faith- /
When death comes to him he has a smile on his lips.’


His this verse too, ‘Stormy Life:
May God grant you the experience of a storm/
The waves of your life’s ocean are too calm.’


Also, his this verse, titled, ‘Faith, Conduct, Compassion:
Man’s weapons in life’s battles are three:/
Conviction that his cause is just/
Courage to fight for it till eternity/
Compassion that embraces all humanity.’

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