There was a woman in Pakistan, Fahmida Riaz. She was an Urdu poetess; very outspoken.
At the first place being a woman is a sin in Pakistan; on the top of that she wrote poetry, blasting the so called leaders of the society. It was like ‘eik to karela, aur woh bhi neem chadha’ (a bitter gourd climbed over neem tree). Hence, she took refuge in India. Those were good old days. She stayed with us as a guest for a long time. Then she returned to her native country cherishing her love for India. Now, it so happened that the situation in India has also changed. She became worried. And she wrote a poem, ‘Naya Bharat’ (New India).
It so happened that I read this poem late in the night. And that was my only mistake. Some parts of the poem are given below:
“Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle”
(Turned out, you are just like us)
Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
(So it turned out you were just like us!)
Ab tak kahaN chhupe thay bhai
(Where were you hiding all this time, brother?)
Voh moorkhta, voh ghaamarpan
(That stupidity, that ignorance)
Jis mein hum ne sadi ganwai
(We wallowed in for a century)
Aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey
(It finally arrived at your shores!)
Arey badhai bohot badhai
(Many congratulations to you!)
Qayam Hindu raaj karoge?
(Will you be setting up Hindu Raj?)
Saarey ultey kaaj karogay
(You too will commence to muddle everything up)
Apna chaman taraaj karogey
(You, too, will ravage your garden)
Tum bhee baithey karogey sochaa
(You, too, will sit and ponder –)
Poori hai waisi tayyari
(Preparation is in full swing –)
Kaun hai Hindu, kaun naheeN hai
(Who is Hindu, who is not?)
Tum bhi karogay fatwe jaari
(I guess you too will be passing fatwas)
Ek jaap saa kartey jao
(Repeat the same thing over and over)
Baaram baar yahi dohrao
(Over and over, repeat only this)
Kitna veer mahaan tha Bharat
(How glorious was India in the past!)
Kaisa aalishaan tha bharat
(How awe-inspiring was India!)
Phir tum log pohonch jaogay
(Then, dear friends, you will arrive)
Bas parlok pohonch jaaogay
(And get to heaven after all)
Hum toh hain pehle se wahan par
(We’ve been there for a while now)
Ab jis nark mein jaao wahan se
(Once you’re in the same hell-hole)
Chitthi vitthi daalte rehna
(Keep in touch and tell us how it goes!)
As soon as I read the poem the sleep disappeared. And when I finally slept, I had a horrible dream. The first scene was thus: I was alone, there was no one in front or behind; I was shouting with a flag in my hand.
“Fahmida you are a liar; Fahmida you are utterly wrong”
And then suddenly, without any warning, the scene changed. A mob with iron rods in their hands was abusing and beating an unarmed youth. I asked, brothers! Why are you beating him so mercilessly? This is cruelty. You can’t take law in your own hands. What is his crime? They said, you are silly. Don’t you know who is he? He is Pehlu Khan. Then the scene changed. This time again I saw a young man being beaten up, poor fellow was bleeding. I pleaded ‘Gentlemen! What is his crime? They said, you are stupid, don’t you know, he is Akhlaq. And I shouted in sleep. “Fahmida you speak the truth, Fahmida you speak the truth.”
As soon as I said so, police apprehended me. I kept asking what my crime is? They said your crime is you raised a slogan “Fahmida you speak truth.” This is sedition. Now, come to the court.
Now by the irony of fate, I was produced in a court. Handcuffed and chained. I was not only born in the court, but was a regular visitor. But that building was a bit strange. It was not a familiar one. There were no ‘ashlok’ or ‘ayah’ or ‘gurbani’ on its niches. Even Ashoka Chakra was not there. Mahatma Gandhi’s statue was also missing. Only a film song was there which might have been written by a lunatic person.
And that was:
Kuch na kaho, kuch bhi na kaho
(Don’t say anything, nothing at all)
Kya kaha hai, kya suna hai
(What have you said; what have I heard)
Tumko pata hai, hamko pata hai
(You know it, we know it)
Now a dream is just a dream. Honorable judge asked me in an authoritative tone, “Do you accept your crime?”
I, who have challenged the oppression and atrocity all my life, who always supported the oppressor in the fight for truth and justice, said bowing my head, ‘Yes! I confess that I had raised the slogan, “Fahmida you speak the truth”. I said, yes I admit that it was my crime. I admit that it was a sin. And then I wept. I wept bitterly and have been weeping since then.
Can anyone tell me why I am weeping?
Justice Jaspal Singh is a former judge of Delhi High Court
The write-up was read sometime back at a function at International Centre, Delhi.
Translated from Urdu by Rasia Nayeem Hashmi