Rising prices, temperature and COVID cases: Gloom looms large

In fact, an apolitical movement like Progressive Writers Movement seems to be quite relevant today. PWM not only gave voice to deprived masses but also tried to instill sense and sensitivity in people

Representative Photo (File)
Representative Photo (File)

Humra Quraishi

Come April, things will only be getting tough…tougher to survive with rising temperatures and prices, violence and anarchy and the rising cases of the coronavirus infection. In fact, a strange level of gloom has begun descending. And many amongst us have started ‘re-arranging’ their lives and with that the very priorities! Yes, it’s difficult to reset the pace and halt the going-ahead ambitious ventures, but tell me where’re the options!

In fact, I’m a firm believer in Nature and its gentle nudges. And right now, it’s relaying that we get back to those good old days, where many a genius even died trying to drill sense in those around. It is about time an apolitical movement gets started, taking us to those basic human values and connect. Yes, the Progressive Writers Movement (PWM) should be revived.

After all, the Progressive Writers Movement wasn’t confined to any particular language or locale. Its strength lay in its strong base amongst the poets and writers from different regions of the country. The very first session of the PWM chaired by Munshi Premchand. This fact should also be underlined that PWM was the very offshoot of the anti-colonial struggle and it expressed the aspirations of the hapless and disadvantaged masses.

Of course, in the 1930s we were not as divided as we are today, with an ongoing partitioning of psyches, if not of forms. I wonder what more would Saadat Hasan Manto have written if he was alive today! In fact, as I have written earlier too in my columns, I’d spent an entire afternoon with his grand -nephew, Abid Hasan Minto, at the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, asking him all possible queries that had been bothering me — right from Manto’s weak nerves to his weakness for women. And I felt lighter after Abid Hasan Minto cleared that heap. Highlighting the fact that the death of his young son, and also the human tragedy during the Partition proved much too painful for Manto!

Personalities like Munshi Premchand and Saadat Hasan Mano aren’t around but even today there are many among us who’re equipped with that grit and will power to reach out to masses and see that sense and sensitivity prevails amid the chaos spreading out, so that forms and psyches and souls are saved from the virus of all hues spread out in the surcharged environment of the day.

Ishrat Jahan case: The story, the tragedy, the discharge

With news just coming in that a special CBI court discharged three police officers, in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case, I have been transported back. A few years back, when I had got in touch with Ishrat Jahan’s younger sister Musarrat Jahan and her mother Shamima Kauser, their voice carried strains of immense emotional pain. It was more than apparent that this family had not recovered from the tragedy of the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan — the 19 year old student killed in an encounter, in 2004, on a road between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, by the officers of the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch led by DG Vanzara.

And when I asked Musarrat whether there’d been any change in the realities they live with, she told me, “Ever since Ishrat’s murder we have kept to ourselves and seldom move out. To this day we are wary of stepping out. Difficult for us to survive. I gave up studies… Forget about books and studies, even running the kitchen gets very difficult. Ishrat was the sole earning member of the family. After the death of our father in 2002 because of brain tumour, the responsibility of the family fell on the eldest of the seven siblings, Ishrat. She took up part time jobs so that we could survive. After her death, the situation has only been worsening for us on all possible fronts — emotionally, socially, financially …can’t tell you our pain.” She had also said that the encounter in which her sister was killed, was staged for political gains of the then political rulers of Gujarat.

It also gets relevant to put in details of what lawyer, Vrinda Grover, had to comment on the case. During the course of an earlier interview given to me, I had asked the New Delhi based lawyer activist, Vrinda Grover, why she had decided to fight for Ishrat Jahan.

And Vrinda Grover had detailed, “It was soon after the Sohrabuddin case was taken up by the Supreme Court and the nexus between the cops and politicians was exposed that I was contacted by Ishrat’s family to take up their case. The conviction of the mother and family in the innocence of Ishrat and their determination to have her name cleared of the tag of terrorism persuaded me to take up the case. They wanted their respect and dignity restored…As a human rights lawyer, I often represent victims of police atrocities and violence. But after meeting Shamima Kauser (Ishrat’s mother) and her children, seeing the case file and the reading the truth about Sohrabuddin’s murder, it was clear that this “encounter” was not just a crime committed by some trigger happy cops, but rather part of the State sanctioned and planned violence against Muslims, which was unleashed in the genocidal pogrom of 2002.”

Vrinda had also detailed that it was crucial to recognise a clear pattern of targeting Muslims and demonizing them as the enemy by use of State power, whether through engineered riots or staged fake encounters i.e cold blooded murders by those in State power. “It is very important to bring out the truth behind these fake encounters because in Gujarat there is a criminal nexus between the political Executive, the police and even persons in critical positions in the I.B. both in the Centre and State. This is a very dangerous and lethal combination and before our eyes a fascist state is in the making.”

Leaving you with these lines of Mohammad Iqbal ( 1873- 1938), from the volume - Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry (Penguin) by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad…

“One myth, at least, the firanghee exploded,

A secret wise men have never betrayed:

Democracy is a form of government in which

Heads are counted, but men never weighed.”

Views expressed are personal

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