Tagore's poem today: Has my country awoken? Writes Justice Katju

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Tagore's poem today

Tagore's poem today: Has my country awoken? Writes Justice Katju
Tagore's poem today: Has my country awoken? Writes Justice Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju

Rabindra Nath Tagore had written the following poem called 'Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo' (Where the mind is without fear) in his collection Gitanjali (Song Offerings) in 1910 when India was under British rule:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Today, had he been still alive, Tagore would have rewritten it as follows:

Where the minds of the people are always in fear of losing their livelihood or not being able to make two ends meet, and people are afraid to criticise the government's wrongdoings for fear of being arrested on sedition charges and jailed.

Where the leaders of the country are shameless gangsters, crooks, looters, deceivers and gundas who have amassed fortunes, like greedy lustful bandits, with plunder and rapine of the citizens, and polarised society, inciting caste and communal hatred and violence, for getting votes.

Where 10 crony capitalists have cornered 50% of the country's wealth, while the masses are living in abject misery

Where most people have become servile and kowtow, crawl and do 'shaashtang' before the corrupt leaders

Where cows are worshipped and minorities lynched on false charges of cow slaughter

Where a Ram Mandir is being built in Ayodhya, as if this will solve the massive poverty, unemployment, lack of proper healthcare, etc in India

Where Muslims are thrashed if they do not say ' Jai Shri Ram ' and are often discriminated against and their houses bulldozed

Where people raising their voice against oppression, exploitation, communalism, and corruption are branded as Naxalites, tukde tukde gang or anti-nationals and often arrested on false charges and jailed for long periods on fabricated evidence.

Where every second child in India is malnourished, and his body wasted and stunted

Where Bollywood, cricket, fashion parades and astrology is given to the poor masses instead of food and jobs, the way the Roman Emperors gave circuses to the people.

Where the largely corrupt, sold out, shameless and sycophantic media keeps spouting communal venom, and diverting attention of people from the real socio-economic issues to non-issues or trivialities like lives of film stars, fashion parades, cricket, petty politics and astrology

Where every virtue has decayed and vanished, and honesty regarded as stupidity

Where wealth has replaced character and conduct, might has become right, might alone determining dharma and justice.

Where trade and fraudulent practice have become synonymous.

Where the vilest men have become the foremost traders, making cheating and thievery the common practice of the marketplace.

Where the law favours only the rich and has no regard for justice.

Where he that can curse and swear best and loudest is considered the finest orator and scholar.

Where poverty is sufficient cause to establish guilt in the eyes of the law, while wealth and ostentation are indices of character.

Where he who maintains his family by the foulest means is considered most respectable.

Where dharma is observed only for exhibition.

Where men, driven by despair, poverty and unemployment have become thieves, murderers or suicides.

Where arrogance, hypocrisy, deception, dishonesty, sloth, somnolence, cruelty of every kind, delusion, terror and wretchedness rules.

Where seated upon the sacred thrones of great and holy gurus of yore, 'babas' that are masters only of fraud and vice expound dharma to the gullible populace.

Where exhausted by skyrocketing prices of food, fuel and medicines, the people subsist on wild vegetation, roots, and leaves

Where breathing polluted air and having few of the bare necessities of life like employment, nutritious food, proper healthcare, etc. men seem more like bhutas and pishachas.

Into that hell, Father, my country has awoken.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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