By Justice Markandey Katju
Pakistan has become a strange country. Now even quoting from Mirza Ghalib, the greatest Urdu poet, has become dangerous there.
I had written an article on Urdu poetry, and sent it to a well-known Pakistani online publication for being published.
The article mentioned this couplet of Ghalib ::
“ Imaan mujhe roke hai, jo khenche hai mujhe kufr
Kaaba mere peeche hai, kaleesa mere aage “
Lo and behold ! I received this email from the publisher :
“ Dear Justice Katju
We are avoiding all pieces featuring religion and you mention the Kaaba. I’m afraid this will have repercussions for us here in Pakistan. As mentioned, emotions are high, and religious mention can cause damage.
We will not be able to use it unfortunately.
It seems there are many verses of Ghalib which will invite a death fatwa if recited today, like that issued to Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeni.
Thus Ghalib writes :
“ Masjid ke zer-e-saaya kharaabaat chaahiye “
“ Below a mosque there should be a wine shop “
Similarly, he writes :
“ Kahaan maikhane ka darwaaza Ghalib aur kahaan vaaiz
Par itna jaantay hain kal voh jaata tha ke ham nikle “
” The tavern and the preacher ( mulla ) are said to be far apart
But when I was entering the tavern yesterday, the preacher was leaving “.
This is a subtle dig on religious clerics.
Poetry of several famous Urdu poets may also invite a death fatwa in Pakistan today
Among the modern Urdu poets, Sahir Ludhianvi is outspokenly atheistic. Consider the following lines :
“Aqaayad vaham hai mazhab khyaal khaam hai saaqi
Azal se zahen-e-insaan bastaa vaham hai saaqi
which means :
“Creeds are a delusion and religions merely false notions; From the beginning man’s mind has been a slave to superstitions”
“bezaar hai kanisht-o-kaleesa se ek jahaan
Saudagaraan-e-din ki saudagari ki khair
which means :
“The world is sick of temples and churches;
pray for the safety of the traffickers in religion”
So it is best for Pakistanis to keep away from Urdu poetry, to avoid being declared a ‘kafir’ and having a death fatwa placed on their heads by some mad mullah, whose tribe has increased exponentially of late in Pakistan.
After all, one would not relish the prospect of having ‘sar tan se juda’.
(Markandey Katju is an Indian jurist and former Supreme Court judge of India who served as chairman for the Press Council of India. He is the founder and patron of the Indian Reunification Association (IRA), an organisation that advocates for the peaceful reunification of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh with India under a secular government.)