Emergency, article 370, Sheikh Abdullah Govt. and Jammu Punjabi writers conference

Chaman Lal

9th September is revolutionary Punjabi poet Pash’s birth anniversary. He was born on 9th September 1950 in Talwandi Salem village in district Jalandhar and assassinated by Khalistani fundamentalists on 23rd March 1988. While going back into memories, an interesting episode from his life relevant to present day Kashmir situation came to my mind. I was in jail during emergency from the day one i.e. 26th June 1975. Pash, though had remained in jail in 1970-71 in a false case and then during 1974 Railway strike and he wrote few good poems from jail as well. Somehow, he was not arrested during emergency. His first collection of poems-Lauh Katha-The story of Steal was published when he was in jail at the young age of 20 years. The first collection of poems had made him hugely popular and when he came out of jail in 1971, he was welcomed with great fanfare. His second collection of poems-Uddade Bazan Magar-After the flying Hawks made him a major poet of Punjabi at the age of 24 yearsand his poems were getting translated in many Indian languages.

During the period of emergency, Punjabi writers conference was held in Jammu, where Sheikh Abdullah led National conference was in power. From Punjab many Punjabi writers attended this conference, including celebrated young Punjabi poet Pash and senior Punjabi Marxist critic Sant Singh Sekhon. Both made fiery speeches against Indira Gandhi and her imposition of emergency, perhaps in presence of Punjab chief minister of those days-Giani Zail Singh! Punjabi writers from J&K were apprehensive that Pash and Sant Singh Sekhon would be arrested on their return to Punjab. But somehow Punjab Government did not arrest them at that time.

Looking back in context of present state of Jammu and Kashmir, now just turned into Union Territory at the mercy of Central Government, after doing away with article 370 of the constitution, one can imagine that how Sheikh Abdullah at that time resisted the imposition of emergency laws in his state. Probably two other states resisted emergency in those days-Gujarat Govt. and Tamilnadu Govt. -both were dismissed in no time for not implementing emergency provisions in their state, but J&K Govt. had survived because of safeguard of article 370. Many opposition leaders at that time may have sought shelter in Jammu and Kashmir during emergency, few of those in opposition at that time have now punished Kashmiri people by making them suffer untold sufferings.

Here English translation of Pash poem on emergency, which may be relevant to today’s Kashmir situation as well is given in translation of T C Ghai from his collection-Pash: A Poet of Impossible Dreams-Selected Poems.

  Panjabi title of the poem included in Pash collection Sadde Samian Vich (In Our Times) published in 1978—Emergency Laggan ton Baad-After the Imposition of Emergency-

                             The only truth about this mysterious death
                              Is that someone is dead
                               All else is rumour
                             The enjoyment of juicy gossip
                              Or the calm before winter

                            Now there will be mourning
                         Or the lighting of celebratory lamps
                         Behind closed doors
                        And a desolation as in cotton field
                         After the bolls have been picked
                             A desolation that was there,
                       Even when the man was alive
                        Shrieking with the hinges on our doors
                             As we opened or shut down

                           There is no truth whatever in this mysterious death
                            Except that graves will not change their nature
                            And man in the middle of his last lap on the swing
                           Folds over with excitement
                            Squeezing with between his thighs
                           The twin emotions of fear and joy
                           And the prayer for a safe descent
                               Seals our ears with lead
                         And the fear that Thursday will after all lose
                              To Friday’s first drum beat
                           Prompts someone to turn a murderer,
                       Even then the gun -wielders alone are not to blame
                                But we too in whose eyes the collyrium
                                Dams the flow of tears

                       Whatever it is, the truth is he is dead
                       All else is rumour
                      The enjoyment of juicy gossip.

Chaman Lal is retired Professor from JNU. He translated Pash’s complete poetry in Hindi and his latest publication is The Bhagat Singh Reader.

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Sep 19, 2019

Prof. Chaman Lal [email protected]

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