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This is the centenary year of the indefatigable poet-activist, Kaifi Azmi (1919-2002). ‘I was born in a slave India,grew up in an Independent India and would like to die in a Socialist India’ was his dream. Unfortunately, when he died, the socialist / left movement in the country was on a downswing, while fascist forces were on the rise. Yet, even in his last days, Kaifi Azmi lost none of his hope and conviction. He will always be present in his poetry as a bulwark against despair and defeat, a beacon of courage and hope. We pay our tributes to him by re-publishing his epic poem, Doosa Banwas, that he wrote against the backdrop of the communal violence that followed the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992:
Ram banwaas se jab laut ke ghar mein aaye,
Yaad jangal bahut aaya jo nagar mein aaye,
Raqsse deewangee aangan mein jo dekha hoga,
6 december ko Shri Ram ne socha hoga,
Itne deewane kahan se mere ghar mein aaye?
Jagmagate thhe jahan Ram key qadmon ke nishaan,
Piyaar kee kahkashan leti thi angdayee jahan,
Mod nafrat ke usee rah guzar mein aaye,
Dharam kya unka hae, kya zaat hae, yeh janta kaun?
Ghar na jalta tau unhe raat mein pehchanta kaun,
Ghar jalane ko mera, log jo ghar mein aaye,
Shakahari hae mere dost tumahara khanjar.
Tumne Babar kee taraf pheke thhe saare patthar
Hae mere sar ki khata zakhm jo sar mein aaye,
Paun Sarjoo mein aabhi Ram ne dhoye bhee na thhe
Ke nazar aaye wahan khoon ke gehre dhabbe,
Paun dhoye bina Sarjoo ke kinare se uthe,
Ram yeh kehte hue aapne dwaare se uthe,
Rajdhani kee fiza aayee nahin raas mujhe,
6 December ko mila doosra banwaas mujhe.
A rough translation:
The Second Exile
That evening when Lord Ram returned to his home
He remembered the jungles where he had spent his years of exile
When he must have seen the dance of madness that December 6
It must have crossed his mind
From where have so many demented ones landed on my home
Wherever he had stepped and his footprints had shone
The river waters where thousands of stars of love meandered
Instead now took turns of violence and hatred
What is their religion, what is their caste, who knows?
Had the house not burnt, who would have known the faces
Of those who came to burn my house
Your sword, my friend, is vegetarian.
You threw towards Babar all the stones
It is my head’s fault that, instead, it bleeds
Lord Ram had not even washed his feet in the Saryu waters
When he saw deep blots of blood.
Getting up without washing his feet in the waters
Lord Ram left the precincts of his own residence, bemoaning,
The state of my own capital city no longer suits me
This December 6, I have been condemned to a second exile
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