CHANDIGARH: Poets in Punjab have added a new dimension to concerns over the current situaiton in Kashmir - through poetry.

“Most interestingis the continuity in the expression of support for the Kashmiris here in Punjab. It did not end with the massive ‘decentralized’ protest of September 15 that the government tried to suppress by cancelling permission for the proposed rally of farmers, students and other organizations. No event in Punjab now is complete without new verses being read out by poets,” poet Rajwinder Meer from the Malwa region of the state said.

He shared a strongly worded verse from his latest poem with this reporter that refers to the derogatory comments by right wing Hindutva politicians about Kashmiri women in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370.

And went on to say, “Poetic resistance does not deliver results instantly. The very purpose is to etch something on the sub-conscience level of the listener. These words of poets echo even after centuries when history of a region or a place is written. The sentiment that is later discussed in political theories and principles is first expressed by poets. That is why poetic expression of political incidents in areas that are disturbed is a must,” Meer added.

He shared a couple of lines from another poem of his:

Sabton khoobsoorat auratan Kashmir ch nein, Manipur ch nein te Dantewada ch nein;
Duniya de sabton khoobsoorat mard vi Kashmir de nein, Manipur de nein te Dantewada de nein….

(The world’s most beautiful men and women come from Kashmir, Manipur and Dantewada. They are the ones who are seeing the most difficult lives and are yet fighting to live a life that they dream of.)

“One needs to understand that the unique thing about Punjabi poetry is that it has never sung praises of the ruling class. This tradition dates back to Baba Farid, Bulle Shah and Waris Shah who spoke about uncomfortable truths of their times in simple verse. The poetry of Punjab has historically talked about the concepts of freedom, equality and brotherhood,” another popular poet Jagwinder Jodha from Ludhiana said.

He underlined that whatever the Punjabis are expressing is based on their experience. “We have seen Punjab tumble down from being the top ranked state in the country to somewhere behind even Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand on some of the indexes. The state has seen its farm sector being pushed into distress, youth taking to drugs and the state going down the economic hierarchy. The root cause behind all this has been the centre’s policy towards Punjab and imposition of central rule in the state for several years. I firmly believe that Kashmir is ours and so are Kashmiris who are our brothers. At the same time they need to be taken into confidence with regard to whatever is being planned for Kashmir.”

One of his poems that is being quoted quite often reads:

Adha jism Punjab hai mera, adha hai Kashmir;
Shaala wakh nah hon Swami, Azam te Izhar….

(Half my body is Punjab and half is Kashmir. I just hope that there is no force that can separate me from my friends Azam and Izhar.)

“This year we have not tasted Kashmiri apples. It simply translates into the fact that Kashmiri apple growers and traders are suffering. The agony of the Kashmiris is being kept hidden from the people across the country. I recently went to Mcleodganj in Dharamshala. The moment I told a Kashmiri shopkeeper that I had come from Punjab, he immediately identified himself and opened up,” Jodha added.

It is not that Punjabi poets have started penning verse on the plight of Kashmiris now. They have been doing it for years but clearly it has gone into top gear. The words attributed to revolutionary poet Jagseer Jeeda that were penned some years ago on Kashmir can be heard in small villages and towns of the Punjabi hinterland. Jeeda has a reputation of not mincing words when it comes to speaking blatant truths. He wrote:

Tainu dhakke naal ghar vich vasaana,
Jammu Kashmir di tarah

(A boy is threatening a girl saying, “I will forcibly marry you just like Jammu and Kashmir.”)

Last year Chandigarh based poet Manu Kant had come out with a powerful tribute to the Kathua rape victim as he lashed against those trying to protect the rapists.

One of his many poems read:
New norms have been instituted
for party membership as of January 17,
one of the questions asked to the new entrant is:
“How many girls have you raped and killed?”
In yet another he had tried to underline the link between India and Kashmir when he wrote:
In time a legend will be born
the travelers from India
returning home from their summer vacations in Kashmir
will tell their relatives & friends
that in the Kashmir valley
nestled in the Himalayas
when you shout the name of your beloved
the whole Kashmir valley resounds
with the name of ***** (name of the minor rape victim)

As Meer said, “Poetic resistance to what is going on in Kashmir can only be expected to increase. In events like the forthcoming three day fair in memory of Gadarites in Jalandhar later October, one can expect a number of poets presenting their latest work on theValley.”