A comprehensive look at Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s writings reflects that he was a pro-Pakistan fanatic who pushed for India’s Partition
Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-84), a Pakistani poet, has been in the news recently. Some of his poems have been removed from the school textbooks by the apex government body to finalise the school curriculum in the India-National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). For those who don’t know much about him, he has been the poster boy of the ‘illiberal left’ in India. They have projected him as a leading Marxist revolutionary and progressive thinker of the Indian subcontinent.
One of his poems ‘Hum Dekheinge’ has been used as a theme song by the so-called Progressives for decades now. During anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) agitation, ‘Hum Dekheinge’ had become almost an anthem for the illiberal left. In fact, the same poem is being recited by one of the anti-India characters in the recently released and much talked about movie The Kashmir Files.
In a nutshell, Faiz is the poster boy of self-proclaimed progressives in India. Hence, exclusion of his so-called ‘revolutionary’ poetry from Indian school textbooks attracted sharp reactions from the illiberal left.
The question which we are going to examine today by reviewing his own writings is how progressive was Faiz as a thinker, writer and poet? Or Marxism was just a façade.
Without further delay, let’s get straight to the point.
A comprehensive look at Faiz’s writings reflects that he was a pro-Pakistan fanatic who pushed for the Partition of India. He was an ardent follower and great fan of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and part and parcel of his party Muslim League. Jinnah and his party had led the movement to partition India as millions of Hindus and Sikhs suffered brutal bloodbaths across the country.
Faiz, in fact, not only worked closely with Muslim League leaders towards the partition of India but even after the partition, he was rabidly anti-Indian.
Faiz chose to become Editor-in-Chief of The Pakistan Times, a newspaper started by Muslim League leader Mian Iftikharuddin.
Iftikharuddin was a Punjabi politician who had joined Muslim League after quitting Indian National Congress (INC). Iftikharuddin’s house and other properties were used for training the notorious ‘National Guards’ of the Muslim League who played havoc in the communal riots. Everyone knew this including Faiz but still, he chose to be with Iftikharuddin.
Here are some more interesting details about Mian Iftikharuddin on whose payroll Faiz Ahmad Faiz chose to be till 1951 as Editor-in-Chief of The Pakistan Times.
Iftikharuddin was elected to the Punjab Provincial Assembly in 1946 as a Muslim League member. He was elected the first president of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League after the Independence of Pakistan in 1947. He was also appointed as the Minister for the rehabilitation of refugees in the government of Punjab in Pakistan. Iftikharuddin played an important role in fomenting trouble in Kashmir which led to a genocide of Hindus and Sikhs and a substantial part of Kashmir taken away illegally by Pakistan. India is still trying to get back that part which is known as Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir(POJK).
Interestingly, the newspaper ‘The Pakistan Times’ started publication on February 4, 1947, around five months before Pakistan came into existence and Faiz was too happy to be its Editor-in-Chief. It was clear he believed in the two-nation theory and that India should be divided on the basis of religion and yet he is touted as a progressive writer and poet by a section of Indians!
Faiz’s editorials: Loved Jinnah, Hated India
Let us take a look at some of his editorials in The Pakistan Times which reveal his deep hatred toward India and his communal approach.
In his editorial of The Pakistan Times dated 15 August 1947 (the original title of the editorial was: ‘August 15’), Faiz wrote, “It is August 15 today. The dawn that brought this day into the world also restored to our people their long-lost freedom. Through many bleak decades of political serfdom, millions of us have waited and hoped for this dawn. It has arrived at last and yet, for us in Punjab, it is not bright with laughter and buoyant with song. It is black with sorrow and red with blood… While, in the West, the new edifice of Pakistan is emerging above its foundations, in the fire-ravaged countryside of the East, the ancient homesteads of our less fortunate brothers are crumbling into ashes: while we are entering into our heritage, they are being turned out of theirs… In Eastern Punjab an undetermined number of Muslim villages have been destroyed, an indefinite number of Muslim men, women and children have been bestially butchered and the killing and destruction, as yet, show no sign of abatement.
“Our unfortunate country has witnessed other tragedies of a similar nature in recent times but a number of crucial factors which operated in Eastern Punjab, did not exist elsewhere…. the Provincial Governor (and) …his administration were duly informed, both through their own resources and through repeated representations made to them by responsible public men, that one community (read ‘Hindu and Sikhs’) was making extensive preparations for organised offence while the community marked out as the victim (read Muslims) was being reduced to utter helplessness through forcible disarming. ….The Sikh leader(s) who went about preaching fire and sword in every hamlet and town were allowed the maximum liberty of action and speech. All the stringent laws banning public meetings, provocative speeches, organisations for violence, etc. suddenly paled into invalidity at the remotest approach of hate-maddened communalists (read Hindus and Sikhs)…..Even though the timing of the tragedy was known well in advance, the civil administration was allowed to go completely partisan precisely at the same juncture and to cap it all the entire”
“Muslim police force stationed in Amritsar was collected and disarmed under false pretences. This last was the most treacherous act of all and its repercussions were frightful and immediate. It is impossible to believe, therefore, that the misfortunes of our brethren in the East were either a visitation of Fate or a calamitous upheaval of unforeseen communal frenzy. It appears to have been, on the other hand, cold-blooded premeditated murder and if the criminals are not made to appear at the bar of justice, they will not escape the bar of history.. We regret to have to soil our pen on this day with this sordid tale but it has to be told and it has not yet concluded.”
“Our brothers in the East are today the subjects of another State. We have no desire to cringe or whine before the new administration that has today taken over and we shall not enjoin this course on our brothers. We may not be able to render them any great material help, although we shall do the best we can, we are fully confident that they will bear up bravely in the ordeal that confronts them and retain their self-respect and their solidarity, however hard these virtues might appear to be in the face of cold, mechanised destruction. …We have to realise, however, that the only real support that we can render to our people outside Pakistan is to make Pakistan so strong and so powerful that all our neighbours are forced to territories. …Our present sorrow is but a passing phase and must not be allowed to damage our national heritage that is permanent and enduring. Let us enter into our heritage, devoutly and thankfully, even though the steps are stained with blood and the threshold washed in tears.”
Faiz’s homage to Jinnah
In what could be termed a hagiography of Jinnah, Faiz wrote an editorial in The Pakistan Times dated 27 December 1947 titled ‘Homage’:
“As we write the Muslims of India and Pakistan are celebrating the birthday of the Quaid-i-Azam. As the man who has propelled, guided and controlled the national policies of nearly a hundred million human souls, the man who has been responsible for the birth of a major state and the liberation of a major nation from economic and political bondage, the Quaid-i-Azam has already passed into history. With the establishment of Pakistan, the mandate entrusted to him by his people may be considered to have been fulfilled and his historical role as the architect of our national State may be said to have reached its glorious consummation. The attainment of this objective demanded a steadiness of vision, fixity of purpose, an amount of unflagging devotion and courage that are rarely found among a people, broken and debased by enslavement and exploitation.”
“The history of nations however is continuum like time, and the culmination of one struggle merely means the commencement of another. The mission of our national leaders, therefore, is far from complete and the national objective we have formally attained still awaits its material content. The future of Indian Muslims who have done as much and suffered far more for Pakistan than we the Muslims of Pakistan have, is still uncertain… We have not yet had a glimpse of the Pakistan of our dreams, for we are still besieged by all the ills that have plagued us in the past and the common man has yet to taste the contentment, physical and spiritual, of a free and prosperous existence. The helmsmen of the nation, therefore, of whom the Quaid-i-Azam is the greatest and the most indefatigable, have far from reached the end of their labours and the future of the nation depends as much on their sagacity today as it has dependent on their industry and devotion in the past.”
Faiz on Baluchistan
It is well-known fact Pakistan had forcibly annexed Baluchistan. Baluchis are fighting for their freedom to date. But Faiz was quick to endorse this illegal occupation of Baluchistan by the Pakistani establishment. In an editorial dated 29 June 1947 titled ‘Baluchistan’ he wrote:
“On June, 30th the representatives of Baluchistan consisting of the Shahi Jirga (excluding the Kalat State nominees) and non-official members of the Quetta Municipality, will be called upon to record their vote in favour of joining either of the Constituent Assemblies. From all indications, public opinion in that Province is overwhelmingly in favour of entering the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. ….It is not only geography but religion and ideology as well, that render Baluchistan’s kinship with Pakistan, all the closer. It is hoped that the Baluch Province will enthusiastically respond to the call of the great leader, who has served it and the rest of Muslim India, for ten years, with wholehearted devotion, singleness of purpose and unrivalled sagacity. There will be efforts maybe some of them determined and even ingenious to disrupt Muslim unity in Baluchistan; but it is for the Baluchis to present a solid, invincible form against all such machinations. The Muslims of Sylhet will also be faced with a similar situation and it goes without saying that they will cast their vote for Muslim solidarity.”
After examining his writings, it is clear that Faiz was not only a fanatic but was also an intellectually dishonest man. He had put on the façade of a Marxist and progressive thinker but his writings reflect his real self. And incidentally, Faiz is no exception! Most of the so-called progressive writers and thinkers have indulged in double-speak. So next time, you hear a ‘revolutionary couplet or a quote by one of them, do dig a little deeper or at least scratch the surface and you would realise: “All that glitters is not gold.”
The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books. Views expressed are personal.