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Remembering Safdar Hashmi And Salman Taseer

By Raja Jaikrishan

09 January, 2011

On the New Year Day I joined hundreds on the lawns of Vithalbhai House to remember my friend Safdar Hashmi. Congress goons killed him this day in 1989. He was performing with his group the play, “Halla Bol” in a Delhi suburb.

The barbs intended at the system enraged the supporters of the Congress candidate in the local municipal elections. They attacked the performers with rods and chains. Grievously hurt Safdar succumbed to the injuries.

SAHMAT (The trust formed in his memory) has been remembering Safdar on this day by organizing an all-arts festival. This year’s theme was Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Photographer Ram Rahman drew a link between the assassination of Safdar and the “persecution of MF Husain, writer Arundhati Roy and activist Teesta Setalvad and called upon people to resist attempts to curb the right to expression. He also called the life term for Dr Binayak Sen as travesty of justice and demanded his release.

On the New Year’s eve, the religious Right wing parties of Pakistan enforced the shutter-down strike to protect the blasphemy laws.

At the center of the controversy is Asia Bibi, Christian. In November last year, the sessions Court convicted her for violating blasphemy laws and sentenced her to death.
In full media view, PPP leader Punjab Governor Salman Taseer met Asia in the Shekhupura jail. He got her thumb impression on the mercy petition and submitted it to President Asif Ali Zardari.

In the charged atmosphere, his security guard gunned down Taseer on Tuesday.

Taseer had tweeted on Thursday last: “ I was under pressure to cow down before rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I am last man standing”
Civil society bloggers seem to have decided to keep up their campaign against blasphemy laws.

“Enough is enough, another brave soldier has embraced martyrdom, this madness has to go, the blasphemy law along with all other black laws has to go, this chapter has not been closed, in fact his martyrdom has opened a new chapter… He is not dead, he is alive, looking at us saying, “I have done my part, what about you?”

Faiz wrote the Nazm 'Ham jo tareek rahon mein mare gaye' (We who were killed in the dark pathways) with the subtitle "Inspired by the letters of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg” in the Montgomery Jail in 1954.The couple had kept their loyalty intact with the future of humanity, revolution and love till their end.

Faiz was passing through circumstances somewhat similar to those faced by the Rosenberg couple. The charges against him were such that he could be sent to the gallows and like the Rosenbergs, he was also pleading not guilty to the charges.

There is a strange universality in this poem. Transcending the time and space of thousands of miles it has raised the martyrs of every country on the same pedestal.

The poem seems to be written about Karbala, Palasi, Sarangapatam, Jhansi, Jalianwala Bagh, Qissakhani, Stalingrad, Korea, Telangana, and appears to be about the students dying on the streets of Tehran, Karachi and Dhaka and the freedom fighters of Morocco, Tunis, Kenya and Malaya; Safdar and Salman Taseer,Faiz’s nephew. Let us transcend the pain of loss by singing this poem:

"In love of the roses of your lips
We offered ourselves to the
dry twig of gallows
Longing for the radiance of
your glowing hands
We let ourselves be slain in
half-lit pathways
If failure was our destined end
your love was indeed our own

Who is to blame if all the
roads of passion
led to the killing grounds of

Picking up our flags from
these grounds
will march forth more
caravans of your lovers

For whose journeys' sake, our
footsteps have
shortened the lengths of the
agonizing quest

For whose sake we have made
by losing our lives, the pledge
to your faithfulness

We, who were slain in unlit


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