After a reading of Faiz’s ‘Hum Dekhenge’ by the students during a protest, a faculty member complained to the director for its ‘objectionable’ content
THE COMMITTEE set up by IIT Kanpur’s director said it was “unfortunate” that the university’s students recited the poem Hum Dekhenge by Faiz Ahmed Faiz during a December protest against the police crackdown on students at Jamia Millia University, Delhi.
The committee was set up to probe the incident after a faculty member, Vashimant Sharma, objected to the poem. The committee concluded it was “unfortunate that the participants decided to recite the poem at that time and place.” It also said that the role of five students and six faculty members in the protest was “less than desirable” and they should be “counselled”.
On December 17, in the midst of countrywide outrage against the new citizenship law and the police crackdown on Jamia students, the students of IIT Kanpur had organised a protest march. Permission for the march was subsequently revoked by the authorities and Section 144 owas imposed.
However, the students decided to hold a silent march. Here, they read aloud the poem Hum Dekhenge, by renowned Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The poem has now become a warcry against the citizenship law across the country.
Vashimant Sharma, a member of faculty at IIT Kanpur, filed a complaint with the IIT director. His complaint was directed against two lines: “Jab arz-e-khuda ke kaabey sey, sab buth utthvaaye jayengey (When from the sacred square of the Kaaba, false idols will be uprooted”, and “Bas naam rahega allah ka, jo ghaayab bhee hai haazir bhee (Only the name of Allah will prevail, Allah who is invisible and yet omnipresent)”.
Sharma argued that in a country where the majority of citizens are idol worshippers, the poem shouldn’t be recited since it might hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. He filed a complaint regarding the same before the IIT director. In a blogpost, he said the lines were reminiscent of the Mughal and Muslim “invaders” who “targeted the temples and idols of Hindus”.
Sharma asked that “organisers and masterminds be identified and expelled immediately”.
Subsequently, Abhay Karandikar, the director of IIT Kanpur, set up a six-member committee to investigate, headed by Manindra Agrawal, the deputy director of the institute.
Agrawal told Newslaundry, “It was unfortunate that the participants decided to recite the poem at that time and place, as it was not the right environment. I have nothing new to add to what has already been said as the inquiry is now closed.”
With regard to the recital of the poem, Agrawal said, “The person who recited that poem agreed with this perspective and wrote a note saying that he regrets it in case anybody’s feelings were hurt.”
He emphasised that the “interpretation of the poem” was not a point of discussion for the committee, just the actions of the faculty and students of IIT Kanpur.
Earlier this week, Agrawal told Indian Express: “The committee observed that perhaps, at that time and place, it was not the most suitable thing to say. The person who recited that (poem) agreed with this perspective and wrote a note saying that he regrets (it) in case anybody’s feelings were hurt. So that matter was closed.”
IIT Kanpur’s decision to set up a committee in the first place had been widely criticised. Renowned Urdu poet and lyricist, Javed Akhtar, remarked, “Calling Faiz Ahmad Faiz ‘anti-Hindu’ is so absurd and funny that it’s difficult to seriously talk about it.”
Faculty members of IIT Kanpur had also written an open letter at the time, which read, “We, your teachers, stand by you in your attempts to express yourself in a responsible manner on any issue…And as teachers, we will strive to create an atmosphere in our campus where you can fearlessly express your opinion in any form, responsibly and conscientiously.”