“Iss zulm mein jo khamosh rahe,
Zaalim bhi wahi, qatil bhi wahi”
Twenty-three-year-old Sabika Naqvi is reciting a poem in protest against mob lynching in the middle of Connaught Place, New Delhi. “Those who stay silent are oppressors and killers too, those who want to walk away and take no responsibility are party to the injustice”, she warns. Syncing her feet to Sabika’s verses is Anannya Chatterjee, also 23.
Sabika’s poetry and Annanya’s Bharatnatyam have stopped a hundred or so passersby in their tracks on a Saturday evening. The circle of onlookers watches on in rapt attention as the two young artistes plead them to spread love in these times of hate.
The crowd is a composite one – from idle cabbies to shoppers with toddlers in tow. Sabika’s verses address them not on the basis of age, class, caste or creed. But as human beings. She asks:
Those assembled know the cases all too well. From Dadri’s Akhlaq to Basirhat’s Kartik Ghosh, from Hafiz Junaid in Ballabgarh to Pehlu Khan in Alwar and Ayub Pandith in Srinagar – mob lynchings are the new normal.
Protest Through Poetry and a Dance for Dissent
On being asked about the message she wishes to spread through this protest performance, Sabika replied, “We will spread more love than those dividing us can spread hate. Poetry is the only weapon I have. We don’t have sticks and stones. We will fight through our poems and our ghungroos.”
The following is an excerpt from Sabika and Annanya’s performance, with translations.
Kyun aaj pyaar mushkil,
Why is love so difficult,
And hate so easy today?
Sadak par kiss karna mushkil,
Lynch karna asaan
So difficult to kiss on the road
But lynching, so easy.
Aisa nahi hai ke hum pyaar nahi kartey,
Magar sirf apne jaison se
Apne mazhab ke, apni jaat ke,
Apne khuda se
You know, we love, we love a lot
But only those who are like us
From our religion, our caste
Who believe in our gods
That is it.
Ab aap batayein kya zyada mushkil hai
Mohabbat ya nafrat?
Chhura ghopna ya galey lagana?
Muskurana ya phail machana?
Gaali sunana ya gaane gaana
Logon ko desh se baahar bhagana ya mehmaan bulana
For I really want to know,
What is easier?
Love or hate?
A stab in the chest or a warm hug?
A smile or a slur?
Abuse or songs of love?
Throwing people out of your country (and home and heart) or inviting them over?
Aaj ruuh se poochcho
Badan toh hai, magar kya ruuh insaan hai?
Ask your soul today,
Your flesh is surely human, but is your soul human too?
Camera: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam