Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976)

The Caste Hooligans –    Part II – ( Jaater Naame Bajjati Shob )

 

Blinded even in daylight, do you see not

How every moment of every day, this caste insanity

In the grinding stone of its crushing mill

Is pounding every one of you to pulp?

The weight of your caste insanity is killing this very nation

Rejecting cleansing sunlight, you chose darkness

Knowing not that your very own Bhagiratha

Channeled the holy waters, washed over the footwear

Of every caste and outcaste?

 

Forget not that the Rishi Manu is a mere speck next to

The Universal laws- and yet, mocking those all-embracing

Laws, it is Manu to whom you offer obeisance.

Alas, thoughtless dupes, know that Truth is higher by far

Than any scripture.  Yet, you see this not, beasts of burden

Hence in vain all your towing mountains of scripture.

All people on this earth arise from the same Creator

Home this is of the Universal Mother- to her they are

All equal, there is not one higher nor lower.

 

And here you are, despising her Creation

Irony of ironies, offering worship to the Creator all your life

That is, alas, nothing more than pouring ghee over ashes

Nothing more than milking the cow while killing the calf!

In the Creator’s Criminal Court, know that caste has no play

Your sacred thread or skull cap, your hat or your crown-

In that ultimate court, Brother, they are all the same.

Your vaunted caste will be cast aside

Your karma in this mortal life it is will face judgment

 

Indeed, on that judgment day, be it Brahmin, be it Untouchable

Karma decides heaven or hell for either.

Amplifying defunct, man-made rituals, to relegate

The call of Conscience, the divinity within, to nothingness

Know for sure is the gravest ill, for which night and day

You suffer the swipes of good old Singi Mama!

And so across the land, have no food, no clothing

Have no honor, no weapon to fight back-

The Caste Hooligans, for sure, have untold suffering, I see

Writ large upon their future!

(Above is the YouTube  vidoe to a powerful recitation of the entire poem by Kazi Nazrul’s eldest son, Kazi Sabyasachi, from the early 1970s)

Read Part – I

[Commentary: I have designated this Part II of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s powerful anti- casteism poem/song because it turns out that the portion typically available in the lyrics composed into music (from the 1940s) is actually a truncated version of the full poem which has further indictments and pronouncements, which in their original ring poignantly and persuasively true, and as I have written earlier, these pronouncements, much as delivered in Rabindranath Tagore’s Hey Mor Durbhaga Desh (My Wretched Country), are just as pertinent today, just about everywhere grave social injustice, discrimination and related brutality exist in human society. Thus, I have to set aside particularly the centuries-old history of abject and brutal racism and classism in the US, currently in open display for the world to see, or anywhere that fellow human beings are displaced from their home and homeland, and are relegated to ghettoized life (the predicament of the Palestinian people immediately comes to mind). Note that in these stanzas, which are most emotionally charged and rhyme magnificently to add more punch in the original Bengali, Kazi Nazrul, a Muslim poet highly representative of secular India, admonishes his Hindu brethren for their caste-based discrimination. He cites the misuse and actual abuse of the sage Manu’s scriptures (whose veracity may itself be brought to question, being antiquated, and much as scripture worldwide, more than likely designed to keep patriarchal and feudal control over society); he also invokes the powerful mythical image of the sage Bhagiratha who performed great penance for ages to finally be granted the release of the divine river Ganga to flow down to the earth from Shiva’s matted locks in order to deliver the souls of his ancestors. Furthermore, Nazrul invokes imagery of headgear and holy bodywear of several religions- the sacred thread of Hindu Brahmins, the skullcap or Yarmulke of followers of Judaism, the various hats worn in Islam and Christianity- implying none will have special play in the Courtroom of the Creator. Most powerfully, he chides his countrymen for their subjugation at the hands of “Singi Mama,” a Bengali derisive take on the English colonial occupiers (Singi, the Bengali corruption of Simha, the (English) Lion, which clawed and tormented Indians on a daily basis). Nazrul powerfully maintains that the river has actually traversed countless footwear belonging to every shade of the caste and color hierarchy. Hence the meaninglessness and destructiveness of these discriminatory tools. Furthermore, Nazrul invokes imagery of headgear and holy bodywear of several religions- the sacred thread of Hindu Brahmins, the skullcap or Yarmulke of followers of Judaism, the various hats worn in Islam and Christianity- implying none will have special play in the Courtroom of the Creator. Most significantly, he chides his countrymen for their subjugation at the hands of “Singi Mama,” a Bengali derisive take on the English colonial occupiers (Singi, the Bengali corruption of Simha, the (English) Lion, which clawed and oppressed Indians on a daily basis). MRC. ]

Translation © Monish R Chatterjee 2020


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