Arise!  Prisoners of Hunger (Jago Anashana Bandi Otho Re Joto)

(An English translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Bengali version of The Internationale from 1927) [Current translation by and copyright © Monish R Chatterjee (2024)]

Kazi Nazrul Islam

                                         Arise! Ye prisoners of hunger, rise up, all

                                     All Ye tormented and bereft of fortune- Arise!

     Smiting                  every last knock with a mighty thunderbolt

     Roars                      the booming voice of the trampled and oppressed

     Reborn                   today, a peerless new world- behold, yonder arrived.

     Chains,                  these, of habit and ritual, they bind and hold us back

     Roots                     they are, of our misfortune, we shall smash them all.

     Shattering             those mighty prison walls, break free, all Ye destitutes

     None                     shall ever again remain trampled underfoot of tyranny.

                                    From the depths of a new foundation

     Rejuvenant           Phoenix-like, shall arise a youthful new world

     Listen                    Ye tyrant!  Listen, Ye hoarder, Ye heartless profiteer!

     Paupers                 we were yesterday, We, Universal Victors of tomorrow.

     Hark                      warriors, at this final battlefield for your rights

     Stand                     upright, my brothers, stand for all that is rightfully yours

     Solidarity              this, from the heart of all the people

     Solidarity              this, of the Internationale 

     Ensign                   it shall be, of ever-free Humanity!!

Bengali version of The Internationale

[The Bengali version of the history-making freedom song, the anthem of the oppressed, The International, originally written by Eugène Pottier of the Paris Commune, was composed during the progressively intensifying freedom movement in India against the British colonial occupation of the sub-continent in the early 1900s.  As the links provided in this write-up will illustrate, this masterful Bengali translation, along with the attendant musical composition, was a result of the co-Founder of the Communist Party of India, Muzaffar Ahmad (1889-1973), approaching the poet, composer and versatile literary genius, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), in 1927, and requesting that Nazrul create a Bengali version of The Internationale. The result was this exquisite poem/song, which included contextual aspects pertinent to the Indian struggle.  Nazrul liberally uses such Bengali words for oppressed and socially disinherited people as sarbahara, sanhati, sangram, sanchayi, nipirita – words which have defined progressive and anti-imperialist movements in Bengal and equivalently elsewhere in India. 

For this author (MRC), this song had somehow maintained a connection (because of its early connection to the cause of “prisoners on hungerstrike” in protest against injustice within and outside prisons.  This author was convinced since childhood that Kazi Nazrul likely wrote this song in solidarity with the famous hunger strike by the young Jatin Das (1904-1929) in Lahore Central Jail, leading to his death (an antecedent to the Bobby Sands (1954-1981) incident in the Northern Ireland conflict).  It was only later that MRC has discovered that Kazi Nazrul’s translation occurred in 1927- 2 years prior to the Jatin Das martyrdom.  Nevertheless, the song itself resonates rather well with the stories of political prisoners and indeed martyrs from the Indian freedom movement around approximately the same time period.  Nazrul, who was a highly creative and inspired literary disciple of Rabindranath Tagore, wrote a great many stirring songs with rhythmic, militant beats dedicated to the Indian freedom fighters.  These songs created unmatched fervor among thousands of Indian/Bengali youth who entered the campaigns for freedom and social justice.  His poem Bidrohi (The Rebel) forever enshrined Kazi Nazrul (whose creative versatility went far beyond his revolutionary poems) as the pre-eminent literary voice of the Indian anti-colonial, anti-imperial movement in Bengal.  More details pertinent to the evolution and emergence of Kazi Nazrul’s contribution to the translation of The Internationale may be foud in the related link within the “Bengali translation” section from Wikipedia.  Monish R Chatterjee]

Notes:

What follows is a further discussion related to The Internationale as it appears in Wikipedia.  For a long time, MRC had wanted to translate the stunningly beautiful Bengali version of “The Internationale” back into English. As indicated earlier, the Bengali version was written by none other than Kazi Nazrul Islam, one of MRC’s favorite Bengali poets, musicians and composers (perhaps next only to Rabindranath Tagore). Of course, upon perusing Google, it is found that the French original of this epochal song has been translated into myriad languages, and it is special that Bengali is one of them. Since one or more English versions are extant, translating the same from the Bengali may appear redundant.  However, upon further consideration, the current author has created this translation, since the Bengali version has contextual novelties created by Kazi Nazrul, some of which have been discussed above.

MRC has incorporated some extensions to the portion of The Internationale in Wikipedia on the Bengali version. Also added is the Bengali song related to Nazrul’s composition, sung originally by Satya Chowdhury.  Here are the links to the Wiki page with the Bengali entry. Also excerpted here is the Bengali portion with MRC’s edits.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internationale…

[From Wiki]

Bengali translation [edit]

“The Internationale” was first translated to Bengali by the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Nazrul, who was greatly inspired by the tenets of Socialism and its relevance to India under British colonial occupation, authored numerous poems in Bengali highlighting socio-political issues, including gender and economic inequities, and social justice overall. Around 1927, Nazrul (already an established poet and composer), was approached by Muzaffar Ahmad, one of the Founders of the Communist Party of India, requesting that he translate the celebrated song into Bengali. While it maintains the essential theme of the original (via the English version), Nazrul skillfully inserted salient social issues into it within the Indian context. It was also translated by Hemanga Biswas[73] and Mohit Banerji, that was subsequently adopted by West Bengal’s Left Front[74]. Here is the Bengali audio version, performed by Satya Chowdhury[75]. Appended below are the Bengali lyrics written by Kazi Nazrul Islam: [76]. 

For Satya Chowdhury’s Bengali rendition, please follow the ref. [75] in Wiki (link provided by me), or peruse this link:

Dr. Monish R. Chatterjee, a professor at the University of Dayton who specializes in applied optics, has contributed more than 130 papers to technical conferences, and has published more than 70 papers in archival journals and conference proceedings, in addition to numerous reference articles on science.  He has also authored several literary essays and four books of literary translations from his native Bengali into English (Kamalakanta, Profiles in Faith, Balika Badhu, and Seasons of Life), and contributed to several literary anthologies.  Dr. Chatterjee believes strongly in humanitarian activism for social justice.

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