The students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur have hit a ‘blind spot’ over the inquiry into Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem ‘Hum dekhenge’ which was sung as a protest anthem at a solidarity march on December 17 in support of the students of Jamia Millia Islamia.
“We are completely unaware of the terms of reference of the inquiry and do not know what is going on. We are worried because we have not received any communication about the probe, as is the practice. We have hit a blind spot on this issue,” said a senior student who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Students are worried that they may be indicted without being given a chance to explain.
The inquiry committee was set up by IIT-Kanpur after a faculty member complained that the poem that was recited during the march was ‘anti-Hindu’ in nature and spirit.
As the decision to hold a probe into the poem led to national outrage, the IIT authorities said that the scope of investigation is much wider and relates to several allegations while the poem and its contents are just one aspect of it.
“The dean of academic classes, the dean of students’ welfare and the deputy director himself, who later ordered the inquiry, were present at the march. If they had an issue with the poem, they would have raised objections right there. But they did not and it turned into an issue later,” the students said.
The students have not been informed of the committee set up to probe the matter and have not even been called in to give their clarification, if any.
“We have been told that some students may be recalled on basis of photographs of the event. This is unfair. The probe should be impartial and transparent,” the students said.
A section of teachers at IIT-Kanpur wrote an open letter to students on Friday. “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,” the letter reads.
The Urdu poet from Pakistan’s Sialkot – a communist and an atheist – was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1963. He used religious metaphors in his poetry to attack the establishment.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz was jailed several times for his writings. He wrote “Hum dekhenge… (We will see)” – one of his best remembered compositions – in New York in 1979. It was a mark of protest against the Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who declared himself the President of Pakistan after overthrowing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government.
In 1986, the song assumed an iconic status after Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano sung the poem of defiance against the martial law in Lahore in front of a 50,000-plus crowd.
The complaint against the students was filed by Vashi Mant Sharma, who is part of the ‘INSPIRE’ faculty at the IIT-Kanpur.
A government document says the ‘INSPIRE’ scheme has been ‘designed to provide contractual research positions to young achievers for independent research and emerge as a leader in future science and technology’.
Sharma is also the mentor for a web portal called Agniveer, which lists work against conversions on its web page prominently.
Describing the march at IIT-Kanpur on December 17, Sharma on his website said he confronted the students and ‘knew the poem’.
“I knew the poem. So I objected instantly. Few others joined me too. We outshouted the mob of 300. Since then, everybody is teaching us the context of these revolutionary lines,” he said.