Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Conspiracy theory against Pakistan's national anthem

Recently a conspiracy theory was floated from the Indian side with reference to the poet-scholar Jagan Nath Azad who died in 2004. Chandra Azad, reportedly the dead poet’s son, claimed that the poet mentioned to him that he was summoned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah just before independence and asked to write the national anthem of Pakistan, which got written and adopted, and kept being played from Radio Pakistan until the death of Jinnah, after which it was dropped because the author was non-Muslim.

The exponents did not produce any evidence but the theory still got presented as established fact in Humsafar, the glossy magazine of Pakistan International Airlines! (Yeah, great people to fly with). Soon it was all over the place, of course including the Wikipedia entry on Pakistan’s national anthem (modified since then) and also on some allegedly Pakistani blogs by alleged Pakistanis).

I was among those who were approached by friends and students for expert opinion. I could only say that it was mere gossip until some evidence was presented, and I was not comfortable discussing hearsay.

Dr. Safdar Mahmood has now done thorough investigation on the matter, for which the nation owes him gratitude. Painstakingly, he has gone through records of Jinnah’s visitors, lists of radio broadcasts and newspapers of the era as well as biographical material about the poet himself. He found no evidence that the poet ever met Jinnah, and some evidence to show that he definitely didn’t meet Jinnah in the initial days of the country’s existence. No national anthem was ever mentioned in any newspaper or contemporary record prior to the adoption of the present one at a much later date. His valuable article is available online (in Urdu).

May we expect that Pakistani writers who inadvertently became used in this dirty conspiracy against the nation’s self-image will now correct their error? They can also make some compensation by mentioning that Pakistan is proud of its national anthem, written by Hafeez Jallundhri, a poet loved by the masses, and the hymn which he wrote in honor of Lord Krishna used to be sung in the temples of Varanasi (Benaras) in the late 1920s, before the pundits decided that poetry written by a non-Hindu could not be given that place.

Next time someone from the other side comes up with such stuff, should we whisper the magic phrase: “Calcutta Congress, December 1911"? (In the Calcutta session of December 1911, Indian National Congress sung a hymn to King George V, describing him as “the ruler of the minds of all people, dispenser of India’s destiny”, and this is the Indian national anthem adopted on January 24, 1950, embarrassing many Indian writers such as the one who posted on the official website of Hamilton Institute, New York).

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