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From Lodi to Modi, Kabir will continue to be more powerful

June 24 marks the birth anniversary of a revolutionary poet and saint whose rebellious rhymes will always remain relevant

Gurpreet Singh 25 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:latestly.com

Kabir was born to a Muslim family of weavers in Varanasi, India in 1398. He had denounced orthodoxy of both the Islam and Hinduism and was highly critical of blind faith and the brutal caste system within the Hindu society. He grew up as a poet whose body of work had also inspired Sikh gurus who included his verses in their holy scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib.  

Some of his poems were no less than a war cry that inspired many radicals to take to the arms to fight against injustice and repression. He mainly stood for the poor and marginalised that incited the Hindu and Muslim clergy to team up against him and provoke the then-Delhi emperor Sikandar Lodi to punish him. However, Kabir survived several attempts by Lodi to get him executed. This was primarily because he had a huge following even among those who worked for the king.  

Ironically, his birthplace is now the constituency of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose actions are allegedly the mirror image of Lodi. Not only the attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under his ruling Hindutva nationalist BJP government, the Hindutva orthodoxy that Kabir had challenged has captured the centre stage of Indian politics.  

Rather Modi has been trying to appropriate Kabir. On Thursday, while paying tribute to the saint on his birth anniversary, Modi said that the path shown by him will continue to inspire generations to move ahead with brotherhood and goodwill. What could be more contradictory than someone like Modi saying it when his government has locked up scholars who have been standing up for the underdog following in the footsteps of Kabir. The list is long, but just a few instances are enough to suggest that he has no moral right to even talk about Kabir.  

Anand Teltumbde, the grandson-in-law of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a towering social justice activist and the architect of the Indian constitution whose family is believed to have been influenced by Kabir, is being incarcerated for the past one year on trumped up charges for merely questioning the power. Teltumbde is a renowned writer and columnist who exactly practiced what Kabir had preached.    

Likewise, Prof. G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University who is disabled below the waist continues to be jailed under inhuman conditions for raising his voice against repression of minorities and the poor. An elderly revolutionary poet Vara Vara Rao too is detained to silence any voice of reason and dissent.

Maybe, we need to remind Modi that it was Kabir who had said; “The brave is the one who fights for the oppressed.” By persecuting Teltumbde, Saibaba, Rao and many more like them, Modi is simply repeating what Lodi did centuries ago.  

Related:

Kashi ka Kabir
Remembering Kazi Nazrul Islam: Syncretic secularism in face of a communal divide

From Lodi to Modi, Kabir will continue to be more powerful

June 24 marks the birth anniversary of a revolutionary poet and saint whose rebellious rhymes will always remain relevant

Image Courtesy:latestly.com

Kabir was born to a Muslim family of weavers in Varanasi, India in 1398. He had denounced orthodoxy of both the Islam and Hinduism and was highly critical of blind faith and the brutal caste system within the Hindu society. He grew up as a poet whose body of work had also inspired Sikh gurus who included his verses in their holy scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib.  

Some of his poems were no less than a war cry that inspired many radicals to take to the arms to fight against injustice and repression. He mainly stood for the poor and marginalised that incited the Hindu and Muslim clergy to team up against him and provoke the then-Delhi emperor Sikandar Lodi to punish him. However, Kabir survived several attempts by Lodi to get him executed. This was primarily because he had a huge following even among those who worked for the king.  

Ironically, his birthplace is now the constituency of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose actions are allegedly the mirror image of Lodi. Not only the attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under his ruling Hindutva nationalist BJP government, the Hindutva orthodoxy that Kabir had challenged has captured the centre stage of Indian politics.  

Rather Modi has been trying to appropriate Kabir. On Thursday, while paying tribute to the saint on his birth anniversary, Modi said that the path shown by him will continue to inspire generations to move ahead with brotherhood and goodwill. What could be more contradictory than someone like Modi saying it when his government has locked up scholars who have been standing up for the underdog following in the footsteps of Kabir. The list is long, but just a few instances are enough to suggest that he has no moral right to even talk about Kabir.  

Anand Teltumbde, the grandson-in-law of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a towering social justice activist and the architect of the Indian constitution whose family is believed to have been influenced by Kabir, is being incarcerated for the past one year on trumped up charges for merely questioning the power. Teltumbde is a renowned writer and columnist who exactly practiced what Kabir had preached.    

Likewise, Prof. G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University who is disabled below the waist continues to be jailed under inhuman conditions for raising his voice against repression of minorities and the poor. An elderly revolutionary poet Vara Vara Rao too is detained to silence any voice of reason and dissent.

Maybe, we need to remind Modi that it was Kabir who had said; “The brave is the one who fights for the oppressed.” By persecuting Teltumbde, Saibaba, Rao and many more like them, Modi is simply repeating what Lodi did centuries ago.  

Related:

Kashi ka Kabir
Remembering Kazi Nazrul Islam: Syncretic secularism in face of a communal divide

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