Not in Lucknow!

Mehru Jaffer

This morning I woke to the very sad news that communal clashes had taken place in the old city of Lucknow. The quarrel was over the use of a loudspeaker during Friday prayers when angry Hindus and Muslims turned their backs on prayers to pelt stones at each other and to abuse! Blank shots were fired in the air when public property was also vandalised.

This is a painful moment for the citizens of Lucknow who are proud offsprings of the Ganga-Jamuni way of life. After all, it is said that Lucknow is different. Did not Asrar ul Haq Majaz, the romantic Urdu poet who died in 1955, convince the world what a paradise of beauty and grace is Lucknow?

Flowers bloom,

In every eye like a poem.

Trees of tolerance,

Refuge of Turks,

Home to many race,

Is Lucknow.

Maidens here,

The envy of every Cleopatra there.

Each corner a crowd of colour,

Picturesque paths,

Bud a playful poet.

The parlour of Shiraz,

Is Lucknow,

Here songsters sprout.

There is wine,

And clouds promise showers.

Swords unsheath to thundering clap,

Virgins unveil hidden darts.

The soul of Lucknow,

The seed of elegance,

Bewitches Spring till eternity.

Poppy the obsession though,

Musk the madness,

In the garden,

That is Lucknow.

Awkward tear,

Soils the wear,

Of the short visit,

Of the wanderer.

Sprinkle not the flowerbed with disrepute.

Before the air is spoiled,

By the heir of Yusuf,

Allow dawn,

To water a new way.

May the evening full of ruin,

Remain a memory,

Even after Majaz has called it a day.

The city has a long history of returning to its mellow tradition of magnanimity in the aftermath of every disturbance. Throughout its lush existence, Lucknow has seldom indulged in mindless rampage. When other pockets of the country witnessed bloody clashes between Muslim and Hindu populations during the birth of Pakistan in 1947, Lucknow remained a picture of communal harmony. Today, decay may hang over most parts of the city but the love of its citizens for each other and their joint love for the city are very much alive. This is due to centuries of practice of customs by populations as contradictory as the course followed by the Ganga and Jamuna rivers that finally converge at the Sangam in Allahabad, not far from Lucknow. In fact Ganga-Jamuni is always spoken here in a single breath in lyrical support of the symbiotic confluence and existence of both the Hindu and Muslim views of the world.

I become you.

You become me.

I am the soul

You are the heart.

How can they claim,

I am apart.

You are apart?

Amir Khusro wrote ecstatically about his relationship not only with the divine but also with the glorious landscape of the region where the poet of Persian origin was born in the 13th century in a western Uttar Pradesh village.

The reports of people from different communities attacking each other may give the impression that ordinary citizens in the city have now turned against each other and are forever ready to kill in the name of their respective gods. This is furthest from the truth.

Most citizens, both rich and poor, have no quarrel with the other’s way of life. It is only a handful of mischiefmakers who, for their own vested interests, force ordinary citizens to battle each other. Lucknow is fortunate not to have witnessed communal violence like some other places in the country because the tradition here is not to allow troublemakers to get away with their murderous design to disrupt communal harmony in the city.

As far back as the era of monarchy, then the colonial period and in post-Independence times, the rulers have not taken any nonsense from goons and lumpen elements and never allowed anyone to get away with murder.

However, in recent days the riff-raff who want to take over the city seem to rule while the law and order enforcement people remain quiet like cowards as if they would like to see the peace and quiet of the city shredded. If this is not so, why is it so difficult for those in power to simply forbid the use of public nuisance value things like loudspeakers by all citizens for private ceremonies like prayers, weddings, or funerals?

How difficult is that for the mighty to decree, unless of course the gameplan is to watch one section of the population butcher another set of people?

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2015