Even today questions are a crime in the Sultanate of ‘Zahhak’…

In Mohammad Hassan’s play ‘Zahhak’, there is an open opposition to the form of power in which the army, artists, writers, journalists, courts and all democratic institutions become supporters of the government. The biggest question of the play is that who is the ‘Zahak’ in the present power of the country? Do we still know the answer?

(Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty/The Wire)

If we talk about ‘Jam-e-Jam’ i.e. ‘Jam-e-Jamshed’ in the era of intelligence government manipulations like Tech Fog App and Pegasus, then know what the meaning of people-bagh is.

Despite this, the expression of literature absorbs the politics of its time in many ways.

However, it is possible that many people are unaware of ‘Jam-e-Jam’, so let me repeat for them that just as the description of incredible things is found in Indian mythology, similarly it is the story of ‘Jamshed’, the king of Iran that he had a There was a magic cup in which he could see everything he wanted.

In a way, in the form of ‘Jam-e-Jam’, Jamshed had a weapon to ‘protect’ his power. It is said that there was happiness in his kingdom, but there came a time when his pride and arrogance declared in the style of ‘I am God’ that there is no king except him in the world.

In such a situation, the people went against him, then taking advantage of this, a cruel emperor of the same time ‘Zahhak’ attacked his kingdom and got him cut with a saw.

During this time, snakes grew on both his shoulders due to ‘Zahhak’ falling into the trap of some demonic powers, now his trouble was that those snakes had to be fed by humans daily, otherwise it was difficult for him to live in peace. .

It is said about this ‘Zahhak’ that he had made a magical ‘Aaina-Khana’ more than a magical cup like ‘Jam-e-Jam’, due to which no one can escape from his sight at a distance was.

Here it may seem that I sat down with a tale of helpless feet.

So let me say that this story was already in human civilization and even today there are characters who represent it in the power of the world, it is another matter that we come across it for the first time in Ferdowsi’s classic work ‘Shahnama’.

Here we are talking about the same firdausi, whose stories like the tales of ‘Rustam and Sohrab’ were taught to us in the Persian curriculum during our school days. Later we read more stories of this through Urdu translation as well, and thus many wonderful lessons of love, rebellion, protest, cruelty, valor, wickedness and humanity became a part of our surprise.

But the question still remains that why am I remembering this anecdote. The first thing is that ‘Zahhak’, who has always been there, is still a crime in his sultanate.

And on his shoulder is the same black snake, which every day (human magz, put in contemporary context, urbanites with dissimilar views from the government) makes them feel ‘safe’ by the news of arrests and FIRs.

And like ‘Zahhak’, the eyes of this power are fixed on us.

The second reason is also that from this immortal work of Ferdowsi, from time to time, not only the meanings against power in the literature of the world have been recovered, but the tone of protest and rebellion through a new composition has been expanded by expanding its plot. Made even more sharp.

In such a situation, there must be a discussion of Urdu progressive writer Mohammad Hassan’s play ‘Zahhak’ among the many questions and speculations about civil rights abuses, media’s presence and judiciary.

Hasan sahib wrote the entire play during the Emergency, apart from the opening parts, and we are one of the lucky few who read it in his MA course at JNU and heard many stories about it from his disciples and his teachers.

Hasan Saheb is known to a world, he was not only a critic and litterateur of the next series of progressive writers, as well as his contribution in building and grooming JNU’s ‘Indian Language Center’. It can be understood from just these two gestures that how Hasan Saheb would have opened the layers of emergency in it and what kind of meanings must have been extracted from the story of Ferdowsi. And what is the significance of this lesson today?

For now, listen to this incident that Siddiqur Rahman Kidwai, his colleague in JNU at that time and learned critic of our times, after hearing just one act, had said that it could be dangerous to present it in public.

Therefore, what would have been staged, it was recited in a closed room of the university itself. At that time, it was also the opinion of some people that it should be printed in the name of a fictional author from some other country.

After all, what was this panic of Emergency, which was forced to ‘bury’ this play in a closed room even in JNU of that time. According to Hasan Saheb in this regard, at that time there was a ‘jabaan-bandi’. There was a feeling of displeasure while taking newspapers in hand, because newspapers were a bundle of lies.

Writes, ‘The meaning of the words had changed. The incidents which they were seeing with their own eyes, they either did not find a place in the newspaper from the end or something happened.

The situation was that every word of his literary magazine ‘Asari Adab’ was getting censored. The reason may also have been that he had openly criticized Indira Gandhi and Congress in his magazine.

However, he says, ‘At the end of the night there was a knock on the door in the neighborhood and then that person would not be seen anywhere. It seemed that he went to jail. Sometimes it seemed to have gone missing.

write in one place; ‘In the drawing room, in the bus, on the road people were passing breathlessly, not knowing who the detective was.’

In such a situation, Kidwai sahib may have rightly said that it can be a risky act to present such a drama, in many acts of which the voices of direct protest against the power are clearly heard even today.

However, at the same time some alumni of the National School of Drama (NSD) who had formed a group called ‘Hum’ wanted to stage it. So the work on the play started and preparations for transliteration from Urdu to Hindi also started.

And at the same time a group of some JNU students also intended to stage it under the supervision of Vijay Shankar Choudhary. But the matter again came to a halt on the ‘language-bandi’ of that time.

The terror of that time has its place, but it is amazing that Hasan Sahab found the metaphor of that power and government machinery in the story of a emperor who was alive on human sends.

Simply put, he likened the prime minister of that time to a ruthless king like ‘Zahak’. This story was relevant then, but today its relevance is more understandable than ever.

According to Hasan Sahab, at that time the condition of the language was that the approval had to be obtained from the government and by a stalwart like Ibrahim Alkazi.Danton’s DeathThe government also objected to the staging of ‘, because this play based on the character of the same name from the French Revolution seemed to reveal the face of the truth of that time.

Such news and things are heard even today. Well, as a result ‘Zahhak’ was not printed and staged at that time.

And when the force of the Emergency cooled down a bit, around 1977, Vijay Shankar Choudhary encouraged it to be staged at the Shri Ram Center in Delhi.

What would have been its grandeur on stage, we do not know, but reading this political allegory, it seems as if we are passing through the political landscape of our time.

In fact, it is an open protest against the form of power in which the army, artists, writers, journalists, courts and all democratic institutions become supporters of the government.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that during the Emergency, many Urdu story writers registered their protest against the dictatorship of power by making the topic ‘snakes eat human skulls’.

Needless to say, the human skull and venomous snakes allegory allude to the oppression of the ruling elite, which is still used today to trample on freedom of expression.

Picture of Zahhak included in Shahnama Urdu, published in 1872 by Naval Kishore Press.

Coming to its story, the vulture is worshiped in the power of ‘Zahhak’, and if anyone talks about the snake sitting on his shoulder, then his sent is taken away.

Now keeping in mind the point of snakes and human beings, watch some dialogues;

Judge: Our prisons are full of prisoners and there are those who have been sentenced to death.

Vazir: We know, but how many days work can be done by their sends…

Judge: The court is your slave.

Vizier: No, we don’t want to take the law into our own hands. We respect the law. Law is not a toy in the hands of Iktidar (power). No one is above the law, only the country is above the law. And for the honor of a country…

Judge: We will give capital punishment to as many people as possible so that the welfare of the country is safe…

Vazir: If you hang four townspeople every day, the city will boil with anger and hatred. Only your executioner cannot send us four from your hanging house, someone else has to think about it…

Vazir: For this work the whole face of the country will have to be changed, the law will have to be changed, the attitude of the people will have to be changed, the structure of the society will have to be changed…

On this verbal exchange of characters, perhaps nothing needs to be said separately that even in the undeclared emergency it is not a fantasy. So Bila Tabsira presents some more dialogues;

Pull the tongues of those who ask. Rip the doubting hearts out of their chests. In our business, the question is a crime. Who should be punished.

‘Fauji Officer: Wazir-e-Azam My suggestion is that the use of unnecessary words should be banned.’

‘Wazir-e-Azam: All the words of the era will have to be changed so that my Mohsin Shahenshah is not called a murderer.’

‘I am not interested in questions.’

‘Those eyes are watching us, those ears are listening to us.’

‘We will make the same kind of decisions as the laws are made.’

‘Rakkasa: The kind of tune that will be there will be a dance of that kind.’

‘Don’t raise your head, it’s okay to crawl.’

These are some examples in front, which we have become accustomed to read in today’s news other than this drama.

In fact, Hasan sahib, along with the political concerns of his time, has presented all the basic questions in it, which are also being born from the womb of our time.

Now the advocates of power who have been talked about here, on one occasion their conscience abuses them, then they mourn their conscience and fury. But there is some intelligence system which is watching all this, in such a situation they are arrested and presented in front of the executioner and it is told that;

‘None of you is taller than a sword.’

The amazing thing is that showing the mirror to such a oppressive system, Hasan Saheb has made the voice of two helpless and toiling people a slogan of struggle in this.

In this way, while its ink is thick against the democratic institutions, the courts, the law, the art, the religion, which is all used for its own purpose, there is also a progressive writer’s point of view on the class struggle, industrial development and human beings trapped in the slavery of machines. Comes.

Thus the biggest slogan of Hasan Saheb’s ‘aam aadmi’ in this story of a ruthless king like ‘Zahhak’ is that;

‘I want to die in such a way that the denial lives on my lips.’

Perhaps that is why a critic like Gyanchand Jain had to say that ‘there is nowhere else to find ehtijaz (protest) against the Emergency in Urdu literature so vigorously, so vigorously, so composed and over the entire spectrum.’

And even now perhaps the biggest question of this drama is who is the ‘Zahhak’ in the current power of the country? Any one person, the ideology running this government machinery or its democratic institutions? Because;

‘Wherever Zahhak raises his head, the hand of Faridoo or any of his fellow brothers and sisters will surely rise. Cut off the stitches of these people, let us go in search of a new identity.’

And here the curtain falls in the play, but…

Categories: india special society

Tagged as: ART, Art of Dissent, Artist, Courts, Democracy, dissent, Drama Zahhak, Emergency, Establishment, Governments, indira gandhi, JNU, media, Mohammad Hasan, News, newspaper, politics, protest, religion, The Wire Hindi, writer


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