Urdu satirist Mujtaba Hussain on returning his Padma Shri: Our democracy has been reduced to a joke

  • Remarking that his conscience isn’t allowing him to remain neutral, Mujtaba Hussain says that ‘he feels that his award holds no meaning’ when the country is burning.

  • Hussain refuses to link his award wapsi with the enactment of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) but points out to a host of decisions which has left him disheartened.

  • Terming the events unfolding as mazaak, he points out that democracies should not and cannot function in haste.

Itni jaldi kya hain? Har cheez abhi kyon kiya jaa raha hain…” (What is the hurry? What is everything being done now?) questions Mujtaba Hussain. The octogenarian is a celebrated Urdu author, humorist and satirist who has decided to return his Padma Shri (received in 2007) to register his protest against the ‘current atmosphere’ in the country.

Remarking that his conscience isn’t allowing him to remain neutral, he says that ‘he feels that his award holds no meaning’ when the country is burning. The eminent Urdu laureate who has penned around 25 books has seen his works used as textbooks by many states and is one of the rare breed of regional writers who dabble in humor.

 Urdu satirist Mujtaba Hussain on returning his Padma Shri: Our democracy has been reduced to a joke

Mujtaba Hussain being awarded the Padma Shri by then president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Photo via mujtabahussain.com

Hussain refuses to link his award wapsi with the enactment of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) but points out to a host of decisions which has left him disheartened. “Our democracy has been reduced to a joke. Governments are sworn in at morning and have to resign in just a day or two. Elected legislative members are poached without any compunction. Mobs are lynching people all over the country. I strongly feel that our democratic system is being broken down and the values of our country are slowly being diminished.” he states.

The author says that there is a farce unfolding in the country which undermines everything we have achieved since Independence. “The country is being divided in a manner never done before,” he says. “I have seen the freedom struggle waged by our countrymen but have never seen anything like this. An atmosphere of fear, mistrust and anxiety has gripped the nation which is unprecedented.”

The Hyderabad-based author points out a spate of decisions taken in the past couple of years which have troubled him. From Kashmir to NRC, he terms the decisions as hasty and against the secular fabric of the country. “Look at what is happening in Kashmir. It is under lockdown for months and there is no way of knowing what’s happening there.”

Regarding CAA and National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Hussain opines that a lot of people are disturbed by the very idea of the exercise. “The government isn’t very forthcoming on what they want to do. They can neither explain nor justify what they want to do. Some states say that they will not allow it within their borders which is only resulting in more confusion,” he says.

Terming the events unfolding as mazaak, he points out that democracies should not and cannot function in haste. “There are a lot of discussions/debates that need to take place with other political parties and stakeholders. Decisions cannot be taken overnight and laws cannot be made in a rush.”

Hussain rues that the dream of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel's India is on the verge of being lost. He shares, “I have met and worked with Gandhiji many times. What our founding fathers did was to equip India to retain its secular fabric. Today, the conversation is all about division and demarcation of people on lines of religion. Our founding fathers were statesman, not politicians. Now we only have politicians and no statesman. They are unable to govern the country.”

Having lived through Partition, he says that the overwhelming atmosphere of khauff today is alien to India. “We had a robust democracy where nothing was unlawful or unconstitutional. It is the duty of the government to ensure that its citizens are not harassed. The protests which are happening in Universities are in retaliation to the unilateral decision making.”

Hussian says that the scant regard to both Parliament and the Constitution of India speak of the growing atmosphere of intolerance. He says, “You just can’t bring a bill and displace millions in a matter of months. I think intolerance towards minorities is at its peak in the country and one has to wait and see how this unfolds.”

The reason for him to return the country’s fourth-highest civilian award is that he fears the voice of the poor would be left unheard in the din of CAA. He explains, “The laughter of the poorest of poor is being snatched.

Demonetisation has affected the lowest rungs of society. Look at the economic condition of the country; you should be concentrating on that instead of enacting laws in haste. It is the poor who will find it difficult to procure documents and will suffer the consequences.”

Remarking that he feels threatened and scared, Hussian adds, “In my 65 years of writing humour and satire, this is the first time that I am unable to laugh myself, let alone make others laugh. I switch on the television and from rapes to undemocratic measures, everything unfathomable is taking place in my country.”

Where does the country go from here? “I’m 87-years old and bed-ridden. There is no future for me but I worry about the generations to come. Slowly but surely, democracy is being squeezed out,” he says.

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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2019 11:27:22 IST