Friends, family and personalities from the world of art, literature and cinema gathered at Delhi’s India International Centre on the evening of October 15 to pay tribute to Khurshid Anwar’s fearless and indomitable spirit. The occasion was the launch of his books – Hum Waapas Ayenge (I Shall Return) and ‘Saampradayikta aur Aatankvaad’ (Communalism and Terrorism) which are compilations of his literary and political writings over the past few years.
Many of the pieces compiled originally appeared in the opinion pages of Jansatta, the pre-eminent newspaper in Hindi. Other writings are culled from various posts put up by Khurshid Anwar on FaceBook.
Om Thanvi, editor of Jansatta, writer and critic Purushottam Agrawal and historian Salil Mishra released the books and spoke about the invaluable contribution of Khurshid’s writings in the battle for communal harmony, syncretic culture and democratic consciousness. The event was conducted by literary critic and activist Apoorvanand.
Utpala Shukla from Institute for Social Democracy, the organization started and led by Khurshid, began by talking about his role as a teacher and mentor. She reiterated that although we have lost him we will never lose his words and their import. Anshu Malviya, an associate of ISD, said that Khurshid’s books are against the culture of instant judgement and chronic impatience.
Om Thanvi spoke about how Khurshid’s fervent polemical attacks on communalism of all varieties are an inspiration for us to constantly fight all rigid interpretations of religion. Salil Mishra highlighted the unity of thought in the two books which due to the difference in their approaches might appear to be disparate.
‘Similar concerns and anxieties underlie both the books’, he remarked. Prof. Mishra said that Khurshid refused to reduce the issue of communal violence to a mere India- Pakistan conflict but saw it in relation to developments in the international sphere. He also spoke about Khurshid’s reflections on the shortcomings of secular movements in responding to such incidents.
Purushottam Agrawal began by expressing thanks to the ISD team for bringing out these books and to Khurshid for his work on critiquing fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, which he called of ‘civilizational importance’. He stressed Khurshid’s genuine love for literature as against seeing it as an object of utility through a comment Khurshid once made, “I won’t translate parts from Quran and Bible just because I translated the Gayatri Mantra because I think competitive secularism is as problematic as competitive communalism”.
The second half of the program witnessed readings of a few of Khurshid’s poems by Poonam and Anshu Malviya and a few excerpts of ‘yaadoon ka karwan’ (A Caravan of Memories) from ‘hum waapas ayenge’ by Darain Shahidi. Poonam remarked that his poems reflect his constant effort to make the world a better place.
The excerpts read out by Darain had the audience in splits, marvelling at Khurshid Anwar’s skilful use of humour and poignancy. Khurshid’s wit coupled with sharp political insight came through in the autobiographical accounts of his growing up years in Allahabad.
Khurshid’s reminisces about Mahabharta being enacted by a Muslim woman in his house, of trust, camaraderie and mutual respect between men and women of diverse faiths with no ‘wahabbis’ in the midst are heart-warming. Darain’s skilful rendition only added to the charm.
The readings brought forth the pertinence of his remarks on the dangerous influence of communalism of all varieties, particularly of Wahabbism on subcontinental Islam.
We congratulate the ISD team for this immense and worthy effort and thanks to all those who turned up in big numbers.