When Sahir Ludhianvi criticised Nehru, Iqbal in a poem

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 22-06-2024
Poet and Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi
Poet and Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi


Saquib Salim


Mohammad Iqbal alias Allama Iqbal was hailed by the Muslim League leadership in pre-partition India as the leading light of the Pakistan movement. One of his famous and earliest poems on pan-Islamism much after he wrote the indelible Sare jahan se aachcha Hindustand hamara… was Tarana-e-Milli (Anthem of the community). The opening verse of the poem sets the tone with, “Chiin-o-Arab humaara, Hindostaan hamaara, Muslim hain hum, watan hai saara jahaan humaara(China and Arab belong to us, India is ours, we are the Muslims, the whole world is our homeland).


On the other hand one of the founders of modern India Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, paid much attention to foreign relations to place India on the global map. In the decade of the fifties, India was cozying up with China under the Panchsheel policy. Nehru along with others led the non-alignment Movement.


He met Sukarno, Tito, and Nasser – the other founders – frequently. The socialists, communists, and other opposition parties accused Nehru of investing too much in foreign relations while completely overlooking domestic problems like unemployment, poverty, education, communalism, etc.


In 1958, Sahir Ludhinavi, a poet with socialist leanings, was tasked with writing lyrics for lyrics for Phir Subha Hogi. A Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha starrer, Sahir used the opportunity to criticise Nehru. No wonder, the two songs of the movie were initially banned for criticising the government.


One of the songs banned was a satirical take on Iqbal’s Tarana-e-Milli. Sahir wrote, “Chiin-o-Arab humaara,.. He also mocked Nehru for stressing on global affairs. How could a country of poor people lead the nations of the world, he questioned. He wrote that India needed to uplift its people out of poverty before anything else.


His satire was also targeted at Iqbal. Sahir believed that the world belongs to the poor and the masses. The identities of religion, in his view, were not as important.  


While Iqbal used nostalgia for a golden past and wished that Muslims could again rule the nations of the world, Sahir’s poem was a telling tale of destitution yet hope of a socialist revolution where the proletariat would rule.


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Thus the legendary Sahir Ludhianvi had managed to target the two-nation theory, pan-Islamism and Nehruvian socialism in a song.