PUNJABI revolutionary poet Pash was just 38 when he was felled by bullets of Khalistani terrorists. He would have been 69 today.
Born on September 9 in 1950 as Avtar Singh Sandhu into a farmer’s family in Talwandi Salem village of Jalandhar, Punjab, Pash was killed on March 23, 1988.
Did Pash have premonition of his death? A few days before the assassins’ bullets struck him down, Pash wrote to his muse his last verse: ‘Mein Hun Vida Hunda Ha…..Meri Dost’ (I take your leave, my friend). He had a burning desire to live, but couldn’t.
“Do live my share of this life too, dear friend!” he wrote to her. “Profit-seeking traders will never know how to love and live life.”
The life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Vladimir Lenin inspired his writings. Through his writings in the literary journal Siarh (The Plough Line) of which he was the editor, Pash opposed the separatist ideology and extensively quoted Sikh scriptures to show that real Sikhism taught equality and compassion and not fascism. He denounced the attempts to divide the country for a second time on religious lines after the Indian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947.
Considered one of the most important poets of contemporary Punjabi literature, his poems were rooted in political consciousness and folk culture of Punjab. He was inspired by the Naxalbari uprising of 1967 as is evident in his protest poems which ring revolutionary bell against the exploitation of the oppressed people even today.
Poems like Sab Ton Khatarnak (Most Dangerous) have become protest slogans and are carried on placards and banners of protest rallies. Thus wrote Pash in his now iconic revolutionary poem:
The most dangerous thing is not the loot of your hard-earned wages;
Not the torture by the police;
Not the graft for the treason and greed;
To remain silent amid noise of trickery is surely bad but not dangerous;
Most dangerous is to get filled with dead peace;
Not feeling agony and bear it all;
Most dangerous thing is the death of our dreams;
Most dangerous is the moon, which rises in the silent graveyard after every murder
but does not pierce your eyes like hot chillies.
“If your pen has become impotent, stop using it,” he admonishes his peer poets and writers in a poem. In another, he says, “A poem which measures the beloved’s navel can’t be considered poetry.”
Known for his scathing criticism of state oppression, religious fundamentalism, feudalism, landlordism, unethical industrialists, corrupt traders, and politicians, he spent two years in jail on false murder charges during the Naxalite movement.
However, this did not discourage him from voicing the anger and disillusionment of the deprived and disadvantaged sections of the society. With the same alacrity, he wrote verses to thank the tiny mustard flowers for giving him opportunity to pick pollens from his beloved’s tresses.
In a poem, “Wounds Of A Thorn”, he tells about struggles of peasants and labourers with the same ease with which he describes the eyes of his beloved or his affection for childhood friends.
His poetry shall be remembered for rage that inspires revolt against oppressors and exploiters.
We shall fight,
To acknowledge our guilt
To keep alive the memory of those who died fighting
We shall fight, comrade…