Vulnerability is strength.

Jaun Elia: The Garbage Dump of History — Translated and Introduced by Muzaffar Karim

Nov 15, 2020

Academic and writer Muzaffar Karim translates and introduces Jaun Elia’s “The Garbage Dump of History,” a piece originally titled “Jannat Jahanam” in Urdu that appeared in Suspense Digest (July 2000). Karim’s introduction and subsequent translation situate international readers beyond Elia’s widely known poetic and academic work, bringing us closer to Elia’s thoughts on Kashmir before, during and after partition. In the process, Karim’s translation reveals a deep sense of empathy, expressed as irredeemable angst that the poet, scholar and philosopher felt for Kashmir and its people, and particularly its disenfranchised Muslim majority. By way of translation, Muzaffar Karim retrieves a piece of writing that serves as a relic or a historical document to register the desperation, angst and nihilism that has festered for decades as Kashmir has remained besieged and exiled from any semblance of peace. That that desperation and angst is expressed by Elia via this translation by Karim makes it even more symbolic of the hostile and unchanging times.

Translator's Introduction

Jaun Elia has attained a cult status among young readers and netizens. He will always remain a poet whose life overshadows his poetry. But as soon as this voguish hangover is over, Jaun Elia emerges as a poet who expresses deep, sombre, significant human concerns with an ease of expression. His themes range from existential predicament to metaphysical engagements. When he writes about alienation, betrayal, suffering and pain, one finds him enjoying the company of Charles Bukowski and Emil Cioran.

Elia’s intellectual and philosophic bent of mind is evident in his prose writing as well. The essays and articles collected by Khalid Ahmed Ansari in Farnood (Al-Hamd Publications, Lahore) are a testimony to the fact. The essays deal with a wide range of issues ranging from philosophy, logic, metaphysics, religion, truth, politics to culture. This particular article appeared in the July of 2000 in Suspense Digest, two years after Pakistan became an atomic power. The article is not as scholarly or academic as Elia’s other articles and the articulation of Kashmir conflict within the political and historic context is modest. What makes it interesting is Elia’s sarcastic tone and witty style that escalates the pain of Kashmir and that of a humanist and a Pakistani citizen to its extreme. The renaming of Kashmir to ‘Kushmir’, the invocation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the way he writes about Jawaharlal Nehru are few of the examples.

The Garbage Dump of History

(Orginally entitled in Urdu as ‘Jannat Jahanam’)

Jaun Elia (1931-2002)

Translated and Introduced by Muzaffar Karim

Our entire existence is ensnared within problems. We are history’s most mercy-deserving people. So mercy-deserving that we cannot even be merciful upon our own selves. Our fifty-two year’s past proved nothing but regret. Is it not so? Our present is an abomination. Is it not so? Our future is hopeless. Is it not visible so?

Was this worst regimen then our destiny and fate? Without this worst regimen was there no possibility of a better one ever? Instead of a worst one, I say, that a better regimen was not only possible but certain.

There are many reasons for our misfortune. Out of all these one is Kashmir. This heaven has hurled us into hell and for this Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is responsible. Pandit Ji has remained my beloved personality. I have identified him as a brilliant manifestation of Urdu civilization. He used to say that I am an English in terms of my education, a Hindu in terms of my lineage and a Muslim when it comes to civilization. This statement of his can never be rejected and this in itself is a matter of sadness. Dukham, dukham, dukham.

Syed Jamal-ud-Din Urfi had composed a poem on Kashmir. I am reminded of one of its couplet:

Har sokhta jaaney ki ba Kashmir dar aayad

Gar murg kabab ast ki ba baal o par aayad

Meaning if any life-scorched person comes to Kashmir, if that person is like a bird roasted into a kebab even then, in Kashmir’s nourishing and nurturing ambience the person will grow feathers and wings. Here, I want to add that my lineal ancestor Syed Urfi in this couplet has not taken the lingual health into consideration and there is no doubt that a poet of his greatness reserves that right. There is also a possibility that I may not have remembered this couplet correctly.

Kashmir was being discussed. Here I have to take a detour of some sort. My middle brother and Pakistan’s famous philosopher Late Syed Muhammad Taqi remained the chief editor of the Daily Jang since Delhi. My elder brother Rais Amrohvi too remained associated as an important member with the Jang till December 22, 1988, the night he was murdered. He was murdered on Thursday. It is strange that the column he wrote for the Jang, just two three days before, was about death and it got published the very next day, on Friday. This should be noted that these two brothers of mine knew more about the concerns of Muslim League than any journalist. I have heard from both my brothers as well as from Late Siddique Ali Khan that when Britishers were about to leave after giving independence they did desire to ask the opinion of some Muslims about what decision to be taken regarding Hyderabad and Kashmir?

Muslims suggested that the state of affairs of Hyderabad and Kashmir should be left as it is. But what was the reason behind such a suggestion of these few Muslims? The reason being, they were convinced that the state of Hyderabad would likely merge with Pakistan because the head of the state was a Muslim that is Nizam of Hyderabad Osman Ali Khan. And regarding the populace, well even if their number is far greater than the Muslims but even then what can they do. Now about the state of Kashmir, well its case was opposite to that of Hyderabad. The ruler of that state was a Hindu while the populace was far greater than the Hindus. The people of that time suitably established this unfair and unchanging fancy that the majority of the population of Kashmir will like to become a part of Pakistan and the ruler will not be able to do anything. Here, I do not have this saying in my mind that heads we win, tails we win too and taw my father’s.

The decision taken by the United Nations regarding Kashmir was completely true and accurate. The decision was that only Kashmiris have the right to decide the case of Kashmir neither India nor Pakistan. India accepted this decision at that time and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also accepted that the decision stands correct. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a great political scientist of India. He was not only a political scientist but a scholar and a historian as well. This is beyond my comprehension that how could Pandit Nehru, a man of high stature, be such a midget in the case of Kashmir. In the previous fifty-two years, Indian political analysts while giving a psychological analysis of Pandit Nehru have stated that Kashmir was his weakness as he was a Kashmiri himself. Because of being a Kashmiri he shared a close intellectual affinity with the great Kashmiri Muslim poet Allama Iqbal. Famous philosopher Bertrand Russell once said that a great man like Pandit Nehru has taken an entirely wrong stance regarding Kashmir. Well this is the case of Pandit Nehru and Indian political scientists but Pakistan still maintains the United Nations agreement that referendum should be conducted in Kashmir.

I have met thousands of Kashmiris in India and Pakistan and enquired from them the musings of their heart. What they have told me is that Kashmiris living on both the sides want to live together. To see both the sides as one is our dream. Precisely, what they want to say is that Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. This limited review of mine may not be correct and maybe Kashmiris desire something else.

Kashmir, the name is strange as well. This name might have been given by the unseen transcendent God but we pronounce it incorrectly. We have been pronouncing the kaaf of Kashmir with the zabr when that kaaf has to be read with a paesh that is “Kushmir” meaning Kill or be dead.

The question of Kashmir will be solved neither the way India wants nor the way the UN and Pakistan wants. Well Dear! According to me there is only one solution to the Kashmir problem and that is: India and Pakistan should both make Hiroshima and Nagasaki out of Kashmir and this is very delightful that both the countries now possess the power and brilliant capability to do so. That is because both the countries own the atom bomb.

I have not been able to understand why India and Pakistan, for the last fifty-two years, have cursed their own torturous, in fact, painful issues to ignorance and stand ready to solve the problem of Kashmir and Kashmiris. To what end? From the last few days there has been a little hope that this till-doomsday-pending issue might be resolved. In this way, the emergence of the two as atomic powers is both lucky and auspicious. I would personally suggest India and Pakistan to use the atom bomb as soon as possible to resolve the issue of Kashmir. What’s the problem in that? Here, I am also suggesting the usage of the atomic bomb to solve this issue because the masses of India and Pakistan are expendable lowlives, in fact, they are the maggots of the garbage dump of history. And the people of Kashmir, like the Jews, well, they are God’s chosen and beloved people.

I am a dim-wit and a crackpot, who will take a suggestion from me regarding any problem? But I will, under the influence of my partial or in fact total insanity, say one thing, which I do not know is either pleasant or unpleasant—that is, Kashmir is neither the problem of India nor that of Pakistan. What can I say on behalf of India, but on Pakistan’s behalf I would like to say with utter compassion and painful throes that the problem of Kashmir is not the first and the last problem for the people in authority and power. For them, it is the people of Pakistan who are hungry, disease-ridden and living in horrible deprivation, and dying and the people in authority and power don’t care much. What will I do with the heaven that becomes a hell for my people!

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About the Contributor

Muzaffar Karim was born in Kashmir and completed his MA from the University of Kashmir. He went on to pursue his Ph.D. from JNU and is currently employed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kashmir, South Campus. Muzaffar Karim also writes poetry and short stories that have appeared in various newspapers and journals. He is a regular blogger at http://muzaffar-askesis.blogspot.in