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Imran Pratapgarhi: An Outspoken Critic of Fascist Forces

Muhammad Faheem

A lively and charismatic personality, a versatile politician and a revolutionary poet, Mohammad Imran Khan, popularly known as Imran Pratapgarhi, is widely viewed as one of the most eloquent voices in political circles who is able to move, inspire and captivate audiences.

Born into a conservative family on 6 August 1987 at a village of Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh, he obtained master’s degree in Hindi from Allahabad University. After postgraduation, he started journalism. But he was destined to become a poet and circumstances compelled him to enter politics. Earlier, he used to compose poetry in Hindi and take part in kavi sammelans. Later he switched over to Urdu poetry in 2008. He is well-known for his works like Madrasa, Ham Musalman Hain, Main Falasteen Hun, Kashmir, and Manipur. Consequently, he rose to prominence.

Poetic Career
When asked in an interview whether there was any love angle before starting Urdu poetry, he said, “It is believed that those whose heart is broken or those who start drinking wine become poets, but I am different altogether. My poetry does not portray hair, lips, face or dupatta of a woman, but it portrays tears and screams of a sobbing mother.”

He gave full vent to the feelings of a mother when her son Najeeb, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), went missing. He went to JNU and addressed students. He recounted the ordeal of a mother when she loses her son. Everyone in the audience was moved to tears and he also could not stop himself from crying.

Wo ankho main ashko ka dariya samate/ ummeed ka ek nazariya samate/ yahan kah rahi hai, wahan kah rahi hai/ tarap kar ye ek maa kah rahi hai/ nahi puchta hai koi haal mera/ koi la ke de mujhe laal mera/ use leke vapas chali jaoongi main/palat kar kabhi phir nahin aaoongi main.

(With a flood of tears in her eyes and full of hope, she is running here and there. A grieving mother is saying nobody takes care of me. Bring my son to me and I will carry him and will never return.)

And in several mushairas also, he recited this poetry amid tremendous applause. The poet in him is always awake to atrocities and oppressions afflicting the marginalised sections. Whether it be the case of Manipur violence or Palestinian issue, he is always a vocal critic and has portrayed his feelings in poetry. When Manipur was burning and bleeding, his poetry on the premises of Indian Parliament brought together opposition leaders and breathed life into the campaign for Manipur. He said: Betiya jab sare aam lut-ti hai to/hākimon kis tarah ghar mein sote ho tum (when daughters are raped in broad daylight, O rulers! how do you sleep comfortably at your homes?)

His poetry on Palestine (Main Falasteen Hun) shot him to fame. It touches hearts and minds of everyone. Palestine cries and implores rulers of the Muslim world. Ye meri qaum ke rahnuma bhi sune/Meri ujdi hui dastan bhi sune/Sirf lashain hi lashain hai meri god main/ koi puche main kyon itna ghamgeen hun/Na hi royenge aur na hi muskainge/ sirf nagmen shahadat ke gayenge (O leaders and rulers of my community! Listen to my ordeal. Why are there only dead bodies in my lap? Will anybody ask why I am so grieved? My children will neither cry nor smile. They will embrace death smilingly.)

Whenever he descends from his car to mushairas, crowds of people rush towards him, jostling each other, in order to get a glimpse of their hero and shake hands with him. At all Mushairas, he is the cynosure of all eyes.

When business tycoon and yoga guru Ramdev, while targeting Indian Muslims openly, said that “if my hands had not been tied by law, I would have beheaded those who do not chant Bharat Mata ki jai,” his hilariously and sarcastically funny rebuttal drew widespread applause and admiration at a Mushaira: Jo nafrat ke sabab uthi thi wo lalkar kiski thi/ hamare khoon ko pyasi thi wo talwar kiski thi/hamari gardane mat katiye, bas ye bataa deeje/ jise tum pahan kar bhage the wo shalwar kiski thi. (Whose was the challenge posed as a result of hatred/ whose sword was thirsty for our blood/ do not behead us but please tell us, whose shalwar did you wear when you ran away?) He declared while pointing to the Ramlila Maidan incident when Ramdev reportedly had to flee in disguise of female garments in the wake of police raid. There was a loud burst of laughter in the audience.

A well-known critic of Anna Hazare and Prime Minister Modi, he challenged him at an anti-CAA protest rally: Hamne Zam-Zam diya, aab-e-Ganga diya/ tumne Bharat ko danga hi danga diya/ tumne ek rang ke khawab dekhe magar/ hamne Hindostan ko tiranga diya/ Ye tiranga badan par lapete hue/ ek din is zamin mein utar jayenge/ maut ke naam se khauf dete hain kyon/ maut jis roz ayegi mar jayenge (We gave Zam-Zam water and Ganga water, but you gave only riots to Bharat. You dreamed of only one colour, and we gave tricolour to the nation. While donning this tiranga, we will descend into the grave. Why do you scare us to death. We will leave this world whenever death comes.) He is afraid of none but God. His poetry is indicative of his staunch belief in God.

Political Career
When he reached the pinnacle of his success as an Urdu poet, he drew the attention of senior Congress leaders, especially Rahul Gandhi. His poetry, always hitting out at communal and fascist forces, fascinated them. Rahul Gandhi met him in 2018 and the meeting lasted one hour and a half with discussion about national issues. Then he embarked on his political career and joined Congress. Congress fielded him from the Moradabad Lok Sabha constituency in 2019, but he lost. He was appointed chairman of the Minority Department on June 3, 2021. Now his recognition and popularity grew at national level and gradually he became close to Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders.

He was lucky enough to have another opportunity. There were several Congress leaders who were in the race for the seat at Rajya Sabha, but Rahul Gandhi gave preference to Imran. He contested the election from Maharashtra in July 2022. Surprisingly, falling in line with their party line, two AIMIM MLAs also voted for him with the hope that one more Muslim leader would enter Parliament and he would raise Muslim issues. He won the election. Honestly speaking, he came up to their expectations. However, Congress had not approached AIMIM for its support.

In his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha, he raised his voice on the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb and other issues such as four-fold hike in fees at Allahabad University, tear-gas shells at the Jamia Millia Islamia campus and library, police atrocities in university campuses, winding-up of Maulana Azad National Fellowship, Bilkis Bano case, police lathi-charge on AMU students, etc.

“A Muslim leader is, first of all, tagged as a leader for Muslims in the society. This is a trap laid by fascist forces. This is not fair. I am a leader for all. I raise voices for all in Parliament. I am an MP for all,” he said on his official page.

“I try my best to speak more for the exploited lot. No doubt, Muslims are most persecuted at present. Dalits are also being persecuted. All marginalized, poor, and destitute people are on the receiving end. They are not getting justice.”

An Outspoken Leader
He visited JNU and Aligarh Muslim University. He told students in unequivocal terms: “Fascist forces are scared of you only because you speak. If you stop speaking and become dumb and deaf, you will be in their good books.”

The government wants to silence voices so that truth does not come out. Mikes of opposition leaders are also switched off in Parliament. Fascist forces are adamant to muzzle any dissenting voice by using tough laws. “Most of BJP leaders have no understanding of poetry, art, paintings and cartoons. If somebody makes cartoons and writes poetry about them, it becomes difficult for them to take it patiently.”

He also accompanied Rahul Gandhi when the latter began his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Nafrat ke sabhi toofano ka rukh piche morte jayenge/ Ham Bharat jorne nikle hain, ham Bharat jorte jayenge (We will keep on turning direction of all storms of hatred. We have set off a journey to unite Bharat and we will do so). His political speeches always abound with Urdu poetry full of love and sarcasm. He made his presence felt at Kisan Mahapanchayat at Saharanpur: Ab ye paon nahin thehrengen tere nukile taro se/apne haq ham chheen ke lengen dilli ke darbaro se (Your barbed wires cannot stop our steps and we will definitely take our dues from Delhi rulers).

Ham aatish-e-shozan mein bhi haq baat kahenge/kundan ki tarah dahar mein tabinda rahenge/ tareekh batati hai ke har daur-e-sitam mein/ ham zinda the, ham zinda hain, ham zinda rahenge (We will speak the truth even amid the fire of sorrow/we will shine like gold in all eras/ history says that in every age of atrocities, we were alive, we are alive, and we will remain alive.)

In 2016, the Uttar Pradesh government conferred upon him Yash Bharti Award, the highest award of the state, when he was only 29 years of age. Usually poets get this award at the eleventh hour of their life.

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