Kishwar Naheed’s moving tribute to Asma Jahangir: “Asma! You are immortal”
Today marks the second death anniversary of arch-feminist and champion of human rights, Asma Jahangir. Her staunch commitment to the ideals which she believed in won her many admirers but also many detractors. Even after her passing, she continues to be deified around the world yet demonised by many in her native country. However, the truth is that we in this nation have never needed her more than we do now because intolerance, bigotry, censorship, and creeping authoritarianism are rife in Pakistan. Hence, not only is it important to remember her steadfast contributions to the country but it is equally important to ensure that we continue to support the causes she championed.
Jahangir devoted her life to raising a voice for the rights of women, religious minorities, children and pro-democracy forces in the country. Hence, it is perhaps fitting that tomorrow, February 12th, marks the 37th National Women’s Day in Pakistan. The fact that Jahangir’s death anniversary is followed by National Women’s Day seems truly appropriate.
To commemorate Jahangir’s death anniversary today and also celebrate National Women’s Day tomorrow, I am presenting here an original translation of a heartfelt tribute to Jahangir by another iconic feminist, the poetess Kishwar Naheed. Originally titled “Asma! Tum Javidaan Ho” (Asma! You are immortal), it is part of Naheed’s last poetic collection “Shireen Sukhani se Pare” (Away from sweet talk) which was published soon after Jahangir’s passing away back in 2018. But rather than having a mournful ring to it, the poem instead celebrates Jahangir’s life and dedication to the cause of the oppressed. The poem embodies the hope that people like her may have passed on from the earthly plane but will continue to live on forever because of their enduring legacy and the countless lives they impacted.
“Asma! Today a crack developed in the rampart of your city of Lahore
Mischievous and cunning, barbarism’s purveyors
Seem to be happy today at your passing
They were happy even that day
When Hasan Nasir, Faiz and the Bhutto family
Were sent to Allah Miyan (on the way to immortality)
Allah Miyan then saw, the same Satans
Sometimes Mashal, sometimes Naqeeb
And sometimes hacking young girls to pieces
They were congratulating the latter for saving honour
But God is not without justice
Asma the princess of peace!
You were hit by so many black wind gusts
How many poisonous bullets fired, like locusts
But you were saved because
In that, sobbing faces from place to place
Were waiting in anticipation
For your smile
Without a guile
They say spirits remain in motion through reincarnation
So much so that they achieve purification
Your restless but pure spirit Asma!
The bruises on the faces of all people dwelling in dust
Will change into light, gentle, fresh buds if they must
In all the ruined settlements
Hearing your footsteps daily
The sad and lightless eyes verily
Will light up
All the masters of the worship of torture
Will become extinct
But your spirit!
What to talk of sometimes, but often with the voice of the bird
And around the whole world
With the clouds roaring
Will be with us standing!”
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