Saraswati Mela

Amrit Pritam’s Oath to Peace

We don’t know that one someone picks up a stone,
The first wound is not inflicted on a human, but on humanity...

In her autobiography ‘Revenue Stamp’ Amrita Pritam talks about a friend of hers , from across the borders – Sajjad Haider. While talking about Amrita Sajjad says – My love towards Amrita also has devotion in it, a sense of worship..
Today, I would like to repeat the words of Sajjad Haider. My love towards Amrita has devotion in it and a sense of worship..
Amrita Pritam is one of my absolute favourites. She has taught me about love in countless ways, in its most expansive forms. She gave me the courage to live life on my own terms . The amount of respect she had for the pen ,whether it was hers or someone else’s ,was unparalleled. Perhaps this is the reason she translated poems and works of many foreign poets and writers in her own language.

Amrita Pritam was born on 31st August, 1919 in Gujranwala ( Undivided India, now Pakistan ) . Holding freedom as the highest dictum of a wo/man’s life , Amrita lived her whole life like poetry. Idealized in its expansiveness, very near to truth and beauty. Her pen always fought for the rights of humanity irrespective of where the war was raging. It didn’t matter whether it was in Vietnam, Germany or in India with its open wounds of Partition, for Amrita they were all equal. Talking about the sheer strength of the Self, she revered, glorified and celebrated the human spirit. It was only her who could say that the Sun is honoured by the (good) conduct of humanity, dishonoured by its vileness.
She wanted to see the Sun of her country honoured. On her centenary , it would be prescient to read her message to her country which is also true for all of humankind, irrespective of time and place.

Hum nhi jante ki jab koi apne haath mein patthar uthata hai,
We don’t know that one someone picks up a stone,
Toh pahla zakhm insan ko nhin, insaniyat ko lagta hai
The first wound is not inflicted on a human, but on humanity
Dharti par jo pahla khoon bahta hai,
The first blood that gushes out on the earth ,
Wo kisi insan ka nhin insaniyat ka hota hai
Is not of a human , but of humanity
Aur sadak par jo pahli laash girti hai
And when the first body falls on the ground ,
Wo kisi insan ki nhin, insaniyat ki hoti hai..
It is not a human who is dead, but humanity
Firkaparasti, firkaparasti hai.
Communalism , is communalism.
Uskke saath Hindu, Muslim ya Sikkh lafz jod dene se kuchh nhin hoga
Joining it with the words like Hindu , Sikkh and Muslim
won’t change anything
Apne aap mein, inn sab lafzon ki aabroo hai
In themselves, all these words have honour
Inka ek arth hai. Inki ek paakizagi hai
They have a meaning, a sacredness
Lekin firkaparasti ke saath inka judna
But the joining of the word communalism with them
Inka be-aabroo ho jana hai
Is when they lose their honour
Inka arth-heen ho jana hai,
When they lose their meaning,
Aur inki paakizagi ka kho jana hai ,
And is the loss of their sacredness
Jo kuchh galat hai, wo sirf ek lafz mein galat hai
Whaever is wrong , is wrong in a single word
Firkaparasti lafz mein..
In the word communalism
Uss galat ko uthakar hum kabhi
We pick this wrong and sometimes
Use Hindu lafz ke kandhon par rakh dete hain
Place it on the shoulders of the word Hindu ,
Kabhi Sikkh lafz ke kandhon par
Or sometime on Sikkh
Aur kabhi Musalmaan lafz ke kandhon par
and sometimes on the shoulders of the word Muslim .
Iss tarah kandhe badalne se kuchh nhin hoga
Changing shoulders don’t mean anything.
Jahan jo kuchh galat hai , use samjhna hoga
We have to understand where we go wrong.
Jamhuriyat ka arth, lokshahi ka arth
The meaning of democracy , of the people’s rule
Chintansheel logon ka milkar rahna hai, milkar basna hai,
Is thinkers living together, enlightened people living together
Aur chintansheel logon ke haath ,mein tark hote hain, patthar nhin hote hain
And these people have logic in their hands and not stones….

We don’t have Amrita with us today in the physical form. What we do have is this prayer that she wrote for all of us..

Ye khoon – Jo insan ke haathon se bahte ja rahe
This blood- which flows from the hands of humans
Ye zakhm- Jo insan ke haathon par lagte ja rahe
These wounds – which are scarring the hands of humans,
Ye wahi pyare haath hain – Jo phoolon ko bo sakte hain,
These are those lovely hands – which can sow flowers ..
Ye wahi aashiq haath hain – Jo kisi ke ho sakte hain
These are the hands of a lover- who can be someone’s in love
Ye hunarmand haath hain – Jo saajon ko chhed sakte hain
These are the skilled hands – which can make music flow from instruments
Ye kaamgaron ke haath hain- Jo sapne jod sakte hain
These are the hands of craftsmen and women – which can weave dreams together
Ye haath pani, pawan , agni ko bandh sakte hain
These hands can tame water, air and fire
Suraj ka chulha jalakar – uspe haandi raandh sakte hain
Light up the stove of Sun, and cook on it
Ye haath jo dharti ki zulfein sanwar sakte hain
These hands can caress the locks of the beloved Earth
Ye wahi pyare haath hain- Jo duniya usaar sakte hain.
These are those beautiful hands- which can beautify the world
Phoolon aur zulfon ki kasam- Haathon pe zakhm na lagao!
For the sake of flowers and locks of the beloved,
Don’t hurt these hands..
Ye bahut khoobsurat haath hain- inhe kaatil na banao!
These are very beautiful hands – don’t turn them in killers !
Haathon ki hifazat ke liye
Aao haath de do saathiyon!
To protect these hands, My friends! Give your hands!
Saath de do saathiyon..
Come! Join me, my friends!
Kagaz hai taqdeer ka-
This paper is of our fate,
Aur kalam hai tadbeer ki
And the pen is made up of our efforts..
Iss Kalam mein – Aman ki syaahi bharo!
Fill up the pen with the ink of peace !
Dast-khat Karo!
And sign!
Yeh aman ka hai Ahadnama-
This is the Oath of Peace !
Aao duniyawalon! Dast-khat karo!
Come! The people of the world! Sign!

All the letters of Amrita have now turned from black to gold. They are glorious with the light of love and truth, fragrant with Amrita’s generousity of spirit..
Today, on Amrita’s birthday, our Sun stands honoured…