Daya Varma


The audience  unanimously praised both the relevance and the quality of the program.


A lively well-attended program marking the Birth Centenary of revolutionary poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin was  held on May 4 on Montreal. The program was chaired by Kiran Omar and started with a recital of Makhdoom’s poems by the well-known Montreal singer Hita Raghunathan and ended by her rendition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s tribute. Daya Varma gave a brief description of the life and times of Makhdoom, which was followed by a commentary on his  poetry by Salman Kureishy of Toronto (read by Faruq Hassan) and a screening of the Hyderabad episode of Mamoo Jan ki Diary, in which SM Mehdi recalls Hyderabad days of Progressive Writers’ Association.


Three comments on Makhdoom Mohiuddin


“Makhdoom was a glowing flame as also cool drops of dew.

He was the call of revolution as also the soft tinkling of payal.

He was knowledge, he was action, he was wisdom.

He was the gun of the revolutionary guerrilla and also the sitar of musician.

He was the odour of the gun powder and also the fragrance of jasmine.”

– Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (from New Age, February 10, 2008)


« aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar «

chaandni dil dukhati rahi raat bhar


gaah jalti hui, gaah bujhti hui

sham-e-gham jhilmilati rahi raat bhar


phir saba saya-e-shakh-e-gul kay talay

koi qisaa sunatee rahee raat bhar


koi khusboo badalti rahi perahan

koi tasveer gaati rahi raat bhar


jo na aaya usey koi zanjeer-e-dar

har sadaa par bulati rahi raat bhar


aik umeed se dil bahlta raha

ek tamanna satati rahi raat bhar


 Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Makhdoom ki yaad mein)


“The CPI-led Hyderabad Student Union was the dominant force among the college students and its leaders were the best of students both in studies and morality. In fact, the gracious, highly elitist culture apart, the cultural and intellectual tone of the town was set by the Communists of which the tremendous influence and towering standing of Makhdoom Mohiuddin was the best example.”


 Mohit Sen in “A Traveler and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist”



Text of the Daya Varma’s presentation  on the Life and times of Makhdoom  (Abridged)


The life and times of Makhdoom Mohiuddin correspond to one of the most tumultuous period in India’s history.   Makhdoom was born on February 4, 1908 in a village in Telangana district of Hyderabad in a family neither very rich nor very poor. For reasons I would not go in detail,  the overwhelming majority of active participants and second level leaders in all major parties of that time – Congress, Muslim League, socialists and communists came from this stratum. They were not the poorest of the poor and by and large not the richest of the rich.


The dimensions of Makhdoom as a person are  aptly expressed in the three quotes on the poster, by Khawja Ahmad Abbas, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Mohit Sen reproduced above. Suffice it to say that although Makhdoom was a hardcore communist, unlike the most, he did not specialize in being stiff; he had a sense of humor and sensitivity.  Anil Rajimwale writes in CPI’s weekly New Age: “This year we are celebrating the birth centenary of a rare figure in the cultural, artistic and political history of the country- Makhdoom Mohiuddin.” The function was held in Makhdoom Bhawan, Hyderabad.


Makhdoom’s times could be divided in two stages- the first  from 1940-1952 and the second from 1952 until his death on August 25, 1969.


The First period, that is from 1940-1952,  is  characterized by three major developments. 1. The rise of world fascism led by Germany, Japan and Italy; two, CPI subscribing to the thesis of United Front against fascism and support for the British war efforts, and three, the historic Telangana peasant armed struggle during Nizam’s rule.


When Franco came to power in Spain, Makhddoom wanted to go and join the republicans. He was stopped.  Makhdoom was enraged by Germany’s invasion of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. He wrote his first anti-fascist poem. On June 22, 1941 Germany attacked Soviet Union. On the Eastern side, Japan had already occupied most of China, committing atrocities no less brutal than that of Germany and had reached South East Asia almost at  the doorsteps of India.


The Communist Party of India, led by the dynamic General Secretary PC Joshi, called for support for the British efforts against the Axis. Joshi argued that India will be free in the course of the struggle against fascism. That is what happened. However, towever, tHoweverhis stand of the CPI was in contrast to the Quit India Movement call given by Gandhi on August 9, 1942. It was a very tough period for members of CPI.


There is now a controversy about this line including within the CPI itself. In my opinion it was a correct call. Alliance with Japan under any pretext was incorrect.  Why should one want freedom of India at the cost fascist domination of the rest of the world? But I do not wish to go any further with this topic.


On its part, CPI did what it could to mobilize anti-fascist forces. Two important instruments came into being. One was the Indian People’s Theatrical Association (IPTA) and the other was Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA). Makhdoom was a leading star along with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Munshi Premchand, Kaifi Azami (Shabana’s father), Sajjad Zaheer and many others in PWA. It is no exaggeration  that all intellectuals one way or another related to these two organizations or the student wing of the CPI, namely the All India Student Federation.


No organization has played as much role in reinforcing the composite culture of India in all its manifestations as these two- IPTA and PWA. They did not operate on the principle of respect and tolerance for minorities such as the Muslims. They operated on the principle that there are no majority and minority communities in India; there are just Indians.


The Communist Party of India was legal during this period of 1942-1946. By the end of the world war 2, the leadership of both the Congress and the Muslim League were certain that days of British colonial rule were numbered. One consequence of this impending departure of the Britain was the intensification of repression by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The instruments of this savage behavior were Razakars and the most brutalized were the peasants of Telangana. That led to what is called the Telangana armed peasant struggle from 1946-1950 under the leadership of CPI. Nearly 3,000 villages were liberated and the  power of Razakars was practically finished. Telangana peasant struggle was a mass movement and not a sporadic acts of violence.


Makhdoom was an important leader of the Telangana peasant struggle. He inaugurated the Paritala Republic in one of Nizam’s enclaves. The Party was once again illegal. Makhdoom sought shelter in Bombay and wrote his famous Poem “Telangana” and soon after “Yeh jang hai jange Azaadi”. You will hear this poem in the documentary Mamoo Jan ki diary. Mamoo Jaan is actually Syed Mohammad Mehdi, one of the organizers of PWA.


The Indian Army under General Chaudhary moved in to crush the peasant struggle and integrate Hyderabad into Indian territory. CPI withdrew the struggle in 1951 and attained its legal status once again.


The second period I referred to earlier starts with CPI becoming legal in 1952. This period is when CPI entered electoral politics.  In fact in the aftermath of the Telangana struggle, CPI did extremely well in the 1952 parliamentary elections winning more seats than the combined strength of CPM and CPI in the present parliament. Ravi Narayan Reddy, the main leader of the peasant struggle polled the highest number of votes in India, almost the double of that polled by Nehru.  Makhdoom was the CPI leader in Andhra Legislative Council. A number of leaders won while still in jails.


From 1952 on until his death, Makhdoom  was an active trade union organizer on behalf of CPI. He found some time to write for Bombay films but did not become the part of the film world like Sahir Ludhiyanvi. When CPI split in 1964, he remained with CPI. Actually he had come to attend a meeting of CPI-led All India Trade Union Congress and the CPI National Council in New Delhi when he died of a heart attack on August 25, 1969.

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