Government

Sitharaman Quotes Kashmiri Poet Who Wrote Ode to Sheikh Abdullah, Whose Son, Grandson Are Now in Jail

The finance minister recited a verse about the “blooming lotus in Dal Lake”.

New Delhi: As part of the long-stand tradition in the budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman quoted a Kashmiri verse about “blooming lotus in Dal Lake”. Ironically, the Kashmiri author of those lines came to prominence for praising Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah, whose son and grandson have been put in custody by the Indian government for the last six months.

Sitharaman recited a couple of lines by Dina Nath Kaul, who had used the pseudonym ‘Nadim’. “Our country is like the flowering Shalimar Bagh, like the blooming lotus in Dal Lake and like the warm blood of our youth,” is the translation of what the poet recited in Kashmiri.

According to an article by Mohan K. Tikku, Nadim sprang to prominence in 1946, when Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison.

“Nadim made his mark when he got a chance to recite a poem at a public gathering in Srinagar to honour Abdullah. The evocative poem — an ode to Abdullah and the mass movement he was leading — had an electrifying effect on the audience and Nadim soon became the most compelling voice of modern Kashmiri poetry,” Tikku wrote in Indian Express in March 2016.

As Anish Gawande pointed out on Twitter, Sitharaman failed to mention Dina Nath Kaul’s pseudonym or the fact that he had come to prominence with an ode to Sheikh Abdullah.

Since August 4, ahead of the Indian government’s decision to scrap the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, and his son Omar Abdullah, have been in preventive detention.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s list of public holidays released in December 2019 had removed December 5, the birth anniversary of Sheikh Abdullah.

Also read: How the Public Safety Act Continues to Haunt Kashmir

As a member of the progressive writers’ movement, Kaul had been a founding member of the communist movement, Gawande pointed out. He also travelled to USSR and China, contributing to Kwang Posh, a monthly communist newsletter.

However, another twitter user, Search Kashmir, challenged the assertion that Dina Nath Nadim should be seen as a supporter of Sheikh Abdullah. He noted that in later years, he had been hounded by the state administration for his communist sympathies.

In 1971, Nadim’s name was proposed for the Soviet Land Nehru Award (given by the erstwhile Soviet Union), but the selection committee was in a dilemma as he did not have a single published book. “The selection committee finally found a way out. The citation said that Nadim was being awarded for “the totality of his works”, without having to mention any title in particular — simply because there was none,” wrote Tiku.

Nadim also received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1987. He died a year later, at the age of 72.