Published in IBTL
Calicut University syllabus for B.A-B.Sc degree courses contained a poem “ode to sea” written by an ex Guantanamo prisoner and a present Al Qaeda Terrorist. After protest by some students the poem was removed, but the Terrorist seems to have got a few fans among Kerala’s elite intellectuals. One of them is Mr K Satchithanandan. This is a rebuttal to the article he wrote in Kafila.
Satchithanandan writes “The poem, extracted from the anthology Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak edited by Marc Falkoff, a human rights lawyer fighting a case for the detainees of the United States at the notorious Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, introduces the poet as a detainee and does not either confirm nor deny that he had links with Al-Qaeda”– Satchithanandan conveniently hides the fact that the poet IS still a terrorist. He has no proof to confirm that this poet was not involved in Terrorist activities before he was arrested except some statistics. Nevertheless, the fact remains he IS a self Claimed Terrorist, who is working for Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. He is said to be the brain of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and several of his audio transcripts are available where he advocates Jihad. Here are some news reports from Yemeni and other news sites.
- “In what could be perceived as a shift in tactics, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has appealed directly to women to exploit public sympathy for their Cause and incite others to carry out jihad. In an interview posted on YouTube, senior Al-Qaeda leader, Ibrahim Al-Rubaish, called on the general public to join the protests calling for the release of some detainees. However Rubaish went further than this, asserting that Al-Qaeda must continue its armed confrontation, calling on any released detainees to continue the fight.” Source Aawsat.net
- “A former Guantanamo detainee has emerged as a leading ideologue and theologian for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – one of the strongest al Qaeda affiliates in the world. Since leaving Saudi Arabia, Rubaish has become an influential proponent of waging jihad against the Saudi royals.” Source : Longwarjournal.org
- “Demands of Al-Rubaish include “the expulsion of infidels from the Kingdom and the nullification of all man-made laws which your various ministries, those which you call with various names, such as rules and regulations”. Source: Academica.edu
I hope the above reports about Al Rubaish are enough to show that he IS a terrorist. If these deeds and speeches of his are not terrorism, then it is nothing worse than legitimising Al Qaeda.
About the protests by ABVP, Satchithanandan has this to say “The poem was already taught to the students of the previous batch and no one had raised any objection at that point of time. Bu–t this time one Vinod, the self-proclaimed ‘State Convener’ of the ill-known ‘Committee for the Protection of Education’ had a revelation that this poem by a ‘terrorist’ will turn every one of its students into a terrorist and persuade them to enlist themselves in Al Qaeda! And the ABVP lost no time in warning of an agitation until the poem was withdrawn.” Al Qaeda is a banned Terrorist organisation in India. The poet being part of that banned organisation should be condemned for his violent deeds, rather than praising him for his literary skills. It is true that the poem does not have anything which directly inspires terrorism, but poems cannot be separated from poet. If poems are inspiring, the life of the poet also influences people. Every student organisations including ABVP have right to protest over issues which they think will harm the interest of student- and university should respond to their protests. More violent protest by Marxist-Congress student organisations has rocked campus politics of Kerala, where ABVP has negligible presence. University has responded rightly and has said that it is against their ethics to include a poem written by a Terrorist.
Criticising the decision by Calicut University decision to remove the poem, Satchithanandan asks “The decision also raises many broader questions like: is it necessary to know the poet’s biography to appreciate a poem?” Who have stopped anyone from appreciating a poem; here the question is about why it should be taught to students? Anyone can read a poem or a book, no one has objected to that. He also asks “Is even a terrorist a terrorist when he pens a poem? Is a poem to be identified with a political tract or a piece of propaganda?” I remember another article in a Malayalam weekly where the author compares Al rubaish with Valmeeki. Indeed Valmeeki (Ratnakar) was much more like a terrorist, but he got transformed to a poet- he renounced everything and lived like a sanyasi- but what about this poet- he was arrested in Pakistan for Terrorist activities- wrote a poem- when released by US, he straightaway joined terrorist organisation in Yemen. A Terrorist is a terrorist, not only when he writes poem, but also when he brushes his teeth. Universities of India are not platforms for Terrorists to show off their literary skills. Students of India need not be taught about what terrorists say about Guantanamo when greater human right violations take place in our neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan. If they are to be taught about Guantanamo, there can be hundreds of accounts by victims, who are not living a life of hatred at present.
Satchithanandan again lies when he says “The only power being critiqued in the poem is US that has detained the poet: is a poem that criticizes US from a human rights point of view- or any other for that matter- to be excluded from text books even in India ?” It is not because US had detained the poet that some students protested, but because the poet is still a terrorist.
I found an interesting comment by a reader in the Kaffila article by Satchithanandan, it reads like this “Veer Savarkar too had written a similar (but much longer) Marathi poem addressed to sea. It is considered a literary classic and has been set to rousing music by the Mangeshkars. Alas, it would be communal to praise it, though it is anti-British in tone and speaks nothing about Hindutva or Muslims. Such are the ways of Indian secularism.” How many universities teach this poem by Savarkar or his autobiography “My transportation for life”- which is a historical account of how British violated human rights of Indians?
Terrorists can write poems, their sympathisers may circulate them, anyone can read them, no one has objected to that. But to include a poem written by terrorist in a study material is tantamount to legitimising the deeds of the terrorist. English Language has no scarcity of poets and writers who are not linked to terrorism. Let only the Noble thoughts come to us from every sides