The Daily Dawn carried a piece by Syed Zafar Ali Shah a few years ago that spoke of G.B. Nairang’s great friendship with Allama Iqbal and included a short biography. I am reproducing it below.
Iqbal, Nairang & Nadir Kakorvi August 21, 2002
Sometimes a writer provides a vital clue to his innermost thought in an off- hand manner without caring whether this bit of ‘clue’ would lead to some serious study yielding some interesting conclusions.
We come across a couplet in Allama Iqbal’s poetry in which he shares with us two names – his contemporaries – both of them good poets who were, according to the Allama, his Hum Safer, co-sharers of that great mission of co-travelling towards the muse of poetry.
Nadir-o-Nairang hain Iqbal mere hum safer Hai isi taslees fil tauheed ka sauda mujhe (Nadir Kakorvi and Nairang are my co- sharers of the mission, and it is this triangle (unity in trinity) which is uppermost in my mind)
The above couplet throws some light on the kind of mission or poetry Iqbal believed in. This is a clue which distances Iqbal from the predominant trends – I would not call it a tradition – of Urdu poetry. He is more of a disciple of Sir Syed and Hali when it comes to discussion of the functions of poetry.
Nairang was an important leader of Muslim India and an important poet of his day. He remained a member of the Central Assembly of India from 1936 to 1942 and was the deputy leader of the Muslim League parliamentary party in the Assembly from 1938 to 1942. This fact alone is enough to evaluate his importance.
From the days of the Khilafat Movement to the heyday of the Muslim League he was a leader whom Allama Iqbal looked upon as someone who could be a source of strength. He put up strong resistance to the Shuddhi and Sangathan Movement which created leaders such as Golwalkar, Monje and Savarkar who succeeded in alienating Muslims from the mainstream politics of India. It is a pity that some scholars don’t pay attention to the root causes of communalism in India and forget that manufacturing of rhetoric against one section of the population cannot help us to appreciate the real causes which led to the point of no return in Indian politics in the 1930s.
The key to the parting of ways lies to those vastly powerful machines of rhetoric which are, by the day, strengthening themselves. Here one would like to mention the Gujarat riots – as documented by the Communist Party of India’s Urdu periodical Hayat (August 2002 issue).
Nairang’s role against Shuddhi and Sangathan in the early 1940s should be read with a view to finding out convergence between him and all those poets who believed in the maxim that any nationalism using territorial and cultural nationalism has all the germs of fascism because it has the tendency to regard all those who don’t subscribe to it as the ‘others,’ and hence hell.
Nairang’s poetry collection appeared in 1907. Its second edition was published in 1917 and the third edition – a bit enlarged with a detailed introduction by Dr Moinuddin Aqeel – appeared some time ago.
Born in Daurana, Ambala, in 1876, Nairang did his BA from Government College, Lahore. He was a class-fellow of Allama Iqbal and was also his hostel-mate. His other classmates were Sir Fazal Husain, Mian Abdul Aziz Malik Falak Paima and Bakhshi Teek Chand. Nairang became a lawyer and joined politics. In order to fight Shuddhi and Sangathan – which were very active movements in the Punjab for the reason that the Punjab proved to be a fertile ground for the Arya Samajists – he also formed an Anti-Shuddhi organization. He was also on the editorial staff of the Makhzan. He was also a member of Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly.
I will confine myself to only two couplets of Nairang which I regard as the most representative of his ghazal:
Talab nay khai hain woh thokrain rah-i-tamanna mein Kay aakhir mujh say sharmanay lagi hai aarzoo meri. Ae waye na rasai-i-dast-i-daraz-i-shauq Aur aap ka nikal kay woh jana qareeb say.
I believe that Nairang’s crusade for communal harmony in the subcontinent should be remembered with a sense of gratitude. He appealed to the majority community to desist from the path of sowing the seeds of discord because it is more likely than not that a day would come when those seeds would become trees casting long and wide shadows. This is what the situation is today in our neighbouring country.