From Nehru to Jigar Muradabadi: A road renamed

Published October 30, 2014
Was it necessary to rechristen a road because it had an Indian patriot’s name, only to give it an Indian poet’s name? —Photo by Akhtar Balouch
Was it necessary to rechristen a road because it had an Indian patriot’s name, only to give it an Indian poet’s name? —Photo by Akhtar Balouch

Jigar Muradabadi and Moti Lal Nehru are two great people from the days of undivided India. Both of them were associated with the Indian National Congress.

Moti Lal was an active political worker. He participated in the independence movement tirelessly. Similarly, Jigar Muradabadi depicted in his verse the atrocities of the British Raj on the Indian people. Moti Lal Nehru breathed his last in 1931; before the independence he selflessly fought for. Jigar died on September 9, 1960. His funeral was held at a Muhammad Ali Park in the Indian city of Gonda.

Doctor Muhammad Ziauddin Ansari, author of Jigar Muradabadi’s biography – which carries the poet’s name as the title – writes that Jigar was a true patriot and a nationalist.

Before India got its independence, Jigar strongly advocated the struggle to oust the British. Although he did not participate in the movement himself, he would always be full of praise for people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Sampurnanand and Dr Zakir Hussain.

In 1958, he received the Sahatya Academy Award, the biggest literary honour of that time in India.


Also read: Remembering Jigar, the poet of love, mysticism and politics


Jigar Muradabadi did come to Pakistan after Partition; mostly as a guest or a poet participating is mushairas (poetry recitals). However, he chose India to be his home. He was a unique poet of the ghazal form. Some of his verses are still popular with the common man:

Yeh ishq nahin aasaan bus itna samajh leejay,
Ik aag ka daria hai aur doob ke jaana hai

(This [act of] love is no easy affair; you might as well think,
It is a river of fire and one must swim across.)

And

Un ka jo farz hai woh ehl-e-siyasat jaanein,
Mera paighaam muhabbat hai jahaan tak pohnchay

(I leave the duties of politicians up to the politicians, My message is love, for as far as it can go)

He was basically a humanistic and a patriotic poet. In 1937, when Bengal faced one of the worst droughts, he criticised the government through his poetry.

Bangaal kee main shaam-o-sahar dekh raha hun,
Har chund hun ke dur magar dekh raha hun,
Aflaas kee maari huee makhlooq sar-e-raah,
Hai gor-o-kafan khaak basar dekh raha hun

(I can see the evenings and the mornings of Bengal,
I may be far from it yet, but I can see still,
In broad daylight, how the misery-stricken people,
[Have] Suffered death and devastation, I can see.

When Mahatma Gandhi was murdered, Muradabadi had paid tribute to him in verse.

Jigar was a true Indian. He never compromised his patriotism, come what may. He loved his country from the bottom of the heart and would never tolerate any criticism on his homeland.

According to Dr Muhammad Ziauddin Ansari, Jigar also portrayed some of the faults of his beloved country in his verse.

An example, as Ansari tells, is his poem titled 'Bhaag Musaafir Mere Watan Say Mere Chaman Se Bhaag'. In this poem, Jigar describes some things he does not appreciate about his country and, in his own way, puts forth some complaints about his countrymen. It was written right after Partition. It was one the most famous poetic works of those days.


Explore: The city of djinns


During the same time, Jigar happened to travel to Pakistan. Khwaja Nazimuddin was the Governor-General of the country back then. He respected Jigar immensely. When he heard that Jigar was coming to Pakistan, he arranged a proper welcome for him.

In that little gathering, Nazimuddin sahib requested Jigar to recite that poem for the audience. Jigar denied the requesting, saying, “Those complains are for my own people. I cannot read it here.”

The Governor-General kept insisting, but Jigar did not flinch.

During the same period, in a gathering of poets in Karachi, a certain poet recited his work, some of which implied hatred for India and incited people to participate in jihad in Kashmir.

Jigar was one of the poets there. He did not hesitate in registering his protest and rushed out immediately.


Also see: The real Father of Karachi


Now let’s talk about Moti Lal Nehru. This was the man who left such an impact on Indian politics that it still stands significant to this day. By profession, he was a lawyer. Although he belonged to a Kashmiri Brahmin family, he was taller than religious divides and constraints. Nehru played a central role in the Indian struggle for independence.

Moti Lal was elected President of Congress twice. He was a staunch nationalist and believed in complete freedom for India. He was also considered a critic of Gandhi. He died before his dream of Indian independence could come true.

After Moti Lal's demise, his son Jawaharlal Nehru replaced him as president of the party. Junior Nehru later became the first Prime Minister of a liberated India.

After Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi became India’s Prime Minister. A common misunderstanding is that it’s because of Mahatma Gandhi that Indira had adopted her second name. Actually, she got her name from a Parsi man whom she married, Feroz Gandhi.

Indira Gandhi was assassinated. It was then her son Rajiv Gandhi who was elected Prime Minister. He, too, was killed in a suicide attack. Moti Lal Nehru’s family still has a huge share in the game of politics in India. May it be Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, the Nehrus and Gandhis are political royalty for the Indian people.

Karachi had a road named after Moti Lal and one after his son, Jawaharlal. It even had a road named after Jawaharlal’s wife, Kamla Nehru.


Take a look: Did you know Burnes Road was named after a British spy-doctor?


The father and son no longer have any street sign to their name in Pakistan, but Kamla Nehru is still the name of a road in Karachi; a topic for another post.

Jigar Muradabadi and Moti Lal Nehru were both great patriots. Most of Pakistan does not know who Moti Lal Nehru even was, but Jigar Muradabadi is known to a lot of people here, especially the literati.

In the municipal corporation’s city map of 1977, a Moti Lal Nehru Road is clearly visible in Jamshed Quarters, Karachi.

But now, it is called the Jigar Muradabadi Road.

Was it so necessary to rechristen a road because it had an Indian patriot’s name, only to rename it to a patriotic Indian poet’s name?

The answer here is simple: Yes. It was gravely important to rename the Moti Lal Nehru Road to Jigar Muradabadi Road, because the former was a Hindu and the latter a Muslim (or at least it's like that for most people).

— Photo by Akhtar Balouch
— Photo by Akhtar Balouch

The road begins at globe facing the Dawood Engineering Colllege and ends somewhere near Guru Mandir.

Though Moti Lal Nehru’s name was quite carefully removed, not a single signboard or a street sign calls the road the Jigar Muradabadi Road. Some Jamshed Town offices are also located on this road but none of them mentions the name of the road. A library, the Iqbal Library, has a signboard, though. It calls the road the Jigar Muradabadi Road.

The funny thing is, Moti Lal Nehru did not even get to oppose Pakistan as he was long dead before the independence movement, let alone Partition.

Jigar, on the other hand, lived long after Partition and came to Pakistan as an Indian.


Translated by Ayaz Laghari from the original in Urdu here.

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