Dr Khalid Javed Jan the Original Baaghi in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The word “Baaghi” or “Rebel” holds a great deal of fascination in the Urdu language, especially in its poetry. In Pakistan, over a period of several decades now, a poem in that language titled “Mein Baaghi Hoon” or “I am a Rebel” has been making its rounds in both the literary circles and the politics of the country.
It was even used on a number of occasions by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto overseas and when she returned from exile. It has also been erroneously been credited as a work of the now silent voice of rebellion in Pakistan, poet Habib Jalib.
And of late we were almost sure that Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (most recently of PTI fame) had originated it, except for the fact that his claim is to the line “Haan Mein Baaghi Hoon” or “Yes, I am a Rebel” which is the title of his book too. But all this information has been provided here because the man who wrote the poem “Mein Baagho Hoon” is none other than Dr Khalid Javed Jan and the reason that some of us know that now is that he was in Sacramento, California at an event in his honor on August 31 st.
The Pak American Culture & Arts Council (PACAC) of the greater Sacramento area hosted Dr Jan and for that kudos to them. They put together one of their finest events to date and that too on short notice at their usual venue, the Kabab Corner Restaurant in West Sacramento. And this evening was unusual in another way too because it is usually the San Francisco Bay Area which hosts such Urdu luminaries. But it appears that during this past month, some major players in Pakistani entertainment and literature have gravitated more towards Sacramento and for that this writer and many in dehati (rural) community are not complaining.
The Chief Guest here, Dr Khalid Javed Jan, attended Rawalpindi Medical College and received his education to become a doctor from there. He wrote his most famous work “Mein Baaghi Hoon” during the late 1970’s just before or at the time that General Zia-ul-Haq lead a coup against Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and started what is known as the darkest period of Pakistan’s history. During that time a brutal military dictatorship suppressed the democratic voice of Pakistan. And it lasted for over a decade. Dr Jan was then a member of a group in Rawalpindi called the Eagles, one which actively opposed Zia’s rule. In one protest, Dr Jan was severely beaten and had to seek medical attention. Many writers and political activists were also publicly whipped during those days. It was also during this time of resistance that his poem of rebellion caught the imagination of many people, both in Pakistan and internationally.
Khalid Saeed of the PACAC Sacramento welcomed everyone to the gathering, including the Chief Guest. Dr Jan was introduced here by his old friend Hassan Jakhar. Dr Jan came and took over the stage and during this time in Urdu, Punjabi (and in Saraiki too?) he mesmerized the audience with his talents not just of writing but style of delivery too. Dr Jan had come to the United States to the recently held APPNA convention, so we also have to thank the doctors community in this country for his presence here too. And as I said on stage at the closing of this event, I am repeating here. This was the reminiscent of and the best original Urdu poetry heard in Sacramento since the late Ahmed Faraz graced us with his presence over 16 years ago!
(Dedicated to Shahid Bhai, a recently departed friend of many at the PACAC)