Gurpreet Singh: From Lodi to Modi, Kabir will continue to hunt down the powerful

June 24 marked the anniversary of the birth of a revolutionary poet and saint whose rebellious rhymes will remain relevant today.

Kabir was born into a Muslim family of weavers in Varanasi, India, in 1398.

He grew up as a poet whose body of work also inspired the Sikh gurus, who included his verses in their holy scriptures from Guru Granth Sahib.

Kabir denounced the orthodoxy of both Islam and Hinduism and sharply criticized blind faith and the brutal caste system within Hindu society.

Some of his poems were nothing less than a battle cry that inspired many radicals to take up arms to fight injustice and repression.

He mainly defended the poor and the marginalized. This prompted the Hindu and Muslim clergy to team up against him and provoke the then Delhi Emperor Sikandar Lodi to punish him.

However, Kabir survived several attempts by Lodi to have him executed. This was mainly because he was so successful, even among those who worked for the king.

Ironically, his hometown is now in the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose actions mirror those of Lodi.

Not only did attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents escalate under his Hindu nationalist BJP government, but the Hindu orthodoxy that Kabir had challenged took center stage in Indian politics.

Despite this, Modi tried to make Kabir his own. On Thursday, while paying homage to the saint on his birthday, Modi said the path he has mapped out will continue to inspire generations to move forward with brotherhood and goodwill.

Author and scholar Anand Teltumbde is one of many Indian intellectuals imprisoned since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
Gurpreet Singh

What could be more contradictory than someone like Modi who says it when his government has locked up academics who defended the outsiders, following in Kabir’s footsteps?

The list goes on, but a few examples are enough to suggest that Modi doesn’t even have a moral right to talk about Kabir.

Anand Teltumbde, the grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar, a prominent social justice activist, was jailed last year on false charges for simply questioning Modi’s power. Anbedkar was the architect of the Indian constitution and his family was said to have been influenced by Kabir.

Teltumbde is also a renowned writer and columnist who practices exactly what Kabir preached.

Likewise, former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, disabled below the waist, continues to be imprisoned in inhumane conditions for raising his voice against the repression of minorities and the poor.

An old revolutionary poet, Varavara Rao, is also being held to silence all voices of reason and dissent.

Perhaps we need to remind Modi that it was Kabir who said, “The brave is he who fights for the oppressed.

By persecuting Teltumbde, Saibaba, Rao and many others like them, Modi is only repeating what Lodi did centuries ago.

About Harold Hartman

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