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Why did Jaun Eliya believe in nationalism over universal brotherhood

Saquib Salim

Anyone who is active on social media and has any liking for Urdu poetry certainly knows Jaun Eliya. We all have seen him in videos reciting poetry with intense emotions. Youngsters love him as a poet of pure love and scholars appreciate him as a philosopher poet who believed in Marxism. But very few know his views on cultural nationalism vis a vis internationalism.

Left-leaning intellectuals and religious preachers, especially in third-world countries, tell people to unite across national borders for a greater cause. We have seen them urging the people that national or cultural allegiances can be shunned for greater causes of religion, feminism, democracy, or any other ideology. People on social media often tag each other to save ideologies in their nations. Elia was a severe critic of such intellectuals.

Elia edited an Urdu magazine, Insha. In its January 1963 issue, he wrote an article, Tere Diwane Yaha Tak Pahunche (Your lovers have reached here) where he warned his readers, “Don’t ever get deceived by the slogans of Universal Brotherhood. Some people try to misguide you in its garb.”

Eliya wanted people to identify such activists who, “try to impose their own beliefs on others to benefit themselves. They don’t care if a person is dying of hunger but if that person follows their belief or not is certainly their concern. They are above the issues which concern earthlings. Their divine belief/ideology neither has a nation nor any language. They want to ruin our societies.”

Eliya was not against a global society but he was against people who in the name of internationalism try to harm nations and their cultures. He wrote, “The concept of a global society doesn’t teach you to be treacherous to your civilization and an enemy of your own nation. But, these people raising the slogans of universal brotherhood want you to surrender your independence, strength, nationalism, social integrity, and creative self.”

Eliya further asked his readers that even if they believed that the intentions of these intellectuals were not to harm nations then also in case they succeed in bringing a revolution where love for language, culture, and nation becomes secondary to some ‘larger cause’ then who would gain from this situation? Of course, the enemies of the nation and culture will use this opportunity for their gain. 

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Eliya was writing in Pakistan and his targets were pan-islamists and Russian-backed communists. But, his words have not lost their relevance. In a completely different time and space, this warning holds for the Indians against the intellectuals who talk of the universal brotherhood of the oppressed instead of national integrity. It doesn’t mean that universal brotherhood or rights of the oppressed are evil ideas but their use to compromise the sovereignty of nations and cultures certainly is. 

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