When two of Urdu poetry’s big guns fight, it’s all over Bhopal’s walls

Bashir Badra says Manzar Bhopali behind posters alleging he prayed for India’s destruction, some say it’s an intra-BJP fight
MILIND GHATWAI writing in The Indian Express
BHOPAL, FEBRUARY 9: When poets fight, they don’t necessarily use poetic language. Renowned Urdu poet and chairman of Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy Bashir Badra has accused poet Manzar Bhopali of printing posters that allege he (Badra) prayed for India’s destruction at Mecca to avenge his sufferings in a communal riot.
A few posters pasted on the walls of the old city carry a picture of Badra and a message, “Inhone Hindustan ki barbadi ki dua mangi (he wished India’s destruction).” The police have recorded statements of both the poets on a complaint from Badra who said Bhopali wanted to demean him in the eyes of both communities.
Both, incidentally, are members of the BJP and had earned the wrath of the Muslim community when they floated the Atal Behari Vajpayee Fan Club in 2004. A fatwa had been issued against Badra from Lucknow and Hyderabad. The two were together then but have now fallen out.
“He has lost his mental balance,” fumed Bhopali, 46, about the senior poet, “I still hold him in high esteem.” Bhopali told the police on Thursday that he was not in town when the posters sprang up. “I have no clue why he named me. All I know is he asked for help a fortnight ago but I could not back him.”
Badra reportedly made the controversial confession before a group of poets when they were receiving mementos at a mushaira in Dubai in 1999. Badra’s house in Meerut was burnt by a Hindu mob several years ago after which he moved to Bhopal and shot to prominence through his poetry that won him a Padmashri. The ‘confession’ has been referred to in the past and also included in an article in the recent issue of Panchjanya.
Badra claimed he hasn’t travelled abroad in the last eight years and there have been conspiracies to defame him in the past too. “They want to take away my Padmashri,” he complained.
Lucknow-based poet Munavvar Rana, who attended the Dubai mushaira, told The Indian Express over the phone that Badra did make the confession and was condemned by both Indian and Pakistani poets for not being loyal to his home country. Badra had visited Mecca about three weeks before the mushaira.
Badra had criticised Rana’s poetry at a mushaira in Bhopal organised in November last year by the Madhya Pradesh government as part of its golden jubilee celebrations. Badra’s effigies were burnt for showing disrespect to a guest and for bringing disrepute to the city known for its Urdu poets in the past. The public spat was witnessed by the governor and bureaucrats.
A few days later, Badra, in a television interview, remarked that he was an accomplished artist who could play the Satan, Adam and the prophet sparking off protests. Badra later claimed his remark was twisted.
Bhopali, who was convener of the All India Congress Committee’s culture cell before switching loyalty to the BJP, said Badra was worried because his controversial interview has come to haunt him when the Muslims are protesting worldwide against the cartoons on the Prophet. Rana said Badra’s allegation against Bhopali was a result of his frustration over not landing a bigger post in the BJP.
“He was hoping for a nomination to the Rajya Sabha but had to remain content with heading the Urdu Academy, a post he considers infradig,” he said.
The posters bear an address: Tanvir Press, Lalbaug, Lucknow, the city where protests against Badra began when he floated the fan club and when he criticised Rana’s poetry. Both Rana and Bhopali say they have nothing to do with the posters.
Inspector S L Pande of Talaiya Police Station said a case will be registered only if the police get evidence.

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