Mutiny in Verse-the martyr known as Paash

Mutiny in verse
Amaninder Pal

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 23, 2010
History has rarely given a chance to a poet to be called a martyr. But Avtar Singh Sandhu, popularly known as Paash, is one such martyr.

Spewing revolt through his poetry, which later marked the qualitative shift in the entire paradigm of Punjabi poetry, the legendary poet was killed by militants at the age of 38 on this day in 1988.

Quite taken in by the wave of Naxalite movement of the late sixties, Paash was one among those writers who impulsively transformed the realm of Punjabi literature and gave it a violent and radical hue.

“Like many other poets, he also highlighted subjugation of masses in his poems. But what makes him different is that he himself took part in people’s struggles. Due to his participation in those struggles and agitations, he was put in jail and falsely implicated in a murder case. Before writing, he himself experienced the tools of state oppression on his body and mind,” said his friend and poet Mindherpal Bhathal.

Paash wrote his first book “Loh Katha” at the age of 19, second at the age of 23 and third in his late twenties. “Loh Katha” was merely considered as “bunch of slogans” in literary circles.

However, his second book “Uddeyaan Bazaan Magar” marked his formal entry, along with his entirely different style, in the Punjabi literati. Most of the poems published in this book were written while he was in jail.

His third book “Sade Samiyaan Vich”, published in 1978, includes most of his classical poems.

Though this book established him as a poet-cum-philosopher-cum-critique of rare intellect, poems in this book clearly reflected the melancholic taste of the worldwide drowning of the left movement.

Later, after his death, the Paash Memorial International Trust in the book “Khilre Hoye Varke” compiled his unpublished work.

The beauty of his verses is that they can talk about both the rising prices of foodgrains and the beautiful eyes of a village girl in one line.

He talked of peasants, labourers, policemen, girl friends, childhood friends, village commonplace, pet animals and even the fragrance of flowers in his poems.

The martyrdom day of Paash, incidentally coincides with the day on which Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged to death in Lahore Central Jail in 1931. He was killed amid the same mustard flowers which he used as icons in one of his poem for his beloved.

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