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‘Punjabi should be the medium of communication in Punjab’: Asad Mufti

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Asad Mufti – poet, fiction writer, television producer and film maker, all rolled into one – has been living in Holland for the last three decades.

Mufti was co-organizer of the First Punjabi Conference in 1986. This interview with him is from when he was back in the city to attend the 9th World Punjabi Conference.

Born to a literary family of Batala, he was two-years-old when the family migrated to Lahore after partition. Mufti calls Lahore his home.

He started writing poetry when he was in school. Before going abroad he was writing for Daily Imroze.

He got his initial training in film making in Lahore and has so far directed six films. He got a scholarship to learn film making from Moscow and later went to Holland, in 1973. Having worked with the Dutch TV, he got an early retirement from service.

Who inspired you to create?

I have enjoyed the company of senior writers from early age. My learning started at home with my father Mufti Tajul Muluk. My grandfather, Master Mohammed Husain, was a Persian poet. So it was the family environment which inspired me. Later on, I started attending meetings of Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq and Punjabi Adbi Sangat.

These institutions of learning made me politically conscious. In those days everything under the sun would be discussed at the weekly meetings organized by these bodies. It was an era of national liberation movements and Vietnam War. I became a committed leftist. Even after the demise of the Soviet Union I am still a socialist. I tell people they may call me a ‘private socialist’.

Mumtaz Mufti was your paternal uncle. Didn’t he inspire you?

I like his earlier short stories like ‘Masiha’. I wish he had carried on with the same diction.

Some of his earlier short stories were equal in quality to that of Manto’s and Bedi’s. But many people were affected after partition and I think Mumtaz Mufti was one of them. He diverted towards mysticism and later on joined Qudratullah Shahab, whose company killed Mumtaz Mufti’s creative talents.

Isn’t Ali Pur Ka Aeli a very good novel?

Urdu literature would not have been poorer without it. As I said, his earlier short stories were excellent. Had he kept that pattern he would have been a great fiction writer.

You are an ardent supporter of Punjabi language. When did you realise that Punjabi was being denied its due place?

Right from my days in the Punjabi Adbi Sangat, I was conscious why Punjabi should be the medium of instruction in Punjab. Mother tongue, like culture, are absorbed quietly by a person.

Once a culture and language become part of your personality, how can you shun it once you have grown up? People disown it (Punjabi) because of a conspiracy.

Don’t you think Punjabis themselves are to be blamed for this situation?

Even if Punjabis are responsible for the present situation, it doesn’t mean, that Punjabi language should not get its due place.

Punjabis are ruling Punjab, then why are they not adopting Punjabi as medium of instruction? Who is stopping them from doing so?

This is a political issue. They may take everything from me, but give me my culture and language. There is an unholy alliance between the establishment, feudals and capitalists for the promotion of Urdu. The Urdu speaking people have been behind it. The exploiting classes realized they could continue their domination through Urdu.

I give you an example from history. I was not a Vietnamese but being a conscious citizen of the world it was my duty to raise my voice against the American aggression and occupation of Vietnam.

Why Urdu speaking people are not raising their voice in favour of Punjabi? I ask the Urdu speaking progressives, have they fulfilled their duty? The reality is that they want that Punjabi should never be given its due place. But things will change for better soon.

What are your views on the 9th WPC held in Lahore?

I think the biggest achievement of this conference was the progress made on the Indo-Pak peace front. For the first time in history the two ‘Bara Sahibs’ of Punjab (chief ministers of Indian and Pakistani Punjab) met in Lahore. It is a big achievement.

Would you like to comment on the literature being produced here?

We should take care of quality instead of quantity. We can find lots of books to read if we do not care for quality. I request senior friends to guide the juniors in producing quality books.

We hear that you are going to India. What are your plans?

I want to make a film on peace, beside participating in mushairas and other literary meetings.

Another film…Why have you not produced any book so far?

I have been lazy. Beside I can’t imagine that I will pay the publisher for taking out my book. But now I have requested some friends to edit my writings and soon you will see my book of poetry/fiction in Urdu and Punjabi.

Kanwal Mushtaq is going to include my short story ‘Lalo Nai‘ in his Punjabi anthology. I could not continue writing short stories because it consumed too much of my time. Poetry can be created anytime, anywhere.

Why do you write?

My theme is people. I don’t write for pleasure. My agenda is to make the world beautiful and worth living. I also write from a secular, socialist point of view. I believe all religions are for peace and do not preach violence.

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