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Songs of Revolt

Poetic responses to the literature of the Ghadar movement

By Ali Mir, Bushra Rehman, Purvi Shah, and Syed Mohammed Shahed


Rebellion is a continuing effort


An established practice of Urdu poetry to take a hemistitch, or half line, of a verse or couplet and compose a new one in that ground. I chose the second line of Amar Singh’s couplet “ye beRa hai tabahi ka, uThaaye jis ka ji chaahe”, as a ground to compose a tribute to the Ghadar movement, incorporating in it my thoughts on the present day reality that “rebellion/resistance” is a constant, everyday watchfulness and struggle … “speaking truth to power”. While Amar Singh’s couplet is the main inspiration and the ground for my composition, I have incorporated thoughts from several other poems from “Ghadar di goonj”.

—Syed Mohammed Shahed

Pandit Sohan Lal Pathak, one of the leaders of the Ghadar Party, was hanged on February 10, 1916 in Mandalay jail for inciting rebellion against the British rule. At his martyrdom, another Ghadarite Amar Singh wrote:

Ghadar couplet

???? ????? ????? ??, ??? ??? ????? ?????? ??
?? ????? ?? ????? ??, ????? ??? ?? ?? ????

Mansur cheerfully took the noose, and called from the gallows
This is an undertaking of sacrifice, take it up if you dare

I particularly loved this couplet of Amar Singh because it reminded me of another very popular couplet used in freedom rallies during the Indian independence movement. Ramprasad Bismil (1897-1927), a contemparary of the Ghadar Movement, had contact with Lala Hardayal. He was an accomplished poet and for his “taKhallus” (pen-name) he adopted “bismil” meaning “sacrificial animal”. Bismil’s couplet below conveys the same sentiments and defiance as that of Amar Singh.

Ghadar couplet 2

???????? ?? ?????? ?? ????? ??? ??? ??
????? ?? ???? ????? ????? ? ?????? ??? ??

We are fired up with passion, willing to get our head chopped off
It remains to be seen if the arm of the executioner is strong enough


Ghadar tehreek e paiham hai

Verse 1 - Tribute

Verse 2 - Tribute

Verse 3 - Tribute

Verse 4 - Tribute

Verse 5 - Tribute

Verse 6 - Tribute


Rebellion is a continuing effort

Rebellion a continuing effort, take it up if you dare
This is an undertaking of sacrifice, take it up if you dare

Rebellion alert every moment to the schemes of the powerful
Have the courage to speak truth to power, if you dare

Rebellion is a constant struggle against the stream
This, a blood-stained Ganges, take a dip if you dare

Qaazi, Gyani or be it a Pandit, same character, different masks
A grand deception of sanctity, see through if you dare

The dominance of capital, the power of politicians, the claimants of religiosity
These are facets of the same puzzle, resolve if you dare

Worker, peasant, Indian, Pakistani divided and separated
Step forward and embrace, if you dare


Syed Mohammed Shahed was born 70 years ago in Hyderabad. He recently retired after more than 40 years in engineering R&D. Shahed has had no formal education in Urdu. With only a rudimentary ability to read and write, he started seriously learning Urdu after retirement—from his friend and mentor Moazzam Siddiqi. As part of the learning process he maintains a website in which Urdu Ghazals, nazms, marsias are posted in Nastaleeq, Devnagiri and Roman scripts with translations, commentary and audio tracks.