“Strange Fruit” is a song which has always inspired me, it has made me cry, it has motivated me, it has aroused passion in me, and it has made me experience sorrow and grief all at the same times. Result is that it has become a strong inspiration for me. Sung by the legendary Billie Holiday based on the lyrics of a Jewish school teacher who was member of American Communist Party, the song is one of the strongest Artistic protests against Racism and Fascism. The bodies of young Negro lads hanging on tress after being lynched by God fearing, patriotic white Americans became allegorical symbols for poetic expression as “strange fruits”.
It’s not just a piece of music, or a piece of history which gives liberals kick thinking romantically of the “struggle” and than being grateful to American democracy which has defeated racism. The song and what it represents is some thing greater. When these crimes were being committed people were silent. Those were killing blacks were ordinary people church going people who thought they were doing a service to community. It was all being done in the name America, its values, and its national interest. When Abel Meeropol wrote the lyrics, he used a pseudonym Lewis Allan. Billie Holiday who sung it had to face persecution. Columbia refused to record this song. But these people persisted. They had to defy their country’s law and perceived interest to bring change. They dissented, they resisted and they protested.
Pakistani society is slowly giving in to Fascism. Our intellectuals are so obsessed with state and its interest that they are blind to the crimes being committed. In 71 they remained silent on Bengali Genocide. I have written about this before as well, here. All this was in the name of “national interest”. Now Baluchistan is the “scotoma” in Pakistani consciousness. Pakistan’s colonialism in Baluchistan is reaching its final oppressive stages. The case of Zarrina Murree was still fresh and no outrage was noticed in public opinion and now young student activist Qambar Baluch has gone “missing”. Malik Siraj Akbar of Daily times says here:
“There are confirmed reports that Qambar Baloch, a student of the 8th semester in Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) department at the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS), has gone ‘missing’. He ‘disappeared’ on 12 February from Quetta city where he had been invited by some officials ‘to come for investigations’. Bold enough to face his investigators, Qambar had fixed the district compound area for the meeting with the ‘unidentified caller’ where he would meet him. Since then no one knows about his whereabouts.”
Unspeakable crimes are being done in Baluchistan, extra judicial killings, torture, dispossession of whole population, a slow genocide of a sort but no news comes in the media. The simple sleeping pill our intellectuals have is “RAW” being involved in Baluchistan. With this Pakistani state gets right to do any thing it wants and no one will say a thing. Our collective “Big Bad India Syndrome”. Baluch anger is now out of control. The Nationalist, whom Pakistani establishment has been suppressing since day 1 and who despite that have remained pro Pakistan are now becoming irrelevant in front of angry young Baluch who are now fighting for “freedom”. A clear “Post nationalist” turn is visible in Baluch resistance. Unlike Baluch nationalists who were Marxists, Socialists and modernists. The post nationalist resistance is racist, violent and increasingly adopting International terrorist paradigm. This type of terrorism was virtually unheard of in Left wing military insurgencies. John Solecki’s kidnapping clearly indicating the influence of tactics of Al Qaida . Even more disturbing explanation could be that a part of Baluch
resistance has been infiltrated by Pakistani agencies that have long track record of this kind of terrorism in collaboration with Islamists. Baluchistan is a Bengal in making and Pakistani intellectuals and liberals are once again guilty of silence.
President Zardari today spoke about a “Taliban Take over” this too falls on deaf ears, though he himself is contributing to threat of Fascism by refusing to distance himself from imperialism. Islamic Fascism can never be defeated by USA’s war on terror which as empirical proof suggest has only helped increase it. Ahmad Rashid’s seminal work “Descent in chaos” explains it brilliantly as how United States policy is only causing “failed states”. Taliban’s reign of terror is continuing but it because the theory of “strategic depth” remains in place: Pakistani state keeping its links with groups and playing them against each other. All the networks and infrastructure remains intact. In the state of despair I listen to “Strange Fruit”. I want to believe Faiz Ahmad Faiz but I am loosing hope
Aatay Aatay yun hi dum bhar ku rukki hogi bahar
Jaatay Jaatay yun hi pal bhar ku khizan theri he
(If Autumn is here could Spring be far away?)
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.