The Worker 11: Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s Poems: The Voice of the Oppressed
Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s Poems: The Voice of the Oppressed
Rajan Prasad Pokharel
1. Krishna Sen Ichhuk and his Creative Personality:
In 2059 BS Krishna Sen Ichhuk was very much talked about with national and international concerns. It is said that thousands of newspapers and broad-casting media showed their concerns with the Krishna Sen episode. It was Krishna Sen’s involvement in revolutionary journalism and his literary writing because of which the Deuba government during the emergency period in Nepal declared a price tag of three and half million rupees upon Krishna Setfs head, and hence arrested him and killed him in the police custody. The whole world once heaved up to protest against fascism. It shows how precious a poet’s head is. Krishna Sen’s writing was so powerful to arouse people’s consciousness that the fascists at their extreme irritation finally decided to obliterate Krishna Sen’s living body from this word, but can they ever rub out his creative contributions? Certainly not, and he would rather be living more powerfully in the people’s heart through his creative works.
Krishna Sen Ichhuk was born in the Nepali Lahure family in Deharadun in 2013 BS as the first son of Yam Bahadur Sen and Bhim Kumari Sen. He lost his mother in his childhood, which made a big difference in his life. His sensible heart was drawn up to poetic creations right from his early school days by the inspiration of some school teachers. His first published poem is “Bholi-Prati” (for tomorrow) which was published in Matribhumi (a weekly Nepali news paper) in 2032 BS. Right from the beginning of his literary career he has expressed his feelings as a rebel poet. His first publication as a book form is an elegy entitled Shokanjali (2048 BS) which he wrote to express a bitter shock at the murder of his dear friend Mitra Mani Acharya. Actually he had written this elegy in 2042 BS immediately after the news of his friend’s death reached his ears while he was in prison. He could not tolerate the loss of his friend and he expressed unbearable shock in the elegy. His second publication Itihans Ko Yas Ghhadima (2056 BS) is a collection of some selected poems composed between 2038 BS and 2055 BS.
2. Subject Matters of Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s Poetry
The poems express diverse subject matters: some contextual issues, some international concerns and much of people’s suffering and exploitation and the class conflicts. It is a complete blend of art and anger in poetic presentation. His third publication is Bandi ra Chandragiri (a series of poems, 2057 BS). It’s a type of a short epic in which he has presented the Chandragiri hill as a beloved, as a true witness of all suppressions and sufferings, as a co-warrior and as a nature partner in the poet’s journey of life. He has personified the Chandragiri hill to share his feelings and experiences, pains and sufferings, dreams and desires, his ideological beliefs and revolutionary thoughts. He observes Chandragiri almost every moment from the Bhadrabandi jail-cell and believes the Chandragiri knows everything. His fourth collection is Parkhat Bhitraka Banda Awajarharu which is yet to be published.
For his revolutionary belief and political affiliation he was imprisoned for more than eight years by the Panchayati despotic regime and also by the fascism of so-called democrats. He was many times severely tortured in the custody but he never surrendered to the reactionaries. He was a poet at heart and he was true to his beliefs. He accepted death like other revolutionary philosophers, poets and prophets did in the human history. In this sense he can be equated to the greatness of any great martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their convictions.
Krishna Sen wrote and wrote and wrote: the newspapers articles as a journalist and poems as a poet. His writings about the revolutionary changes caused a big headache to the reactionaries. His regular detention also did not give any relief to them, so that they finished his existence to stop his writings for ever. But it was too late for them to finish his life because he had already managed to live long through a large number of his poetic creations. Writing about Krishna Sen Ichhuks creative genius, a revolutionary poet, Ishwor Chandra Gyawaii in Janadesh Weekly says:
This is such a type of subject matter, which can never be fully defined or described.
Can a bright shone, a great story of the martyrdom be over? Certainly it can’t be.
More over, its effects, its impression and the messages will last for thousands of years or for ages, for an everlasting period of time. The songs of the sacrifices of those martyrs who dived into the existence of the flames of revolution, for the emancipation of the people and freedom of the nation have colored the existence of the country and the people’s life giving up everything of personal interest for the prosperity of the nation and provided their aspirations to the protection of new generations. They have written the glorious history with the unobliterable iron ink, the history of liveliness, inspiration, and significant messages, would it ever come to an end? Krishna Sen Ichhuk represents the golden writings of those great hymns of the martyrs. (Janadesh 4).
Writing about Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s poetic genius, Mr. Gyawali cannot stop himself from expressing an emotional attachment with Krishan Sen Ichhuk. It seems he wants to flow with Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s poetic path. Gyawaii appears very lost, sentimental, and emotional as if he wants to get merged into Ichhuk’s poetic personality so that he can express his true feeling of respect to Krishna Sen’s creative contributions. He further says:
Ichhuk was rich of multiple geniuses. He was a galaxy of great thoughts and ideals, a poetic genius and a bright literary personality. Because of his strong faith in his ideology, he never surrendered to give up his beliefs. He was not afraid or worn out. He thought that it was dearer to uphold life in a dark corner of the jail-cell than divert from his faith. Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s sacrificing notion, revolutionary awareness and morality leave a deep impression in me. Martyr Krishna Sen will solely live on this ideological foundation because his life was a wonderful ordeal of art and practice. We find a complete coherence between his words and actions, thought and practice, ideals and examples, saying and doing and between heart, speech and work in Krishna Sen’s poetic genius. (4)
3. Thematic Coherence in Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s Poetry:
Basically in Krishna Sen Ichhuk’s poems the depiction of reality, expressions of pains and sufferings, feelings of revolts against suppressions, exploitations and injustices, hatred toward enemies and a need for a revolutionary violence for a complete democratic formation of the society in course of a drastic change and progressive settlement are the common themes. There is art, anger and class consciousness in his poems. In almost all of his poems, he expresses the voice of the oppressed people, their feelings, their woes and wishes for revolts.
In Shokanjali (2048 BS) the poet expresses his true feeling of love towards his friend. The news of his friend’s death so forcefully touched his heart that his poetic sensibility burst out in the form of an elegy by the heightened feeling of shock. The loss of his friend is unbearable. He finds the effect of this loss on nature also. It shows that the perception of nature lies in man’s mind. For many other eyes nature might be laughing at the moment when Krishna Sen finds it weeping. He writes:
What should I ask? The dew weeps
I see the day also crying in the sun’s brightness
The flower weeps and the buds are shedding tears,
Whom should I ask? I don’t know. At this time
The whole nature seems to cry all around me.
Dr. Jagdish Chandra Bhandari writes about Krishna Sen’s feeling in Shokanjali,
In this poetic work the poet himself has stood as a character to be addressing the hero with his pains, sorrows and grief. For him the room, courtyard, day, night and everything appear totally empty. He feels the absence of his very dear friend and the reminiscences badly scratch in him. The poet expresses the woes of the thoughtlessness. He is highly aggrieved. He inquires with the cloud, wind, moon and the morning. He personifies nature and finds it as shocked as he himself is. (Bedana 28)
Krishna Sen Ichhuk wants nature to be guided by his feelings and perceptions. At this unbearable shock he requests the sky to be cracked with the rifts and the earth to go down to abyss to let the whole creatures know that Krishna Sen’s friends died an untimely and unusual death.
In course of development of the elegy he magnifies his friend’s death and consoles himself with an idea that his friend’s death has a significant meaning. He takes his murder as a part of the progress of class struggles. He writes,
And I wept
I won’t probably be engulfed in the feeling of shocks
This is the blood-red war of the class struggle
In the critical moments of our complicated life
The poignant truth will never be forgotten
He glorifies his friend’s death. He thinks that his friend’s death would remain a source of inspiration at the success of the class struggles. His friend’s death has energized the people’s movement for the revolutionary changes of the society. The friend’s martyrdom would inspire the oppressed people to fight for their rights and justice.
Itihas Ko Yas Ghadima (2056 BS) consists of thirty-one poems some of which can be compared to the best poems of the world literature. The first poem which implies as “Thawang is my lovely hillside village”, is the history of the innocent poor people and their awareness, the resistance and the counter attacks against the unjust tortures and oppressions of the enemy’s soldiers. The poet writes how cruelties were done upon the people of Thawang:
The cocks had not yet crowed
The people had not yet woken up
The birds had not yet chirped,
The night was still dark
The environment was so peaceful
The enemy’s armed forces entered the village
They mercilessly struck the armless people
They looted and ravished the people
And deserted the village to a complete deadness
(Ichhuk, 2056: 2)
He says that enemies celebrated their victory. They laughed, enjoyed and celebrated. They thought that they defeated the people of Thawang but they never realized that people will rise up and resist their cruelties and injustices. Now the situation has changed. The people have been united and have invigorated themselves to counter attacks upon the enemies. The village is now bright and smiling after the resistance movement of its people. “Thawang, still today/ like the historic Chinkansand hill ranges/ is laughing gloriously” (3).
In the “lahure”, Krishna Sen Ichhuk talks how the Nepalese workers and laborers have been pulling rickshaws, washing plates and working as slaves in others’ houses in India.
The laborers to solve the hand to mouth problems
In the foreign factories
They are all Lahures
They work in houses, go-downs and camps
To keep up their lives
They are all Lahures. (12)
The hill side people of Nepal leave home to get recruited in the foreign army but when they fail to join it, they do not immediately return home. They work as labourers, servants and rickshaw puller in others’ countries. But they want to be called as Lahures. Their misery ridicules the term. Lahure is no longer a dignified term. It is not a matter of glory and pride. It’s rather humiliating which implies servility and low profile.
Similarly Krishna Sen has expressed deep concerns with some international issues. He remembers a South African poet who was hanged by the white government. He expresses his strong unity with the anti-apartheid movement of the world.
In his poems there are many traces in which he has presented himself as a poet of international consciousness. He supports all international uprisings against suppressions, domination and segregation. He has a strong sense of hatred towards the imperialists and expansionists. He makes frequent back and forth movements in his presentation between the national and international questions. His feeling of brotherhood with the workers of the world is very clear. He stands on the side of the people’s movement against all domination. In this sense poet Krishna Sen Ichhuk is found to be a true friend of the proletariat of the world.
He expresses his deep love for his motherland in a poem “Bandi Chhora Ko Patra” (A letter from a Hostage Son). He is a great patriot. He addresses his mother in which we can see his sacrificing notion towards his motherland.
Let my blood flow for my country, mother!
Wherever I die, I should die for the nation
In the holy fire of the liberation war
My life-should be the sacred fuel for the fire to flame up
And, wherever I die, I wish I would die for the nation. (71-72)
Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bhandari mades a very internal and external liveliness of conflict of a realistic life is found in artistic and poetic style. He has written poems on diverse subject matters and they are created on the ground of truthfulness of life. The success of Ichhuk’s poems lies at the fact that they begin with simplicity noving towards the extraordinariness or denseness through poetic sensibilities; they do not only present the experiences of life but also tough life with class sentiments and let the readers get into the class sufferings. His poems are full of satirical expression. However the warrior is standing between every line of the poems. There is much poetic expression in Ichhuk’s poems. The poet is never worried, never terrified, nor suspicious and not at all pessimistic in his poems. Rather, he has given his expressions on a poetic path of courage, confidence, determination and commitment.
On the whole Itihans Ko Yas Ghadima there is Ichhuk’s magnificent work of art. In his poems Ichhuk has expressed his affinity, affection, intimacy and fraternity with all oppressed people. He speaks the voice of the oppressed people wherever they are in. He also gives an impulse to them so that they can revolt against any sort of oppressions they have faced.
Bandi Ra Chandragiri (2057 BS) is written in the form of a short epic consisting of nine chapters but they are all coherent in the way that in all parts the poet addresses the Chandragiri hill and expresses his feeling towards her. He watches the perpetuity, incessantness and strong resoluteness of the Chandragiri hill from which he takes much inspiration for his poetic and ideological aspirations. The poet is inside the prison and the hill gives the poet a regular company from the distance. He idealizes the hill, and by this regular observation he falls in love with it. Rather, he finds the hill as a true representation of the outside world. Dr. Nandish Adhikari writes, “In this writing the hero’s heart is very much tormented and agonized and there is only Chandragiri to sympathize with him. Therefore, from the confinement of the four walls of the Bhadragol Jail, the poet addresses Chandragiri with a view to sharing his feeling with it.” (Kalam 57)
The poet seems to be so emotionally attached with Chandragiri. He watches Chandragiri from dawn to dusk, the changing colours and the atmosphere. It shows how the poet finds nature so alive and friendly. The poet addresses Chandragiri in the first chapter as:
Before the sunrise in the east
Before the golden rays spread in the earth!
Along with the chirping of the birds
Everyday I get up early in the morning
And I watch you
Before the sun-set in the west
Before you wave your hand, with a sad smile
Bidding bye to the setting sun
Everyday I keep watching you
(Ichhuk, 2057: 1)
In Dr. Jagdish Chandra Bhandari’s interpretation, Chandragiri is a symbol which is in poet’s mind, heart and in the external natural circumstances:
In the long poem of Bandi Ra Chandragiri, the rebel’s internal and external personality has been manifested. The hostage addresses Chandragiri as witness of real atmosphere of the Nepalese life, which exists both inside and outside. It is a basic symbol of an unshaken belief of the prisoner: not of the life of the hostage only: the various context of Nepalese life, disfigured reality forms of exploitations, suppressions and injustices, and on the contrary the fights for beauty, new construction, justice, equality, emancipation and efforts of war have been presented in the poem.
Dr. Bhandari further writes, “in the character adjustment between the human hostage here and the geographical context of the Chandragiri hill, Ichhuk’s artistic presentation has played a very significant role about poeticizing his flames like feelings for their transformation into his revolutionary aims and messages. In this regard Ichhuk has been fairly successful.” (37)
Nature is Ichhuk’s best friend. He is with nature so much so that he can fully trust in it. He takes nature as a true and trustworthy friend, beloved and co-traveler and a true messenger. He asks nature to witness the happenings and speaks the truth what he saw. He personifies it as a very sensible human being. He thinks that nature understands his feelings and revolutionary ideas. He feels that nature is always progressive. There are many things in nature that a rebel has to understand, learn and use them in life.
Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bhandari’s opinion can be very much relevant at this context, “the hostage hero does not seem to be lonely within the four walls of the prison. The freedom fighter has found an intimate affinity with Chandragiri in his journey of life….” (34)
Dr. Rishi Rai Baral in the preface of Bandi Ra Chandragiri writes:
In the imprisoned situation also I found a hero, a warrior actively moving forward in a journey leaving all hurdles of life behind. Projecting Chandragiri as a witness, I found a herald driving the chariot of the Mahabharat rushing for victory over all fascist atrocities and conspiracies. (“Preface”)
The poet’s sensibility has been enriched by the class questions and class consciousness in an emotional flow. Despite the fact that he is confined to the four walls of jail cell, he is psychologically very dynamic, he is traveling all over the country in the hills and villages shaking hands with the comrades and seeing them off for a great battle wishing them a victory. Moreover, the poet himself is always war-like, excited and optimistic.
Through the Chandragiri hill he has an inside and outside communication. Chandragiri has got the patience to listen to him, so that he finds his emotional attachment with it through which he gives vent to his feelings, thoughts and fantasies. The voice of the oppressed people is in the heart of his poems. There is a desire for resistance movement, counter-attacks and revolutionary violence from the peoples’ side for change and new settlement. In his opinion conflict is the best solution to all social, political and economic problems.
The love for the worker’s class consciousness and class struggle are the basic lines of his poetic expression. He wants to see the change, new formation of the social structures and a new age of the oppressed people. He asks Chandragiri to understand his feeling and justify the truth and give a verdict of right and wrong. He makes an appeal, a very deep request with Chandragiri to understand the pathetic situation of the country and the miserable condition he shouts slogans towards the cowards who want to suppress the people’s voice of pains and suffering, hunger and diseases, troubles and destitutions. He remembers the martyrs, sufferers and hostages. He persuades the people to rise up for a stormy movement. He salutes the people’s movement with an idea that it will solve all the problems of inequalities, injustices and corrupt system.
In all his works Krishna Sen speaks the voice of the oppressed people. Either in Shokanjali (2048) or in Itihans Ko Yas Ghadima (2056), he vomits out the flames of revolt towards the reactionaries with a desire of counter violence against their exploitation and cruelties. In his concept revolutionary violence on the ground of class conflict is the only solution to all problems. He has written his poems on the same themes and there is a wonderful thematic coherence in all his works.
Adhikari, Dr. Nandish. “Ichhuk’s Personality in Bandi Ra Chandragiri.” Kalam Falgun-Baisakh 2058/59: 55-59.
Baral, Dr. Rishi Raj. “Sen Jee! Please, don’t Forget the Dreams of Astrovaski!” Bandi ra Chandragiri, Progressive Study Centre: Kathmandu, 2057.
Bhandari, Dr. Jagdish Chandra. “Ichhuk, the Finest Poet of Advanced Consciousness and Revolt.” Bedana Chaitra 2059: 26-38.
Gyawali, Ishwor Chandra. “Ichhuk Dwells at the Heart-beats of the People.” Janadesh Weekly 11 Chaitra 2059:4.
Ichhuk, Krishna Sen. Shokanjali.
Ichhuk, Krishna Sen. Bandi ra Chandragiri. Progressive Study Centre: Kathmandu, 2056.
Ichhuk, Krishna Sen. Itihans Ko Yas Ghadima. All Nepal People’s Cultural Center: Kathmandu, 2056.