Bonded to brick kilns: A song for revolution
“That was the darkest decade of our time. Women were considered half-the-man. Workers were as suppressed as slaves. Artists and poets were not allowed to create. Killing in the name of Islam began in that era. And those who resisted either had to face lashes or ended up in the Kafkaesque prison cells of the Lahore fort. Thus, everyone was oppressed except the religious clerics and those who surrendered to the worst military dictator. That was the 80s, but things haven’t really changed yet…” (Mussarat Aziz)
These are the words my mother wrote on a birthday card she gave me a few years ago. This card contained the most precious gift I have ever received; a piece of poetry my mother wrote in the 1980s during her radical struggle against the law of women’s Aadhi Gawahi and workers’ exploitation.
‘Haq kabhi rehta nahi.n Zair-e-Naqab
Kis sey rukta hai Tulooh-e-Aftaab?’
(The truth can never remain concealed
Can one stop the rising sun?)
My mother’s poetry of love and revolution has always provided me with strength and hope even in the most nihilistic phases of my life.
Today, I've given her words a melody. I’ve changed this poem in to a song and sung it with the band Laal. We dedicate this song to the struggle of the one million bonded workers in the brick kilns of the country. There are over 20 million bonded labourers in the country and more than 60 million in South Asia. All attempts for reforms that could possible provide them with some protection have failed. Their exhausted bodies and tired minds await a new dawn - a people’s revolution. This song celebrates the hope and struggle for that dawn.
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