Campus trouble

May 12, 2024

Some of the campus protests in Pakistan have morphed into a campaign against musical activities

Campus trouble


ver the last few months, there have been some demonstrations in educational institution against the holding of music programmes on the campuses. The reason advanced for the campaign these days is their description as wallowing in indulgence while atrocities are committed in Gaza by the Israeli forces.

Campuses all over, especially in the United States, have seen protests against what is happening in the Middle East. It seems a little strange that instead of similar protests against what is happening in Gaza, some of protests here have turned against musical activities in our institutions. Our campuses have responded with opiate somnolence with no meaningful activity witnessed or arranged even as a sign of mobilisation of public opinion. What they are worried about is drama and music, especially at the campuses.

It is difficult on the surface to draw a straightforward connection between the holding of music programmes and the violence that is perpetrated thousands of kilometers away. However, if the mindset and the thinking of the group and some sections of the population are taken into consideration, a link may be conjured. It is said that in the face of such barbarity, the educated youth of Pakistan are reveling in song and dance and thus exercising sheer dissipation.

What should the youth do instead? Pick up guns and start marching in the general direction of the West till they reach the battle ground to join the forces against oppression? Or should they suspend all activities that smack of entertainment and wait till the war and the killing end? Can people not resume their routines without guilt? Is the suspension of normal activities a sign of solidarity?

Why is song and dance taken as mere indulgence and not something that can be pursued on a more serious note? It seems that all song and dance is akin to frivolity to some people and is a sign of decadence while taking up arms against a sea of trouble is a righteous act.

Why is song and dance taken as a mere indulgence? Apparently all song and dance is seen by some people as frivolity and a sign of decadence.

It has been claimed by some people that the war between India and Pakistan in 1965 was fought between the Indian army and Noor Jehan. Some of the most memorable taranas were the creative outcome of those times beginning with “ae watan kay sajeelay jawano” which was composed and sung after the Rann of Kutch skirmish to the “ae puttar hatan tay nai wikday” the most anti-war war song ever.

A traditional mindset treats song and dance, poetry and painting as activities that lower the guard and permit moral lapses and it should therefore be banned. It appears that the model is some kind of a Spartan state apparatus where shamsheero o sanan comes first and tawous o rubab last.

There is clearly no connection between the two. The two activities are independent of each other.

Music seems to be a neutral activity. It is an empty vessel that can be filled in by indulgence as well as jingoistic fervour. Even the armed forces need compositions which are called military tunes to keep the morale up and the discipline intact. Per se, there is nothing damnable about music –the purpose that it is put to can be the subject of much debate and exploration. Such one-sidedness has been the bane of our thought processes. It is again fuelling prejudice and has levied a censorial code to it.

There is much that one should protest against in Pakistan including the low percentage of resources allocated to education; the ghost schools; the payment of salaries to non-existent staff; the massive amounts spent on infrastructure that does not exist. The poor quality of education imparted which produces graduates who cannot function in today’s competitive, ever changing environment and the purposeless setting up of universities that churn out , masters and even PhDs who cannot add one bit to the body of knowledge even to save their souls, can follow.

The writer is a culture critic based in Lahore

Campus trouble