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'Mayawati has become a terror and a dictator'

Last updated on: February 17, 2012 20:02 IST

Lucknow of today, versus Lucknow of yore

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Nawab Mir Jafar Abdullah, direct descendent of Nawab Asaf ud Daula, speaks on Lucknow's past, present and future, in a conversation with Saisuresh Sivaswamy

Lucknow was known for its values, manners, etiquette, tehzeeb (manners), akhlaf (well-natured), brotherhood, tolerance for religions and participation with others. Gradually, after the Partition in 1947, a lot of Lucknawis migrated to Pakistan and a lot of refugees came to Lucknow, and adapted to the traditions of the city.

Of late, Lucknow being the political centre, these politicians and their people have spoilt Lucknow, especially those who come from the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Their culture is totally alien to what we have, the language is totally different, their thinking is different.

Lucknow has also been changing very fast. And with the change of governments, new chief ministers have taken over. And lately, the lady (Mayawati) has taken over. She has totally changed the atmosphere of Lucknow. She is concerned only with a certain segment of society, she is concentrating on that and she is trying to destroy the culture and the intrinsic beauty of Lucknow.

She has even changed the name of King George's Medical College to Shahuji Maharaj so the Georgians have turned to Shahujians. So you can understand to what extent she is trying to destroy the character of Lucknow. She is not concentrating at all on the historical monuments or heritage of Lucknow; she is coming up with those elephants and statues of certain figures. That is all.

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Image: Nawab Mir Jafar Abdullah
Photographs: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com

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'She cannot act like a rogue'

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She is acquiring whatever she wants, because she has absolute majority. So instead of democracy, she has become a terror and a sort of dictator.

And she doesn't listen, she doesn't meet people, she hardly shakes hands or wishes anybody. She is arrogant. Yes, Lucknow has changed a lot.

Although a few malls and flyovers have come up, this is not the total development of Lucknow. This is partial development and Lucknow is undergoing the wrong kind of development. And especially the old part of Lucknow, the actual Lucknow, is going from bad to worse.

The citizens of Lucknow recently faced sectarian clashes. The police just acted as bystanders and nobody was bothered. People say this happened because of the elections. Things are going from bad to worse now.

Are we reacting to Mayawati as a woman, a Dalit?

No, that is not the case. Being a woman is not a problem. Being a Dalit is not a problem. But the Dalit should behave like a Dalit. A woman, who is the chief minister, should behave like a woman. She cannot act like a rogue.

WATCH VIDEO: Nawab Asaf ud Daula speaks about the disappearing values of secularism, politeness and brotherhood

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Image: A BSP member takes blessings of Mayawati
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Rediff.com

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'She has built her own statues'

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A woman should have certain delicacy, certain other features of a woman, which is not the case here. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was also a lady. Although she was not a Dalit, she cared about the Dalits.

This does not mean that a Dalit gets power and goes mad, that cannot be the case.

In this case, she has crossed certain limits. Then there is so much corruption. She has herself declared that she is the living devi (goddess). She says the devis and devtas (gods and goddesses), why do you make offerings to them? They are dead while she is alive. These are statements by her.

These kind of statements are not expected from a Dalit or from a lady or from any person. She has built her own statues during her lifetime, she says that was the wish of (Bahujan Samaj Party founder) Kanshi Ram. That may be the case. But there are many wishes that are not fulfilled, which should be kept to oneself.

This has crossed all limits and the election results are going to be very deceptive, not along expected lines. They (BSP) may not have majority this time, there could be a coalition government or some other party may also form the government.

Other parties such as Mulayam Singh's (Samajwadi Party), although he has also tried to lure the Muslims and they have not got anything from him. Neither has the Congress given anything to anybody, but this time I think Mulayam Singh and the Congress are gaining ground, as against the lady.

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Image: Bronze statues of Mayawati and Kanshi Ram
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Rediff.com

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'Lucknow has so many places to visit'

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Democracy is only on paper. In India we do have democracy, the Constitution, everything. But practically, we don't feel that democracy because of the atrocities by the police and the aristocratic IAS and such lobbies, who do whatever they want to.

Although we are comparatively much better than our neighbouring nations, the situation could be much better than what we have.

Reviving Lucknow's culture

We have certain organisations such as Intach and some NGOs. We have been organising programmes of awareness among schools and running campaigns. We feel that the educational system has to be changed so that the children get an insight into their heritage and culture and they feel proud of their culture, whatever they have left of it in Lucknow.

Because, if we mention Lucknow anywhere outside, people still have a good image of this city. If we can maintain that by promoting our culture and by putting Lucknow on the tourist map -- today, it is not even on the tourist map, Lucknow is shown as a hopping station to Varanasi!

Lucknow has so many places to visit and so much to relish. If you go into the lanes and by-lanes, you find so many interesting facts about arts and artefacts, which are not explored by the tourist.

Lucknow has a lot of potential, but it has to be promoted properly and awareness has to be created among the people, especially the children through schools.

We cannot revive that culture, cannot maintain it even, but let it not deteriorate as fast as it is today.

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Image: The magnificent Bhulbhulaiya inside the Bara Imambara in Lucknow
Photographs: Fayaz Kabl/Rediff.com

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Raising the issue with the establishment

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We have been speaking through various platforms, through interviews, television programmes, at seminars etc. But some politicians are rigid, it hardly matters to them, they do whatever they want to do.

This has happened with the lady, she does not care at all.

What I miss about Lucknow

Its Pehle Aap (respect, giving way to others) culture, aadaab, respect to elders, respect to teachers. People used to have a body language. When we go to the market and some unknown elderly person comes, we give way to him or wish him and respect him.

These manners are vanishing. Lucknow was known for its body language, its gestures. Lucknawi aadaab, which was devised by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, has been conferred the status of world heritage by UNESCO, as intangible heritage.

During those days, Muslims used to say Salaam waleikum and Hindus used to say Jai Siyaram, indicating their religion. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah removed religious barriers from society and he introduced adab, that means respect (aadaab is plural), this was promoted all over.

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Image: A mosque in Lucknow


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'The cuisine has survived'

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Lucknawi aadaab is vanishing gradually. Those who have been going to Saudi Arabia for petro dollars, the petty workers, they have brought salaam waleikum back. So Lucknawi aadaab and taslimaat (accepting a fact, reality), then the sweet language of Lucknow, the dress, the culture, body language, gradually they are all vanishing.

But the cuisine has survived, because this is related to livelihood, so the baawarchis and rasoiyas (chefs and cooks), they were the royal cooks earlier, their family members have retained their recipes and are doing good business.

Chikan and zardozi (arts of intricate embroidery) have survived, rather it has flourishing, because chikan is patented for Lucknow, if you speak about chikan it has to be Lucknawi chikan and nothing else. I had some very old pieces of chikan costumes; they had photographed them to show that this is Lucknawi chikan and that is the reference to the patenting.

There are many fine arts that have come up, but unfortunately not Lucknawi kathak. We even have a Lucknawi gharana. (Kathak exponent) Birju Maharaj could not get a piece of land for his academy here in Lucknow so he had to go to Delhi

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Image: A sample of Lucknawi chikan
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

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'The essence of Lucknawi culture should survive'

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Similarly, in this Bhatkhande Music Institute, they are not teaching Lucknawi gayaki and Lucknawi tabla gharana, because the course is conducted by the central government. This is all really strange.

There is dastangoi, marsiya khani (arts of story telling and recitals), which are being revived by individuals who continue to work hard for it, but so many fine arts have vanished.

Lucknow was the place for the blow glass industry, for bidri (artwork on metals such as copper or zinc) work, for ivory carving and what-not. But so many things are deteriorating day by day.

Certain things are being maintained such as cuisine, chikan, ari (saw), zardozi... but I wish our Lucknawi language, brotherhood, secularism remain. That is the essence of Lucknawi culture, it should survive.

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Image: A worker prepares sweets at a shop in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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