Among the members of the Rajya Sabha who retired on March 16 was the well-known poet and Hindi film lyricist Javed Akhtar.

He will always be remembered as the MP who raised the issue of the amendment in the Copyright Act which got lyricists the right to have a share in the earnings of a film.

His victory brought relief to song writers, but the industry did not take it, they in fact took a decision to boycott Javed Akhtar as a lyricist and he had to be satisfied with writing songs only for his son, Farhan Akhtar and daughter Zoya Akhtar. According to several leaders of the industry, he was one MP from the industry who could have raised the manifold problems of the industry as he is a very enlightened and eloquent speaker, but in all the six years that he was in the Rajya Sabha, he did not raise his voice for the industry even once.

However on the last day of his term, he made a hard-hitting speech in which he said that “adjournments” and “polarisation” will not take the country forward. He pleaded with the Opposition and the government to work together without thinking about the next elections. Taking a break from the usual uproar, the different political parties in the Upper House were seen cheering Akhtar unanimously.

Akhtar, who was nominated to the Upper House by the UPA government, said there are capable leaders in the Modi Government who can do good work but those making extremist comments, need to be reined in. “I hope both Opposition and the government will work together. Adjournments will not take us forward. Even polarisation will not take us forward. Please forget next elections and think about the country,” he said in his impassioned speech. The House listened to him in rapt silence and occasionally burst into applause after a particularly good statement.  The lyricist slyly slammed AIMIM leader and MP Asaduddin Owaisi for saying that he won’t chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ because the Constitution does not ask him to do so.

Taking a dig at Owaisi’s constitutional rights, Akhtar said, “The Constitution even does not ask him to wear sherwani (dress) and topi (cap)… I don’t care to know whether saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ is my duty or not but it is my right.” He went on to chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ a number of times. He also condemned the right-wing extremists who say Muslims should go to Pakistan. On religious freedom, Akhtar said time does not stop and the country either would move forward or backward. “One who learns from experience is intelligent. But those who learn from others’ experiences are more intelligent. Look at those countries where religion is given importance, where the tongue is cut and people are hanged if they speak against religion. Whether that country should be an example for us or a country where there is religious freedom, we have to think,” he said.

Expressing concern over lack of development in the country, Akhtar said India has industrialised and become a big power now but “more could have been achieved. Anyway whatever has been achieved is no less.” At the same time, he said, “We need to think why there is no development despite there being government and system in place? We want development but whose development and for whom? We need to think.” He added, “Development is not GDP. Development is Human Development Index. Be it any party, they wish the development of the country. Why are our energies wasted?”

On democracy, he said, “We are fortunate to have democracy though we complain about the government and society. We are not grateful for what we have with us. We don’t thank our Constitution enough. The Constitution gives democracy. But remember, there cannot be democracy without secularism.” He said that the meaning of democracy is taking views of the  majority and not minority. “But democracy believes that majority and minority is not permanent. They keep changing. Democracy will die the day we define minority and majority in our own way.” Emphasising the need to protect secularism, Akhtar said protecting secularism is not about protecting one community or the other. “We need to protect secularism because there cannot be democracy without it. I believe this is our greatest achievement.” Besides democracy and the Constitution, Akhtar said India has youth power unlike Japan and China. “The country’s 50 percent of the population is young. 35 crore people are youth and in the age group of 10-15 years. They have lot of energy and talent,” adding, “Japan has lost this advantage and China is losing this advantage. You have 20 years to take advantage of the youth power. Both Opposition and the government have to think about it,” he said.

P.S. Akhtar has been speaking about his ambition to direct a film for long but has still not found the opportunity. Now that he is free of  all his responsibilities as a MP and does not have enough work as  a lyricist, isn’t it the best time for him to fulfil his ambition and direct his film which he has always wanted to?

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