Love in the Times of Hatred
Bharti Arora
JINHE JURM-E-ISHQ PE NAAZ THA by Pankaj Subeer Shivana Prakashan, 2019, 312 pp., 200.00
October 2020, volume 44, No 10

Pankaj Subeer’s novel Jinhe Jurm-e-Ishq pe Naaz Tha is a colossal project that seeks to set right the religio-cultural, political and historical violations of the last five thousand years of human civilization. The novel centres on the narrative of Rameshwar, an idealist teacher, owner of a coaching centre in a small mofussil town (given a generic name kasba) and his musings during a fateful night that witnesses a near-riotous situation in his neighbourhood between Hindu and Muslim communities. The night is filled with dark memories, hatred and violence. What makes the situation even more dramatic is the fact that his assistant Shahnawaz is trapped in his home in Basti, the Muslim locality placed at the brink of this riot, along with his pregnant wife and family. Shahnawaz and his wife experience misery every second as the majoritarian crowd indulges in arson and violence on the highway, which also acts as the gateway to the Basti.

The novel records this tense situation to reflect on the socio-political and cultural issues that have been plaguing India since Independence. One cannot help but read the novel in light of the Partition and numerous communal riots that have taken place in India since 1947. The novel mentions fictionalized accounts of some of these riots, especially the ones which spread like  wildfire across the country after the Babri Masjid demolition. These references make Subeer’s book relevant and topical for years to come.

Continue reading this review