New Delhi, Apr 14 (PTI) It is the people, not the rulers, who should decide what to eat or drink, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has said, charging that the ‘nizaam’ (the ruler) now wanted to restrict even people’s thoughts.

Sisodia, also the Art, Culture and Languages Minister, made the remarks last night in his speech at the 20th edition of the annual Jashn-e-Bahar ‘mushaira’ here.

“We are very brave people to be talking about ‘jashn’ (celebration) and ‘bahar’ (spring) at a time when those in power want restrictions even on what people think,” he said, stressing “there has never been a greater need for communal harmony than now”.

“It is not only about a poetic symposium, it is about ideology. What the people should be eating or drinking, what is kept in my refrigerator, or being cooked in someone’s kitchen…the ‘nizaam’ (the ruler) should not be deciding this, the country and its people should decide this,” he said.

He said such gatherings are significant for the country “at this hour” where people may find poets expressing the thoughts that they had been wanting to express.

Sisodia, who described Urdu as the language of love and amity, said his government was working on a lot of initiatives for the language.

Padma Vibhushan-awardee Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj was the chief guest at the poetic soiree, attended by former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and former Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, among others.

“Kathak and Urdu, both are expressions of our composite culture. Mushaira Jashn-e-Bahar has championed these syncretic values for the past 20 years even as it strives to shape minds by providing easy exposure to high literature,” Birju Maharaj said.

Former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi, who presided the event, reflected on the country’s ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb’ and said being united despite the diversity that India has, is a virtue in itself.

Qureshi lamented that after the Partition, Urdu, which played a significant role in the freedom movement, was portrayed as associated only with a certain religion, doing harm to the language’s appeal.

“Slogans like ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Sarforashi ki tamanna’ had found an echo in every household. But after Independence, some people started ignoring Urdu and associated it with certain class and religion. This was unfortunate.

“The three most popular symposiums in Delhi are organised by non-Muslims and after all this, saying that Urdu belongs only to Muslims and mushaira is the cultural activity only for Muslims, I think it would be an injustice to Urdu language,” he said.

The 20th edition of the Jashn-e-Bahar mushaira, held last night at the Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, witnessed participation of leading Urdu poets from India and abroad, including Abdullah Abdullah and Farhat Shahzaad from the US, So Yamane from Japan, Omar Salem al Aidroos from Saudi Arabia, Waseem Barelvi and Popular Meeruthi.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.