By Quaid Najmi 

Mumbai, Jan 16: The family of India’s National Poet Kavi Pradeep – best known for the haunting “Aae Mere Watan Ke Logon” – has demanded “an unconditional, written apology” from a Madhya Pradesh BJP minister for “insulting” their iconic father, and indirectly even Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. The family says what has been offered is insufficient.

The late Kavi Pradeep’s daughters – Mitul Pradeep and Sargam Thaker – asked Environment Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya to apologise for reportedly saying that the nationally-revered poet “deserves to be slapped, boxed and kicked” for praising Mahatma Gandhi.

At a public meeting in mid-December at Indore, Vijayvargiya, a senior state Bharatiya Janata Party leader, took umbrage at the nationalist song, “De Di Hame Azadi Bina Khadag Bina Dhal, Sabarmati Ke Sant Tune Kar Diya Kamaal” – a glowing tribute to Mahatma Gandhi penned by Kavi Pradeep for the 1954 movie “Jagriti”.

Vijayvargiya demanded that the lyricist be “slapped, boxed and kicked” for underestimating the contributions of freedom fighters who adopted a path other than the non-violence creed propounded by Mahatma Gandhi.

Stunned by the remarks, Kavi Pradeep’s daughter Mitul shot off angry protests to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, BJP President Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, seeking an apology.

“After nearly a month, yesterday (Wednesday) I received a reply from Vijayvargiya which is unrepenting and indicates his violent thoughts. He has expressed regrets for his remarks made in public, but not the remarks per se, claiming he has a right to his opinion on various issues. It means nothing,” an enraged Mitul Pradeep told IANS here Thursday. In the Hindi reply on his ministerial letterhead, while acknowledging Kavi Pradeep’s greatness, Vijayvargiya has said that expressing a different opinion about the nationalist poet “does not amount to insulting him in any manner”.

“We may not agree with the teachings of great poets like Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir or Meerabai, but we would not dream of insulting them. Similarly I would never dream of insulting Kavi Pradeep,” Vijayvargiya said, justifying his remarks. He added that he had grown up on the culture of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Rani Laxmibai, Rani Durgavati, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, Chandrashekhar Azad and Subhash Chandra Bose and always respected their sacrifices.

“I respect Kavi Pradeep and am prepared to apologise on any forum you want. But I should be given an opportunity to present my view point also,” Vijayvargiya, known for his controversial and sexist remarks in the recent past, said. He condescendingly urged Mitul not to snap off “personal relations” over the issue – furthering enraging the Pradeep clan living in Mumbai.

“What personal relations is he talking about? I have never met him in my life. He has no business insulting an idol like Kavi Pradeep. It is shocking that the entire BJP is keeping mum on the issue,” Mitul, a painter-cum-artist said. She pointed out that her father was born Ramchandra Narayan Dwivedi in Badnagar, near the historic city of Ujjain in what is now Madhya Pradesh. Vijayvargiya is from Ujjan.

Mitul added that ironically, Kavi Pradeep was conferred the prestigious 1997 Dadasaheb Phalke Award, by the BJP-led NDA government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee. “If you don’t agree with someone’s viewpoint, that is fine – but you can’t instigate people to slap, box and kick the other person, especially since he is not around to defend himself,” Sargam Thaker, (Mitul’s elder sister) said.

The sisters wondered that if Kavi Pradeep’s patriotic writings were so objectionable, why was Mumbai BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha busy organizing a mega-function where 100,000 people will sing “Aae Mere Watan Ke Logon” Jan 27. The song is among those played on the public address system when the prime minister drives down Rajpath in the national capital to pay homage to the unknown soldier and signal the start of the Republic Day parade on Jan 26.

“Lodha kindly invited us for the function which marks the end of the golden jubilee celebrations of the famous song, but we have politely declined to attend,” Mitul said, Lata Mangeshkar and Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, are likely to attend the function. The duo is now adamant on “getting an unconditional, written public apology” from Vijayvargiya especially since Feb. 6 heralds the start of the birth centenary celebrations of Kavi Pradeep.

Besides “Aae Mere Watan Ke Logon” and “De Di Hame Azadi“, Kavi Pradeep fired the nation’s patriotic fervor with songs like “Door Hato Ae Duniyawalon“, “Chal Chal Re Naujawan“, “Aao Bachchon Tumhe Dikhayen“, “Har Har Mahadev, Allah O Akbar“, “Dekh Tere Sansar Ki Haalat Kya Ho Gayi Bhagwan, Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan” and many more.

Incidentally, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party Chief Minsiter Arvind Kejriwal had recited one of Kavi Pradeep’s patriotic numbers – “Insaan Ka Insaan Se Ho Bhaichara, Yehi Paigham Hamara (movie “Paigham”), after his swearing-in earlier this month. IANS