Seraiki poet and novelist Rifat Abbas, who had turned down an award by the Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (Pilac) in 2017, has accepted the President’s Pride of Performance Award, surprising some sections of the literary circles, especially in the Seraiki and Punjabi regions. However, he has his own reasons to accept this award by the federal government and to reject the Pride of Punjab Award conferred on him by a Punjabi institute.
“I have reasons to accept this award because as a Pakistani the state has recognised my literary works in Seraiki language. Accepting the award will show the poets and writers of younger Seraiki generations that their works in their mother tongue can also be recognised at the national level. The award is also providing the Seraiki nation with an opportunity to stand with the nations in all federal units at the national level,” said Rifat while talking to Dawn.
On the Independence Day, President Arif Alvi had announced names of the prominent figures in various disciplines selected for the civil awards, including the Pride of Performance Award for Rifat Abbas.
The Seraiki poet and novelist said that he had refused to accept the award by Pilac on moral grounds as the institute was working under the patronage of the Punjab Information and Culture Department for the promotion of Punjabi language, art and culture. He said he had rejected the award for being a poet, a Seraiki nationalist and a neighbour to the small nations struggling against the suppression of Punjab.
“Being a poet, I had not rendered any service for the promotion of Punjabi language but my all services were for the promotion of Seraiki language. Similarly, being a Seraiki nationalist, I am a part of the struggle for a separate federating unit as we (Seraikis) are a separate nation and have a separate language and culture. I am a neighbour to the other oppressed nations like Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun, that are also under the suppression of Punjab and by accepting that Pilac award, I would have lost grounds to support these nations,” he said and added that he had accepted the award this time as a Pakistani citizen.
Rifat added that he was confident that a dialogue between the nations living in Pakistan would take a new direction. “Being a Seraiki poet I am loyal to my language and land and a supporter of Seraiki province. However, I also love my country,” he declared.
Born on July 7, 1957 in Multan, Rifat published his first poetry book in 1984. So far, he has published nine books of poetry while one more, Kunjian Da Guchha, is in the print۔
His poetry collections are Purchian Utay Phil, Jhomri Jhum Turray, Bhondi Bhoain Tay, Sangat Ved, Ishaq Allah Saiyan Jagia, Probharay Hik Shaher Wichoon, Mukh Aadam Da, Ma Boli Da Bagh and Een Narangi Andar. A book based on his interviews, Maqami Aadmi Ka Moaqaf, has also been published besides a Seraiki novel, Loonr Da Jeevan Ghar. Rifat won thrice the Khwaja Ghulam Farid Award by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. In 2018, he retired as an assistant professor at the Urdu Department of the Govt Vilayat Hussain Islamia College, Multan.
Former chairman National Language Academy, former dean of languages at BZU Dr Anwaar Ahmad said Rifat had given importance and dignity to the common man by stressing that the venders, farmers and womenfolk were human manifestation of the divine.
“Over the years, he has reinterpreted the history of this area as opposed to all the historians taking dictations from the rulers. Instead, he depended on oral history, mixed with fables,” said Dr Ahmad about Rifat.
Dean faculty of languages and chairman Seraiki Department Islamia University Bahawalpur (IUB) Dr Javed Chandio said, “In 35 years to his poetic journey, Rifat has made his poetry a narrative of resistance for his nation as well as a source of expression of the aesthetic beauty of Seraiki language”.
Seraiki nationalist and journalist Mazhar Arif said Rifat had introduced a powerful diction of the language of the riverine area people and coined new words.
“Despite being a strong voice for socioeconomic, cultural and political rights of Seraiki people, he avoids sloganeering and propaganda in his writings,” said Arif.
Originally published in Dawn, August 16th, 2021