Nearly a year ago, a young poet released a video on YouTube titled Achhe Din Blues. It was his attempt to capture the reality of the India of today, in comparison to the election promise of 'achhe din' promised by PM Modi and his party, BJP.
The Acche Din Blues video soon became viral, and we were introduced to Aamir Aziz and his brand of powerful dissent poetry.
11 months after the video came out, Aamir Aziz has become one of the poets whose words have become one of the many anthems that define the on-going protests in India. And now, his words have even become the voice of dissent across the globe.
Because recently, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters recited his poem, Sab Yaad Rakha Jaega, at a protest in London. The protest was held to demand the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
But while Aamir's words have resonated with people across the globe, his foray into poetry and performing arts is actually quite recent. Aamir, who originally hails from rural Patna, got involved with student politics and theater after he moved to Delhi in 2006 to pursue engineering from Jamia Millia Islamia University.
It was then that he finally found a way to express things he had experienced his whole life, as he shared with Film Companion:
Bihar can be called the best feudal metaphor in India. Living there, you see everything, but you don’t have the language to understand and make sense of it. As soon as you get that language, your expression gets a direction.
Inspired by American folk artists such as Johny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Aamir started playing the guitar and performing his poetry at small gatherings of friends. His poems were always written in a matter-of-fact manner, with easy-to-understand words.
Simply put, he relied on the enormity of the incident, rather than fancy metaphors, to convey his emotions. Perhaps that was what stuck with the listeners. While few of his poems have been translated into videos, he has written many more that feature on his social media accounts.
He followed Acche Din Blues with the poem, Ballad of Pehlu Khan that talked about the barbaric lynching of a Muslim farmer in Alwar in 2017.
The spine-chilling poem is an unflinchingly honest account of the dreadful incident. It also takes a hard look at what stands for secularism in the India of today.
However, it was his poem Main Inkaar Karta Hun, recited during the Anti-CAA protests, that got him widespread attention. His words resonated with a large section of the society who stood in firm opposition to the amended act.
Following this, he released the poem Sab Yaad Rakha Jaega, which drew national and international attention. In the poem, he lauded the spirit of the protesters, while driving him the point that ultimately, the truth will prevail.
Only 29 years old, Aamir's poems are a reflection of his observations and experiences as a minority in India. According to Newsclick, for Aamir, these poems are the only way to respond to the violence:
On my Aadhar card, my name is Aamir Aziz, and this is enough to get me into trouble. These songs, this poetry, it is a compulsion. How else can an artist respond to the horror and pain of the violence being perpetrated on minorities in India?
Aziz, who actually wanted to be an actor, thinks of music as a form of personal expression. But it is perhaps the honesty in his poems that a majority of people responded to. His words have the power to rouse the public because they paint vivid imagery of haunting incidents that the generation of today has become adept at forgetting.
Throughout history, art has always been one of the strongest tools of dissent, the most enduring example of our struggle. And even as powerful forces attempt to change the very fabric of the nation that millions of us call home, poets like Aziz help save humanity, one powerful verse a time.
You can listen to all of Aamir Aziz's poems here.