Naveen Chourey on writing protest poetry: ‘It is the need of our times’

Ektaa Malik
Naveen Chourey, Kohra Ghana Hai, protest poetry, anti CAA protest, NRC protest, indian express news

Naveen Chourey

Aur yeh koi jumla nahin hai, vastavik qanoon hai/ Humse kaahe poochhte ho, kyun sadak par khoon hai? Poochho iss ungli se tum, kya yahaan ghatna ghati/ Jurm isne kya kiya thha jism se yeh kyun kati?

These lines from Naveen Chourey’s poem Vastavik Kanoon went viral in 2017. Since then, these words have been recited at numerous protests and public meetings across the country. “The poem stemmed from anguish at the various instances of violence in the country. I was aghast at the lynchings,” says the poet. It is also one of the several works that Chourey, 27, has included in his anthology of poems titled Kohra Ghana Hai (Penguin, Rs 199), which released recently. “This anthology has come out from the need of our times, because if we don’t speak up now, then are we even human? As a poet, I write more about inner conflict, identity and searching for one’s inner purpose,” says Delhi-based Chourey.

Included in the book is Main Sarhad Pe Khada Hun, a poem that extols the virtues of an Indian soldier. Main, Woh aur Main, meanwhile, harnesses existential questions. Three key points precede every poem — depicting the bhaav, shaili and ras. The poem Pinjra, written in Rudra ras, and recited in Krodh bhaav, is now a fixture of sorts at NRC-CAA protests across India. The poem talks about how we as people cannot be silent when gruesome cruelty surrounds us.

Naveen Chourey, Kohra Ghana Hai, protest poetry, anti CAA protest, NRC protest, indian express news

Cover of Kohra Ghana Hai

Born and brought up in Hoshangabad, Chourey graduated in 2015 from IIT Delhi with a degree in chemical engineering. “I didn’t grow up reading literature. I discovered myself in IIT-D, where I started dabbling in theatre and writing. They (IIT-D) don’t want thinking individuals, we are all part of a factory, but we worked around the rules. I destroyed my academic life because of extra-curricular activities,” says Chourey. He recalls being always socially and politically aware. “Maybe because I grew up around the Narmada river. I also thank my school textbooks. I went to the local Hindi-medium government school. I still remember the lines written by Shrikrishna Saral: Tum apna apna tanik hatar do mujhko, main manavta ki jholi bar dunga, in alhad dewaano mastano main se, Main Bhagat Singh, Azaad khada kar dunga. It is self-explanatory,” he adds.

Having spent some years in Mumbai, he also dabbled in theatre after IIT. Chourey also aspired to sit for the UPSC examinations. “My father used to serve in the Madhya Pradesh police and I come from a very simple family. When I dropped a year after my school to prepare for the IIT exams, they were like ‘koi clerk ka form bhar do’,” he says.

The past few months have been rather hectic for Chourey, who has been performing at protests and public meetings being held against NRC-CAA across the country. “I am humbled to see such fervour, passion and fearlessness,” says he.