When Hindia-Urdu writer Krishan Chander had written 'Ghaddaar', a story of a man accused of being a traitor, India and Pakistan were still struggling to come to terms with the loss of lives in the wake of a bloody partition. While in hindsight the savagery seen and written by several authors of that era can be termed an outcome of the "dark and depressing times", author-translator Rakhshanda Jalil feels, even after 70 years, the book remains relevant as "we as people have not evolved much". Jalil, who has translated Chander's book into English -- "Traitor", said that "things have not changed much as anyone who doesn't conform to the majoritarian discourse is termed a traitor today". The book tells the story of Baijnath, who is coming to India from the newly formed Pakistan after partition but is termed a traitor for showing love to an orphan child who could be either a Hindu or Muslim. "The book is not relevant just because it is good literature, but it talks about all the issues that are still relevant like barbarism, savagery, darkness and how humanity can rise at a time of darkness. "There are things that have not changed much. Even today anyone who thinks differently, who doesn't conform to the majoritarian discourse is branded a traitor now," she said. She also noted that in the last few years, a mob mentality that exercises enormous power and dictates public opinion, has come to the fore. "There is a hyper nationalistic discourse in action today, and the mentality of 'If you are not with us, you are against us' is on the rise," she said. Poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, who was attending the launch of the book at India International Centre here yesterday, commended Chander's style of writing. He said that the writer had introduced a new meaning to the word 'traitor'. "Of course you can be a traitor to a community, a religion, a society, but Krishan Chander found a new meaning to the word.
On the last page of the book, Baijnath picks a child, perhaps a Muslim child, from a field that is strewn with dead bodies and decides to adopt this child. "Then he says to himself, 'Where will you go now, Baijnath. You have become the traitor to the hatred of both the countries'," Akhtar said.
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