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Writers who witnessed the trauma of India-Pakistan partition

By August 17, 2018No Comments

Source : New Indian Express

Here are some writers of Indian origin who saw the plight of people during India-Pakistan partition and had to make a choice.


1. Saadat Hasan Manto (11 May 1912-18 January 1955)

Born in Samrala, Punjab of colonised India, Saadat Hasan Manto is considered as one of the most prolific writers the subcontinent has produced.

Writing about protagonists who emerged heroic even as they disregarded rules of society, Manto’s works were often considered to breach the conventional lines of obscenity. He was tried six times on obscenity charges- in India as well as in Pakistan.

He weaved stories about and around “fallen women”, outsiders of society and sex-workers. Manto’s short story writing was part of an anti-fascist movement, that rose during British India and Hitler’s fascism. He never shied from writing about the gory bluntness of human survival instinct during the Partition.

2. Faiz Ahmed Faiz (13 February 1911 – 20 November 1984)

A compatriot of Manto, Faiz Ahmed Faiz was a Marxist writer and a poet who was born in colonized India and later moved to Pakistan. Faiz was inspired by M N Roy and Muzaffar Ahmed to join the Communist party. After partition, he became the editor of Pakistan Times and was renowned as a revolutionary poet. He was arrested in 1951 on conspiracy charges by the Liaquat government. It was in jail that he wrote the eponymous poem of his:

“Bol ki lab azad hai tere,

bol zabāñ ab tak terī hai,

terā sutvāñ jism hai terā,

bol ki jaañ ab tak terī hai.”

3. Khushwant Singh (15 August 1915-20 March 2014)

Born on August 15, 1915, in Hadali, in then-undivided Punjab, Khushwant Singh is considered one of the country’s greatest writers.

He could blend humour and simplicity in his signature descriptive storytelling. Having witnessed the impact of partition first-hand, Singh was inspired to write “A Train to Pakistan”, one of his most famous works, published in 1956. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2007 and passed away on March 20, 2014, aged 99.

4. Allama Muhammad Iqbal (9 November 1877 – 21 April 21 1938)

One of the greatest Urdu poets of all time, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal was often called Shair-e-Mashriq or Poet of the East. Born in Sialkot of colonized India, he was actively involved in the national movement and was later a staunch advocate for the creation of Pakistan.

His presidential speech known as the Allahabad Address was instrumental in starting a widespread movement of a separate nation for Muslims. While he is now often associated with Pakistani nationalism, studies show varied characteristics of Iqbal and his thoughts on Marxism, Islam and the future of the subcontinent.

5. Sahir Ludhianvi (8 March 1921-25 October 1980)

Born as Abdul Hayee, Sahir Ludhianvi is a towering figure in Hindi film music as well as Urdu literature. He was born and educated in Ludhiana but moved to Lahore-one of the most happening cities in colonised India, in 1943. A member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, an arrest warrant was issued against him by the Pakistan Government.

He fled to Delhi in 1949.

Sahir was hugely successful as a lyricist and wrote songs for movies like ‘Naya Daur’, ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’. He was a  controversial figure in the film industry- he had famously demanded that songs be composed for lyrics and not the other way around.

Sahir’s poetry, like Faiz’s reflected the uncertainty and chaos the nation was witnessing post-independence.

6. Qurratulain Hyder (20 January 1927-21 August 2007)

Born in Aligarh, Qurratulain Hyder was a firebrand Urdu writer, who has published colossal works like ‘Aag Ka Darya’ (River of Fire), ‘Patjhar ki Awaz’, ‘Kar e Jahan Daraz Hai’ and so on. ‘Aag Ka Darya’ spans over two thousand years of history in the Indian subcontinent and ends with the partition in 1947.

Many critics have compared her to Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Hyder had migrated to Pakistan in 1947 but returned a few years later. She served with the editorial staff of Illustrated Weekly of India from 1968 till 1975.

7. Intizar Hussain (21 December 1925-2 February 2016)

A prolific author, Intizar Hussain was known for his novels, short stories, poetry and columns. Born in Dibai in India, Hussain migrated to Pakistan in 1947. The author wrote about the experience 50 years later in The First Morning. He earned worldwide fame in 2013 when he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. He was awarded France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and
Letters) in 2014.

8. Nasir Kazmi (8 December 1925-2 March 1972)

Born in Ambala, Punjab, Syed Nasir Raza Kazmi was educated at Islamia College, Lahore. After the creation of Pakistan, he migrated to Lahore in 1947. Some of his collection of poems were published as books- ‘Berg-i-Nai’ (1952), ‘Deewaan’ (1972), ‘Pehli Baarish’ (1975), ‘Hijr Ki Raat Ka Sitara’ and ‘Nishat-i-Khwab (1977).

9. Ismat Chughtai (21 August 1915-24 October 1991)

Ismat Chugtai was revered as well as controversial figure in the literature of the subcontinent. Born in Badayun, Uttar Pradesh, Chugtai was associated with Progressive Writers’ Movement and created ripples with stories like ‘Dheet’, ‘Kafir’ and most famously- ‘Lihaaf’.

Chugtai was accused of obscenity for writing ‘Lihaaf’ and was tried at a Lahore court. She was accompanied by Saadat Haasan Manto, who was facing similar charges for writing ‘Bu’ (stink), from Bombay to Lahore. Both were acquitted.

A major chunk of them being published during the partition era (1941-1952), addressed female sexuality, Marxism and class conflict. ‘Lihaaf’ was later adapted into a movie as ‘Fire’ by Deepa Mehta.

10. Rasheed Jahan  (25 August 1905-1952)

Rasheed Jahan is most remembered for her association with Progressive Writers’ Association and her contribution to the short stories collection, ‘Angaarey’. In 1934, Jahan, along with Sajjad Zaheer and Ahmed Ali, had published this collection which was considered obscene and was banned by the British government.

There were fatwas issued against the three writers.

The Aligarh born writer went on to play an important role in drafting the Manifesto of the Progressive Writers Association. She was a strong voice calling for the liberation of Muslim women.

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