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Contradictions Between Politics and Gender

Ranu Uniyal

By Rajwanti Mann
2011, pp. 253, Rs. 750.00


Literature is not only a mirror but also a major source of inspiration. With the formation of the Progressive Writers Movement in India in 1936 a radical shift emerged in the consciousness of Urdu writers. This book examines the role of progressive writing in the history of India. The Russian revolution was looked at with awe and respect and Marxist ideology recognized as a strong intellectual force with a deep influence on young minds. Mann traces the contribution made by Rashid Jahan, Ismat Chugtai, Sajjad Zaheer, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajendra Singh Bedi to the social and cultural fabric of the country. In its nine chapters Rajwanti Mann writes about the various social issues that were of major concern to most of these writers. The history of this movement began with the publication of Angarey (Embers) in 1932. Four young men and a woman collaborated jointly to publish a collection of nine short stories and a one act play. It was met with an uproar and banned by the Government of United Provinces under section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code on March 15, 1933. A fatwa was issued against the writers for using obscene language and critiquing religion and patriarchal values with striking boldness. It was described as a major landmark in the history of Urdu literature.   Mann writes about the aims and objectives of the Progressive Writers Association and how under the influence of Premchand it developed into a mass move-ment in literature. Later, even Tagore gave his support to the new movement. PWA as it is primarily known was initiated by the Left wing sympathizers but gradually became a struggle against social oppression of all sorts. The literature of this period focused on child marriage, unequal marriages, sexual exploi-tation, gender and class oppression, problems related to womens reproduction, purdah, widowhood and foreign rule. Rashid Jahan was a gynaecologist and wrote passionately about womens bodies. Her play Aurat discusses the inheritance rights of a Muslim woman in Islam. She also wrote about the helpless Muslim women who lived under masculine authority and were unable to exert their control over their bodies and their children. Women had a higher mortality rate due to early marriages and frequent child bearing. In her chapter on Purdah and the Politics of Childbirth Mann gives us census details of female mortality as early as 1921.   By relating the imaginative and the historical accounts she examines at ...

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