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   Kashmiri Writers

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



The Progressive Movement in Kashmir

By Dr. Brij Premi

In India the progressive movement in literature witnessed a formal start in the year 1931. Within a short span of a few years, the movement struck its roots in almost all parts of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that Kashmir was neither a Urdu language zone, nor was Urdu, the mother tongue of Kashmiris; yet the local writers adopted and patronized it to ventilate their feelings. In the light of this fact, it is futile to dig for any specific trend in Urdu literature in Kashmir during this period. However, when the progressive movement spread its tentacles throughout the country by surmounting all the barriers of colour, creed and language; the Kashmiri writers did not remain immune to its affects.

At the same time, events of far-reaching consequences were emerging on the political front in Kashmir. Muslim Conference, which was the largest local political party was converted into the National Conference and its leadership went into the hands of a broad-minded person like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

Non-Muslims were also enrolling themselves in it. Instead of communal preference, the political agenda formulated by it was nationalist one and it drew it's inspiration from the Indian Freedom Movement. At the same time, Kashmir also registered its protest against the oppressive and exploitive mechanisms of the then rulers. Under the leadership of National Conference, a sustained campaign against subjugation, poverty and social imbalances had begun, the echo of which was also observed in the then poetry. One could also perceive the traces of revolt in the poetry of Mehjoor, Azad and Dilsoz around this time.

Apart from other things, the progressive writers organisation in its very first Lucknow declaration asserted: "We desire new Indian literature to focus on hunger, poverty, social injustice and subjugation, which are the basic problems of life." It was not a mere coincidence but the need of the hour that a movement against the 'Jagirdhari' system had begun in Kashmir under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Besides other things, the issues of hunger, social imbalances, exploitation and subjugation were on the forefront. At this very time, the literary Urdu circles were witnessing the emergence of Prem Nath Sadhu Raunak as a budding writer. He later on succeeded in establishing his credentials in the literary circles of the subcontinent under the name of Prem Nath Pardesi. Pardesi was the first short story writer of Kashmir. In his initial stages of writing, he due to Tagore's influence would resort to romanticism. But the potrayal of social reality in Prem Chand's work, the injustice perpetuated by the exploitive forces, the advent of progressive movement and the emergence of the local political events convinced Pardesi for the first time that a better part of his life had gone  waste. This he himself acknowledges : "This transformation was such that it not only opened new Vistas  for me but also gave a new ideology to the nation. I felt that if I did not align myself with this ideology even now, my short stories are useless and the future historian will never forgive me. Being in government service, I could not join the National Conference, but in disguise I could make the public aware about subjugation, poverty and exploitation through my short stories."

(Short Story Allahabad No. 8)

Pardesi not only started writing against this exploitation but in association with his few friends established a literary organisation under the name of "Halqae Arbab Zauk". This organisation came into existence in early 1940s'. This organisation had no connection with 'Halqae Arbab Zauk' of Lahore but there was a hell of difference in ideologies between the two. The access of the young writers of Kashmir was limited to the house of Prem Nath Pardesi, where literary meets would take place. The active members of this organisation included P.N. Pushup, Prem Nath Dhar, Qaisar Qalandhar, Som Nath Zutshi besides Mirza Arif Beigh and others. It was here that short stories were read, poetry was recited and discourses were held. It was the direct outcome of the progressive movement by virtue of which they had come together. But this process did not last long and the organisation disintegrated. Inspite of this closure of 'Halqae Arbab Zauk', the literary roots did not dry-up. During this time, the famous film producer and director and a noted progressive short story writer Ramanand Sagar, a native of Kashmir came into close contact with Pardesi. During his brief stay outside the state, he had formally aligned himself with this movement. He persuaded Pardesi to open a branch of progressive writers organisation. It is no overstatement to say that Prem Nath Pardesi and Ramanand Sagar played the same role in consolidating the progressive movement in Kashmir as was done by Sajad Zaheer and his friends in other parts of India. The same has been acknowledged by Pardesi himself: "Immediately on his arrival after two years, Ramanand Sagar met me. He asked me to establish a branch of the progressive writers organisation. Eventually, we both joined hands together to mobilize the native progressive writers and established an organisation, which exists even today". These were the same progressive writers, who were associated with 'Halqae Arbab Zauk'. This is how progressive writers organisation was launched formally. The organisation operated from Pardesi's house and gradually its influence extended. The progressive poets and writers from outside Kashmir, by their participation in the meetings of the organisation, cheered-up the young talent. This helped in the growth of the movement. The functioning of this small organisation took the shape of a full-fledged literary movement in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Those of the basic problems which were mentioned in the progressive writers first declaration again became the subject of deliberations.

As mentioned earlier the meetings of the organisation would take place on the first day of every month at Pardesi's house. But with the spread of its sphere of influence and the increased interest shown by the literary people, the venue of the meetings shifted to the halls of Biscoe School and S.P. College. The proceedings of those meetings were published in 'Navyug', a newspaper edited by Nand Lal Wattal and subsequently in a weekly 'Nizam', published from Bombay. At this time, Rajander Singh Bedi, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Balraj Sahni, Devinder Satyarthi and many other progressive writers and poets arrived here and participated in the meetings of the organisation. Prem Nath Pardesi, Som Nath Zutshi, Ali Mohammad Lone, Sallahudin Ahmed, Kanwal Nain Parvez, Professor Mahmood Hashmi, S.N. Kanwal, Qaisar Qalandhar, Mohinder Raina, Hamid Fitrat and Dr. Nazurul Islam are the notable local writers and poets, who were associated with this organisation. This organisation remained active till 1948 and proved quite affective. At this time, Ramanand Sagar wrote many short stories, which were put to debate in these meetings.

Pardesi also wrote a few of his famous short stories, which had the then regime's exploitation as the main theme. 'Khutbay', 'Kagaz Ki Jandiyen', 'Juvari' are the notable short stories, which were read-out in different meetings of the organisation. In October 1947, Pakistan at the behest of the British imperialists sent armed infiltrators into Kashmir. These were the days, when the Dogra rule was on its last legs. The weak forces of Maharaja Hari Singh capitulated against the onslaught of heavily armed invading forces, who were experts in guerilla warfare. The Maharaja ran away leaving behind his helpless subjects in lurch and the government came into the hands of the people, whose leader was Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The infiltrators were forced to flee with the help of Indian army and it was a turning point in our history. The infiltrators by coming close to the city limits of Srinagar had snatched peace and harmony of the people. A reign of loot, plunder, death and destruction was at its peak.

Under these circumstances, besides external defence, maintaining internal peace and confidence was necessary. As such a small force by the name of National Militia was formed, whose one wing named as Cultural Front comprised of intellectuals, writers, poets and enlightened youth. It is pertinent to mention here that most of those enrolled in the National Conference were progressive mined youth. For this, 'Naya Kashmir', the manifesto of the National Conference is a proof in itself. However, Khwaja Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq and Moulana Mohammad Sayeed, who occupied a place of prominence in the National Conference, consolidated the cultural front movement. Initially, the front functioned from the Coronation Hotel (presently Kashmir Guest House). It was here in the rooms of this hotel that the early soul-stirrings songs were composed, Guns were distributed and training imparted to the intellectuals, writers and poets, who owned their allegiance to this front. With the guns on their shoulders, they would guard during nights and compose new songs during the day time.

Pardesi was the first to offer his services to the front. 'Step by step, we will march ahead and fight on the front', a famous song of him then, was on everybodys' lips at that time.

'Swali' and 'Mujahid Sherwani', the dramas written by Pardesi during this time were staged by National Cultural Front and became instantaneous hits. The cultural front became very popular in a short span of time. Its theatre wing (which was following 'Ipta' line), staged Mehmood Hashmi's drama Kashmir Yeh Hai' and 'Choudan Golien' of Khwaja Ahmed Abass, in addition to Pardesi's dramas. The theatre wing included Dina Nath Nadim, Mohan Lal Aima, Usha Kashyap, Khurshid Jallaudin, Sumitra and Santosh Lakhwara, Achala Sachdev, Sheela Bhatia, Sher Jang, Raj Bans Khanna, Durga Singh, Girdhari Dhar, Pran Kishore and others. These plays proved fruitful for our stage and the theatre movement. With the emergence of the extra ordinary political situation, this front was disbanded. On similar lines, the state Cultural Congress came into being.

It comprised of three sections, that of writer's and poets (writer's section), theatre artists' section, and painters section. The writers section was known by the name of Progressive Writers Association (P.W.A.), which was headed by Khwaja Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq. This organisation in addition to being practically a part of the Progressive Movement, was also working actively as its unit. Being disciplined to its objectives, it was pursuing its programme vigorously.

A large number of intellectuals were associated with it, the notable among them being Peer Abdul Ahad, Ghulam Rasool Renzu, Peer Giasudin, Noor Mohd., Moti Lal Misri, Pran Nath Jalali, Badri Nath Nishat and Madhusudhan Kausar. The senior writers and poets included Shair-e-Kashmir Mehjoor, Aasi, Master Zinda Koul and amongst the younger generation, almost all the prominent writers, poets and artists were involved with this organisation; the notable among them being Dina Nath Nadim, Rehman Rahi, Amin Kamil, Mohinder Raina, Noor Mohammad Roshan, Aziz Haroon, Zaib Kamran.

Arjun Dev Majboor, Akhtar Mohiudin, Som Nath Zutshi, Ali Mohd. Lone, Qaisar Qalandhar, Bansi Nirdosh, Nand Lal Ambardar, Prem Nath Premi, Dina Nath Almast, Deepak Koul besides Tej Bahadur Bhan etc.

The hot discussions would take place in the weekly meetings of the organisation. The participants would include not only writers and poets but also the intellectuals and educationists. It is a fact that the critical and the creative trend was not extremist in nature but the situation was the same as was prevalent in the initial stages of the progressive movement everywhere. Through these meetings, the Kashmiri and Dogri literature drew new inspirations. A realisation dawned that the revolutionary ideas and changing intellectual perceptions can best be represented in the local language, and mother tongue only. As such, it found its outlet in Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi creative writings, which in turn enriched these languages.

It is apt to state that the present distinguished Kashmiri writers and poets, who were associated with this organisation, used to write in Urdu language earlier. Urdu was the creative language of Nadim, Rahi, Kamil, Akhtar, Nirdosh, Deepak, Tej, Som Nath Zutshi and Ali Mohd. Lone. At this time, the legendary Hindi progressive writer, novelist and a critic Shodan Singh Chouhan was the moving spirit behind this organisation, who perhaps under the directions of the central organisation was camping here. Under his guidance, the activities of the organisation attained new heights. The renowned artist Sheela Bhatia was associated with the theatre wing. Ali Sardar Jaffari, Dr. Ram Vilas Sharma, Dr. Salamat Ullah, Zia Ahmed, Kamal Ahmed Sidiqqi (who latter-on worked in the Radio Station here), frequented the organisation's meetings as and when present here. In this way, under a fine formulated guide line, not only was the movement run but the literature too got a flip.

The year 1953 once again witnessed a new political turn in Kashmir. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was arrested. Under the leadership of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Khwaja Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, the new government undertook various new initiatives.

The name of All State Cultural Congress was changed into State Cultural Conference. Now the writers and poets from Ladakh and Jammu were more actively associated with it. This movement impressed upon to write in the local languages in order to garner the local support. It was realised that the expressions can be conveyed effectively though the mother tongue.

In order to gain public confidence, the second important consideration was to present the problems of the people in their own languages.

In consequence, it created a wealth of creative literature in Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi languages.

It can be said with certainty that in the absence of this movement, perhaps our local languages would have not attained such a tremendous growth. The theatre wing of the organisation, which was apart of 'Ipta’ increased its activities greatly. A young poet, Abdul Gani Namtahali and his friends did a pioneering job in making the commonman well acquainted with the revolutionary Kashmiri poetry. Namthali was a native of Namthal, Chadura. He was recognised as a public musician and was known as local 'Paul Robsan'.

As and when he would sing in his sweet voice in tune with his music, the atmosphere would reverberate with the revolutionary affect. The author himself was a witness to such countless mesmerizing performances in the rural belt at that time.

The attempt to create a pubic movement through culture, poetry, literature and art is a historical fact. During this time, the organisation also published a few booklets, the notable among them being, 'Gaye Ja Kashmir', 'Vuja-Mal' (lightening) and 'Soan Gaevun' (our songs).

Dina Nath Nadim was a torch-bearer of this movement. Nadim's writings attained phenomenal dimensions when he shifted to writing in Kashmiri from Urdu. He was a pioneer among the Kashmiri poets of the time. Fact is that Nadim gave a new dimension to the Kashmiri poetry. His experimentation with the trends and contents in this language will always be remembered with appreciation. A major portion of his poetry exhibiting revolutionary and rebellious trends are in the form of free verse. He was the first to write the first sonnet and first opera in Kashmiri.

Nadim greatly utilized the form of the folk songs in his poetry, which at times was greatly influenced by the poetry of Chakbast, Ahsan Danish and Josh. But after his association with the progressive movement, he wrote on novel themes, which opened new Vistas in Kashmiri literature.

At this time, Som Nath Zutshi, who earlier worked as Secretary of Progressive Writers Organisation, shifted from Urdu to Kashmiri language. Basically, he was a Urdu short story writer. Around this time, he wrote 'Yeli Phol Gash'. In this way, his short story along with Nadim's first short story 'Jawabi Card', enjoy a prime place in Kashmiri language. Akhtar Mohiudin too was associated with the organisation at this time. Akhtar was an acknowledged Urdu short story writer and his short story 'Pandrich' was an award winning entry in one of the Urdu short story contest. He also started writing short stories in Kashmiri. His compilation of short stories 'Sat Sangar' was the first compilation in Kashmiri language, which won him the Sahitya Academy Award. Rahi, Kamil, Firaq, Roshan, Ranjoor were outstanding poets, who due to the diversities of themes  and by their experimentation with the trends carved-out a niche for themselves in the Kashmiri literature. The organisation also started publishing a periodical 'Kong Posh' (saffron). In the initial stages, it had two sections: Urdu and Kashmiri. But later-on during the time of cultural conference 'Kong Posh' was published separately in both Urdu and Kashmiri languages. Based on progressive ideas and convictions, one more periodical 'Azad' which was edited by Badri Nath Nishat and Madhusudhan Kosar, was published.

After some time, these publications ceased to be published but their contribution in the enrichment of progressive movement can never be overlooked. A number of organisations came into existence at that time. 'Halqae Adab Khanyar' is worth mentioning. Even though, these organisations were not associated at the administrative level with the Progressive Writers' Organisation, but the kind of literature presented and the nature of discourses held, had the objective to develop and expand the progressive ideology.

During this time, the young artists of the cultural conference and other organisatinos who made their presence felt included Umesh Koul, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Chaman Lal Chaman, Makhan Lal Baeqas, Muzaffar Azim, Farooq Budgami, Shahid Budgami, Moti Lal Saqi, Brij Premi, Pushkar Nath, Hakim Manzoor, Manzoor Hashmi, Autar Krishan Rehbar, Tahir Muztar, Shankar Raina, Taj Begum, Nirmala Kusum, Ghulam Nabi Baba, Rashid Nazki, Ayub Betab, Bahudin Zahid, Badurudin, Shamim Ahmed Shamim, Hari Krishan Koul, Farooq Nazki and many other artists. A few among them are presently well-known Urdu and Kashmiri writers and poets, enjoying national fame.

The first declaration of the Progressive Writers Organisation (of India) asserted "The objective of our organisation is to free the literature and the fine arts from the grip of fanatics and make it a representative of people's aspirations, hopes and struggle so as to pave way for the bright future, for which the humanity is striving for presently. We Indians claim to be the inheritors of the proud cultural legacy...We through the organisation will represent those aspirations, which will show a new and better way of life to our nation."

The declaration of All State Cultural Conference also reaffirmed the manifesto of the first conference of the Progressive Writers' Organisation with a few amendments: "We declare that our culture, our nation and the public life is dear to us. We also declare that the cultural heritage left behind by our ancestors will be preserved by us at any cost. By enriching further these traditions, we will formulate a better life. We also declare that for promotion of art and literature, the betterment of public life is necessary. Fine art and literature have always represented the aspirations and feelings of the people. Only that art has flourished, which has remained aligned with the concerns of public life..." (Bi-Monthly Kong Posh Urdu Number 1).

But the declarations are similar in nature and represent the same line. After 1957-58, this movement gradually slowed down and lost its original grandeur. This situation developed in the overall progressive movement of the country. The progressive movement in Kashmir has remained a prominent literary movement. It had taken an integrated and unified shape in Kashmir and it set new milestones not only for Kashmiri but also for Dogri and Ladakhi literature. For this very reason, nobody from the field of literature can overlook the historical and beneficial role of this movement.

*(Translated from original Urdu by Sh. Upender Ambardar)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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