Punjab Research Group

Saadat Hasan Manto 1912-1955

Posted in Articles, Partition by Pippa on November 17, 2008
Saadat Hasan Manto by Kanwal Dhaliwal
Saadat Hasan Manto by Kanwal Dhaliwal

Saadat Hasan Manto was born in Sambrala, East Punjab, in 1912 and died in Lahore in 1955, not quite 43 years old. Much of his working life was spent in Bombay, the setting of many of his stories, where he earned a living as a journalist and screenwriter. Over a literary career spanning a quarter of a century, he wrote for the radio, translated several works from Russian writers, whom he admired, and by the time he died he had produced 22 collections and written well over 200 short stories. It is Manto’s short stories that have continued to enhance his reputation as one of the world’s great masters of this craft.


Manto always remained the outsider and was content with that, something he wore as a badge of honour. He once wrote that he pronounced a thousand curses on that society which put a halo proclaiming “of blessed memory” around a man’s head after his death. He said if such a thing was done to him, his rotting bones would find no peace in the grave. Manto’s prayer has not been answered and with time, his reputation has grown.


 Manto’s subjects were often outsiders and outcasts, in particular prostitutes and street traders, procurers and gangsters. He wrote about the absurdity and inhumanity of the religious divide and the hypocrisy of the so-called respectable classes. He always wrote about society’s rejects, viewing the world through their eyes. The despised and downtrodden people that he wrote about emerge through his stories with more dignity than the established order has ever thought them capable of possessing. Manto chronicled the holocaust of the Partition of India not with teary-eyed sentimentality but with compassion, managing to extract in the process, as he put it, gems of a rare hue from the sea of blood in which he had plunged himself to get at the truth. What makes Manto great is his humanism, his feeling for the human condition and his belief that that in the heart of even the vilest man, the light of decency and fellow feeling is never quite extinguished. Manto wrote his own epitaph: “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto. With him lie buried all the arts and mysteries of short story writing. Under tons of earth he lies, wondering if he is a greater short story writer than God.”


Ironically, his headstone bears no such inscription, but it does bear a couplet of Ghalib, Manto’s favourite poet about whom he once said: The truth is that after Ghalib no one has the right to write poetry.


_ Khalid Hasan


For further information on Kanwal Dhaliwal: http://www.art-d-kanwal.com/

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Review of film Rabba

Posted in Articles, Film, News/Information, Partition by Pippa on November 11, 2008

Here is a review of Rabba..in Frontline. Hope you enjoy it.

ON a balmy afternoon under the monsoon sky in Atalahn village in Punjab’s Ludhiana district, four elderly men sitting under a banyan tree are animatedly discussing Urdu. “A beautiful language, with nuances neither Hindi nor Punjabi can equal,” says one. “It’s our language, forged from Arabic and Punjabi,” says another.

The third one remembers how, when Partition was announced, “all of us in Class III, studying lesson number 14 in Urdu, threw our Qua’ida in the air and said, ‘Urdu ud gaya, Urdu ud gaya’ [Urdu has flown away].” The fourth friend ruminates: “We used to think Urdu belonged to Muslims; nobody knew it was a language.” Sixty years on, the partition of India continues to cast a shadow on the subcontinent, shaping individual destinies and cultural lives in unforeseen ways – constantly provoking new explorations to unravel its many dimensions. How does a society or a generation culturally come to terms with having lived through a moral vacuum at a time of genocidal violence?

The link is:

or PDF: partition-documentary

Partitions Conference – Call for Papers The Anxiety of Belonging: Partitions, Reunifications, Modernity

Posted in Conferences, News/Information, Partition by Pippa on November 11, 2008

15-17 July 2009

Location: Cardiff University

Conference organiser: Radhika Mohanram

The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University, Cardiff, will host an interdisciplinary conference to explore the social, cultural, and historical dimensions of Partitions and Reunifications and relate historically located Partitions and Reunifications within contemporary discourses of nationalism, the postnational and the global.

The broad themes of the conference will include:

  • Comparative partitions and reunifications;
  • The importance of partition study in the face of the declining nation-state and the postnational;
  • The reshaping of knowledge in the wake of a partition or a reunification (for instance, what impact does the loss of archives at partition have on a new nation’s knowledge production?);
  • The impact of partitions and reunifications on the discourse of diaspora;
  • The meaning of reunifications in the face of globalization;
  • The re-imagination of the nation-state and reunifications;
  • Race, ethnicity and religion in partitions and reunifications;
  • Gender, sexuality, identity and partitions and reunifications;
  • Indigenous populations and their relation to a segregated nation-space;
  • Memory, Trauma, and Forgetting.

The Conference invites 20-minute papers from the following disciplinary areas: Critical theory, history, sociology, cultural studies, literary and media studies, politics, visual culture, and religious studies. This list is not exhaustive.

Send 250-word proposals by 15th December 2008 to: partitions@cardiff.ac.uk


For further details: http://www.cf.ac.uk/encap/newsandevents/events/conferences/partitions.html

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Posted in Conferences, Partition by Pippa on October 21, 2008

The Heinrich Boll Foundation, India Habitat Centre, Max Mueller Bhavan and Zubaan are pleased to invite you to the closing seminar of their year-long series – ‘Partition: The Long Shadow’.

Dates: 1 and 2 November 2008
Casuarina, India Habitat Centre, Vardhaman Marg, New Delhi 110003
10.30 am to 4.30 pm

All are welcome

The closing seminar of the series of dialogues and conversations entitled ‘Partition: The Long Shadow’ returns to some of the themes discussed during the series and explores them further. The seminar is not intended as an academic exercise, rather its aim is to look at how partition continues to live on in our lives in the subcontinent and how to move away from it, into the future. We have planned the seminar not as a set of formal presentations but as a series of conversations and panels. On both days, we will have such conversations, and these will be followed by panels. Given below is a tentative programme.

Day 1 – 1st November 2008

10.30 am: Registration and coffee

Session 111.00 am – 12.30 pm : Dialogue on art and peace between Sallima Hashmi and Alka Pande

12.30 pm – 2.00 pm : Lunch

Session 2 2.00 pm to 3.00pm : Dialogue between Subboranjan Dasgupta and Gargi Chakravarty on Women and Partition in the East

3.00 pm – 3.15 pm : Coffee

Session 3 3.15 pm – 4.30 pm : Round table discussion on the continuing legacies of partition. Panelists include: Saima Jasam, Ahmed Salim, Neelam Hussain, Kavita Panjabi

Day 2 – 2nd November 2008

Session 4 10.30 am – 11.30 am : Dialogue between Shama Zaidi and Ranjani Majumdar on the film Garm Hawa

11.30 am – 11.45 am : Coffee

Session 5 11.45 am – 12.30 pm : Dialogue between Shohini Ghosh and Urvashi Butalia on Partition and its impact in the East

12.30 pm – 2.00 pm : Lunch

Session 6 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm : Panel discussion on Partition and Psychiatry

3.30 pm : Closing discussion

All are welcome

Closing session: Brief remarks


The Voice from the Rural Areas: Muslim-Sikh Relations in the British Punjab, 1940-47

Posted in Articles, Partition by Pippa on August 15, 2008

Akhtar Hussain Sandhu, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Akhtar Sandhu PRG presentation ‘The Voice from the Rural Areas: Muslim-Sikh Relations in the British Punjab, 1940-47′

Akhtar is currently in the UK attached to the University of Southampton. He presented this paper at the June PRG meeting and would like others to read it and share any comments or provide feedback. Please either post your comments directly on the blog or email Akhtar directly on akhtar.sandhu@gmail.com.

The reader is requested to observe copyright conventions regarding this paper and seek the permission of the author when citing material.

Amrita Pritam – Ode to Waris Shah

Posted in Partition, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on August 6, 2008
Amrita Pritam in 1948. Photograph courtesy of Amarjit Chandan Collection

Amrita Pritam in 1948. Photograph courtesy of Amarjit Chandan Collection







Amrita Pritam (1919-2005) was one the most distinguished Punjabi poets and fiction writers. She was born in Gujranwala and was living in Lahore when in 1947 she, along with the millions others, was forced to migrate during the partition of the Punjab. This poem, addressed to Waris Shah, encapsulates the tragedy and horrors of partition.


Translation from the original in Punjabi by Khushwant Singh. Amrita Pritam: Selected Poems. Ed Khushwant Singh. (Bharatiya Jnanpith Publication, 1992)


 To Waris Shah I turn today!

Speak up from the graves midst which you lie!

In our book of love, turn the next leaf.

When one daughter of the Punjab did cry

You filled pages with songs of lamentation,

Today a hundred daughters cry

0 Waris to speak to you.


O friend of the sorrowing, rise and see your Punjab

Corpses are strewn on the pasture,

Blood runs in the Chenab.

Some hand hath mixed poison in our live rivers

The rivers in turn had irrigated the land.

From the rich land have sprouted venomous weeds

flow high the red has spread

How much the curse has bled!


The poisoned air blew into every wood

And turned the flute bamboo into snakes

They first stung the charmers who lost their antidotes

Then stung all that came their way

Their lips were bit, fangs everywhere.

The poison spread to all the lines

All of the Punjab turned blue.


Song was crushed in every throat;

Every spinning wheel’s thread was snapped;

Friends parted from one another;

The hum of spinning wheels fell silent.


All boats lost the moorings

And float rudderless on the stream

The swings on the peepuls’ branches

I lave crashed with the peepul tree.


Where the windpipe trilled songs of love

That flute has been lost

Ranjah and his brothers have lost their art.


Blood keeps falling upon the earth

Oozing out drop by drop from graves.

The queens of love

Weep in tombs.


It seems all people have become Qaidos,

Thieves of beauty and love

Where should I search out

Another Waris Shah.


Waris Shah

Open your grave;

Write a new page

In the book of love.


Waris Shah (1706 -1798) was a Punjabi poet, best-known for his seminal work Heer Ranjha, based on the traditional folk tale of Heer and her lover Ranjha. Heer is considered one of the quintessential works of classical Punjabi literature.

Qaido – A maternal uncle of Heer in Heer Ranjha is the villain who betrays the lovers.

The Punjab – the region of the five rivers east of Indus: Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej.     

Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly-formed states in the months immediately following Partition. Once the lines were established, about 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority. Based on 1951 Census of displaced persons, 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,249,000 Hindus and Sikhs moved to India from Pakistan immediately after partition. About 11.2 million or 78% of the population transfer took place in the west, with Punjab accounting for most of it; 5.3 million Muslims moved from India to West Punjab in Pakistan, 3.4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to East Punjab in India; elsewhere in the west 1.2 million moved in each direction to and from Sind.

The newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border. Estimates of the number of deaths range around roughly 500,000, with low estimates at 200,000 and high estimates at 1,000,000.

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