Yojana Magazine: August 2022 | Literature and Azadi

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  • Words can be so powerful can be guaged from the story of a freedom fighter from Bihar whose letter from the prison to his family was misinterpreted to be seditious and conspiring agianst the British Raj. Is-Raj ke taar dheele kar do was deciphered as 'Let the reign of this Raj (British) be loosened', while actually he wished to convey to his family to 'loosen the strings of his musical instrument, Esraj'.
  • During the struggle against British Raj, there came up many songs and poems that ignited the feeling of oneness and selfless love for the motherland. Some of the poems and songs inlcude Vande Matram, Sarey Jahan Se Achha and Himadri Tung Shring Se.
  • The writings also recorded the countless stories of pain and suffering caused during the partition by own comrades.
  • War cries such as Inquilab Zindabad, Karo Ya Maro and Tum Mujhe Khoon Do Mai Tumhe Azaadi Dunga became symbol and force behind the collective resistance.
  • The world has witnessed several partitions like Israel-Palestine, Ireland-England, the Partition of Germany, and partition of former Yugoslavia, partition of Korea and Vietnam, etc., throughout the 20th century. 
  • The sufferings human race has gone through the wars are noted in the literary corpus of various languages. 
  • Partition literature was started with the advent of nation-state and end of colonial rule but it developed into a distinct genre and was accepted in the 1970s.
  • It refers to writings that chronicle and explore the event, from all sides of the border. It includes non-fiction as well as fictional narratives. 
  • Today, partition literature is studied in several universities.
  • A few examples of Partition Literature:
    • Ghasan Kanafani’s ‘Men in the Sun’-1962-Palestine/Israel
    • Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’-1980-India/Pakistan
    • Seamus Deane’s- ‘Reading in the Dark’-1996-Ireland Partition
    • Akhteruzzaman Elias (from Bangladesh)- ‘The soldier in the Attic’ and ‘The Saga of Dreams’ – 1996-Pakistan/Bangladesh
    • Pak wan Suh’s -The Naked Tree-1970-Korean Partition
    • Geetanjali Shree’s Hindi novel- ‘Ret Samadhi’ (‘Tomb of Sand’ in English)-2018-on India Partition
    • In 2022, this book became the first novel translated from an Indian language to win the International Booker Prize.


  • India has been partitioned thrice in the years 1905, 1947 and 1971.
  • The partitions have shaped South Asia with newly configured nation state of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
  • Language took a crucial role to integrate and disintegrate the historical realities post partition.
  • This literature speaks about the reality of refuge, psychological trauma along with accounts of Independence and the partition.
  • Poetry, drama, short stories and novels have been written.
  • A few examples of Indian Hindi, and Urdu partition literature:
  • Saadat Hasan Manto – Experienced partition violence, trauma, fictionalized human instinct to partition events and wrote many stories in this regard.
    • Krishen Chander – ‘Peshawar Express’
    • Khushwant Singh – ‘Train to Pakistan’
    • Yashpal – ‘Jhoota Sach’
    • KS Duggal – ‘Band Darwaze’
  • These narratives are of traumatic experience, violence , rape and abduction of women.
  • Examples of Bengali literature:
  • Ritwik Ghatak portrayed Bengal partition with the deepest sense of insecurity of human existence.
  • Amarendra Ghosh – Bhangche Sudhu Bhangche
  • Jyotirmayee Debi – E-par Ganga O-par Ganga   


  • In the first five decades, partition literature was committed to ‘high politics’ and this gradually shifted to feministic stance, oral narratives from the survivor and caste angle.
  • The non fiction narrative goes on with arguments and counter-arguments.
  • A few examples of non-fiction partition literature:
    • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar – ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’
    • Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee – ‘Awake Hindustan!’
    • Penderal Moon – ‘’Divide and Quit’
    • Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad – India Wins Freedom
    • Hiranmoy Bandopadhyay – ‘Udbastu’ in Bengali


  • Developed after around 50 years of Independence, a new wave of feminist perspective emerged.
  • Examples of Feminist Partition Literature:
    • Urvashi Butalia – ‘The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India’
    • Ritu Menon and Ritu Memon – ‘Border and Boundaries’
    • Jasodhara Bagchi – ‘Trauma and Triumph’


  • Study of Partition Literature has given rise to new genres like borderland studies, migration studies, Dalit studies and other independent state affairs that emerged after the partition. The re-reading of partition literature can essentially be an exposition of the new life of the Indian subcontinent.



Seeing the power of literature and the impact it was laying upon the people to wipe out colonial rule out from the country, the Britishers tried their best to oppress the writings and the writers by introducing various acts and laws. Despite the suppressions, literature and writings continued to imbibe nationalism and the zeal for freedom of the country in the people. Freedom was set up as a goal infront of the countrymen that could be achieved through sufferings and sacrifices.


Before 1857

  • The First Censorship of Press Act, 1799 by Lord Wellesley 
  • Licencing Regulations Act , 1823
  • Press Act/Charles Metcalfe Act, 1835
  • Licensing Act, 1857
  • Lala Lajpat Rai was sent to jail in Burma under Regulation III of 1818

After 1857

  • Several newspapers in various Indian languages were banned or penalized during the 1857 war.
  • Mirza Bedar Bakht, an editor of the ‘Payam -e-Azadi’ paper was publicly hanged for supporting the war.
  • Sedition law was introduced in 1870 under Section 124A of IPC.
    • Sedition law was used to silence the likes of  Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
    • Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with sedition for exciting disaffection through an article he published in the Kesari. The Lokmanya was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months.
  • The Vernacular Press Act (VPA) of 1878 was designed to ‘better control’ the vernacular press and effectively punish and repress seditious writing.
  • The Official Secrets Act, 1898, Indian Post Office Act, and Indian Customs Act, Indian Press Act, 1910, all controlled the books and publications.


  • Numerous poets and writers have written about several incidents of freedom struggle such as – 1857 War of Independence, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, 1922 Chauri Chaura incident, 1927 Kakori robbery, and 1942 Quit India Movement.
  • ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’, an Urdu language patriotic song for children written by poet Muhammad Iqbal in the ghazal poetry of Urdu Poetry. The poem was published in the weekly journal ‘Ittehad’ on 16 August 1904.
  • ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.
  • ‘Pushp Ki Abhilasha’ by Makhanlal Chaturvedi.
  • ‘Jhande Ka Geet’ by Shyamlal Gupt Parshad.
  • Revolutionaries like Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan wrote several poems expressing the innermost expressions of revolutionaries against British rule.
  • ‘Bharath Prashasthi’ by Rabindranath Tagore.
  • ‘Pyara Hindostan Hamara’ by poet Hamdam depicting Hindu-Muslim Unity during the freedom struggle. 


  • The press played a notable role in the freedom struggle. They helped in the dispersal of revolutionary ideas which helped in forming an opposition against the British government. The newspapers also helped in spreading awareness about the extreme measures taken by the colonial government which further incited protests and revolutionary acts against the British.



Dramatists inspired patriotism, encouraged participation in the freedom struggle, and offered an antidote to spreading cultural colonization by depicting India’s heroic past. Public theatre during colonial rule became reflective of national character and it was a system of organization and consumption that modelled national behaviour.


  • Theatre in India began in Calcutta and Bombay in the second half of the 18th century.
  • Throughout the 1860s, theatres were controlled by elites. They presented a number of plays addressing contemporary issues like widow remarriage, polygamy, class and racial oppression and many more.
  • The very restrictive nature of these theatres led to the emergence of public theatre that grew upon the enthusiasm and determination of the educated, middle-class youth for whom this held huge scope for entertainment and voicing their opinions.
  • It was from the second half of the nineteenth century that the socio-economic conditions of Bengal and the essence of nationalism were reflected in the plays.


  • Dinabanadhu Mitra’s Nildarpan (The Mirror of Indigo Planting) showed the brutal exploitation of peasants working on indigo plantations by their British employers. Read more on the Indigo Rebellion.
  • Bengali theatre took a significant turn with the Swadeshi movement. A tendency to glorify the past became important to uplift Bengali temperament. 
  • The anti-partition movement brought a flood of emotion to the entire Bengal and the Bengali theatre.
  • Girish Chandra Ghosh – His plays were packed with socio-political significance. He expressed the need for violent political upheaval.
    • He used theatre to translate the spirit of nationalism into powerful outlets of public opinion. His plays like ‘Siraj -ud-Daula’, and ‘Mir Qasim’ were subjected to critical censorship.
    • Both plays presented history with great accuracy and patriotic fervour.
  • Rabindranath Tagore wrote a number of plays with profuse song-and-dance sequences (often referred to as Rabindra-Nritya, for their unique minimalist and non-classical form). 
    • Tagore infused a European form and structure into his plays, building climax and portraying the psychological conflict between the characters. However, they failed to generate interest from general audiences. This changed dramatically once Sombhu Mitra’s group ‘Bohurupi’ began performing Tagore’s stories and plays.
  • Bengali playwrights utilized the familiar rhetorical power of dramatic verse to reach the public. They consciously used the techniques borrowed from traditional jatra.
  • Manmatha Ray used puranic tales to suit contemporary times in the 1930s.
  • Popular dramas with a political dimension as a trend became stronger in the 1940s and in the years after independence.


  • British Government employed various strategies to control theatres and plays that exhibited any tendency “likely to excite feelings of disaffection to the government established by law in British India” or was “otherwise prejudicial to the interests of the public.”
  • People involved in these types of plays were subjected to imprisonment and fine.
  • In 1876, ‘Dramatic Performances Act’ was passed to bar public theatres from using overtly subversive political messages.
  • The Act extended to the whole country and by the powers conferred on the local governments, it could stop the performances and suppress any drama which in its opinion, may be considered seditious, obscene or defamatory.


  • The stage used history to promote nationalism. Nationalism as a subject was ably exploited for the cause of theatre which also fortified the foundations of the economic foundations of the theatre. The commercial theatre made the ideology of nationalism accessible to an indefinitely large undifferentiated audience.



After implementing the Dramatic Performances Act in 1876, the British were quick to understand that cinema had a bigger potential to influence public opinion. Expectedly, India’s Cinematograph Act was passed in 1918 during the dying months of World War I with effect from 1st August 1920.


  • India’s Cinematography Act was passed in 1918 based on the British Cinematograph Act 1909 to censor the content of films to be exhibited to the public.
  • Bengali cinema drew its inspiration from rich literature from the likes of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. This is why in popular slang, Bengalis even now refer to a film as ‘boi’/‘book’.
  • The Dramatic Performances Act, 1876 was imposed to check the revolutionary impulses of Bengali theatre which banned performances of any play they found scandalous, defamatory, seditious content, or otherwise prejudicial to the public interest.
    • Playwrights who wished to attack colonial rule soon turned to mythological plays to shield their nationalist messages to evade the censor’s actions.


  • In 1795, a Russian linguist and indologist, Gerasim Stepanovich Lebedev started a proscenium drama in Calcutta. These translations of European plays in Bengali with native actors are considered the pioneers of modern Indian theatre, different from our traditional one that was derived from Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra. 
  • During the middle of the 19th century, Madhusudan Dutt was involved with the theatre at Belgachia, which was a pioneer of modern, western-influenced theatre. Dutt composed the play, ‘Sharmistha’, in the western style, in 1858, based on the story of Debjani-Yayati of Mahabharata. It is considered the first original play written in the Bengali language. 
  • The first ‘Swadeshi’ play was Dinabandhu Mitra’s Nil Darpan which depicted the horrific tragedy of indigo farmers in rural Bengal and the British atrocities against them. It was staged in 1872 by Girish Chandra Ghosh. 
  • Ghosh established the National Theatre in 1872 and the first performance of the Bengali commercial stage happened with ‘Nil Darpan’. Soon it was banned by the administration.
  • Rabindranath Tagore experimented with the ideas of spiritualism and individual identity, and in parallel raised questions on the collective vision of nationalism through various plays.
  • Lord Curzon’s ‘divide and rule’ policy and the implementation of the partition of Bengal in 1905 served as fodder for strong nationalist sentiments amongst the Bengali people. 
  • Cinemas upholding religious unity alongside the strong wish for freedom from the colonial rule were in the mainstream.
  • At the 1939 Indian National Congress conference at Calcutta, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose advised the members to form a film collective for the spread of cinema.


  • Jatra is a popular folk-theatre form of Bengali theatre, spread throughout most of Odia and Bengali-speaking areas including Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Tripura and Assam.
  • The word jatra means journey or going. The origin of jatra, intrinsically a musical theatre form, is traditionally credited to the rise of Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement.
  • In ‘Jatra’, the stories about patriotism and sacrifice gained prominence. The popularity of ‘Jatra’ amongst the masses ensured the spread of political awareness. 
  • These plays portrayed the British as the new form of evil as compared to the Indian revolutionary symbolizing the good. 


  • The second world war, the famine, and the exodus from Calcutta to Bombay, all resulted in the Bengali film industry becoming weaker. The Bombay film industry had already established its monopoly of the pan-Indian market. 
  • The disparity widened post-independence and the Bengali film industry slowly suffocated due to a cash crunch.
  • The partition, apart from its psychological effect, impacted the very base of Bengali cinema’s home market.


  • British authorities banned the performance of the plays and cinemas on several occasions for flimsy reasons. 
  • The Dramatic Performances Act, 1876 was imposed to check the revolutionary impulses of Bengali theatre. The Act ensured that the flurry of nationalist plays after Nil Darpan started to become rare. 
  • The police atrocities were rampant and the punishments severe. The British came down heavily on the open ‘swadeshi’ theatres.
  • India Cinematograph Act 1909 was passed to curb cinemas as it had a bigger potential to influence public opinion.



The Indian Independence movement was a people’s movement that gained strength as it progressed. This transcended regional and class differences and became an expression of the collective resolve of the people of the entire country well before 1857. The tribal people had revolted against the British in India time and again. The British had to struggle to establish their authority in the tribal areas. The contribution of tribals was significant in the freedom movement that took place before and after 1857 across the country.


  • The East India Company began efforts to annex Chhattisgarh after the Battle of Plassey in 1757.
  • The central part of Chhattisgarh was under the control of the Maratha rulers of Nagpur and the various Princely States.
  • The British got their first success in 1800 when the Raja of Raigad signed a treaty with the Company and made Raigad a part of the Government. 
  • They annexed the Maratha empire after its defeat in the war at Nagpur in 1818 and began to rule the central region of Chhattisgarh. 
  • However, in Bastar, the south of Chhattisgarh and Surguja in the north, several tribal rebellions arose to save tribal people from the slavery of the Company’s Government.
    • The Halba Rebellion (1774_1779): This was the first rebellion against the British in India, and King Ajmer Singh of Bastar was the first martyr.
    • Kol Rebellion, 1831
    • Tarapur Rebellion 1842: Ruler of Tarapur Bhupaldev refused to raise the annual tax in his area. It was considered an act of rebellion by the British, and an army was sent from Nagpur to suppress it. 
    • Dantewada revolt 1842: By the tribals against the order of the British regarding the custom of human sacrifice. The tribal people fought fiercely against the British. After a struggle, the custom of human sacrifice was stopped and a permanent military system was established in Dantewada.
    • First Revolt of 1857 in Sonakan: By Narayan Singh, the tribal landlord of Sonakan of Raipur. He formed an army of tribal youth. After fierce fighting, Narayan Singh was arrested and publicly hanged at Raipur on 10 December 1857. He was declared the first martyr of 1857 in Chhattisgarh by conferring the title of ‘Veer’ in independent India.
    • Muria Raj: The Muria tribesmen of Bastar defeated the British state and took up an armed revolution to establish the ‘Muria Raj’ in 1910.
    • Tana Bhagat Movement/Oraon Movement (1914-1919)


  • The history of India’s freedom movement is incomplete without recognising the tribal consciousness. The new system for collection of rent, steps taken to change the traditional social, religious and political system, new rules implemented for forest management, and restrictions imposed on the production of liquor, all affected the unique tribal culture associated with their rights to water, forest and land. By resorting to these measures, the British also bruised the independent tribal consciousness. The tribals resorted to these revolts to protect their culture and autonomy.



The freedom movement for the Northeastern regions of India began when the British started occupying the area after the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826. The Burmese had invaded Assam and Manipur thrice, in 1817, 1819 and 1821, and occupied both of which were then independent countries. The British, who had entered Assam with a promise of going back after expelling the Burmese, however, stayed on after discovering tea and petroleum.


  • The spoken word- oral literature- was the only mode of transmitting social messages due to the low literacy rate across the North Eastern region. Most of the communities did not even have a script. 
  • Folk songs of various genres spread the news far and wide, and freedom-loving and patriotic people began singing about their heroic deeds and sacrifice. 
  • So many songs and poems were lost in time due to non-documentation when people who had composed and sung them were alive. 
  • People sang folk songs and ballads about the sacrifices of great freedom fighters such as Gomdhar Komar, leader of the first resistance movement in Assam (1828), Maniram Dewan, hero of the 1857 War of Independence and many more. These songs were inseparable from the freedom movement which grew intense with every passing year. 
  • ‘Phulaguri Dhewa’ in1861 (dhewa in local parlance is a battle or war)—India’s first peasants’ uprising against the British rule in Assam inspired local villagers to compose oral songs. These songs described the protest which culminated in the death of several peasants in a police firing even as several others were transported to the Andamans.
  • A 132-line ballad called Doli Purana on the ‘Patharughat massacre’ of 1894 was sung during the subsequent phases of the freedom movement. It is considered an important ballad of Assam even today.
  • The twentieth century saw an upsurge in literary activities related to the freedom movement in Assam. 
  • Ambikagiri Raichoudhury (Assam Kesari) composed many songs and added momentum to the freedom movement.
  • Jyoti Prasad Agarwala (1903-1951) was a poet, lyricist, singer, musician, playwright and said to be the father of modern Assamese culture. He was a leader of the freedom movement who also held charge of the Congress volunteer force during the Quit India Movement. 
  • Many of his poems related to the freedom movement were set in the rhythm of a typical military band so that young people could actually march in a disciplined manner.
  • In Manipur, the most important popular piece of literary work that continues to instil a sense of patriotism among the people is ‘Khongjom Parva’, a traditional ballad originally composed (orally) by Leinou written about the 1891 Anglo-Manipur war.


  • The national freedom movement broadened into a socially sensitive movement involving protests against British rule and also against the oppression of the poor, subordination of women, and all kinds of inequalities and exploitations. 
  • This period also focused on youth as an effective agency in social and political regeneration.
  • This cult of youth was based on the image of a rebellious, vivacious, freedom-loving, self-sacrificing, death-defying youth, having the potential of solving all national, international, social and political problems.


  • Kazi Nazrul Islam (26 May 1899 – 29 August 1976) was an Indian and later Bangladeshi writer, musician, and poet. He is the national poet of Bangladesh. He is regarded as one of the greatest poets in Bengali literature. 
  • His poetry, music and stories had themes that included equality, justice, anti-imperialism, humanity, rebellion against oppression and religious devotion.
  • His activism for political and social justice as well as writing a poem titled “Bidrohi”, meaning “the rebel” in Bengali, earned him the title of “Bidrohi Kobi” (Rebel Poet).
  • In 1920, Nazrul and his friend Muzaffar Ahmad brought out the anti-British daily ‘Nabayug’ (launched by A K Fazlul Haq as the mouthpiece of his Krishak Praja Party). 


  • Nazrul became a major factor behind the revival of militant nationalism in Bengal during the 1920s.
  • In 1922, while supporting Gandhi’s non-violent satyagraha, Nazrul was building up the vocabulary of rebellious youth which can be seen in his works such as ‘Bhangar Gan’ and ‘Bidrohi’ (The Rebel) .
  • His weekly ‘Dhumketu’ announced the objective of complete independence and suggested militant means to achieve it. The revolutionaries were hugely inspired by his Dhumketu. The Jugantar Party even claimed it as its own organ.
  • Nazrul was sentenced to a year of rigorous imprisonment on a charge of sedition in 1923.


  • Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, socialism dedicated to the cause of workers and peasants attracted even many militant nationalists in Bengal.
  • He wrote a number of poems protesting against the deprivation of the poor and hailing their awakening, and criticizing the subordination of women, the hypocrisy and corruption of the priests of all religions and inequality and exploitation embedded in socio-religious and economic power structures.
  • He preached political and social revolts in this defiant spirit and also referred to military adventures, geographical discoveries, mountaineering and so on, glorifying the power of youth all the time while doing so. 
  • He was against religious orthodoxy and criticized both Muslims and Hindus for their bigotry and superstitions. He tried to create a composite literary language and a shared literary space accommodating both Bengali Hindu and Muslim sensibilities.


  • Nazrul’s non-communitarian approach led to much controversy and antagonized many Hindus and Muslims. But at the same time generations of Bengalis, both Hindus and Muslims, have been inspired by his poems. He remained a noble source of inspiration for not only his contemporaries, but also for future generations.



Writers like Bhartendu Harishchandra, Balkrishna Bhatt, Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, Acharya Ramchandra Shukla, Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, etc., addressed the feelings of nationalism by associating it with national literature. These creations inspired the Indians to fight against British rule and create a historical form of nationalism in Indian society for which the country and its people are supreme. This form of nationalism can be studied under different periods of the Indian Independence movement. 


  • Much before 1857, Urdu poets like Shah Hatim, Ashraf Ali Fughan, Mohammad Rafi Sauda, Mir Taqi Mirhad had started expressing their anguish over the decline of rule of law, rampant corruption and loss of time-tested human values. 
  • They composed the poetic genre ‘Shahr-Aashob’ (urban unrest), recorded socio-political ground realities of their time and also expressed their indignation at the political situation that prevailed.
  • The First War of Independence of 1857 became tumultuous as it stirred the consciousness of Urdu poets who expressed indignation at the Company rules that resulted in destroying local industries and meddled with religious matters of the land. 
  • Many Urdu poets who were composing poetry to induce courage and valour of self-sacrifice were hanged by the British. 
  • Quite a few poets did not write revolutionary poetry, but jumped into the battlefield against the British. Poet Aziz Moradabadi fought against the British along with General Bakht Khan on the battleground.  


  • Regulations like the Press Act, and the Arms Act had affected India after 1857, against which the consciousness of an intellectual nationalism in Hindi and Bengali-speaking society of North India was seen. 
  • It was the effect of such Acts that in India, from 1878 to 1947, many works, magazines, and books were banned by the British Raj, including Balkrishna Bhatt’s Hindi Pradeep, Premchand’s Soz-e-Watan, Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar’s Desher Katha, etc. 
  • The deep consciousness of resistance against the British Raj can be seen in these works. The biggest role of these works was creating a sense of discontent among the public against the British Raj. 


  • One reason for development of a particular stream of Indian nationalism by poets like Mahesh Narayan or writers like Bhartendu Harishchandra, Balkrishna Bhatt, Pratap Narayan Mishra, etc., was the English education along with the formation of the Congress in 1885. As a countermeasure, it gradually developed a deep affection in Indians for the motherland and the native language. 
  • It was because of the Congress that the Indian intellectual class also got a space, the effect of which was that after receiving an English education, this section played a big role in the freedom movement as a middle class, as seen in Amritlal Nagar’s novels like Karwat and Peediyan. 
  • The Dalit renaissance also emerged in Maharashtra because of Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule, which appeared on a bigger canvas in Indian Independence and social movements after 1920 following Ambedkar’s arrival. 


  • Rabindranath Tagore’s works after the Bengal partition in 1905 are examples of Indian literature of the period. The images of the Indian nation Tagore creates in Gitanjali and other works deeply affect the entire world, including India. 
  • His work, which expresses the pain of the agrarian society of being separated from the land, introduces us to a new form of nationalism. 
  • In this collection of Poems, Bengal is mourning after its partition, wishing for a better future, and praying for regaining its prosperity snatched away by the British Raj. 
  • Urdu poets continued with their tirade against the British during Home Rule Agitation, Rowlatt Act (1918) and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (1919). 
  • Articles written by Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Hali and Shibli Nomani largely influenced their readers towards social awakening and nation building.


  • In 1936, the Progressive Writers’ Movement started which stood firm against British rule and forcefully advocated the cause of national independence. Hundreds of poems, short stories, novels and articles appeared in Urdu newspapers and magazines, and a galaxy of Urdu poets appeared on the literary horizon.
  • A bulk of Urdu literature is available against the two-nation theory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his idea of partition. 
  • Urdu prose also forcefully raised its voice of indignation and protest against the foreign rule. Urdu press, too, was replete with editorials and articles on the subject. Two such newspapers were Urdu Akhbar and Payam-e-Azadi. 


  • The character of Indian nationalism seen between 1857 and 1947 points toward the nationalism of the common people, in which there is nothing other than the nation’s liberation at the centre. The writings in Hindi literature or folk memories also focus on political emancipation and correspondingly raise the question of social emancipation with aplomb, in which the issue of women and Dalit emancipation comes up prominently. Urdu is the language that gave the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long live the revolution) to the Indian populace.



‘The ‘woman issue’ was on the rise in the political scenario in the 19th century, and both politics and gender were associated with each other at many levels. The conflict between the colonial way of life and western lifestyle and the ideological difference on the issue of women allowed the writers to clash and struggle.



  • Muslim women of elite families in the 1920s turned to study English in India. This created a class of educated women, composed of women like Muhammadi Begum, Nazar Sajjad Haider, and Abbasi Begum, who started writing and getting published in magazines. They adopted various forms of self-expression.
    • The analysis of women’s autobiography helps to bring to the fore her society, community, agony, trauma, experiences of gender difference, and psychosocial and language expressions. 
    • The autobiography of Begum Sultan Jahan of Bhopal has details on colonial power, the rise of nationalist ideology, and socio-religious reform movements.
  • Shah Jahan Begum wrote Tehzeeb-un-Niswan-o­Tarbiyet-ul-insaan to teach women how to conduct themselves.
  • These autobiographies provide a view of the cultural context and history in the changed circumstances following the partition and the dimensions of their association with gender issues.
  • They have mentioned social and family compulsions on being a woman, gender politics and censorship.
  • The autobiography of Begum Qudsia Aizaz Rasool titled ‘From Purdah to Parliament’ gains importance as it shows the potential of women with leadership abilities in a patriarchal society.
    • She served as the Deputy President of the Council from 1937 to 1940. She was the first Indian Muslim woman to reach such a high position. 


  • Women’s autobiographies in the post-independence period depict how society views women and vice versa, and what do women think of the socio-political changes around them.
  • The role of social transformations and the desire for women’s emancipation can be seen in the autobiographies of women who migrated to Pakistan. 
  • They appear to be trying to liberate themselves but also want to create their own identity in society.


  •  In recent years, women’s writing has become important for research and it is reconsidering the gaps and inconsistencies in cultural history. The writings of these women in the autobiographical genre should be seen as an attempt to associate themselves with the national narrative and mark their presence in history as legendary historical characters.




  • The freedom spirit in literature amplified after Mahatma Gandhi’s arrival and comparatively reflected more in the writings of authors impacted by Gandhi.
  • Sabarmati Ashram and Gujarat Vidyapith founded by Mahatma Gandhi have played a pivotal role in initiating the freedom struggle in Gujarat. 
  • Many great scholars and writers such as Umashankar Joshi, Sundaram, Pandit Sukhlalji, Muni Jinvijayji, and Kakasaheb Kalelkar, were associated with Gujarat Vidyapith and contributed immensely to the field of Gujarati literature and echoed the spirit of freedom struggle in their literary works.
  • Under the influence of Gandhian thoughts, many poets wrote poems that reflect Indians’ quest for freedom.
  • Three early eras of Gujarati literature– Sudharak Yug (Reformist Era), Pandit Yug (Scholar Era), and Gandhi Yug (Gandhi Era)– echo the ethos of the Indian freedom struggle and it has been reflected in various literary works. 
  • Gandhiji was so much part and form of many literary genres of that period that he made appearances in many dramas, novels, stories and in poems.
  • Gandhi’s social activities were development-oriented and his idealism was rural, democratic and homogeneous in nature. Poets, authors along with journalists played an active role in reflecting the views and ideals of Gandhi. 
  • Mahatma Gandhi insisted on high thinking and simple living which was reflected and highlighted by the literary English authors of the time, mainly Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, and R. K. Narayanan. Their works present the influence of Gandhi on Indian villages and towns.
    • In Raja Rao’s ‘Kanthapura’, a village organizes passive resistance against the British in accordance with Gandhi’s philosophy. 
  • Portrayal of Gandhian ideology in literature cemented Gandhi’s position as a leader of the exploited.
  • Pre-independence literature was instrumental in uniting people to a common cause of Independence despite belonging to different castes and classes, coming from different parts of India, and speaking different languages.

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