Sadat Hasan Manto Opposed Partition And Also Foresaw Pakistan That Exists Today !
It was the greatest mass movement of humanity in history. In the days and months leading up to the partitioning of India in August 1947, 14 million people moved and two million died as the new nation of Pakistan was created. The borderline was arbitrary and artificial – established in haste by a British barrister called Sir Cyril Radcliffe (who did not "serve" in the sub -continent !) – and in trying to slice India along religious lines, it turned former Muslim, Hindu and Sikh friends and neighbours against each other.
The partition was brutal and bloody, and to Saadat Hasan Manto, a Muslim journalist, short-story author and Indian film screenwriter living in Bombay, it appeared maddeningly senseless.
In his journalism, he predicted the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. But it is for his stories of partition that he is best remembered: as the greatest chronicler of this most savage episode in the region’s history.
He may be largely unknown in the west, but as the 70th anniversary of partition looms next year,...
...it was announced that a new Indian film will be made about the writer who has been compared to DH Lawrence, Oscar Wilde and Guy de Maupassant.
Saadat Hasan Manto was born into a middle-class Muslim family in the predominantly Sikh city of Ludhiana in 1912. In his early 20s he translated Russian, French and English short stories into Urdu,...
The historian Ayesha Jalal, (who is Manto’s grand-niece) wrote in her book about him, The Pity of Partition: “Whether he was writing about prostitutes, pimps or criminals, Manto wanted to impress upon his readers that these disreputable people were also human, much more than those who cloaked their failings in a thick veil of hypocrisy.”
Manto had been implacably opposed to partition and had refused to go to the newly formed Pakistan. One evening he was sitting drinking with his Hindu colleagues at the offices of the newspaper where he worked when one of them remarked that, were it not for the fact they were friends, he would have killed Manto. The next day Manto packed his bags and took his family to Lahore, and it was here that he wrote the stories that revisited the brutality and absurdities of partition. In “Toba Tek Singh”, one of his most famous stories,...
I wish I had known about Manto when I was growing up in the UK. The picture of Pakistan I was fed was of a place of conformity and religiosity, where you did not question or mock. Most young Pakistanis were (and still are!)"fed" this artificial diet, which later on was proved to have no basis in reality.
“He has been celebrated in academia and the arts circle but on a national level there has been if not a shame then a discomfort,” (because it did not agree with the state narrative )says the actor and film-maker Sarmad Khoosat who directed and starred in the recent Pakistani film.
In the early 50s Manto wrote a number of essays entitled “Letters to Uncle Sam” which are distressingly prophetic on the direction that Pakistan was to take. In one, written in 1954, he wrote that the US “will definitely make a military aid pact with Pakistan because you are really worried about the integrity of this largest Islamic sultanate of the world and why not, as our mullahs are the best antidote to Russia’s communism. If the military aid starts flowing, you should begin by arming the mullahs.” In another essay, “By the Grace of Allah”, he predicted a future where everything – music and art, literature and poetry – would be censored. “He anticipated where Pakistan would go,( but even, he would not been able to forsee the breakup of this artificial entity within less than 25 years !) but I think he would be quite horrified with some of the trends that have occurred,” writes Jalal. “He would have been a blistering critic of all that has happened in Pakistan in the past 35 years.”
The irony is that even though Manto foresaw the Pakistan that exists today it would now be harder for a writer like him to work than it was 70 years ago. “Times are tougher than they were in his time and we are now more intolerant as a nation,” says his daughter Nusrat. In the last year progressives, bookshop owners and journalists have been murdered by religious extremists. “I have lost count of how many journalists in Pakistan have been targeted – killing journalists is quite a popular sport,” says Hanif. [
“You would not believe, uncle, that despite being the author of 20, 22 books, I do not own a house to live,” Manto wrote in one of his Letters to Uncle Sam. “If I earn 20, 25 rupees based on the rate of seven rupees per column, I take the tonga [horse driven carriage] and go buy locally distilled whiskey.”
He would go to his newspaper offices, write a short story while there and buy alcohol with the payment received and towards the end of his life an addiction to alcohol, together with financial hardship, took a toll. He died in January 1955. Six months earlier he had composed his own epitaph which, although it was never used on his tombstone, suggests that the writer knew that his work would outlast him. “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto and with him lie buried all the secrets and mysteries of the art of story writing. Under mounds of earth he lies, still wondering who among the two is the greater story writer – God or he.”