(Last Updated on : 17/01/2013)
Hindi literature in the post-Independent period entered a new phase with the end of the freedom struggle and India's Independence from colonial rule in 1947. Independence was accompanied by the subcontinent's partition into India and Pakistan. Because of the violence that accompanied this geographical division, freedom generated rather mixed feelings. The jubilation of Independence soon changed into a mood of gloom as millions of people on both sides of the border were distressed by the agitation of communalism, alienation, and despair. The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
in 1948 dealt a further blow and shattered the confidence of the newly independent nation. The trauma of partition affected writers, who started questioning the idea of a nation that was invoked in earlier Hindi writings. While writers depicted the various outcomes of the partition on the masses, they also served to re-examine the implications and limitations of nationalism that caused untold misery and suffering for the many millions who were supposed to be liberated from foreign oppression. The tragic events that accompanied the partition of the country produced a sense of disillusionment and mourning. In literature, a conflict developed between the trend toward Western modernity and traditional Indian values. Social realism became a dominant trend in Indian literature. Representative of this movement are Muktibodh, writing in Hindi, and Vishnu Dey, in Bengali. In the 1970's, the literary movement called post-modernism appeared in India.
The partition became the predominant theme in the writings of Munto, Rajinder Singh Bedi
, Bhisham Sahni, and others. Depressing conditions of Lahore slums and the poverty-stricken areas of Jalandhar
were portrayed in Upendranath Ashok's Girti Diwaren (1947). Other stories, such as Mohan Rakesh
's Andhere Band Kamare (1961) and Yashpal's Jhutha Shak (1960) re-evaluated Hindu-Muslim relations against the backdrop of the partition. Agyeya published a collection of stories and poems about the partition called Sharnarthi (1948). In the preface to the collection, the author addresses the issue of communal violence, the horrors of war, and the perpetuation of communal conflict by the ruling class for their own political gains. A number of writers also found refuge in the literary journal Hans (1933-52) for expressing their ideological concerns about the partition and to draw attention to the disadvantaged and neglected groups.
All through the 1980's the literary works focused on trying to convey the message of the uselessness of communal dissensions. In the decades after Independence, the situation was one of escalating communal tensions and the emergence of regional and local nationalisms in different parts of the country. By depicting the tragedy of the partition, writers such as Bhisham Sahni in recent decades have attempted to enlighten the public about how they are constantly being moulded into the ruling class's scheme of a new nation. In Tamas (1976), Bhisham Sahni narrates the history of partition not as a history of communalism but as a problem that tore the moral and religious fabric of the country beyond repair. Sahni contrasts ordinary people from different religious groups with political leaders to show the ways in which the leaders schemed against the people for their own party interests. Sahni's message is that, had the people understood the schemes of the rulers, both British and the Indian elite, they would have never encouraged or participated in the communal violence that ensued. One even finds in Tamas the interrogation of nationalism, not as a unified phenomenon but in terms of other groups such as the Dalits, peasants, and women.
Also during this time, in fact in the years immediately following independence, writers also turned to representations of villages after the breakdown of the old order. Phanishwar Renu's Maila Aanchal (1954) takes us to a small village in Bihar
to show the struggle between a stubborn zamindar and his landless workers. In Rag Darbari, Srilal Shukla shows how new forms of exploitation replaced old ones in the village. Much to his dismay, the protagonist of the story, a research student, goes on vacation to his uncle's village and discovers that his uncle's means of power are money, perjury, and exploitation of the poor. The author lashes out at corrupt politics through the locale of the village, which represents a microcosmic view of the situation at the center. Other stories, such as Nagarjun's Balchnama (1952) and Bhagvati Prasad's Mother Ganges (1953), centred their plots around village life and the struggle of labourers against zamindars.
It may be noted here that in the 1950s and 1960s the tendencies of New Criticism and modernism that were dominant in the West in the first half of the century infiltrated the Indian literary scene and had a direct influence on Hindi literature. These forms emerged in the Hindi Nai Kahani and the Nai Kavita movements of the 1950s. As literature's preoccupation with formalism increased, writers adopted the rhetoric of a universalistic idiom and became predominantly concerned with purely aesthetic concerns. The strict adherence to prescribed forms and universalistic claims of literature became the basis for including texts into the canon of Hindi literature, resulting in the marginalization of significant writings that came from radical sectors as well as from women.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the results of Independence started to become visible. While the metropolis seemed to progress, unemployment remained high, and large sections of the population remained below the poverty line. Such a climate gave rise to various protest movements, such as the anti price rise agitation of 1972-73, organized and led primarily by women. The 1970s also saw a vigorous involvement of women in social issues. Several women's organizations were formed that protested against regressive traditions such as dowry and raised their voices against oppression of women. Feminist journals such as Manushi raised their voices against the repression of women. In 1975, the government declared a national emergency in the country, which suspended the fundamental rights of citizens until 1977, when the emergency was lifted. "Slum clearance" programs were initiated by the government, and the police cold-bloodedly razed "unsightly" urban settlements, rendering people homeless and helpless "with no legal avenues for appeal or protest".
Thus in the light of all these events, the decade of the 1970s gave birth to a radical new generation of political awareness and engagement. Writers questioned the inadequacies of democracy, which, contrary to its promises, and as the emergency revealed, did not seem to represent the interests of the people. Politically engaged writers made these themes the subjects of their writings, and the protagonists in the writings of the 1970s and 1980s were often lower-class people and women like Basanti, Bhisham Sahni's protagonist in Basanti, a novel about slums and slum dwellers in Delhi
. Basanti (1980) shows the impact of the government slum clearance schemes on lower-class people, especially on women like its protagonist. Basanti belongs to a lower-class and caste community that lost its livelihood during the country's partition and moved to Delhi to revive its lost fortunes. The slum houses in which the community resides are brutally uprooted by police authorities, resulting in the dislocation of its residents without any help or compensation for the loss of their homes. While Sahni's narrative constitutes an attack on repressive government policies, it is significant in showing the impact of the violence caused by national politics on the private space that Basanti occupies. To highlight class and social differences and the ramifications of social policy for different classes, Sahni juxtaposes Basanti with the upper-class Shyama bibi (mistress of the house), who remains imprisoned in her middle-class respectability.
The Hindi literary works in the post-Independent era thus display the angst and struggles of a newly-Independent country trying to attain socio-political stability and development.