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Social Scientist

Fictions of Intellectual Politics: Manto

Author(s): Hilal Ahmed
Source: Social Scientist, Vol. 40, No. 11/12 (NovemberDecember 2012), pp. 31-41
Published by: Social Scientist
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Fictions of Intellectual Politics: Manto1

Hilal Ahmed

The objective of this paper1 is quite straightforward and modest: the paper
tries to understand 'polities', or rather the 'political role' of intellectuals, in a
postcolonial society.2 Discussing two short stories written by Manto, 'Naya
Qanoon' and '1919 ki Ek Baat', the paper revisits a particular historical
moment (late 1940s and early 1950s) to understand various shades, forms,
continuities and discontinuities of intellectual engagements with the idea of
politics in North India (or the Northern part of South Asia!). In this sense, the
paper makes an attempt to explore an extremely influential tradition of
writing which not merely produced a critique of modern political ideas,
institutions and processes, but also made a serious endeavour to search for

possible forms of critical engagements with the world of politics. Manto's

stories, the paper suggests, offer us an important reference point in this
The relationship between intellectual work and politics is often seen in
two interesting ways. There is a strong submission that there should be a
- a -
dividing line between politics dirty game of power play and scholarly
engagements. Intellectual work, in this framework, is understood as funda

mentally noble and essentially an ethical affair.The vocabulary of this claim

has changed quite significantly in recent years. No one talks about the nobi
lity of intellectualism these days.However, the distinction between politics
and the so-called purity of intellectual activities is underlined by evoking the
notion of'academic professionalism'. It is argued that intellectual activities
need to follow certain professional procedures to make a serious contribu

tion, which might arguably be called 'academic'.3

There is another position on the relationship between politics and intel
lectualism. It is suggested that the prime objective of intellectual work is to
play a specific political role. Intellectual work is understood as a mode of
intervention in the political sphere for achieving some wider objectives:
revolutionary transformation, dmocratisation, social inclusion and so on.
This tradition goes back to colonial times when political elites not merely
acted as politicians in the conventional sense of the term, but also function
ed as intellectuals - not merely to produce politically logical and intellec
tually persuasive arguments, but also to mobilise the masses. This tradition
took various forms in postcolonial India. Political ideologies - Marxism,
socialism, Gandhism, Ambedkarism - find very clear reflections in aca- 3I

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2 demie writings. The dalit discourse, Indian feminism and the debate on
secularism further contribute to this tradition.4
These arguments are often stretched and exaggerated. Either we are
forced to give up 'politics' of all kinds in the name of objectivity or, alter
am nately, we are given 'ideological prisms' to develop favourable explanatory
recipes. I do not wish to reject the analytical worth of these two positions. In
^ my view, the relationship between politics and intellectualism need not be
seen in a paradoxical way. The purity of the intellectualism argument intro
E duces us to the specificities of a complex domain where intellectual work is
> produced and subsequently institutionalised. At the same time, the politics
Z of the intellectualism argument reminds us that the intellectual phenom
enon cannot be analysed without giving adequate attention to political
institutions, processes and events. Manto, in this sense, is an interlocutor.
He continues to take a political position in his stories without giving any

^ fixed ideological tag to it; at the same time, he does not compromise with the
craft of short story writing, and pays equally close attention to the content
and flow of the narrative.
o I have selected two stories: 'Naya Qanoon' and '1919 ki Ek Baat'. 'Naya
Qanoon' is a story about a coachman, Mangu, who has a sincere interest in
> making sense of things around him. He comes to know about a new law (the
enactment of the 1935 Government of India Act) and starts imagining a
completely new life under the new regime. His dreams shatter when he
realises that nothing has changed under the new law. The other story, 1919 ki

Ek Baat', is about a bad guy, Thaila Kanjar, who attacks some British soldiers
in Amritsar in April 1919, and is shot dead by them. This story is narrated by
one passenger to another during a train journey. Both are very well-known

stories. However, I have selected them to discuss a few serious questions.

First, I am interested to know the logic of representation in the internal
fabric of the two stories. How is the interaction between the governing

principles of political institutions and popular ideas such as 'independence',

'self-rule', etc., imagined? What are the layers of this discourse? What are the
identified limits of ideas and how do they affect the proposed arguments in
the narrative? The second set of questions is about the form and style. I tryto
look at the modes by which events and characters are narrated. In this sense,
the contextual background, the inner connectivity of various explanatory
'moments' and shifts, and, above all, silences of the narrative, become rel
evant traces by which certain arguments can be excavated.
I would also like to make two clarifications. The firstis about the much
debated term politics. I do not wish to 'define' the term politics in this paper;
rather, I am interested in unpacking those internal nuances of these two
stories which are indicated by Manto as 'political' and appreciated by us - the
readers - as politics. This openness, I believe, takes us away from the given
and somewhat fixed meanings of politics. The paper, in this sense, pays no
32 attention to the long and unfinished debate about the political ideology of

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Fictions of Intellectual Politics

Manto; instead, I make an attempt to find out Manto's take on the intellec- X
tual-politics relationship. 2L
The second clarification is about language and translation. It would be >
completely inappropriate to think of translation simply as a change of 3
language. It is a highly sensitive affair that is directly linked to the produc- o_
tion, reproduction and even appropriation of knowledge.5 The growing
interest in Manto's stories and personality - partly because of the rise of
Partition studies and partly because of the influence of the debate on post
colonial intellectual responses to modernity - has paved the way for a
number of translations of Manto's work in different languages. This proli
feration of Manto's work in non-Urdu/Hindustani makes the question of
translation a conceptually debatable issue. M. Asaduddin, for instance,
shows that many English translations of Manto's stories are problematic -
not because of any language-related limitations, but because of the way in
which one cultural milieu is understood in a different linguistic frame
work.6 I am keen to avoid this problem. Therefore, I do not use any transla
tion. As a substitute, I tryto capture the main thrust of the relevant passage(s)
of the story and to put it in my own words in the main text of the paper.
However, to maintain the uniqueness of evidence, the original Hindustani
text is given in the footnotes.

Let me begin with 'Naya Qanoon'. There are three important moments in the
story which can help us in addressing the complex interaction between the
governing principles of political institutions and popular ideas. The first
moment is when the main character, Mangu, is introduced to us. Mangu
knows that a 'new law' is going to be implemented very soon. Although we
are not told about Mangu's understanding of the 'old law' that seems to
govern political institutions at that time, the nuances of Mangu's everyday
life are elaborated to explain his existential issues, grievances and imagina
tion of a good life. Mangu does not like the British. They often behave badly
with him and treat him like an animal. Mangu has another reason also to
hate the British. He believes that Emperor Akbar once insulted a darvesh
(holy man) in the past. The humiliated darvesh cursed Akbar that his country
(Hindustan) would always be ruled by foreign powers. Mangu feels that the
impact of that curse still continues, and this is the reason why Hindus and
Muslims cannot live together peacefully. Mangu, therefore, does not have
hope for any major change.
Analytically speaking, Mangu's interpretation of his own world is con
stituted by a set of myths, beliefs and even official history. Akbar does not
come as a foreign ruler; Hindu-Muslim conflicts become an outcome of a
curse; and, above all, British rule is understood as an inevitable phenome
non. Although the complex institutional setting of the colonial regime is far
away from these popular convictions, Mangu seems to reconstitute an 33

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interpretation of the political world where everyday interactions with the

British turn out to be a form of dissatisfaction. However, this discontent
cannot be described as a grievance of some kind as in the classical liberal
political vocabulary, nor can it be called a 'consciousness' in the radical
<u sense of the term.
The second moment of the story comes when Mangu begins to share his
I excitement about the new law with others and, to some extent, himself.
There is a very interesting description of this moment in the story. We are
told that when Mangu comes back to the adda in the evening, quite unex
> pectedly, he does not find anyone there. He feels irritated; he wants to tell his
2 news to friends and there is no one who can share his excitement, joy and
enthusiasm.7 This excitement is very crucial not merely to provide a flow to
the narrative, but also to underline transformation into an
Mangu's agency
of a different kind. He has no role to play in the enactment of the law; he is
not going to be a part of any protest or agitation; yet, his untamed excitement
reminds us that he makes a move to get rid of his own settled meanings of
o collects information and about the
Mangu many views, interpretations
_ new law, and constructs an explanation of his own. This explanatory strategy
> also helps him in identifying imaginary friends and enemies. For instance,
once, when two barristers Who are discussing the new constitution hire his
tanga, he tries to make sense of their conversation for his own clarification.
Although Mangu fails to understand the entire debate as the barristers use

English words quite often, he realises that these lawyers are not in favour of
the naya qanoon, and, perhaps for that reason, do want that Hindustan

should be liberated. Mangu looks at them reprehensibly and whispers to

himself, Todi bachche."
Mangu, who does not know the structure and procedure of colonial law

making, gradually emerges as a loyal supporter of the 'new law'. His entry
into this discourse of politics makes him vulnerable. He does not have
adequate resources to justify his own interpretation of the new law. He does
not even understand the language in which this law is often talked about. At
the same time, unlike others who might be aware of the complexities of the
law and offer certain argument-based support to such structural changes,
Mangu acts as a passive yet excited observer of politics.
The final, crucial moment of the story, from our point of view, arises
when Mangu comes out of his self-imposed passivity. We need to remember
that Mangu continues to imagine himself as an observer even on the very day
the new law is supposed to be enacted. He goes to the city to witness the
transition from old to new. However, he quickly realises that the reality of the
city is different from what he had been expecting for some time. He finds
virtually no change in the attitudes, functions and the rhythm of the city. In
an excellently written passage, this dilemma is expressed very elegantly. We
34 are told that on the firstday of April, Mangu wakes up quite early. He feels an

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Fictions of Intellectual Politics

unexpected enthusiasm. He thinks that he is eventually going to witness 3:

'naya qanoon'. He comes out in his tanga and passes through the known L
roads and lanes of the city to look for any sort of freshness. However, he does >

not find any change in the city, except the head-attire, a fur kalgi, of his horse 3
which he had purchased from Chaudhari Khudabaksh on 31 March to eel- o_
ebrate the naya qanoon. Despite this virtually static state of affairs in the
town, Mangu does not give up hope.9

Although we are told that Mangu is not disappointed, the difference

between his expectations and actuality is marked to underline the fact that
the modern world of politics does not allow us to live with our own setded
meanings. While searching for the newness of the new law in the city, Mangu
encounters a young Britisher. The presence of the British turns out to be the
most undesirable marker of the old law for Mangu. His tolerance disappears.
He strongly feels that Indians have become the rulers of the country with the
enactment of the new law. The British, therefore, cannot behave badly with
Mangu any more. Excitement about the new law, the lack of any change in
the everyday life of the people, and finally the encounter with a Britisher
encourage Mangu to react. He behaves badly with the white man and it leads
to a fight between the two. As a result, the police come and arrest Mangu.
Interestingly, throughout this episode, Mangu continues to justify his act in
the name of the new law. Finally his (mis)conception of the new law disap
pears when he is put in jail by the police officer, who categorically informs
him that no law has been changed at all.10

Let us now move to the second story, '1919 ki Ek Baat'. Alok Bhalla has

already produced a remarkably critical reading of this story." Bhalla evokes

the contextual aspects of this story, especially the political context of post
Partition, while unpacking the relationship between text, author and reader.
My reading of this story is an extension of Bhalla's argument, though I am
interested in the internal fabric of the text of the story so as to look at con
struction of politics in terms of form and style.The story is narrated by a
passenger to another passenger during a train journey. In the conventional
sense, there is a speaker and a listener. However, their common universe is
discursively constituted actually as well metaphorically. From our point of
view, there can be two important moments in the narrative.
The description of Amritsar in 1919 - political agitations, the role of
- is the first relevant
political leaders and the impact of mass mobilisation
moment in this regard. The speaker tells the listener that in 1919 Amritsar
turns into a hub of political activism. As a result, the provincial government
becomes quite authoritarian: Gandhi's entry is banned, religious gatherings
are prohibited and people are forced to keep away from all activities that are
considered to be anti-British. In such a scenario, one peaceful public gather
ing is forcibly dispersed. In retaliation, the crowd also becomes aggressive, 35

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C and it leads to a violent conflict between the British and the Indians.
This long, introductory account serves not merely as a backgrounder to
the main story, but also tells us about the manner in which political acts are
commemorated as memories. Like all acts of commemoration, the speaker
also reconstructs the past from the viewpoint of his own present. However,
interestingly, Manto does not give us a clue to his present; rather the imme
I diate context of a moving train underlines a highly unsettling present to re
visit an equally unsettling past.
At this point we are also introduced to our main character: Thaila
> Kanjar. According to the speaker, although the real name of this person is
Z Muhammad Tufail, the title 'Thaila Kanjar' has been given to him by others.
-- Thaila is the brother of two celebrated prostitutes of the city - Shamshad and
Almas. He is known as a bad guy: he gets into 'wine and gambling' very early
in his life. Even his prostitute sisters are annoyed and disown him as a

^ brother. But Thaila knows how to get things done and often manages to get

^ money from his sisters for his needs. Despite these habitual weaknesses,
Thaila is a good-looking young man; he is decent and sophisticated, and has
o a good sense of humor.12

In the violent encounter with the British soldiers, Thaila leads a group of
> youngsters to fight back. Although his momentary radicalism encourages
others to give a fighting reply to the British, he is killed in this highly one
sided battle. The assassination of Thaila makes him a symbol of protest for
the city. The speaker himself is very impressed with his brave act, though he is
disappointed with the fact that Thaila's name is not going to be included in
the list of future revolutionaries.13

This part of story could also be read as a standard nationalist saga of

unknown sacrifices. However, exactly at this point, the second crucial mo
ment begins. The speaker tells the listener that in this atmosphere of mourn
ing, Thaila's sisters are caVed to perform a mujra to entertain the British
officials. According to the speaker, this invitation is sent intentionally to
humiliate the women as well as the people of the city. They go and perform.
While participating in the triumph of the British, the speaker relates with
pride, they remove their clothes and ask the British to kill them. The speaker
becomes more sombre and informs the listener that finally Thaila's sisters
are also killed.14
The listener is not fully comfortable with this conclusion. He provokes
the speaker for the first time and asks him to tell the truth. The speaker
becomes serious. He tells the listener, with gestures, silences and broken
sentences, that he is absolutely right. Thaila's sisters do not show any resist
ance to the British! For the speaker, this is an act of extreme betrayal.15

These two stories might be read in various ways. One could celebrate Mangu
36 and Thaila as 'ideological heroes' who transform a momentary political

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Fictions of Intellectual Politics

sensitivity into political consciousness of some kind; at the same time, I

Mangu's shattered dreams and the virtual surrender of Thaila's sisters can EL
also be interpreted as examples of 'realism' simply to conclude that rvolu- >

tionary zeal is actually a myth. And, it is also possible to describe the silence 3
of Thaila's sisters as the quietness of a subaltern subject, because subalterns o_
cannot 'speak'! These possible interpretations, I suggest, are valid - not
merely because these stories are open to multiple interpretations as texts,but
also because the internal weaving of politics in these narratives make them
an open-ended comment. Jacques Rancier's argument in relation to the
politics of literature is one possible way of appreciating this kind of engage
ment. Rancier says:

Literature as such displays a two-fold politics, a two-fold manner of recon

figuring sensitive data. On the one hand, it displays the power of literariness,

the power of the 'mute' letter that upsets not only the hierarchies of the

representational system but also any principle of adequation between a way

of being and a way of speaking. On the other hand, it sets in motion another

politics of the mute letter: the side-politics or metapolitics that substitutes the

deciphering of the mute meaning written on the body of things for the

democratic chattering of the letter.16

We may find traces of this take in the manner in which these two stories are
written. However, I do not think we can reduce the nuances of Manto's

writing simply to reproduce this argument in our own context. No doubt

there are mute letters in these stories that function quite independently. But
there is a praxis which leads us to travel the inner as well as outer worlds of
these narratives.

Instead of a conclusion, I suggest that Manto is relevant for making

sense of the politics-intellectual relationship for two very different reasons.
His stories underline an important form of intellectual engagement with the
world of politics. Manto, it seems, tries to make political comments of a
theoretical kind by constructing a narrative around a few events and persons.
In this sense, Manto's political comments could help us in interpreting the
complex relationship between the social-cultural milieu of late colonialism
and the expression of political ideas. It would be too early to call these
experiments a social theory of some kind; however, we find very clear
attempts to generalise, articulate and present very persuasive, yet fluid argu
ments in Manto's short stories.17

There is another aspect of Manto's short stories. He goes beyond the

literary idealism of his time to unpack the layers of direct and indirect social
violence. He, however, does not merely work as an 'indifferent scribe'; in
stead, one finds a very sharp explanation of politics and society, and an
implicit adherence to politics of values and egalitarianism in his fiction. This
intellectual activism, I tryto suggest, underlines a specific kind of praxis that
has not been systematically analysed.18 37

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<N This makes Manto our 'contemporary' because he is not only interested
O in the light of the era in which he lived, but also in the darkness - a time of the
<D present which is unlived.19 This intellectual consciousness, I feel, needs to be
explored more closely, critically and, above all, politically.

<u Notes
All references for original Hindustani texts are taken from Saadat Hasan Manto
<u Dastavez, Vols. 1 and 5, Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 1993.
1 This paper grew out of my ongoing engagement with intellectual politics in post
<D colonial India. The argument presented here is simply an outline of a much larger
o exploration. I am thankful to Rakesh Pandey, Abhay Kumar Dubey, Ravikant,
Z Aditya Nigam, Nivedita Menon, Kamal Nayan Chaubey, Naveen and Rakhshanda

Jalil, for their comments and criticisms on various drafts of this paper.
2 It is important to clarify that the term postcolonial society is used here quite inten
tionally to mark the continuity and discontinuities of various social and political

projects that were initiated in the pre-1947 era which have been influencing our
CO social and intellectual worlds. Manto is an important writer/thinker in this regard
z because he seems to pay close attention to various facets of the 'transition' that took

place during and after the Partition of British India. In this sense, Manto can also
o be taken as a point of departure to study the different ways in which the 'postcolonial'
is experienced in India (and more broadly in South Asia). For an interesting literary
evaluation of this aspect, see Abdul Bismillah, 'A Reading of "Pandit Manto's
Letters to Pandit Nehru'", in Alok Bhalla (ed.), Life and Works of Saadat Hasan

Manto, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 1997.

3 Although the debate on academic professionalism, at least in South Asia, is not very
influential, the distinction between academic work and intellectual work is getting

sharper in the post-globalised world. Elaborating this crucial distinction between

professionalism and intellectual zeal, Ashis Nandy says: 'academic work is profes
sionalised and is, to some extent, more dispassionate. Intellectual work is a love
affair that swallows you up and forces you to operate at the margins of sanity.' See,
Hilal Ahmed and PriyadarshiniVijaisri, 'A past without history: In conversation
with Ashis Nandy', Seminar, 639, November 2012.
4 Taking political positions is intrinsic to the Indian intellectual tradition. Randhir

Singh's introduction to his book Reason, Revolution and Political Theory is an excel
lent example in this regard. Singh questions the ways in which intellectual 'neutrality'
is proposed and tries to offer arguments to justify his adherence to Marxism as a

political position. (See Randhir Singh, Reason, Revolution and Political Theory:
Notes on Oakeshott's Rationalism in Politics, People's Publication House, New
Delhi, 1967, Chapter 1.) We also find an elaborate discussion on the political role of
intellectuals in the writings of Rajni Kothari and D.L. Sheth. In a recent interview,
Kothari elaborates this aspect. He says: 'The world of ideas and world of politics are
related and influence each other. Intellectuals
recognise must of the significance

political processes in developing their understanding and critique of the existing

social-political order. At the same time, those who play an active role in the domain
of politics, at least in the formal sense of the term, must also value the importance
of ideas. In this interactive process, I believe, it is not just political thought - the
contributions of great thinkers of politics such as Hobbes, Locke, Mill and Marx -
that becomes relevant, but equally the question of ideology emerges as an important
reference point. However, in my view, the task of intellectuals is not limited to the

study of the critical role played by politics at various levels; they also have to develop

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Fictions of Intellectual Politics

various critiques of existing politics. I also suggest that intellectuals must intervene I
in the political process by linking critical ideas to political debates. In this frame
work, intellectual intervention finds a legitimate space. I also believe that there >
should be a space for criticism and self-criticism in our thinking. If we close the =r
of criticism, the gap between ideas and processes will increase. It will 3
possibility fD
restrict our role as intellectuals in society.' (See Hilal Ahmed, Priyadarshini Vijaisri .
and Abhay Kumar Dubey, 'The Centre and Indian Realities: Interview with Rajni

Kothari', Seminar, 639, November 2012.

5 Nivedita Menon argues: 'Translation as paradigmatic of any conversation, and

every act of translation as shot through with power relations - this understanding is
now very much part of a certain common sense arising from a formidable body of
scholarship. One point of departure from here is in the direction of seeing transla
tion as a hermeneutic project of understanding, an ethical project of destabilising
the Self through engagement with the Other; another is in the direction of recog

nising the constitutive misreading underlying any project of translation.' (Nivedita

Menon, 'Escaping Intelligibility: Translation and Politics of Knowledge', http://, accessed on 13 November 2012.)
6 M. Asaduddin, 'Manto in English: An Assessment of Khalid Hasan's Translations',
in Bhalla (ed.), Life and Works of Saadat Hasan Manto, pp. 170-71.
7 'Sham ko jab wo adde ko lota to khilafemamul use wahan apni janpehchan ka koi
aadmi na mil saka. Uske seene main ek ajeeb-o-gharib tufan barpa ho gaya. Wo ek
badi khabar dosto ko sunnane wala tha - bahut badi khabar aur us khabar ko wo

apne andar se bahar nikalne ke liye sakht majboor ho raha tha, lekin adde me koi tha
hi nahi.'
8 'Ek roz uske tange me do barrister bathenaye aain par bari zor se tanqeed kar rahe
the aur wo khamoshi se unki bate sun raha tha. Ek barrister dusre barrister se kah
raha tha, "jaded aain ka dusra hissa federation hai. Aisi federation duniya ki tarikh
me aaj tak na suni gayi hai aur na dekhi gayi hai... siyasi nazariye k eitbar se bhi yeh
federation bilkul ghalat hai, balki yun kehna chahiye ki yeh federation hai hi nahi.
Uske bad un barristeron ke darmiyan jo guftugu hui usme beshtar alfaz angrezi ke
the, isliye ustad kuch khas na samajh
Mangu saka; usne khyal kiya ki woh log
Hindustan me naye qanun ki aamad ko bura samajhte hai aur nahi chahate ki unka
watan azad ho. Isi khyal ke zere asar us ne kai martaba un dono barristeron ko

hiqarat ki nazar se dekha aur apne dil hi dil me kaha, "todi bachche!'"
9 Pehli April ko subah sawere ustad Mangu utha aur astabl me jakar usne tange me

ghode kojota aur bahar nikal gaya. Uski tabiyat ghair mamuli taurpar masrur thi -
wo naye qanoon ko dekhne wala tha. Usne subah ke sard dhund halke me kai tang
aur khule bazaron ka chakkar lagaya, magar use har chizpurani nazar aayi. Assman
ki tarah purani - uski khas taur par naya rang dekhna chahatin thi magar
siway us kalgi kejo rang-birang keparon se bani thee aur uske ghode ke sir par jami
hui thi, aur sab chizen purani nazar aa rahin thee; wo nayi kalgi usne naye qanoon ki
khushi me 31 March ko Chaudhari Khudabaksh se sadhe chaudha aane main
khareedi thi. Godhe ke tapon ki aavaz, kaali sadak, thode-thode faslon par kadhe bijli
ke khambe, dukanon ke board, uske godhe ke gale main pade huye ghunghruon ki

jhanjhanahat, baazaron main ehalte phirte log, inme se kaunsi cheez nayi thi, zahir
hai koi bhi nahin, lekin ustaad
Mangu maayus nahin tha.
10 'Ustaad Mangu ke darmiyaan
do sipahiyon kadha tha, uski chaudi chati, phuli hui
saans ki vajah se upar neeche ho rahi thi, muh sejhaag beh raha tha, vo apni pheli hui
aankhon se hairat zadahujum ki taraf dekhte hua haanpti aavaz main keh raha tha:
"Vo din guzar gaye jab khaleel khan fakhta udaya karte the. Ab naya qanoon hai

miya naya qanoon." Aur bechara gora apne bigdehuye chehre ke saath bevakoofon ki

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<N maanind ka bhi ustaad Mangu ki tarafdekh raha tha kabhi hujum ki taraf. Ustaad
O Mangu ko police ke sipahi thane main le gaye raste main aur thane ke andar bhi vo
chillata raha magar kisi ne ek na suni. "Naya Qanoon
i_ naya qanoon naya qanoon
a) Naya Qanoon kya bak rahe ho, qanoon vohi hai puraana". Aur usko havalaat main
-O '
E band kar diya gaya.
(D 11 Alok Bhalla, 'A Dance of Grotesque Mark: A critical reading of Manto's "1919 ki
<u Ek Baat'", in Bhalla (ed.), Life and Works of Saadat Hasan Manto.
D 12 'Vo thela kanjar tha. Uska nam Mohammad Tufail tha magar vo thela kanjar ke
L naam se mashhoor
<u tha, isliye ki vo ek tavayafke batanse
aavaragard tha.... Vo bada
XI tha. Choti umar hi main usko jua aur sharab
naushikilat pad gayi thi ... uski do
<u behne, Shamshaad aur Almas, apne vakt ki haseen-tareen tavayafain thi. Shamshaad
> ka gala bahut acha tha, uska mijra sunne ke liye rais badi badi door se aate the ...
Z dono behne apni bhai ki kartooton se bahut naala thi. Sheher main mashhoor tha ki
dono ne ek tarah se apne bhai ko aaqkarrakha tha. Phir bhi vo kisi nakisiheelai se
<s ke behnon se kuch na kuch vasool kar hi leta tha ... vaise vo
apni zarooriyat liye apni
bahut khush posh rehta tha - acha khata tha acha peeta tha. Vo bada nafasat

pasand tha. ... Lateefagoi uske mijaaz main kootkoot kar bhari hui thi... lamba kad
l/J bhare bhare haath paon, mazboot kasrati badan, naak nakshe ka bhi vo khasa tha.'
13 'Maine kahin pada hai ki France ke inqalab main pehli goli vahan
ki ek takhyai randi
ke lagi thi ... marhoom Thela, yaani Muhammad ek tavayaf ka ladka tha.
Inqalab ki us jadojahed main pehli goli jo Thele ko lagi, vo goli dasvin thi ya

pachaasvin, is ke mutallik kisi ne tehqeek nahin ki hai shayad isliye ki samaaj main us

gareeb ka koi rutba nahin

tha. Main samajta hoon ki Punjaab ke us khoonigusl main

nahanevaalon kifehrist main Thele Kanjar ka naam o nishaan tak bhi na hoga. Aur
yeh bhi kaun jaanta hai ki aisi koi fehrist kabhi banyi bhigayi thee.'
14 'Phir unhon ne apni zark-bark poshakain noch daalin aur alif nangi ho gayin aur
kehne lagin : "lo hame dekh lo hum Thele ki behne hain shahid ki behne jiske
khoobsoorut jism ko tumne sirf isliye apni goliyon se challin challin kiya thaki usjism
main apne vatan se muhabbat karnevaali ruh basi hui thi ... hum usi Thele ki
khoobsoorat behne hain ... aao aur apni shehvat ke garam garam lohe se humaara
khushbuon main basa hua jism daagdaar karo ... magar aisa karne se pehle sirf
humain ek baar apne muh par thook lene do."'
15 'Train station main daakhil ho chuki thi - jab train ruk gayi to usne ek coolie ko
bulakar apna asbaab uthvaya. Jab vo jaane laga to mainne use kaha: aapne jo
daastan sunayi hai uska anjaam mujhe aapka khud saaqta maloom hota hai... mere

humsafar ne apne halakki talkhithook ke saath nigalte hue kaha:ji haan un haram...
vo gaali dete dete ruk gaya... unhon ne apne shahid bhai ke nam par batta laga diya.'

Jacques Rancire, 'The Politics of Literature', SubStance, Vol. 33, No. 1, Issue 103,
17 Manto's experiment with form and style of narrative is a good example in this

regard. For an elaborated discussion on this aspect of Manto's work, see Aamir
Mufti, 'A Greater Story Writer than God: Genre, Gender, and Minority in Late
Colonial India', in Partha Chatterjee and Pradip Jeganathan (eds.), Subaltern
Studies XI: Community, Gender and Violence, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2000.
15 Ashis Nandy also makes a similar point. He says: 'I do think that the main job of an
intellectual is to be an intellectual. If you are truly an intellectual, your intellectual
work would reflect your politics, whether you like it or not, whether you make a
conscious effort or not. In other words, if you are true to your intellectual self, then,
in a society like India where politics plays a pace-setting role, you cannot avoid

politics. It does not mean that this is the only possible role an intellectual could play
in relation to politics. There are individuals who would go for a more direct kind of

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Fictions of Intellectual Politics

political intervention. the question

But, of political sensitivity is central to all I
intellectual engagements.' Ahmed and Vijaisri, 'A past without history'.)
(See piT
16 Giorgio Agamben says: 'contemporariness is ... a singular relationship with one's
own time, which adheres to it and at the same time, keeps a distance from it. More 3"
precisely, it is that relationship with time that adheres to it through a disjunction and
an anachronism.... The contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own CL
time so as to perceive not its light, but rather its darkness' (Giorgio Agamben, What
is Apparatus and Other Essays, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2009, p. 44).

Broadly speaking, Manto's stories not merely capture the light of the time when he
was actively involved in his intellectual work, but also the internal configuration of
the narratives presented in these stories also underline the darkness of this context.

Hilal Ahmed is Associate Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Socie
ties, New Delhi.


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