By Ali Husain Mir, Raza Mir
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Extra resources for Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Progressive Urdu Poetry
The middle class sought its emancipation, not through challenging the system, but by learning to play its game. The ambivalence of the middle class was no longer worth addressing, the presumption of its role in societal transformation abandoned. As the progressive context dissipated, the progressive aesthetic too lost its broad appeal. But the power of the poets and their contribution to the history of Urdu literature was such that their voice, while no longer dominant, still resonates across time.
In this chapter, we intend to examine the deployment of Urdu poetry as a tool of Indian nationalism, particularly by the poets of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) and attempt to reflect the story of nationalism in the mirror of Urdu poetry. Specifically, we highlight four moments that mark the modes of engagement of the Progressives with the problematic of nationalism: the anti-colonial struggle against the British, the attitude of the Progressives towards the Second World War, the trauma of the Partition, and the reconfiguration of their politics vis-a-vis the Indian state.
Internal fights and purges followed and while the PWA eventually did weather these storms, it emerged from them as a significantly weaker force. Its period of uncontested hegemony had come to an end. Notwithstanding the fact that the moment of Independence and the following period had not resulted in the fulfilment of their socialist dream, the Progressives continued 62 SAARE JAHAAN SE ACHCHA to write with great intensity about issues of social justice. But their aspirations were now different, their enthusiasm and hope for an egalitarian society now tempered.