There is an urgent and relevant need today to fully revisit the toxic thirties of the last century. That was roughly the decade when the Communists began making slow, systematic but determined inroads into the Indian cultural spaces. Even as the “syphilitic-faced” Mohammed Habib (to borrow Sita Ram Goel’s brilliant expression) was surreptitiously whitewashing the Jihad-inspired genocides of Mahmud of Ghazni, the world of literature was being invaded by similar syphilitic eminences hailing from various fronts and organisations of the fledgling Communist Party of India.
For the first time in the thousands of years of Bharatavarsha’s literary history dating back to Maharshi Valmiki, literature became an organized political movement.
A reasonable starting point to trace its history is the formation of something called The Indian Progressive Writers' Association (IPWA) in 1932. IPWA itself was the outcome of the enormous success of Angare (Embers or Burning Coals), a collection of nine short stories and a one-act play in Urdu by Ahmed Ali, Sajjad Zaheer, Rashid Jehan and Mahmuduz Zafar in 1932. An unapologetic Communist screed, Angare was a frontal assault against Maulvis, God, religion, and what is today known as toxic masculinity and patriarchy. It also blamed religion as both the cause of and obstacle that prevented people from overcoming poverty with the suggestion of socialist and communist ideas as the solution. It evoked enormous public fury and the (British) United Provinces Government immediately banned and burnt its copies. Needless, in Communist annals, such bans are celebrated as victories and vindications of their struggle against capitalist monsters.
On 5 April 1933, the formation of a League of Progressive Authors was announced by Ahmed Ali and Mamuduz Zafar in the highly influential newspaper, The Leader. It immediately set to work. On 23 May 1933, Indian “Progressive” writers assembled under the leadership of the selfsame Sajjad Zaheer in Bombay. Prof R.V. Jahagirdar, who had distinguished himself as a playwright writing under the pen name Sriranga, was one of the prominent attendees. In the same year, the inaugural conference of “Progressive” writers in Kannada was held in Mangalore. Kanthappa Shettar was appointed as the President, and Niranjana, the Secretary.
These activities eventually expanded and gave a definite shape and direction to the IPWA. In an astonishingly swift span, it began spreading its wings. In 1935, an IPWA was established in London. Its details are highly revealing. Minoo Masani, a former diehard Congress socialist describes what happened in London:
In another essay, I have traced the near-comprehensive political trajectory of how the Congress Party has today totally surrendered to Communists and breaking India forces. Minoo Masani’s account provides a quasi-cultural backdrop of how this surrender was meticulously engineered over eighty plus years.
Accordingly, in July 1936, the Progressive Writers' Association was set up in Calcutta. Earlier, on 10 April 1936, the All India Progressive Writers' Association was founded in the Rifa-e-Aam Club at Lucknow under the leadership of Syed Sajjad Zahir and Ahmed Ali. The Hindi writer Munshi Prem Chand was made its president and Sarojini Naidu was a celebrity attendee.
Next, Zahir and Ali invited Syed Fakhruddin Balley (known as Balley Alig) to join. Balley then initiated a series of measures to promote and popularize the Association. It succeeded beyond imagination. Writers, poets and playwrights swarmed this virgin “Progressive” soil like locusts high on LSD. Here is a brief list of names who joined the Association at various points: Hameed Akhtar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Saadat Hasan Manto Ismat Chughtai, Mulk Raj Anand, Dr Joshi Parshad, Pramod Ranjan Sengupta, Munshi Prem Chand, Maulvi Abdul Haq, Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Abdul Majeed Salik, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Josh Malihabadi, Professor Ahmed Ali, Dr Akhtar Hussain Raipuri, Professor Majnun Gorakhpuri, Dr Rashid Jahan, Sahibzada Mahmood uz Zafar, Professor Manzoor Hussain, Dr Abdul Aleem, Ali Sardar Jafri, Sibte Hassan, Ehtesham Hussain, Mumtaz Hussain, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Abbas Hussaini, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Amrita Pritam, Rajinder Singh Bedi, and Bhisham Sahni (younger brother of actor Balraj Sahni).
Needless all of them were hardcore Communists and self-declared warriors against not only British imperialism but imperialism of all hues. They were fanatics of the new politico-economic cult called socialism. Socialism alone held the magic key to solve all the dire economic problems of India and they became its most bigoted missionaries. Among other things, they demanded justice for the “tillers of the soil” and incorporated these themes in their writings and plays.
However, a core facet of the IPWA that has shrewdly been obscured is the fact that by all accounts, it was overwhelmingly dominated by Muslims. A good number of Hindus who were members of this cult had to toe the line. The situation that emerges after a historical survey of the IPWA is that it preached socialism, equality, and justice to Hindu writers who were ignorant, stupid, naïve or arrogant enough to be brainwashed by Communism while it was an extremely safe haven for Muslims schooled by the legacy of the arch-bigot and architect of Pakistan, Syed Ahmed Khan. There’s a fundamental reason why the Communists have always been wiped out when their illicit alliance with Islamists came to fruition: look at Kerala and Bengal today, and consider what Ayatollah Kohemini did to the Communists in Iran.
However, despite such an enviable membership, the IPWA soon lost steam. By 1938, it had almost sputtered to death largely due to a lack of nationwide coordination and the British colonial Government which had banned the CPI.
The next phase of the IPWA arrived in 1942 when the British lifted the ban for a straightforward reason: under instructions from Moscow, Indian Communists began sabotaging the Quit India Movement and in general, the freedom struggle itself. As the trio of Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, and Arun Shourie demonstrate with devastating primary evidence, the Communists not only skewered the freedom struggle by betraying our freedom fighters but stood at the forefront, lending open support to Jinnah and his bigoted demand for an Islamic state of Pakistan.
Thus, in April 1942, the IPWA was resuscitated in Calcutta by launching something called an “Anti-Fascist Writers’ and Artists’ Union.” It was presided by Ramananda Chatterjee described as the “doyen of Indian journalism,” euphemism for a hardcore Communist traitor. However, this soon fizzled out with the arrest of S.S. Chauhan, editor of the Hindi monthly, Hans.
The next revival occurred in Bombay on 22 May 1943 under the direct leadership of S.A. Dange, member of the Central Committee of the CPI. In a conference spread over three days, he extended an open invitation to all writers to support Britain’s war effort and to serve the Progressive cause. Two important outcomes occurred at the end of the conference: the IPWA’s headquarters were shifted from Lucknow to Bombay and new office bearers were appointed—the selfsame Sajjad Zaheer was appointed president, K.A. Abbas became a joint secretary and Mama Warerkar, the treasurer.
Dange then took the next step by launching a massive recruitment drive of Muslim writers and artists. On 14 October 1945, the CPI held the All India Conference of Urdu Progressive Writers. Notable eminences who made speeches include Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Krishan Chandar and Mulk Raj Anand.
Sarojini Naidu inaugurated the conference.
To be continued
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