Rahi Masoom Raza

            In post-partition literary tradition in India, there have been writers altering the course of literary trend by their peculiar style of writing. Simultaneously, they have travelled their own way and have had the ability to go beyond the disciplinary conservatism while weaving their creative writings. They refused to maintain the literary status-quo. In the legacy of Urdu-Hindi post-partition literature, the late Rahi Masoom Raza (henceforth Rahi) seems to be one of the dominant voices in Hindustani literature. Today he comes in our public discourse as reminiscent in a time when human relations, especially of Hindus and Muslims, are flunked sorely. He dared to shape a generation of post-partition.

Rahi- a robust ideologue

The time we are now living in is a tough time indeed. There are ruptures in human relations, there is a social distance between Hindus and Muslims. Edward Said, a great scholar of Orient, once said that a writer or artist or any academic for that matter cannot disassociate himself/herself from his own socio-political realities. Rahi throughout his oeuvre, had assigned himself to touch upon the issues that haunt Hindu-Muslim relationships. For him, the partition of India is marked by a religious and communal idiom. With the death of 2.3 million and displacement of twenty six million people the partition of India stands an unprecedented story of stampede, displacement and debacle in the corridors of history. Rahi’s ideological underpinnings (secular and versatile humanity) have a great deal of what goes on in everyday life of people and how people constitute their meaning making sense in everyday social engagements afterwards the partition of India. He is in the view that people often choose their everyday behavior much from historical anecdotes.

Like a prescient he proposed the partition of India was not an end of a problem rather was the beginning of an era of communal politics in India. It has provided the plentiful spaces to both the communities to craft their respective glorified stories.

Rahi is a robust ideologue seeding secular and democratic values whose life resonates what he is in his writings. “I belong to three mothers- Nafisa Begum, Aligarh Muslim University and Ganga. This book “scene 75” is dedicated to them. Nafisa Begum is not alive so I don’t remember her exactly, but the rest two mothers are alive and I know them very well” (Author’s translation). For him the river Ganga is a metaphor for being a believer in a common and shared history. He is conscious and assertive of his set of beliefs and social position- a Muslim and a secular Indian. The dialogues of the famous TV serial ‘Mahabarata’ were composed by him. Many of us grew up with the profound echo of “maien samay hooon”.

He authored several novels and books which include Topi Shukla, os ki boond,aadha gaon, katra bi aarzoo, neem ka ped, dil aik saada kaaghaz, Himmat Jaunpuri, asantosh ke din, scene 75 etc. While reading the text of these books one realizes the brilliant historical, social, political and aesthetical nuances of the author.

Topi Shukla- an epitome of secularism

Topi Shukla is a novel deals with the phenomenon of secularism in this country, especially when it comes to Hindu-Muslim relationship. In the novel, he laments an elegy over the elite and academics whose beliefs and actions are mismatched. They farced to be secular but in principal, are communal. It also captures the hypocrisy of teachers in academic institutions. Such are the people Topi is surrounded with. In the end of the novel, Topi Shukla commits suicide on account of a deep frustration with the hypocrisy of academia and political elite. For Rahi, suicide is a blot on any civilization. Topi being a true epitome of secular and shared values of this country become the victim. But today numerous Topis are  succumbed with the nefarious hypocrisy pervaded into academia.

The other relevant most phenomenon is communalism, a nibbling parasite which, over a period of time had been paved ways into the collective psyche of people based on sustained social perceptions against each other’s community. The climate of continuous polarization and keeping the past memories alive to hampering the rapprochement between Hindus and Muslims is peculiar to Indian politics.

To him, communalism is a disease invented and perpetuated by brazen politicians to make their faded sheen alive. For their larger political outfit they never let people to enter in the domain of healthy and meaningful relationship and, further, they put curtail on all the public spaces which symbolize and straighten communal harmony. He beautifully describes, how, on account of this constant propaganda, both Hindus and Muslims have distanced themselves with each other. The channel of communication between the two has been broken down. As a result, both Hindus and Muslims have become hostile to each other. He is mindful with the fact that both have elements of conservatism and resistance to change within themselves. Communal politics has dampened the spirit of symbiotic human relations. His echo is profound in Topi Shukla:


How strange a word it is! Hate! This one word alone is the fruit of the national movement. The price of the corpses of the revolutionaries of Bengal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh is a single word: Hate!



Fear! ”

Rahi was fortunate enough to highlight the hidden communal feelings and political correctness of academia but (interestingly) in present times we have witnessed people coming out without any ‘moral hesitation’ and announcing their communal inclination and writing hate based mandates for political parties. The scourge of communalism has taken a new and more daring shape.

He is just not concerned for the igniters fomenting communal riots and violent mob but equally worried about those who believe in shared secular values and are empathizer of communal harmony. He asked critical questions about the future of a country deeply divided on communal lines.

aadha gaon and the quest for Indian-ness

His mesmerizing novel aadha gaon remains a classical narrative of partition stories. Though the plot set in Gangauli (Rahi’s native place), Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, but has become one of the primary referral source on partition. The novel demystifies the very notion of nationalism while making the regional voices strong; the localized preferences of common people, interaction pattern of Hindus and Muslims and their social behavior with each other. He is well-familiar with the consequences of partition. It also demystifies the politics of nationalism and offer an alternative, a counter narrative in response to this ‘sacred agenda’. In aadha gaon, he deals with the issue of broken Hindu-Muslim relationships. The Muslims of Gangauli did not love the idea of Pakistan. For them, it was nothing but an alien to their everyday life. They are more concerned with the fate of Gangauli; how does it impact their life if India gets divided! They are very much worried for diminishing Indian ethos with the coming of partition. One is amazed his way to redefine and reaffirm the notion of ‘ghar’ (home), ‘mitti’ (land) ‘zaban’ (language), ‘khwab’ (dreams), etc.


Rahi’s proposition!

This proclamation of Rahi needs to be understood; he is not only assertive of his religious identity but equally confident of being an Indian whose roots are massive and giant into this land. Thus, this question is not limited to Gangauli but seeks its answer from the entire country; this is what Arjun Appadurai meant when he said about the searching local in the affairs of global.

He finds out common thread of line between both the communities, for this he brings the shades of shared cultural roots, sharing of public spaces and common history of living together in everyday life. He saw the possibility of versatile humanism and Hindu-Muslim harmony in a very different fashion. In a time when lynching and dehumanization of certain caste and communities is so rampant and targeted violence became a new normal, one finds solace and get immense inspiration from such writings.

If the task of communal harmony is handed over to the political elite, it is certainly devastating. It is the people who have to reinvent and reinterpret the past and the relationship they have had with each other. Members of the both communities need to start interacting socially and economically, attending shared public spaces, understanding each other’s cultural nuances. ‘Conversing with each other’, ‘Walking together’, ‘Knowing each other’s belief system’ are the phrases we need to retell. He urges to recall a historical fact- the social relationship which is made up of thousand years of history. But the division of India was the most traumatic experience that India ever had; one of the biggest human displacement in the history of human kind. Shall Hindus and Muslims remain intact and stick (for the sake of their political reference) with this historic traumatic experience forever and never write off this ‘chosen trauma’? Or they will take a lesson from it and move ahead for a better synchronized social life? This is the curriculum that Rahi Masoom Raza has to offer and this is the pedagogy that he presents before us.

Abu Osama, Assistant Professor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University



Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel


Comments are closed.