Urdu and Hindi Literature in Kashmir
Just as many Kashmiris turned to English writing in the 1990s, the beginnings of a Kashmiri uprising in the 1940s saw Kashmiris turn to Urdu for expression. Even now there exist many leading Urdu newspapers and weeklies in Kashmir which points to an active Urdu literary culture. Prominent among the writers in the Urdu language are Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Hamidi Kashmiri and Dr. Farooq Nazki. Many of the great Urdu writers of South Asia such as Sanaullah Butt or Meeraji, Muhammad Iqbal, Saadat Hassan Manto and Ratan Nath Sarshar had ties to Kashmir. Many of the leading Kashmiri writers had shifted from Urdu to Kashmiri under the influence of the Progressive Writers Movement and the left wing Cultural Conference. This tendency received a further boast in the brief rule of the Kashmiri Chief Minister Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq, a leading Communist and a strong proponent of the Kashmiri language. But many writers such as Ghulam Nabi Khayal and Dr. Farooq Nazki seemed to be unapologetic about their choice of Urdu and are comfortably bilingual. The explosion of new media and the emergence of a heterodox learning environment has made such multilingualism sustainable.
The quality of Urdu journalistic writing in Kashmir too has suffered as the Urdu newspapers are being gradually overtaken by English language newspapers. In the past newspapers such as Aftab and Srinagar Times were also known for their literary columns and a Kashmiri-Urdu flavour best exemplified by the satirical column Khizr Sochta Hain Wular Ke Kinare (Khizr thinks on the banks of the Wular). Some of Akhtar Mohiudeen and Hari Krishen Kaul’s writings have incorporated this new Kashmiri-Urdu idiom.
The writing in Urdu and Hindi by Kashmiri writers has not been a one-way street. Many writers of Hindi and Urdu chose Kashmiri subjects which included Krishan Chand and Upendranath Ashq. The Hindi novelist Chandrakanta was recently awarded the 2005 Vyas Samman for Katha Satisar, a novel about Kashmir. When we speak of Urdu in Kashmir, we are reminded of those Urdu writers who owed their origin to Kashmir such as Saadat Hasan Manto, Kashmiri Lal Zakir, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Sanaullah Butt (Meeraji), Brij Narain Chakbast, Pandit Anand Narain Mulla and Rattan Nath Sarshar.
In Kashmir, Hamidi Kashmiri has been dedicated to Urdu literature for the last few decades. Though he also writes in Kashmiri, Urdu is his passion. Another literary figure devoted to the Urdu language in Kashmir is Ghulam Nabi Khayal. Khayal has been writing in Urdu and researching the history of the Urdu language in Kashmir. His brilliant compilation, Fughan-e-Kashmir, is an excellent collection of poems on Kashmir in Urdu. When we look at the poets of the Urdu language who have written about Kashmir, we are in for a surprise. We find poems on Kashmir by poets such as Makhdoom Mohiudeen, Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi, Fani Badyuni, Hafeez Jalandhari, Josh Mallihabadi, Ahmad Faraz and Kishwar Naheed. This is an impressive array of writers in the Urdu language in the twentieth century. I am tempted to quote here a few examples from poems written by some well-known Urdu poets on Kashmir.
Ahmad Faraz , a renowned Urdu poet, writes:
Ek raqs-e-junoon hua hain jaari
Yeh raqs-e-junoon na ruk sake ga
Yeh shama-e-nuwa na bhuj sake gi
Yeh parcham-e-jaan na jhuk sake ga
A dance of madness begins
This dance of madness would never stop
This new flame can never die out
This flag of life can never fall
One of the greatest contemporary writers of Urdu in J&K, Abdul Ghani Sheikh, belongs to Ladakh. His short stories are about the growing tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Ladakh. A collection of his short stories, Forsaking Paradise, was collected, edited and translated by Raveena Aggarwal, a US-based anthropologist.