Saadat Hasan Manto, the Controversial Urdu Short Story Writer

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Of the several hundred stories, the court found only two stories in which he had transgressed the law and was liable for punishment. But his critics and the custodians of society declared Manto to be retrogressive and licentious. Even the so-called "progressives" betrayed him. At one strike they tarnished his entire writing career with the same dirty brush as the others... To call a writer's work nothing on the basis of two stories is crass injustice. We cannot overlook the fact that Manto's masterpieces such as "Toba Tek Singh", "Mozel", "Babu Gopinath" have nothing to do with obscenity." (Jagdish Chander)

1948 to 1955 saw Manto writing most of his controversial stories. With the outcome that he
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Rather they were repelled and attacked in the name of politics and religion. Manto seems to suggest the madness of the Partition and this is reflected in Toba Tek Singh as well. Perhaps even more disturbing is fact that the so-called ‘Razakars’ torment her. It is ironic as the word ‘Razakar’ is a Persian word meaning ‘a volunteer’. These were like social workers who had the reputation of ‘recovering women and children’- missing or abducted- from the other side of the border at their own risk.

One realises then that there is no rational or “political explanation” of what has happened (Shashi Joshi). This also answers the question of success of Manto’s stories that have successfully shocked readers. As Alok Bhalla puts it, “What is scandalous about Manto’s partition stories is his radical erasure of all social, moral or religious reasons which normally inform civilizations. Manto’s primary argument is not only the Hobbesian one that when men are freed from responsibilities they become predators, but also that in a world which is as heartless and selfish as ours there is no reason for mercy and pity to create a safe ground for the frailty of goodness to survive.”

How do we place this cynical world view of Manto's in perspective? Is it just cynical or is he doing more? Is he not reflecting what he has already seen and become aware of during the days of the

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