ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

From progressivism to modernism: Kashmiri poetry from the 1940s to the present.


Bazaz Abir - Ashoka University, English, Sonipat, India


26 – Radical Poetics in the Literary Cultures of South Asia


 On August 5, 2019, the Indian parliament revoked the special status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir canceling its autonomy within the Indian union. But the slow erosion of Kashmir’s autonomy in the Indian union began in the August of 1953 when the Kashmiri nationalist leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was arrested on conspiracy charges. Historians and political commentators such as Ramachandra Guha and A.G.Noorani have written in detail about this event and its impact on Kashmiri consciousness. But not much has been written about how ordinary Kashmiris responded to these cataclysmic events. This paper turns to Kashmiri poetry of Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor, Dina Nath Nadim, Rahman Rahi and Amin Kamil from the late 1940s to the 1960s to explore the Kashmiri counter-memory of the turbulent events in Kashmir from 1947 to 1953. I will trace the trajectory of Kashmiri poetry from the secular nationalism of Mahjoor, Communism of Azad and Nadim, to the gradual shift in Rahi and Kamil towards an existential modernism. I will argue that the shift to an existential modernism in Rahi and Kamil should be read in relation to the political despair in 1950s Kashmir.  The paper will approach Kashmiri poetry as a site for reading the history of Kashmiri dispossessions from the 1940s to the present.