Examining Manto's Partition Stories from A Gender Perspective

 Examining Manto's Partition Stories from A Gender Perspective

Manto's Partition Stories_ichhori.webp

In Urdu literature, Saadat Hasan Manto has long been a prominent character. His works have received a great deal of critical acclaim throughout the years and have been translated into other languages. His works tackle harsh conditions and emotions while attempting to reveal the morbid mind.

Manto is renowned for his tales about partition and is praised for accurately portraying the tragedies of division in his works. He is also one of the few authors to have addressed the gendered component of partition and provided a fictional viewpoint on the sufferings of women during partition. Two of his stories, "a faithful daughter" and "a painful harvest," will be the subjects of my analysis to demonstrate how women as gendered subjects were a victim of various power dynamics.

The year 1948 had started, he says in "the obedient daughter. The duty of finding missing women and children and returning them to their homes has been given to hundreds of volunteers.

The aftermath of Partition and the challenges faced by the newly created nations respecting women are the subjects of Manto's short fiction "the faithful daughter" by Manto. For India and Pakistan, independence and partition fell on the same day, resulting in a particular historical event that was both celebrated and lamented.

Indians and Pakistanis were shocked by the two diametrically opposed directions that this historic event was taking. Following this twin occurrence, the two countries embarked on a massive project to restore the population of women who had been kidnapped and raped and were to be returned to their respective countries.

How did they choose which nation to kidnap and rape women in? What factors led to the decision being made? Was it fueled by religion, patriarchy, or the government?

"One heard odd stories," Manto writes. One liaison officer informed me that two Muslim girls who had been kidnapped in Saharanpur had refused to go back to their Pakistani parents. The abductor's family also gave this Muslim girl in Jullandar a heartfelt farewell, as if she were their daughter-in-law departing on a lengthy voyage. Due to their fear of their parents, some girls had already committed suicide while traveling. Due to their horrific experiences, some had lost their mental equilibrium.

These instances make it more difficult for the victim and the offender to connect and distance themselves from one another. The victim-perpetrator connection of hatred and dominance takes on additional complexities, and the position of the female subject is intertwined with numerous power structures in the family and the State.

The refusal to go back may be motivated by her concern that her family won't accept her any longer or by the new connections she has made along the road. The traditional definitions of the roles of a daughter, a wife, and a mother are lost, and instead, the family forces them to return—even if they don't want to.

In addition, the nation's popular imagination viewed the State's concern with restoring women as a matter of honor. "At times, it seemed to me that the entire operation was being run like import-export trading," Manto writes.

Even while it was a relief operation and many women were happy to be able to return to their homes, the foundation of the operations was based on popular ideals that women should be treated with honor and as the country's legitimate property.

Given that the Partition was heavily influenced by gender dynamics and that women's bodies were viewed as targets for retaliation, there was an absolute lack of any additional support for women in terms of treatment or ways to express their grief. Nobody was as vulnerable and marked as a woman. Manto muses on this throughout the story, saying, "When I thought about these stolen girls, I just saw their expanding bellies. What did they contain, and what was going to happen to them? Who would lay claim to the outcome? India or Pakistan?

"And who would pay the mothers the wages for bearing those infants in their wombs for nine months?" asks Manto further. India or Pakistan? If there were still any pages in God's vast ledger, would everything else be entered there instead?

We gain a microscopic understanding of the rape of women during Partition and how their bodies came to be symbols of religious identity in the novel "a painful harvest." The sight of Sharifan, Qasim's daughter, who had been murdered and raped, traumatizes him. "A young girl's nearly naked body lay on the floor with her little, turned-up breasts looking upward as she lay on her back. He tried to scream but was unable to. He averted his gaze and spoke "Sharifan" in a hushed, bereaved voice.

When Qasim sees this, he becomes furious and tries to exact revenge. To get his vengeance, he sets out to rape a different female whose body he can use. Many rape stories from the time of the partition, where women were disfigured and raped because they carried multiple identities of religion and gender, are governed by this cycle of retribution.

Because he has no other way to express his grief and is unable to cope with such harsh circumstances, Qasim adopts the same logic that everyone else does when it comes to seeking retribution. He keeps thinking about Sharifan, which feeds his insatiable need to get revenge for her death. According to Manto, he is "a man deranged" whose "blood surges through his body like boiling water being sprinkled over it."

Later, when Qasim arrives at a residence where a young girl can be seen, he asks her who she is and she responds, "I am a Hindu." This incident brought to light the two identification markers that are essential for properly completing the cycle of retaliation. The identification of a feminine body comes first, and religious identity comes second. The young girl is the gendered manifestation of her faith in this particular interaction.

When analyzing these tales, one may also charge Manto with objectifying women's bodies and creating characters that can commit atrocities because of their insanity or trauma. His tales obscure the offenders' separate subjectivities and establish a connection between the offender and the crime done.

Manto can avoid some ethical obligations regarding his writing by using the device of macabre and dark portrayal. But the truth remains that his accounts of the Partition spark conversations and debates about particular details of the division, which are obscured by the state's big narratives.

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