Tracing the literary journey of Kashmir from Urdu to Kashmiri


Writer and poet Sualeh Keen spoke on the topic ‘History Through Literature (1930-1960)’ on June 16, 2017 at Dogears Bookstore, Margao as a part of the event, ‘Kashmir – Before Our Eyes’ organised by Museum of Goa Assagao and Dogears Bookstore, Margao.

In India the progressive movement in literature witnessed a formal start in the year 1931. After a few years, the movement struck its roots in almost all parts of the country. Hence, Kashmir was neither an Urdu language zone, nor was Urdu the mother tongue of Kashmiris; yet the local writers adopted and patronised it to ventilate their feelings. Sualeh Keen talked about the English translations of select Kashmiri poems of the stalwarts of Progressive Literary Movement in Kashmir (1930-1960) like Mahjoor, Nadim, Kamil, and Rahi to reflect on the political landscape of that forgotten era of Kashmir.

Sualeh stated: “Mahjoor was one of the Kashmiri poets who ventured into social and political issues in Kashmir and other contemporary themes. Abdul Ahad Azad was another Kashmiri poet who immediately joined him. They started writing in Urdu, but eventually shifted to writing in Kashmiri after a few years.”

Talking about another renowned poet of the same era, Sualeh mentioned that Dinanath Nadim had a slightly modern and new way of writing his poems than the rest of the poets from the same era. “Nadim came much after Mahjoor and Azad. He introduced new verses of poems like ghazals. He adopted many new western poetry formats like sonnets, operas in Kashmiri. Personally, Nadim is one of my favourite poets for his witty touch on serious themes and for his topics on exploitation of people.”

However, Progressive Literary Movement is incomplete without important poets, Amin Kamil and Rehman Rahi. Kamil began his literary career in Kashmiri in 1953, leaving behind his decade-long Urdu poetry. He passed away a few years ago. Rehman Rahi was awarded the Indian Sahitya Akademi Award in 1961 and the Padma Shri in 2000 for his works in Kashmiri.

Sualeh recited a few poems by Kashmiri poets and said: “All the poets of Progressive Literary Movement in Kashmir wrote poems according to the time and situation of their state. Before the independence of India, how people suffered, while what happened after the independence and partition was all that was portrayed in their poems using different comparisons, subjects and elements. One can see how poems by a single poet have transitioned before and after the independence of India.”

According to Sualeh, there are a lot of poems, verses, and prose in Kashmiri literature. “Writers of Progressive Literary Movement are the ones who shifted from writing in Urdu to writing in Kashmiri because in those day Kashmiri was not considered to be an elite language but people’s language. Hence, there is a lot of literature in Kashmiri. But unfortunately people are not aware of it as this literature in Kashmiri never reached to them,” he explained.

Concluding, Sualeh stated that he has translated these poems into English from Kashmiri so that it can reach to a wider audience. “These poems and verses are from the forgotten era. Translation in English will help to keep them alive in some way,” he said.