CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Julien Columeau

Julien Columeau

PhD Student
Institutional affiliation(s): EHESS


Dissertation director: Michel Boivin

PhD program: EHESS - History and Civilizations

Initial registration: 2015


The Punjabi Movement in Pakistan from 1947 to 1963


In this work, I will attempt to analyze the evolution as well as the social, ideological, linguistic and literary dimensions of the Punjabi movement in Pakistan from 1947 to 1963. The Punjabi movement is one of the many ethno-linguistic movements that have followed one on another in Pakistan since its creation, such as the Bengali movement, the Sindhi movement or the Siraiki movement, all of which have been varied in their impact.

Nationalist or leftist journalists, poets and writers have participated in the Punjabi movement, which has advocated the use of the Punjabi language in the areas of education and literature in the Punjab Province, without however contesting the role and importance of Urdu, which was adopted (alongside Bengali) as Pakistan’s national language—it was in fact de facto the administrative language of these Western provinces. The movement’s roots go back to and earlier movement, which arose in the second decade of the 20th century around Joshua Fazal-ud Din’s newspaper (‘Punjaabi darbaar’), and which promoted Punjabi in Urdu script, and to which intellectuals of all denominations contributed. After Partition, the Punjabi activists of Pakistan founded a journal (‘Punjaabi’), published articles in newspapers such as ‘Imroz’ and also founded a few organizations to promote Punjabi. Their efforts culminated in the organizing and holding of an inaugural Punjabi conference at Lyallpur/Faisalabad in 1956, but it is in 1957—with the creation of the Marxist-leaning ‘Punjabi majlis’ (‘Punjabi Association’), which was then banned in 1959—and then in 1960, with the creation of the newspaper ‘Punjaabi adab’ (‘Punjabi Literature’) and the Punjabi branch of the ‘Adabi guild’ (‘Literary Guild,’ also banned in 1963), that the movement was able to expand and take on a shape comparable to its present form—despite censorship and restrictions imposed by the government. The movement has moreover managed to survive through the various regimes Pakistan has traversed, and is still present today—standing on the foundations established at the beginning of the 60s—, centered around Najam Hossain Syed’s ‘Sangat’ (‘Cultural Circle’).

Initially emerging out of a nationalist and conservative line (close to the newspaper ‘Nawaa-e waqt’), of which Faqeer Mohd Faqeer and Maulana Saalik were the representatives, the Punjabi movement then grew ideologically nearer to Marxism with the arrival of new recruits such as Ahmad Rahi, Shafqat Tanwir Mirza, Safdar Mir, Najam Hossain Syed, Asif Khan and Raja Risaloo, and then created an autonomous Punjabi literary space, completely independent from that of Urdu—to which it had been connected up until then. The written production in Punjabi at that time, crystalized in books and journals and supplied by the activities of associations, was abundant and cued into areas as diverse as poetry, history, criticism, theater, linguistics and fiction. A literary field was thus created. The extent and the variety of this production proved that the Punjabi language, criticized so long for its supposed limitations, vulgarity and its links to Sikhism, could be the medium of a diverse, scientific, avant-garde and properly-Pakistani literature. The recognition this language received during the golden age of the 70s (inauguration of a Punjabi department at the university, creation of the ‘Shah Hussain college’ etc.) can be considered as the culmination of the movement initiated by these early activists.




Last update: 29 November, 2017





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