It is a rather uncomfortable fact that injustice breeds the greatest form of art. The stature held by Kazi Nazrul Islam in unpartitioned Bengal can only be met by Saadat Hassan Manto in unpartitioned Punjab. Both great believers of freedom. Both disillusioned by communal hatred, partition and injustice. Although Manto migrated to Pakistan after partition, his heart always remained in the undivided India, free from the tyrannies of British Raj, a dream that history denied him.
Manto never came to accept the partition. The sheer anger and frustration in him, gave birth to a whole plethora of some brilliant revolutionary literature. Like Dickens, Manto was a stark realist and his sensibility was par excellence. In all his stories he attacked the ills and whims of society. While Toba Tek Singh remains Manto’s masterpiece in every respect, his other works stand no less. Toba Tek Singh is not just artistically well constructed, but also successfully brings out the lifelong fighter that Manto was. No man’s land is not only symbolic of his die hard opposition to partition it is also a lament towards the futility of borders.
As the literary world remembers Manto on his 100th anniversary, let us not forget that secularism in India is still erect because of our cultural tradition that started with Kabir and Malik Muhammad Jayasi and passed through the hands of Ghalib, Tagore, Premchand, Krishan Chander and the more radical ones like Nazrul and Manto. No other writers in the sub continent were as ostracized as much as the two. With almost no political support, awards or recognition, their works have stood the test of time.