The division of British India which culminated into the creation of two independent dominions- India and Pakistan is infamous for the human catastrophe which nearly displaced between 10 and 12 million people along religious lines and inflicted tremendous loss of life accompanying or preceding the partition with disputed and varying figures between several hundred thousand and two million.
Writers and historians who lived through that horrible period wrote extensively about the tragic loss of human life, dignity, honor and the irreversible loss of homeland- 10 and 12 million people had to swap sides between newly created Pakistan and recently independent India.
Among all the authors of the time, Saadat Hassan Manto wrote extensively on partition covering the tragedy in its most naked form and dispelling the myth of achievements in the form of boundaries. Manto detonates the idea of partition and any such view that holds this divide in some good light by the very catastrophe that was embedded in it. He introduces his readers to the silent masses who sometimes are victims and sometimes the victimizers- drawing a very thin and sublime line between good and evil which can be crossed over at any instance.
Manto couldn't stand the tragedies that partition brought along and founded his stories in the middle of this chaos drawing his characters out of the crowd and portraying the worst form of rape, bloodshed, murder, violence and divide. He wrote some of the finest stories, the most powerful and potent characters and real life situations and portrayed the tragedy of partition. No doubt that Manto is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, short story writers any literature has ever seen. No language has ever produced a story writer matching the geniuses of Manto.
This Kashmiri born Pakistani writer who illustrated the reality of partition once wrote that, “Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both these countries - slave of prejudice, of religious fanaticism, slave of barbarity and inhumanity”.
The partition marked a new beginning to his writing which was unbearable, too open and outspoken for many but Manto wrote what he saw and wrote it with conviction. He was targeted for writing what people saw as obscenity in his stories while he continues to reply them in the most appropriate manner- ‘I write what I see, if you have problem with what I write-go correct your society, he would often say!
''If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked. I don't even try to cover it, because it is not my job, that's the job of dressmakers.” Perhaps Manto was referring to the plights of Rape victims who suffered at the hands of both Hindu Men and Muslim Men.
His famous Stories including 'Khol Do', ‘Toba Tek Singh’ ‘Thanda Gosht’ etc are pieces of great literature and open windows to the tragedy that befell humankind during the partition years. He writes explicitly about explicit and keeps his literary style completely unique. When trying to understand partition, try not to miss Manto as there is no other story teller who gives such lucid and flawless account of human tragedy ever.