Urdu Literary Criticism

Progressive Writers Movement/ ( ترقی پسند تحریک)

According to The Dawn, “Progressive Writers Movement” in Urdu literature was the strongest movement after Sir Syed’s education movement. The progressives contributed to Urdu literature some of the finest pieces of fiction and poetry. Undoubtedly, they were the trend-setters for the coming generation of writers, and their role cannot be denigrated or denied.” [1] Aamir Sohail(Abbottabad Public School,Abbottabad,Pakistan)


The modernist movement started in Urdu literature near 1960. The two most eminent names in this movement emerged are Shamsur Rehman Farooqui and Gopichand Narang. Eminent poets like Noon Meem Rashid and Meeraji are related to it. Apart from them a number of other poets like Zafer Iqbal, Nasir Kazmi, Bashir Bader and Shahryar are related to this movement. This movement laid more stress on symbolic and other indirect expressions as opposed to direct and clear expressions


The post modernism was introduced in a big way by Gopi Chand Narang. There are many other critics in Urdu literature who are also attached to this approach of criticism. The post modernism does not claim to be a movement and does not demand any writer to adopt a particular style of writing. It generally concentrates on a method of understanding the contemporary literature in the light of its content – mostly to the features like feminism, dalit, regional and other types of literature as opposed to a seeking uniformity in the global literature on the basis of internationally established trends.

Independent Writers

By the end of the 1980s the atmosphere in Urdu literature became very depressing.The progressive movement was almost dead and the modernist movement had started showing it’s complete infertility. But this was also time for upsurge of new creative forces which was basically rooted in the new life that was metamorphosing the socio-economic and political climate in the sub-continent after the days of partition and freedom. It was under this climate that the a new era of fiction started withthe publication of Paigham Afaqui’s novel Makaan. Almost allergic and fed up with the attempts of various literary movements to influence the styles and thoughts of the writers and the literary politics emerging out of the commitments to the movements which created a vicious circle of promoting chosen writers and misuse of resources and awards for promoting their own brands by these movements,Paigham Afaqui and other writers refused to be identified by any movement and displayed complete independence in using personally developed styles and technique for writing novel and explored their own philosophy and vision of life that suited their need.It was a serious departure from the theme of partition which dominated writers like Qurtul Ain haider and Abdullah Hussain and the theme of existentialism which was the benchmark of modernism. Writers like Ghazanfer and Musharraf Alam Zauqi have further widened the horizons of new themes and concerned.

Urdu Journalism

The Persian newspapers of West Bengal were fore-runners of the Urdu press. Two prominent periodicals were Jam-i-Jahan-Numa, founded by Lal Sadasukh Lal in 1822 and Mirat-ul-Akhbar (Mirror of News) by Raja Rammohan Roy. After the decline of Persian as an official language, Urdu gained prominence. There was extensive growth in Urdu jurnalism from the 1850s till Independence in 1947.

On 14 January 1850, Munshi Harsukh Rai started the weekly Kohinoor, which had a remarkably high (for those times) circulation of 350 copies. In 1858, Manbir Kabiruddin started the Urdu Guide, the first Urdu daily, from Calcutta. Another important paper founded that year was Roznamha-e-Punjab from Lahore. Oudh Akhbar by Munshi Nawal Kishore was the first Urdu newspaper from Lucknow, also begun in 1858.

The first Urdu newspapers of Delhi were Fawaid-ul-Nazarin and Kiran-us-Sadai, founded by Rama Chandra in 1852. The Urdu press in Delhi became highly critical of the British government. The best example of them is the Urdu Akhbar, edited by Syed Hasan, which highlighted many civic issues like drainage, sanitation, adulteration of food, and corruption.

In 1877, Maulvi Nasir Ali, one of the founders of Anjuman Islamia- the Islamic intellectual and political movement- founded 3 newspapers- Nusrat-ul-Akhbar, Nusrat-ul-Islam and Mihir-e-Darakhshan. All three focused on current civil and political affairs and were valuable aids of Muslim empowerment. In 1877, Oudh Punch, the first humour magazine in Urdu was started by Sajjid Hussain. The first women’s journal in Urdu was Akhbar-un-Nisa.

Urdu journalism took on a strongly nationalistic note towards the turn of the 20th century. Zameendar, was started in Lahore in 1903. It was the first Urdu newspaper to subscribe to news agencies. Zameendar was intensely nationalistic, which boosted its circulation to over 30,000 copies. In 1902, Maulvi Sanaullah Khan started the weekly Watan, meaning motherland. Watan was intensely nationalistic and continued for 33 years. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar started Naqeeb-e-Hamdard in 1912. Another powerful political periodical was the Madina, edited by Hamidul Ansari.

The greatest Urdu periodical that time was Al Hilal, started by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. (refer notes).

In 1919, the Pratap was started in Lahore by Mahshe Krishnan. It vigorously supported Gandhi’s policies and the Indian National Congress. It was a victim of government harassment and suspended publication several times. It had great influence among the Urdu reading Hindus of Punjab and Delhi.

In 1923, Swami Shraddhanand founded the Tej with Lala Deshbandhu Gupta as editor. It had a wide circulation in Rajasthan, U.P. and Delhi. It was confiscated several times by the government and banned in a number of princely states. In the same year, 1923, the Arya Samaj started the Milap, a daily in Lahore. It was known for its powerful nationalistic editorials. Jawaharlal Nehru founded Qaumi Awaaz in 1945.

Urdu journalism suffered heavily, during and after Partition. Riots in Lahore lead to mobs raiding the office of Milap and burning machines and newsprint. Its Managing Editor, Ranbir was stabbed and the paper was closed for six weeks. It then shifted to Delhi. Due to the unrest, the Pratap also shifted to Delhi.

Some of the Urdu newspapers after partition in India are Dawat, now a bi-weekly, started by the Jamat-e-Islami Hind. Maulana Abdul Waheed Siddiqui started Nai Duniya, a popular Urdu weekly, now run by his son Shaheed Siddiqui. The Sahara Group started a weekly-Aalmi Sahara.There are more number of urdu newspapers published in hyderabad, IndiaThe Siasat Daily, The Munsif Daily, Indian Etemaad and Rehnuama E Deccan.Bombay now Mumbai also have some good publication of urdu daily The inquilab daily and Urdu Times and from West Bengal Urdu newspapers like The Azad Hind daily, The Akhbaar -e- Mashriq daily, The Aabshaar daily and The rashtriya Sahara daily are also being brought out from CALCUTTA at present Kolkata
In Pakistan the Daily Jang is one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the country. Other popular news papers are Daily Imroze, Daily Mashriq, Khabrain, Millat and Nawa-i-Waqt.