Saadat Hassan Manto-A writer of fierce candour

Remembering Saadat Hassan Manto

Saadat Hassan Manto: A language is not made, it makes itself, and no amount of human effort can kill a language.

Saadat Hassan Manto: A language is not made, it makes itself, and no amount of human effort can kill a language.

MAY 11th was the centenary of the birth of Saadat Hassan Manto—storyteller, Urdu scribe, and a refugee of India‘s bloody partition. A handful of newspapers have paid tribute. Writers and playwrights, in India and Pakistan, marked the date in their own way.

Born in colonial India in the lush western state of Punjab, Manto translated Russian and French novels into Urdu, wrote radio plays and Bollywood films, and produced one of the subcontinent’s most potent collections of 20th-century fiction. But few seem to recall him in India. Is it because he was a Muslim who left Bombay for Lahore after partition? Or is it because he wrote in Urdu, one of India’s many languages and the national language of Pakistan?

Although Manto is remembered as a writer of short fiction, Ayesha Jalal, his grandniece and a historian, described him as a “terrific writer of memoir”. His punchy stories are a mix of experience, imagination and fierce candour. For example, “Khol Do” (or “Open It”), considered to be one his best works, is a horrifying tale about cross-border violence among refugees. It considers the fate of a father who has been desperately searching for his daughter. When he ultimately finds her on a hospital bed inside a refugee camp, he assumes she is dead. But when the doctor enters and asks him to open the windows (“Khol do” he says), the “body” moves. Responding to the doctor, the girl’s “lifeless” hands untie the cord that holds her shalwar (pajamas) up and she “weakly” pushes it down her legs. Her father is jubilant: “My daughter is alive” he exclaims. The doctor, aware of the misunderstanding (and its implications for what she has suffered), breaks out in a cold sweat.

Manto’s work made many people uncomfortable, including fellow Urdu authors within the Progressive Writers Association, who used their work to advocate for social justice. He was frequently charged with obscenity. If my stories are intolerable, he told college students in Bombay in the early 1940s, it is because the world that I write about is intolerable.

His stories about the partition were particularly distressing. In “Thanda Gosht” (“Cold Flesh” or “Cold Meat“), a rioter recounts the story of how he abducted a “beautiful” woman only to discover later that she had been dead for sometime. The story, like his harrowed memory, is fractured: it’s up to the reader to conclude when the man realised he had abducted a dead body.

Manto left Bombay, where he was a popular scriptwriter, for Lahore in 1948. Like his character in “A Tale of 1947″—the young, troubled Mumtaz—he did not choose to leave. He left, like many at the time, because of a deep sense of loss and insecurity. He has since made a comeback in India via translations, mostly in English. But aficionados of Urdu lament that the language he wrote in is no longer courted with the reverence it once enjoyed. After Independence Urdu, the preferred language of Muslim royalty and the mother-tongue of many Muslims in India, was targeted by right-wing Indian nationalists. Hindi, India’s official language, was “revived”, scrubbing it of Urdu with which it had shared an indistinguishable vocabulary (if not script) for centuries.

Yet this doesn’t seem to have worried Manto. “A language is not made, it makes itself,” he wrote. “And no amount of human effort can kill a language.”

A heavy drinker, he died in Lahore of liver cirrhosis in 1955. (courtesy: A.A. & The Economist)

Hopeless Goan farmers believe Sesa Goa is to be more feared than terrorists

Bevanda Collaco

BEVINDA COLLACO (Goa, 2012-05-15)

No one is waiting with more anticipation for the monsoons than the people living around the giant Sesa Goa mining dump at Advai Nullah in Sattari. There are those who live in the direct path of the muddy torrents that will stream down this giant dump bringing silt and floods with it. They are already calculating how much compensation they will demand – and get – from Sesa Goa. Affected farmers say Sesa Goa should be ecstatic about the devastation the dump will cause once it collapses, because the ruined land can be used for further dumps. The farmers who have been running from pillar to post being ignored by government agencies and civil society of Goa, are now waiting and watching with sardonic humour for the silt from the giant dump to rush into the Mhadei river and then into the Mandovi. It is not a small amount of silt. Civil society will then have to sit up and take notice that damage to the pristine forest areas of the hinterland will have a domino effect on the entire state.

MONSTER DUMP 1.7 km long and 90 mts high
MONSTER DUMP 1.7 km long and 90 mts high

MONSTER DUMP 1.7 km long and 90 mts high

The Sesa Goa dump is the largest OB (Over Burden) Waste dump in Goa at Advai, in Sattari taluka. The dump is actually an almost 90-metre high hill which is 1.7 km long. This dump has blocked the natural stream or Advoi nullah which used to flow perennially and water the fields and orchards in the area. Now it flows during the monsoons thick with mining reject. It dries up completely in February. The dump consists of clay soil on which nothing grows except acacia which sucks up all the water in the area and destroys other trees in the vicinity. This, claims the troubled farmers, is also the game plan of the mining company, since once water in the area is depleted, the forest cover dwindles.

CONVERTED ADVAI NULLAH Now used as a series of settlin ponds

CONVERTED ADVAI NULLAH Now used as a series of settlin ponds

On the way to the Sesa Goa dump one sees the Chowgule dump partially covered by Acacia plants. An entire section of the Chowgule dump collapsed on itself.

CONVERTED ADVAI NULLAH Now used as a series of settlin ponds

CONVERTED ADVAI NULLAH Now used as a series of settlin ponds

When earth is dug up for mining, one part contains mineral ore while six parts contain mud which has little or no value. That mud has to be dumped somewhere. It cannot be dumped in the mining lease area, since the area has to be exploited to the last centimetre, so the mining company looks for land to dump the O B Waste. Sesa Goa’s Sonshi mine, which is 8 kilometers away from the Advai Nullah signed an agreement with the Revenue Secretary, Government of Goa to dump its O B waste in government land, under survey number 35. The government land was leased to Sesa Goa for a princely sum of Rs 10,000 to Rs 12000, say the farmers. The agreement expired in October 2011 and no one knows whether the contract has been renewed.

Survey No 35 was not enough for Sesa Goa, they extended their dump to survey numbers 32, 34, 35, 36/1, 36/2and 38 which are government properties encroached upon by others for cashew cultivations and other agricultural purposes. The dump has already spread into protected forested area. The mining giant is currently hunting for more parcels of land to dump its rejects in.

Survey No 1 in Codiem is protected forested area. It contains a tract of lush green forest (see photograph). If they are not stopped, this forested area too will be buried alive.

Sesa needs more land for dumping

NEW DANGER : Lush Green Forest in Codiem ready for burial (by SESA)

NEW DANGER : Lush Green Forest in Codiem ready for burial (by SESA)

Considering that for every seven parts of earth that is dug up, one part contains ore, the rest – six parts – is reject. Sesa Goa is going to need much more land for piling up its OB Waste. In 2005-06 Sesa Goa applied for permission to mine 12 lakh tones of ore per annum. This was increased to 20 lakh tonnes in 2007-08 and 30 lakh tones in 2008-09. This was when A Raja headed the Union Ministry of Mines. A Raja is the same gentleman sitting in Tihar Jail for the telecom scam. Which brings one to the conclusion that while digging a mine can and does inflict serious damage on the land, the dumps inflict even more damage. Especially when they keep adding ‘benches’ or tiers. In October last the dump was 72 metres, two benches have been added bringing the height of the dump to more than 90 metres.

The farmers have accessed documents of Sesa Goa from the Mining Department. Sonshi mining lease covers an area of 62 hectares. Their first dumps for collecting the waste covered an area of 21 hectares, but these dumps are getting filled to capacity. They are now planning to take up three survey numbers in Codiem. The company is looking for 50 hectares more for dumping reject. They would then have effectively destroyed 62+21+50 and even that is not enough. How can it be? Sesa Goa’s annual turnover is more than the entire Budget of Goa.

Safeguards look inadequate
Sesa Goa was ordered by the High Court to stop dumping any more material on the dump. Sesa Goa informed the Court that they would safeguard the dump by contouring it and covering each bench with geotextile to prevent landslides and damage to the surrounding forest land. The geotextile sheets seem woefully inadequate and some of the lower levels of the giant dump have already developed fissures. Sesa is building a concrete wall around the dump to hold it in place, but would prove less than useless against the enormous height of the dump, or the slope which is 55 to 60 degrees. The concrete wall will not hold the enormous mass of loose mud.

The mining company has begun constructing a concrete wall around the base of the dump. This is too small to contain the mass of unstable mud. Sesa Goa has constructed a temple some distance away from the dump. They are taking all precautions to keep the temple safe by constructing a wall around the temple.

To make matters worse the Advai Nullah area which used to be thickly forested, gets the heaviest rainfall in the district. This begs the question: Did the pundits of Sesa Goa deliberately select this area over the Advai Nullah to spread destruction far and wide. The farmers predict that not just all of Sattari taluka will suffer once the dump collapses, the Mhadei and Mandovi and those who depend on the rivers will suffer too.

BURIED ALIVE! This is how you bury a forest

BURIED ALIVE! This is how you bury a forest

Trees were buried and more are at risk
Since getting permits to fell trees in Government forest land is impossible since trees are not allowed to be cut in Government forest land. There is no law against burying the trees though. Sesa Goa merely dumped the mud over the trees, burying them and raised the dump to a height of almost 90 metres. The trucks drive up on roads tamped on the contoured ‘benches’ and we saw that they were still dumping soil on the dump. They have already started extending the dump into a local farmer Tendulkar’s property. Tendulkar had already leased or sold land to the mining company, he now owns several trucks for transporting ore and has built a spanking new bungalow in the path of the floodwaters if or rather when they arrive.

Sesa Goa has bypassed the Government of Goa and acquired land from Other Rights Holders whose names are included in Form I & XIV. Under the Right to Information the complainants learned that the mining lease is in the name of Cosme Costa & Sons, but the documentation says that the ore is sold at the pithead to Sesa Goa. The Environment Plans and other documents have been submitted by Sesa Goa.
WORRIED AND DEJECTED the last warriors fighting to protect their land

WORRIED AND DEJECTED the last warriors fighting to protect their land

Not only has Sesa Goa killed a 1.7 stretch of forest at Advai, the company also diverted the perennial nullah by digging out a nullah using heavy earth moving machinery to divert the water. But the springs were in the original Advai nullah now covered with mud. The farmers in the area were dependent on the water from the nullah for irrigating their kullaghars (betel nut plantations) banana, cashew and coconut plantation. Once the water dried up, they learned that the ground water too had depleted to such an extent that they could get water only by boring a well 70 metres deep. Desperate now for redressal, 30 affected farmers had taken the case to court in 2000. Judge Ferdino Rebello presided over the case. In 2003 the judge gave the order that no more mining reject could be added to the dump. Nothing much was said about restoring the nullah. You will see how this is significant.

The farmers asked their lawyer to get an order for its restoration, but their lawyer told them that there was no need too. It is significant that the lawyer is presently working in the legal department of Sesa Goa. Of the 30 complainants, only two families – the Desais and Sawaikars continue to fight against the monster dump that had destroyed their nullah. What happened to the rest of the complainants? Most of them own trucks and transport ore for Sesa Goa and other mine owners.

No value in the soil of dump
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has a plan to take over all the dumps in Government and forest land, but this 1.7km, 100 mt high dump has no monetary value at all. It has been exhausted of all ore. It is just clay, say the farmers. The reject is mud shorn of all nutrients in which no trees except acacia and scrub can grow. Acacia spells the death knell of forested areas, since the trees are water guzzlers and deplete the groundwater, even while spreading all over a forested area. Many countries have discouraged the planting of acacia trees.

Water scarcity where there was plenty
There was a man named Chari who dug a well just 15 feet deep. In those days, water was available at just 3 metres below the surface of the land. Chari used to supply 15 – 20 trucks of potable water to the mining company to spray water on the surrounding area and roads. Now Chari’s well has dried up and he has to depend on the mining company’s tankers to supply him with drinking water.

SHOCKING CRUELTY what's left of the original nullah

SHOCKING CRUELTY what’s left of the original nullah


The new Sesa Goa made diversion neither carries any water in months. Water is desperately needed.

Reduced to waiting for a mega disaster
The farmers have given a file to the Mining Department, to the Chief Minister, to the Indian Bureau of Mines, to the Forest Department (1.7 km of forest has been buried alive by Sesa Goa and another lush green forested area, see photograph is due for burial soon). But the Forest Department Officials famously stated that they can do nothing about forests in Government lands. Each department of Government refuses to take a decision saying that they have no powers to act against Sesa Goa.

Deputy Collector & SDO, Bicholim Sub-Division has directed the Mamlatdar of Sattari Taluka to carry out the inspection and submit a detailed checklist with plan and photographs. The farmers have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Goa who is also the Minister of Mines to do something about ht illegal dumping of mining rejects in the villages of Vaghurem and Codiem villages. The farmers are happy but not too hopeful that firebrand environment activist Claude Sir (Claude Alvares of Goa Foundation) has taken the trouble to come and see the impending disaster for himself. They know that destruction of fertile lands is inevitable. As will be the choking of the River Mandovi. Only then will the good people of Goa stand up and shout.

(courtesy: Bevinda Collaco &

Two Tamil Titans: CW Thamotharampillai & UV Swaminathaiyar

“In the sphere of publication of ancient Tamil classics Arumuga Navalar laid the foundation; Damodaram Pillai raised the walls; Swaminatha Iyer thatched the roof and completed the house, was the assessment of Thiru V. Kalayasundara Mudaliyar (Thiru Vi. Ka.).”

–Professor AR Venkatachallaphy.

Tamil historian Professor AR Venkatachalapathy, delivering keynote address at Tamil Studies Conference in Toronto on Saturday, brought out hitherto untapped objective evidences of around two scores of letters written by CW Thamotharampillai (1832–1901) to UV Swaminathaiyar (1855–1942), for a better understanding of the relationship between the two pioneer editors coming from Jaffna and Tamil Nadu in transferring Tamil classics from palm leaf manuscripts to print media. The letters dating between 1883 and 1899 show that despite being rivals in publication the two were in close contact and cooperative if not collaborative. The letters also show the generosity and magnanimity of Thamotharampillai, personally and in matters of publication, and as a senior scholar he encouraged Swaminathaiyar and saw in him the future of classical editorial scholarship, Chalapathy said.

Uttamadhanapuram Venkatasubbaiyer Swaminatha Iyer

Uttamadhanapuram Venkatasubbaiyer Swaminatha Iyer

But contrary to the accommodative perception of Thiru Vi. Ka., the comparative assessment of the two titans, Thamotharampillai and Swaminathaiyar, from late colonial to contemporary Tamil world, has been rather contentious, and has been refracted through the prism of caste, religion and region, he pointed out, adding that Swaminathaiyar’s insinuations regarding Thamotharampillai in the autobiography he wrote much later in his life, provided the fuel.

The letters Chalapathy brought out comes from Swaminathaiyar’s voluminous filing of correspondences over sixty years. There were over three dozens of letters written by Thamotharampillai, and even though they only show one side of the correspondence, they help to dispel the insinuations of Swaminathaiyar and many other later day constructs, Chalapathy said.

The letters showed that Swaminathaiyar was the first to contact Thamotharampillai, when the latter also was thinking of finding ways to communicate with him. The Thiruvaavaduthu’rai Mutt was the binding factor.

At the time of the beginning of correspondence Thamotharampillai was completing the publication of I’raiyanaar Akappuru’l Urai and Tha’nikaip-puraa’nam.

In 1887 both Thamotharampillai and Swaminathaiyar were engaged in completing the editions of Kaliththokai and Cheevaka Chinthama’ni respectively.

Despite his age and accomplishments Thamotharampillai was generous, courteous and was seeking cooperation. He was prepared to acknowledge credit for any academic contribution coming from Swaminathaiyar.

They were exchanging palm leaf manuscripts, shared notes and Thamotharampillai helped Iyer in buying printing paper and in the sales of his books too.

Thamotharampillai encouraged Iyer in every publication, secured a Chilappathikaaram palm-leaf manuscript for him, arranged finances from Kumaraswamy Mudaliyar in Colombo to publish it and also encouraged that Iyer should publish Ma’nimeakalai too.

Read the full feature on TamilNet  : Chalapathy brings out Thamotharampillai letters