Indo-Pak Freedom Movement and Women’s Agency in Mumtaz Shah Nawaz’s The Heart Divided

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Ayesha Perveen
Rafique Ahmed Memon


The paper celebrates Muslim and Hindu women’s agency by highlighting their radical struggle for the freedom movement of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent as presented in Mumtaz Shah Nawaz’s (1912-1948) novel The Heart Divided (1957). For this study, agency has been studied as a non-sovereign, intersubjective but potent concept as delineated by Sharon Krause’s in her book Freedom Beyond Sovereignty: Reconstructing Liberal Individualism (2015). Therefore, the activism of Indo-Pak women in the freedom movement has been discussed as non-sovereign agency. The self-determination of progressive Muslim women remains non-sovereign as they do not forsake their religious, gender and national identities in the struggle for independence or a separate homeland in the colonial Subcontinent of 1930s and 40s. Both Sughra and Zohra discard purdah to achieve political radicalization but do not relinquish female dignity. Sughra conforms for getting married to her cousin Mansur as decided by her parents and Zohra wins their approval to marry her socialist love Ahmed, who does not belong to her class. The agency to challenge the dominant structures by actively participating in the politics of the times and rejecting the binaries like rich and poor, is achieved through the support of the family. Mohini, who is a Hindu, is a step ahead of Zohra and Sughra as she is a radical political activist who participates in demonstrations for Congress and gets imprisoned but does not get subdued. Mohini’s failure in getting married to Habib and Sughra’s return to her husband after the 1947 Partition indicate their non-sovereign agency. The study concludes that the choice of maintaining a balance between the religious, personal and professional life by these women is also the type of agency which Krause calls non-sovereign because their intentions and actions are in direct correlation with the circumstances and this intersubjectivity undermines the impact of their agency.

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