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Penning the Revolution: The Progressive Writers Movement and its impact on India’s Freedom Struggle

By: Aditya Kalyan

Abstract: The Progressive Writers Movement in India was a literary and cultural movement that took
place in the early 20th century. It aimed to bring about social and political change through
literature by highlighting the problems faced by the working class and marginalised
communities. The movement was influenced by Marxist ideas and advocated for a socialist
society. The writers associated with this movement wrote in various Indian languages, including
Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Marathi. The movement played a crucial role in shaping modern
Indian literature and culture, and its legacy continues to influence contemporary writers and
artists. This article aims to explore the origins, principles, and impact of the Progressive Writers
Movement in India

The Progressive Writers Movement (PWM) was a literary movement that began in the 1930s in
India and aimed to use literature as a means of promoting social and political change. The
movement was led by a group of writers who believed that literature should be employed to raise
awareness about the social and economic issues faced by the masses and to promote progressive
ideas and values.

The PWM was inspired by the political and social scenario in India at that time. The Indian
National Congress, the dominant political party at the time, had adopted a policy of non-violence
and civil disobedience to achieve independence from British colonial rule. This policy was
supported by many writers and intellectuals who believed that literature could be used to
promote the ideals of the Congress Party.

The PWM was in part influenced by the literary movements in Europe and America, such as the
socialist and communist movements. Many of the writers associated with the PWM were
influenced by the works of writers such as Maxim Gorky, Bertolt Brecht, and Upton Sinclair.
They believed that literature should be used to expose the injustices and oppression faced by the
working class and the poor.. The writings of the authors from the movement would often contain
anti-imperialistic ideas while highlighting issues and advocating cultural autonomy. All of these
ideas were part of the “Progressive” thought of the school that the PWM was founded on.

The PWM was also influenced by the Indian literary tradition, which had a long history of using
literature to comment on social and political issues. Many of the writers associated with the
PWM were influenced by the works of Indian writers such as Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi
Premchand, and Mahatma Gandhi. They believed that literature should be used to promote the
ideals of the Indian National Congress, such as non-violence, civil disobedience, and social justice. The Movement was diverse, with writers from different backgrounds and regions of
India. Some of the most prominent writers associated with it included Sajjad Zaheer, Faiz
Ahmed Faiz, Mulk Raj Anand, and Rajendra Yadav. These writers were associated with different
literary genres, such as fiction, poetry, and drama. They wrote in a variety of languages,
including Urdu, Hindi, and English. The PWM in India produced a large body of literature that
aimed to bring about social and political change. Some of the most notable books published
during this period include
● “Nirala ki Kavitayein” by Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, a collection of poems that explored
the struggles of the working class and marginalised communities in India.
● “Ghasiram Kotwal” by Vijay Tendulkar, a play that exposes the corrupt political and
social systems of India.
● “Pratham Prahar” by Mulk Raj Anand, a novel that explores the lives of working-class
people in India.
● “Pather Panchali” by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay is a novel that explores the lives of
a poor family in rural Bengal.
● “Rangbhoomi” by Dharmveer Bharti, a play that critiques the caste system in India.

These books and others like them brought attention to the social and political issues faced by the
people of India and played a crucial role in shaping the cultural and literary landscape of the

The first session of the PWM was held in Lucknow and was presided over by Premchand. His
presidential speech is termed “historic” because it commenced the literary movement’s journey
under British colonial rule. The Movement wanted to include “Progressive” ideas in their literary
efforts; however, their writings were sometimes blamed for being part of a communist agenda.
This might have been because the Movement’s members believed that literature should be used
as a tool for social change and that writers had a responsibility to use their craft to address and
critique the social, economic, and political issues of their time. Many of the writers associated
with the Progressive Writers Movement were also active members of the Communist Party, and
their work often reflected the party’s political ideology and agenda.

The Movement had a significant impact on Indian literature, as well as on Indian society. The
writers associated with the PWM were able to reach a wide audience, and their works were
widely read and discussed. One of the most important figures in the movement was Faiz Ahmed Faiz. His poems and writings helped to shape the movement and inspire others to take up its cause. One of Faiz’s most important works is the poem “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Ban Ke Tamanna Meri.” This poem is widely regarded as one of his greatest works, and it is celebrated for its beautiful language and its message of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity. In this poem, Faiz writes about the power of prayer and the strength of the human spirit and encourages people to continue their struggles for justice and freedom, even in the face of difficulty and oppression.

The poem has been widely read and recited, and its message continues to resonate with people all over the world. However, the movement was not without its critics. Some critics argued that the writers associated with the PWM were too politically oriented and that their works were not truly
literary. They argued that the PWM was more of a political movement than a literary one. Other
critics argued that the movement was too focused on the urban elite and that it did not truly
represent the experiences of the rural masses. Despite sustained criticism, the PWM significantly
impacted Indian literature and society. The movement’s members were actively involved in the
Indian National Congress and other political organisations that were working towards
independence. Their writings helped shape public opinion and build support for the
independence cause. Additionally, the movement’s emphasis on class struggle, anti-colonialism,
and humanism helped to inspire a new generation of Indian writers and thinkers who would go
on to play important roles in the country’s post-independence political and cultural development.

Aditya Kalyan is a third-year student at O.P Jindal Global University majoring in Literature
and International Business.

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