Jujhaar: On the Poetry of Revolution in Punjab, 1960s-70s
Panel:‘Vernacular’ Theorisations of ‘Literature’ in Modern South Asia
This paper is part of a larger project of recovering and archiving magazines of guerilla literature in Punjab, where a Mao-inspired Naxalite guerrilla struggle emerged during 1960s-70s, in response to widespread immiseration unleashed by the US-sponsored Green Revolution.
Scholars have categorized the radical Punjabi poetry of this period as “jujhaarvadi kavita,” while theorizing “jujhaar” as analogous to the Euro-American notions of “resistance” and “commitment.” This paper offers an alternative theorization of “jujhaar” by drawing on previously unavailable archives.
When the agrarian landscape began to be suddenly transformed in 1960s, the Punjabi poets, some of whom were guerrillas, Party members and peasant leaders, responded by radically repurposing the centrality of prakriti in the Sanskrit kavya traditions. Others also drew on the older, non-literary traditions of udaasi, boli and dhadi, while trying to cognize the totality of post-War capitalism from the vantage of Sikhism. By early 1970s, the guerilla magazines were beginning to depict Guru Gobind as a Maoist, while often consecrating Mao as Allah. Further, they also featured rigorous critiques of agrarian political economy alongside translations of contemporary literatures from places as diverse as Angola, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, China, Palestine and Chile.
This paper theorizes “jujhaar” as a mode of “vernacular improvisation” that Punjabi poets developed by bricolating different literary, religious and political traditions in order to construct forms that could adequately cognize and resist the rapidly changing dynamics of post-War capitalism.