Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto are two of the most prolific and radical writers of Modern

India. They were very much influenced by the realities of their time. Through their work and in their life both display a deep sympathy for the oppressed sections of their society. Their stories revolves around the issue of the exploitation of various groups and classes. One of the function of a modern state is to ensure the elimination of various social inequalities in society. One such method is through the rational promotion of ideas of equality and negation of various ideas which are exploitative in nature and practice. The institution of legal system and laws is one such instrument which is created for the facilitation of the same. Conformity of a society to various ideas promotes an existence of a social system. These ideas and the laws are formulated to facilitate a coherent existence of a society as a single unit without restricting or discriminating the natural rights of an individual. At various times the natural rights come in conflict with the social rights of an individual and creates a friction. However, the friction is to be reduced through a process of communication and consensus. But the process of consensus rarely happens as it involves a very democratic participation of all the people. The same involves dissolution of various fundamental ideas, as their rational and democratic interrogation will expose their real nature. These fundamental ideas have a very deep rooted psychological existence in the minds and lives of their believers. A process of self-interrogation involves a danger of self-annihilation of the individual and the social structure supported by the same fundamental ideas. Chughtai and Manto, influenced by the modern ideas of equality and justice, portrays and questions the image of a society which is aspiring and claiming to become both modern and democratic and yet at various levels it still retains the old hegemonic structure of oppressiveness and exploitation. In the year 1942 both Manto and Chughtai were accused and were legally summoned for producing obscene work. However, both were later acquitted by the judge as he did not find the same obscene. Chughtai was summoned for writing “Lihaaf(The Quilt)” whereas Manto for “Bu(Odour)”. Chughtai, in a chapter-“ The “Lihaf” Trial”, from her autobiography (Kaghazi Hai Pairahan) tries to produce a narrative of her experience during the trial in Lahore. The narrative also recreates the court room scene where the interrogation of all the witnesses and their objection happens. The stories (Bu and Lihaaf), the trial (in Lahore) and the autobiographical narrative of the trial raises various questions of how and at what level gender roles operate in their (Chugtai and Manto’s) society. A society where sexuality however ‘obscene’ and exploitative it may be in reality feels threatened if the same is brought out in public. I would like to further explore the idea of obscenity and its cultural and historical relevance and position through the stories and trial case of Manto and Chughtai.

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