|Biographical detail : ||India’s feminist activist
Doctor, short story writer, social worker and feminist activist, Rasheed Jahan detested the hypocrisy and so-called morality that existed in the society.
Being a female gynaecologist and obstetrician, she ruthlessly exposed the double standards and ostentatious religiosity, and in particular, male chauvinism and unfair treatment of women.
When the fiery collection of ten Urdu short stories, Angare (The Embers) was published, in 1932, it took India’s literary and political circles by storm. True to its name, Angare was considered to be a mutiny against the established social and traditional values. It created flames of wrath in the orthodox and religious segments of the society.
Rasheed Jahan’s two short stories ‘Parde ke peechhe’ (Behind the veil) and ‘Dilli ki sair’ (An outing in Delhi), in Angare, were controversial and shocking. She treated the subject of sex hitherto deemed a taboo as the author being a female. The provincial government of UP proscribed the collection; copies were burnt down publicly.
She scoffs at the very idea of a religion that bisects humanity on the basis of wealth. In her short story ‘Gharibon ka Bhagwan’ (God of the Poor) Rasheed Jahan portrays a poor woman being scolded by a wealthy woman for coming to temple, as (in the words of the wealthy woman) a beggar cannot have a God.
Rasheed Jahan inspired a lot of young writers and intellectuals as an icon of courage and nonconformity. She has to her credit many plays that she wrote and produced for All India Radio.
She joined the Communist Party of India in 1934. She was one of the founders of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, launched in 1936.
She took active part in politics and, in 1949, participated in the strike of railway workers in UP. She was imprisoned for three months.
She underwent a surgical operation for cancer in Moscow. There she died and is buried in a Moscow cemetery.
Daughter of a Kashmiri neo-Muslim father, Rasheed Jahan was born in the enlightened environment of her parental home at Delhi. Her parents were educated. They brought out, Khatoon, a magazine published for women.