Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Ravi Kalia

Second Advisor

Seiji Shirane


Anticolonialism, Love, Democracy, Religion, Egalitarianism, Nationalism


In the former East Pakistan, the state championed Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), as the Bengali poet of Muslim nationalism to suppress growing language demands and political representation. After the liberation war of 1971, the emergence of a new nation-state, Bangladesh, garlanded Nazrul as a national poet to enhance its political legitimacy. By contrast, in India, the pro-Hindu political group, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its turn, crowned Nazrul an apostle of secularism to garner electoral support from Dalit and Muslim communities. These recurring tensions and the impact of state contestations make his prolific legacy fall prey to nationalist appropriations, more so, because Kazi Nazrul Islam is an understudied and marginalized figure bypassed by historians of South Asia.

In this thesis, I explore the construction of resistance anchored in the vicissitudes of anticolonial thought as shaped by a comet in his own right who fired from the Bengal countryside. I chart Kazi Nazrul Islam’s life and literary praxis driven by secularist ambitions and affinities for concepts such as self, truth, and justice. As the first Bengali Muslim to declare puran swadhitnatha (complete independence) in a literary periodical, the central question explored in this thesis is: why does a staunch militant shift from seditious writing during the height of anticolonial fervor to producing sensual romantic stories by the late 1920s? In attempting to answer this question, the rereading of his experimental love compositions, specifically the ghazals (love lyrics) within the context of the revolutionary movement, active police surveillance and the proliferation of repressive laws, enables us to uncover the historical transformations of anti-colonial political thought and the ways vernacular literature reconciled with colonial and national questions.

Available for download on Tuesday, January 26, 2027