People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 09, 2005
Janam Observes Safdar Hashmi Martyrdom Day
Natya Manch and CITU jointly observed the Matrydom Day of Comrade Safdar Hashmi,
convenor of Jana Natya Manch and member of the CPI(M), and Comrade Ram Bahadur,
CITU activist from Ghaziabad. The programme was held on January 1, 2005 at the
Ambedkar Park at Sahibabad. Thousands of people from across Ghaziabad and Delhi
thronged the venue taking advantage of the sun which had shone after stretch of
foggy days. A contingent from the Haryana Gyan Vigyan Samiti also participated.
the beginning of the programme the entire gathering observed two minutes of
silence to mourn the loss of lives in the worst natural disaster in a lifetime,
the tsunami that hit the countries adjoining the Indian Ocean. The cultural
programme which began with a revolutionary song by a local comrade, included two
plays by the Jana Natya Manch – a street play Akhri Juloos and a proscenium play Shambuk Vadh – and a public meting.
principal speaker of the afternoon was Nilotpal Basu, CPI(M) leader in Rajya
Sabha. In his speech Basu pointed out that the reason so many people throng the
site of Safdar’s martyrdom fifteen years after his murder was because of his
unflinching commitment to the cause of the revolution and the struggle of the
people. It is the duty of all those who share Safdar’s worldview to keep his
reason why the Jana Natya Manch was attacked on January 1, 1989 was because its
plays projected the need for a revolutionary unity of the working class against
the oppressive ruling sections. He described the attack as an attempt to break
that unity. The best way to remember Safdar would be to strengthen the unity of
the working classes and the people.
present period, Basu said, was a time of test for the Left and progressive
forces. He interpreted the results of the Lok Sabha elections 2004 as the
mandate of the people against the policies of neo-liberalism. The people have
not only indicated in no uncertain terms what should not happen, he said, but
also made a clear indication on what should happen. Alongside the Left,
especially the CPI(M) has entered the parliament with a record strength. This
strength has to be used to constructively intervene in the seeking of a
pro‑people path of development. It is unfortunate that the UPA government
has so far miserably failed in implementing the progressive elements of the
Common Minimum Programme and instead pursuing the same neo-liberal policies
which spelt doom for the NDA. A path of struggle through the unity of the people
is called for.
other speakers on the occasion included Joginder Sharma, CPI(M) central
committee member. He stressed that even though the NDA has been ousted from
power and replaced by the UPA, the people can win back their rights only through
the path of struggle. He also outlined the preparations for the upcoming CPI(M)
Party Congress in Delhi in April 2005.
performing, the members of Jana Natya Manch paid a tribute to Safdar by singing
‘Lal jhanda leke, Comrade, aage badhte jayenge’. The street play Akhri
Juloos defends the right to strike. It makes a sharp attack on the recent
cases of judicial intervention which have sought to curtail the right to strike,
place restrictions on rallies and sit-ins. In the play, a judge is caught in a
traffic jam caused by a rally. Throughout the play, the contempt of the judge
for the rally is contrasted with the enthusiasm of his driver for the tableaux
which are a part of the rally. As the rally goes on the judge’s frustration
increases and he passes an order declaring all forms of protest – rally,
strikes and sit‑ins – illegal. Tableaux from the rally enact incidents
from historic strike actions – the Railway Chakka Jam of May 1974 in Asansol,
the workers’ strike in Mumbai in July 1908, the strike against the arrest of
Tilak by the British police, and the historic May Day strike action in Chicago,
May 1886. As the rally goes on the judge revels in the thought this would be the
last ever rally – ‘akhri juloos’. Yet inspired by the tableaux his driver
joins the rally. The judge remains caught in the jam.
proscenium play Shambuk Vadh, which
attacks the caste system, projects a strategy of a broad unity against
Brahminism. The play itself is a reworking of a small story from the Ramayan
in which a brahmin accuses Ram of causing the death of his son by his
indifference towards the shudra Shambuk who has violated the caste hierarchy by
reciting the Vedas. Ram kills Shambuk. The brahmin boy comes back to life.
the play Shambuk is portrayed as a leader of the shudras who uses education to
enlighten and empower the shudras. Trouble begins to brew when he begins the
instruction of Sanskrit in his schools designed to study the Vedas
which he describes as the repository of the best knowledge of mankind, from
which the shudras and the out castes have so far been deprived.
into this reinterpretation of Shambuk’s story is the character of Satyakam.
Satyakam is not a character from the Ramayan,
but is mentioned in the Chhandogya
Upanishad. He was the son of a shudra woman Jabala, who was educated by the
Rishi Gautama and given the sacred thread. In Shambuk
Vadh Satyakam expresses his dissatisfaction with the Shambuk’s strategy of
preparing the ground for the overthrow of the caste system through education. He
argues for an armed revolt. Shambuk disagrees suggesting that without
preparation of the mind the action of armed rebellion would be doomed to
failure, particularly as it would not be able to forge the broadest unity of all
who are exploited by Brahminism.
it is the reinterpretation of a mythological theme, Shambuk
Vadh presents an analysis of contemporary issues concerning Brahminism and
also analyses the social forces which are interested in maintaining the caste
system. It also presents criticism of the principle values which keep the caste
system in place through the characters of the Pandit, and the love story of
Vridu, a carpenter and a Valaya, the daughter of the royal priest of Kaling. The
play is written by Brijesh Sharma and directed by Sudhanva Deshpande. The songs
set to tune by Kajal Ghosh are an added attraction to the play.
the afternoon the workers and artists also participated in a rally to
commemorate the occasion.
in every year besides organising the Jhandapur programme in association with
CITU, Jana Natya Manch also held two other meetings to remember Safdar. One was
an intimate meeting where Janam members and some invited friends gather and
recall Safdar, the man, the friend, the comrade which was held on January 2 (the
day Safdar actually died in hospital). This year being the birth centenary of
the People’s Poet Pablo Neruda, in the evening the film The
Postman, based on the life and experiences of the poet, was screened.
January 3, a poetry reading session was held in which Hindi translations of
Neruda’s poems were read out. Vibha Maurya gave a talk on Neruda, his poetry
and his commitment to the people.