People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 09, 2005
Workers Renew Pledge To Continue Struggle
was January 1, 2005, and in the national capital the cultural workers active in
various fields and intellectuals of diverse persuasions again came together in
large numbers. They once again pledged to continue the fight for democracy, and
for an egalitarian society, for which their beloved comrade, Safdar Hashmi, had
courted martyrdom 15 years ago.
recalls that Safdar Hashmi was fatally attacked in village Jhandapur near
Sahibabad (Ghaziabad district, Uttar Pradesh) on January 1, 1989, when he was
staging a street play there, and breathed his last the next day. Ever since
then, intellectuals, cultural workers and political activists of Delhi assemble
on the New Year day every year and rededicate themselves to forging ahead with
the task Safdar has left unfinished.
the New Year day this year was somewhat different. This time the programmes had
to be organised not on the Safdar Hashmi Marg near Mandi House, that is regarded
as the cultural capital of Delhi, but in the V P House lawns. The change was
necessitated because of the ongoing Metro rail work in the Mandi House area.
and more importantly, the January 1 programmes this year were dedicated to
immortal fiction writer Premchand whose 125th birth anniversary is currently
being observed. One will note that Premchand is the biggest icon of a secular
culture in the Hindi-Urdu speaking areas.
an important part of the January 1 programmes, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust
(SAHMAT) had provided excerpts from Premchand’s writings to a number of
renowned painters and designers in various parts of the country, asking them to
present Premchand in their own mediums and from their own angles. On January 1,
all the art works and paintings received in response to this initiative were
displayed in an exhibition. Some of such prominent artists were: Ghulam Mohd
Sheikh, Arpana Kaur, Hakku Shah, Vir Munshi, Shamshad, Ellina Banik, Awani Kant,
Ratnabali Kant, Nand Katyal, Gopi Gajwani, Hem Jyotika, Sanjay Sharma, Saba
Hasan, Ram Rahman, Parthiv Shah, and Rajinder Arora. Some of the art works
received have also been presented in the form of a Premchand Calendar, which
noted Hindi poet Ashok Vajpayee released on the day. This was perhaps the first
occasion when so many noted artists and designers had displayed so much
enthusiasm in taking the writings of a great writer and creating something on
their basis, on so wide a scale.
attraction of the day was the recital from Premchand’s writings by well known
Hindi dramatist Ram Gopal Bajaj and Urdu dramatist Anees Azmi. While Bajaj read
important paragraphs from Premchand’s presidential address to the foundation
conference of the Progressive Writers Association in April 1936, Anees Azmi read
out Premchand’s note that criticised Muslim communalism and separatism. As a
befitting finale to the occasion, the programmes ended with the impressive
presentation of a play based on Premchand’s short story Bade Bhai Sahib. The play was presented by the street theatre group
Jan Natya Manch (JANAM).
the programmes started with an impressive performance by Ratnabali Kant in which
lines from Pablo Neruda, another very important writer of the 20th century, were
integrated in an expressive way. Ratnabali Kant integrated her own acting with a
big canvas erected on the day and with the colours spread on the ground under
the open sky, to recall the fatal attack on Safdar Hashmi 15 years ago,
connecting that gory episode with Neruda’s celebrated lines “there is blood
on the streets.” Her presentation ended with the images of a bloodstained sky
and small rainbows arising from the surface of the earth, creating a note of
intense optimism through the fiery excerpts from Neruda’s immortal creation The
Heights of Macchu Picchu.
will note that this year we are in the process of observing the birth centenary
of this great Chilean poet, whose poetry gives voice to the whole of Latin
afternoon programme in the main pavilion started with the presentation of a play
Hawalat by Kirorimal College students.
Thereafter, through her music programme, Vishala Venkatachalam paid homage to
the noted singer M S Subbulakshmi who recently expired.
Punjabi folk singer Jasbir Jassi, Shubha Mudgal, Madan Gopal Singh, and Imran
Khan and Tanvir Ahmad Khan of the Delhi Gharana overwhelmed the audience with
Sufi and Bhakti songs and music.
of the important attractions this year was the presentation of urban folk songs
of Cameroon by noted singer Prince Eyango. Though he belongs to Cameroon, he is
currently residing in California. Prince Eyango began his singing career in 1980
and is much popular in the Francophone Africa. So far he has 15 albums to his
credit. Prince Eyango also presented a song of hope and peace, which he had
especially created for this occasion. Lawrence Ireland and Deepak Castelino from
Cameroon accompanied Prince Eyango on musical instruments.
SAHMAT had already announced that whatever monetary cooperation it would receive
this year would go to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for the tsunami