Jatha in Punjab carrying forward the legacy of Bhagat Singh

हिन्दी | English | বাংলা | ಕನ್ನಡ | മലയാളം

The ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ national cultural march took place in the state of Punjab from October 27 to November 1, 2023. It involved dialogue with people from various locations, presenting various folk dances, classical dances, plays, folk songs, and dramas. Apart from a seminar and a discussion on theatre, the co-travelers also joined the famous Gadari Baba Mela at Jalandhar in Punjab.

October 27th, 2023 | Friday

The Punjab chapter of ‘Dhai Aakhar Prem: National Cultural Jatha’ starts today (October 27, 2023) from Khatkar Kalan, Punjab. Located in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district of Punjab, Khatkar Kalan is said to be the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh. The Jatha started by remembering Bhagat Singh and its legacy.

In a Gurudwara near the Bhagat Singh Memorial, Prasanna, the national president of IPTA, interacted with the migrant labourers from Nepal on issues of their lives and livelihood. The Jatha aims to connect with the people on the ground spreading the message of harmony, mutual respect and dignity of human labour. Rakesh Veda, National Working President, IPTA, Inderjit Rupowali, General Secretary, IPTA Punjab, and Deepak Nahar also engaged with the audience present in the Gurudwara.

Remembering the words of Bhagat Singh, “inqalab ki talwar vicharon ke saan par tej hoti hai” (the sword of revolution is sharpened by thoughts and ideas), Prasanna and Rakesh Veda emphasized that it is these thoughts of love, humanity and harmony, which we have received as a legacy from those who sacrificed their lives to free our country. It is our duty to carry their legacy forward.

The Jatha was also joined by many students of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh Adarsh Vidyalaya. Their energetic participation infused a new spirit among the co-travellers in the Jatha. They were holding the flags and banners of the Jatha. Artists of Azad Theatre Group performed a play on the jail life of Bhagat Singh in the courtyard of another Gurudwara. It was followed by a street play based on the communal and religious hatred and rivalries going on in our country. The performances highlighted that religious feuds and communalism never do any good to any country. We are all like brothers and sisters, irrespective of which religion we follow.

This area in Punjab is called Doaba. It is marked by big houses and mansions. Most of the families are now living in Canada, Australia or the United States. Migrant labourers from states like Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh work in their fields as agricultural workers under precarious conditions. When the Jatha were passing through these fields, looking at the workers, the Jatha travellers also jumped into these fields and started helping these labourers. ‘Shramdaan’ is again an essential component of the Jatha.

During shramdaan, Prasanna also interacted with these labourers and enquired about their working conditions. Depending upon the nature of work, these migrant workers earn a daily wage of only Rupees 300-400; they don’t get work every day. A full day of hard work under the sun at a place, which is hundreds of kilometres away from their home – their hard work provides food to the entire nation. However, the nation could not provide them and their family a decent life and a decent future.

After this gesture of solidarity, the Jatha travellers reached Gurudas Gurudwara where they ate Guru da Prasad – Langar (a communal meal served at Gurudwaras) with great enthusiasm. In a programme at Guna, Vineet Tiwari, the National Secretary of AIPWA highlighted that love is the only way to counter hatred and violence. From Kabeer, to Guru Nanak to Gandhi – everyone lived their lives spreading the message of love and harmony.

Towards the end of the first day, Prasanna interacted with young artists and theatre aspirants on the craft of theatre and acting. He emphasized the importance of genuine representation in plays, stating that action should precede dialogue. Proper action is crucial; the action about which the actors perform should come before the dialogue.

The Jatha was joined by many theatre and film artists including Sanjeevan Singh (President, IPTA Punjab), Inderjit Rupowali (General Secretary, IPTA Punjab), Deepak Nahar, Balkar Singh Sidhu (President, IPTA Chandigarh), K N S Shekhon (General Secretary, IPTA Chandigarh), Surjit Jajj (renowned Punjabi poet and president of the PWA, Punjab), Prof. Kuldeep Singh Deep (Gen. Secy, PWA), Devindar Daman (Theatre artist), Jaswant Daman (Film artist), Jaswant Khatkar, Aman Bhogal, Dr. Harbhajan Singh, Parminder Singh Madali, Satyaprakash, Ranjit Gamanu, Bibba Kalwant, Roshan Singh, Ramesh Kumar, Kapan Veer Singh, Vivek and many others.

October 28th, 2023 | Saturday

On the second day of ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’: national cultural Jatha in Punjab, after enjoying the ‘Punjab Da Paratha,’ the travellers reached Ballowal at 10 am. Memories of the first phase of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ journey came to mind when the melodious sounds of ‘Dhai Akhar Prem ka Padhne aur Padhane aaye hain (we have come to learn and teach the message of love) were echoing along with the journey. While the paddy harvesting is ongoing in Punjab, the time after the harvest involves the collective singing and dancing of the ‘Jhumar,’ (a song and dance expressing the joy of men). This presentation was done by the Azad Kala Manch in Ballowal.

The ‘Dhai Aakhar Prem’ drama, based on the objectives of this journey, was presented by IPTA artists from Chhattisgarh in the folk style of theater and dance. Nisar Ali, Devnarayan Sahu, Gangaram Baghel, and Jaganu Ram presented the play through public dialogue.

Gradually, the journey moved forward with scenes of waving fields, paddy harvesting which didn’t let them feel the scorching heat and travellers arrived at the Gurudwara in Ballovad. Here, all the travellers happily had the lunch, and then proceeded towards Aujla. Here, a street play was presented by Azad Kala Manch, based on the ongoing religious and communal hatred in the country.

The performance shed light on the fact that  religious conflicts and sectarianism never benefit any country. We are all like brothers and sisters, regardless of our faith. Before the journey reached Aujla, a significant number of women, children, and young participants were waiting under the banyan tree. Vineet Tiwari, the National Secretary of the All India Progressive Writers’ Association, presented Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry, which means:

rañg aur nasl zaat aur maz.hab jo bhī hai aadmī se kamtar hai
is haqīqat ko tum bhī merī tarah maan jaao to koī baat bane

nafratoñ ke jahān meñ ham ko pyaar kī bastiyāñ basānī haiñ
duur rahnā koī kamāl nahīñ paas aao to koī baat bane

Color and race, caste and religion, whatever it may be, are inferior to humanity, if you also accept this reality like me, then something meaningful will be achieved. In a world of hatred, we need to build the cities of love, staying distant is not extraordinary, coming closer is what matters.

This was followed by a street play presented by Azad Kala Manch based on communal and religious hatred and divisiveness spreading in the country, with the fundamental message that no nation benefits from religious conflicts and sectarianism. Local companions shed light on the life of Mahendra Sathi, a resident of Moga who is associated with the profession of a blacksmith and has composed revolutionary and unity songs. They presented his composition ‘Mashaalen Le Kar Chalna Jab Tak Raat Baaki Hai’ (Carry the torches till the night remains) in the original Punjabi language.

The journey continued toward its next stage, Fagwara. On the way, at ‘Sarhal Mudiya’ crossroads, the travellers had brief conversations with people, and Nisar Ali presented a song, ‘Dama Dam Mast Qalandar,’ which illustrates corporate exploitation.

In Phagwara city of Kapurthala district, there is a building for Azad Kala Manch where artists conduct street plays, theater training, rehearsals, and performances. The journey passing through the streets of the city reached this building. Here, Nisar Ali and companions presented the song ‘Jab Tak Roti Ke Prashno Par Rakha Rahega Bhari Patthar, Koi Mat Khwab Sajana Tum’ (As long as the question of bread remains a heavy stone, don’t dream of anything). The Azad Kala Manch also presented the play “Ustad-Zamure”. A play based on the life of Bhagat Singh, titled ‘Main Pher Aawanga’ (I’ll come again) was presented. This concluded the journey’s second day in Punjab.

After the theatrical presentations, Prasanna, the renowned theatre director and the national president of IPTA, praised the local artists and assured them of all possible assistance. Prasanna also discussed the initiation of ‘Revolutionary Theatre’ started after the Second World War.

The journey in Punjab included Prasanna (National President IPTA), Sanjivan Singh (President, IPTA Punjab), Indrajit Roopowali (General Secretary, IPTA Punjab), Deepak Nahar, Balkar Singh Sidhu (President, IPTA Chandigarh), K.N.S. Shekhon (General Secretary, IPTA Chandigarh), Vineet Tiwari (National Secretary, Progressive Writers’ Association), Santosh Kumar (Delhi IPTA), Nisar Ali from Chhattisgarh IPTA, Devnarayan Sahu, Gangaram Baghel, Jaganu Ram, Devinder Daman (theater artist), Jaswant Daman (film artist), Jaswant Khatkar, Aman Bhogal, Dr. Harbhajan Singh, Paraminder Singh Madali, Satyaprakash, Ranjeet Gamanu, Bibba Kalwant, Roshan Singh, Ramesh Kumar, Kapan Veer Singh, Vivek and many theatre and film artists.

October 29th, 2023 | Sunday

On the third day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ national cultural journey, Nisar Ali from Chhattisgarh commenced the journey by reciting a ghazal by Adam Gondvi:

Sau Me Sattar Aadami Filhaal Jab Naashaad Hain
Dil Pe Rakhkar Haath Kahiye Desh Kya Aazaad Hai

Kothiyon Se Mulk Ke Meaar Ko Mat Aankiye
Asli Hindustaan to Phutpaath Par Aabaad Hai

It means “out of a hundred, seventy men are currently disheartened, so keep your heart and ask, is the country truly free today?,
Don’t measure the nation by palaces, the real Hindustan thrives on the footpaths”

The journey reached Palahi from Phagwada. The lush green paddy fields stretching far and wide captured the hearts of the travellers. Sweet water, flowing through the tube well, was irrigating the fields from the ground-level road. Local people joined the travellers, and in Palahi, apart from the recitation of the mentioned ghazal by Adam Gondvi, a performance of the song ‘Damadam Mast Kalandar’ took place and Nisar Ali also spoke briefly about the objectives of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ journey.

He said, “this journey is spreading a message of peace, love, and harmony throughout the country. The beginning of love and harmony starts at home, with our families, and from there it extends to the surroundings, districts, and beyond. People come together, and that’s how a nation is formed. This journey carries the messages of Kabir and Nanak, and the legacy from Gandhi.”

The next stop of the journey was Ranipur. As the travellers advanced, local travellers informed them that there are around five Gurudwaras in Ranipur and almost every local vendor makes Rusk. The dialogue continued as they reached the Ranipur intersection. Before continuing the dialogue under the shade of trees, Prasanna, the national president of IPTA, began community service (shramdaan), and gradually, all locals became part of the shramdaan alongside the travellers.

Following the community service in Ranipur, Nisar Ali and Vineet Tiwari recited some poems and couplets under the shade of trees. The recitals included Faiz’s poem ‘Ai Khakanshinon Uth Baitho Woh Waqt Qareeb Aa Pahuncha Hai, Adam Gondvi’s ghazal, and couplets by Kabir, which everyone hummed together.

It was close to two in the afternoon, and there was Guru Hargobind’s Ram Sar Gurudwara at a small distance. It is said that the eighth and ninth Gurus, including Guru Hargobind the sixth guru of sikh community, visited this Gurudwara. The travellers reached the Gurudwara with local companions and joyously ate langar(A community meal served in Gurudwaras).

The travellers reached Khatkar Kalan, a village in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, known as the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh, where they visited Bhagat Singh’s home and learned about his preserved heritage. Outside Bhagat Singh’s house was a well, where people of all castes used to draw water.

Some local college students also came to visit this ancestral village. Nisar Ali engaged in a brief conversation with them around ‘Nacha Gammat’ (folk theatre from Chhattisgarh) and, upon the request of the students, he presented the play ‘Dhai Aakhar Prem’ in form of Nacha Gammat. After the program, discussions were also held with the college’s teachers. This way, the third day of the cultural journey in Punjab concluded with dialogue and cultural activities. At the stages, the travellers also sought some economic support from the attendees. In the evening, a discussion was organized around theatre with artists and writers at the Desh Bhagat Memorial Hall in Jalandhar.

In the journey, Prasanna (National President, IPTA), Sukhdev Singh Sirsa (National General Secretary, All India Progressive Writers’ Association), Vineet Tiwari (National Secretary, Progressive Writers’ Association), Indrajit Roopowali (General Secretary, IPTA Punjab), Surjit Jajj (President, Progressive Writers’ Association, Punjab), Deepak Nahar, along with Nisar Ali, Devnarayan Sahu, Gangaram Baghel, and Jaganu Ram from Chhattisgarh, were joined by a significant number of local people as fellow travellers. The locals included Devindar Daman (Theatre Artist), Jaswant Daman (Film Actor), Jaswant Khatkar, Aman Bhogal, Dr. Harbhajan Singh, Parminder Singh Madali, Satyaprakash, Ranjit Gamanu, Bibba Kalwant, Roshan Singh, Ramesh Kumar, Kapan Veer Singh, Vivek, Sarabjit Roopowali, Annu Roopowali, Anchal Nahar, Vaishnavi Nahar, Renuka Azad, Vaishnavi Roopowali, Kalwinder Kaur, Chahatpreet Kaur, and others.

October 30th, 2023 | Monday

On its fourth day in Punjab (30 October 2023), the Jatha reached Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district. This is the place where Guru Nanak Dev worked for Nawab Daulat Khan Lodhi for fourteen years. He lived here for fourteen years and both his children – Baba Shri Chand and Baba Laxmi Chand – were born here. The mosques here are also very old and there are many big Gurudwaras too. It is said that he received ‘Guru ka Gyan’ (divine knowledge from his guru) in this place only. From here, he started writing ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ and travelled to many places. This place has a great historical importance.

The Punjab chapter of the Jatha organised a seminar at the Press Club of Sultanpur Lodhi, in which many dignitaries, lawyers, and journalists participated. Among them were Sukhdev Singh Sirsa (National General Secretary, AIPWA), Surjeet Judge (General Secretary of Punjab PWA), Vineet Tiwari (National Secretary of AIPWA), Nisar Ali (IPTA Chhattisgarh), Inderjit Rupowali (General Secretary of IPTA Punjab), Sarabjit Rupowali (Organization Secretary, IPTA), Deepak Nahar and many others. The seminar started with the songs – “jab tak roti ke prashan par rahega bhari patthar’ and “damadam mast qalandar” sung by Nisar Ali and his team. 

The seminar commenced with the performance by Nisar Ali and friends of the folk song titled ‘Jab Tak Roti Ke Prashno Par Rakha Rahega Bhari Patthar’, written by Jeewan Yadu and ‘Damadam Mast Qalandar’. Sukhdev Singh Sirsa, Surjit Jajj, and Vineet Tiwari shed light on the objectives of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ cultural journey during the seminar. The speakers appealed that with the bombings happening in Palestine, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the violent incidents in Manipur, along with the spread of hatred worldwide and within the country, it is essential for all of us to come together to address these issues. The people present at the event expressed agreement on this matter and assured their support in every possible way.

Afterwards, everyone present at the seminar embarked on a pedestrian journey and reached Shaheed Udham Singh Chowk, where a tribute was paid to the statue. Here, Nisar Ali and his companions from Chhattisgarh, including Devnarayan Sahu, Gangaram Baghel, and Jaganuram, presented the play ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ in folk dance-drama style. The performance was appreciated by the audience, and they also provided financial support.

As the procession walked through the city, slogans like ‘Long live humanity’, ‘Long live love and affection’, ‘Long live communal harmony’, ‘Long live sisterhood and brotherhood’, etc. were chanted. The program was conducted by Mukhtiyar Singh Chandi and Advocate Rajinder Singh Rana, renowned journalist Narinder Sonia, writer Dr. Swarn Singh, Dr. Harbhajan Singh, the President of IPTA Kapurthala, Vice-President Kashmir Bajror, writer Manjinder Kamal, Comrade Makand Singh, Rishpal Singh, Tarminder Singh, Sarwan Singh Nambardar, Ajit Singh Aujla, Amarjit Singh Tibba, and many others were present during the same.

October 31st, 2023 | Tuesday

The fifth day of the “Dhai Akhar Prem” cultural journey in Kapurthala, Punjab, saw a program held in the RCF Colony in the evening at 6 PM. Balkar Singh Siddhu, the President of IPTA Chandigarh, shared the objectives of the journey. Following this, the journey commenced with folk songs and reached Deep Singh Nagar Panchayat House in Kapurthala at 7 PM.

Here, a diverse program based on Punjab’s folk culture and history was presented. The program began with Punjabi folk dance. The magnificent presentation of the Luddi Bhangra was directed by Balakar Singh Siddhu from IPTA Chandigarh, with the support of K. N. S. Sekhon. Following that, a dance drama named ‘Bhagat Singh Ki Ghodi’ (Bhagat Singh’s horse) was presented. In this, Ranjeet Gamnu, Deepak Nahar, Biba Kalwant, Babit, Avtar, and Kalvinder Kaur showed splendid acting.

The next theatrical presentation was ‘Asal Khumari Naam Di’, performed by Azad Rangmanch. Deepak Nahar, Biba Kalwant, Ranjeet Bansal, Babit, Avtar, Kalvinder Kaur, and Agam Deep participated in the play. A new experiment was introduced here. In the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’  a play performed in Chhattisgarhi folk style, Chhattisgarhi artists performed alongside Punjabi artists.

Following this, the participants were honored by presenting them with a ‘Saropa’(a cloth offered as Sikh traditions) and memento. The program was conducted by Indrajit Roopowali, and the senior theatre artist, Talib Mohammad, addressed the assembly. Key attendees included Jaspreet Kaur (District Language Officer), Sardar Sajjan Singh, Dr. Harbhajan Singh (President of IPTA Kapurthala), Kashmir Bajraur, Sunny Masih, Sarpanch Rupinder Kaur, Sarabjit Roopowali, Anchal Nahar among others.

November 1st, 2023 | Wednesday

The final day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ National Cultural Journey in Punjab concluded at the 31st ‘Mela Gadri Babian Da’(a cultural fair), organized from October 30th to November 1st at Jalandhar’s Desh Bhagat Memorial Hall. Notably, the ‘Gadri Mela’ is organized in memory of the revolutionaries of the Gadar Party during the freedom struggle. The Gadar Party was established in America in 1913, with Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna as its president. This year’s fair was dedicated to his 150th birth anniversary.

The Gadar Party was a patriotic and secular party, with members like Taraknath Das, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, Maulvi Barkatullah, and others. Every year, this festival is celebrated in their memory. This event also commemorates the sons of Punjab, such as Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, and Kartar Singh Sarapa. The Gadar movement, initiated by Indian nationals residing abroad in opposition to British rule, is remembered through cultural programs day and night. This fair is entirely dedicated to the working class. One significant part of this fair is the book exhibition, where numerous stalls are set up with a wide range of books, and thousands of books are purchased.

Artists of IPTA presenting Nacha-Gammat at the Gadri Baba Mela, Jalandhar

On the occasion of this renowned three-day fair, in the evening of November 1, on the main stage, the famous song ‘Dama Dam Mast Qalandar’ was performed in folk style by the folk artists from Chattisgarh. Prior to that, Nisar Ali, presented an Adam Gondvi Ghazal and elaborated the meaning as well.

During this event, Sukhdev Singh Sirsa (National Secretary of the Progressive Writers’ Association), Vineet Tiwari (National Secretary of the Progressive Writers’ Association), Surjit Jajj (President of the Punjab Progressive Writers’ Association), Sanjivan Singh (President of Punjab IPTA), Indrajit Roopowali (General Secretary of Punjab IPTA), Balkar Sidhu (President of Chandigarh IPTA), K.N.S. Sekhon (General Secretary of Chandigarh IPTA), Deepak Nahar, Sarabjit Roopowali, Biba Kulwant, Ranjit Gamnu, Kulvinder Kaur, and AISF associates, along with members of other organizations, were present during the journey and street play presentations.

Report: Santosh (IPTA Delhi) and Nisar Ali (IPTA Chhattisgarh)

Watch: Video “Jatha in Punjab | पंजाब में जत्था

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