‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ National Cultural Jatha in the Historic State of West Bengal

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December 28, 2024, Day One:

We already know that the cultural organization IPTA has been organizing the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ a cultural Journey across India for four months, from September 28, 2023, to January 30, 2024, commemorating Mahatma Gandhi’s Martyrdom Day. The purpose of this colourful cultural march is to spread the message of love, friendship, equality, justice, and humanity in our nation. It honours those who sacrificed their lives for unity in diversity, pays tribute to renowned social reformers, writers, poets, and artists at their birthplaces or memorials, and presents the dream of a new India to future generations.

The phrase ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ is derived from a famous couplet of the great saint-poet Kabir. The couplet suggests that true wisdom does not come from scriptures or literary knowledge. Those who have the knowledge & understanding of love are the truly wise. In the face of divisive forces spreading hatred across India, there is an urgent need to spread the message of love and unity. IPTA has invited all progressive cultural and social organizations, along with writers and artists, to express their cultural identity through songs, poems, and plays.

Bengal has always been a leader in cultural activities. From Aatish Dipankar to Chaitanya, from Chandidas to Rabindranath Tagore, from Lalan to Vijay and from Michael to Nazrul the message of love, equality, justice, and unity has been repeatedly conveyed through hundreds and hundreds voices. Following in their footsteps, Indian artists are on a collective journey. The Gan Sanskriti Sangh and Progressive Writers’ Association had planned a statewide march and cultural program from December 28, 2023, to December 31, 2023.

The journey began from Tamluk city in East Medinipur on December 28. The program and enthusiasm of the people on this day were worth witnessing. The inauguration of the journey was marked by offering floral tributes to the statues of to icons ranging from Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to the martyr Matangini Hazra, the revolutionary leader Khudiram Bose of Bengal’s Swadeshi movement, and the communist leader Vishwanath Mukhopadhyay. Ignoring the bloodshed under British rule, this town of Tamluk witnessed the formation of the first independent government. The memorial of that adorned government stands as a symbol of our commitment to the freedom movement, which is why this city was chosen for the first phase of the journey. Numerous people joined this journey with folk songs and the melodious sound of decorated Dhak instrument. It featured numerous banners adorned with quotes from Bengal’s thinkers. Under the banners of IPTA and images of eminent personalities; students, youth, teachers, and intellectuals marched together. Children, dressed as great personalities, walked gracefully. A lone boy, holding the EkTara instrument, walked alone in the attire of a Baul.

People were invited, saying, “Let us dedicate this march to strength, compassion, goodwill, and peace. Let us devote this journey to the victory of love over hatred and enmity.”

In this march, state leaders such as President Amitabh Chakraborty, General Secretary Debashish Ghosh, Treasurer Subrata Chandra, Achal Haldar, Women’s Leader Soumi Haldar, Shashank Das Bairagya, Pranab Das, Rajeev Mukherjee, Soumitra Mukherjee, and others were present. From the district leadership, President Monotosh Pal, Secretary Viplav Bhattacharya, Animesh Manna, Swapan Mitra and Madhusudan Das were present. Teachers’ Association President Tapan Barman, Secretary Narayan Bera, Women’s Leader Shyamali Mandal, Student Leader Chaitanya Qwilya, Youth Leader Gaurang Qwilya, Professor Ashutosh Das, and renowned artist Sanatan Das were also present.

December 29, 2023, Second Day:

Message from Howrah: “Runners (Postmen) will reach the city early in the morning; the current ruler is trying to control our minds.”

The State Secretary of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Kapilkrishna Tagore, outlined the second day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ Jatha in Sankarail, Howrah. The four-month-long All-India pedestrian journey began from the Bara Pirtala town in West Bengal on the second day. Children, women, and elderly, all came together at the Star Spotting Club premises, walking with posters and banners featuring the teachings of saints, adorned in beautiful clothes, singing in unison, and forgetting hatred and animosity with a message of unity. In this procession, leading the way were Kapilkrishna Tagore, Amitabh Chakravarti, Amalendu Debnath, Parth Protim Kundu, Debashish Ghosh, and Shantimoy Roy. Chiranjeev Chandra, Dilip Ganguli, Samir Mukherjee, Shariful Anwar, Subir Mandal, Shakawat Hussain, Saumi Haldar, Shyamal Mandal, and others also participated in the journey.

Later, a cultural program was organized in the club premises. The cultural program began with songs by Kadar Lashkar. Amalendu Debnath, Kapilkrishna Tagore, Amitabh Chakravarti, Sunil Kole, and others delivered brief speeches at the beginning. It is noteworthy that the area where this march and cultural program were organized primarily houses people from minority communities. Many people, after seeing a well-organized and vibrant march carrying the message of ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ in their area, were curious to know about the organization. Some were spontaneously seen joining the march. Many people stood and listened to the cultural program, and this was the biggest achievement of the day. Some interesting examples include a delivery boy Noor Alam, who was passing by on a bike, and Sadashiv was driving an auto with passengers. Both stopped for a while to watch and then moved forward. When asked how they felt, they said, ‘I stood and watched.’ He was also explaining that there is no time; we need to deliver goods on time. Interestingly, when the auto driver stood for a while and observed, the young men inside did not oppose it. Instead, they also closed their mobile phones and watched the program. Seeing the crowd, the song of an unknown performer unintentionally caught the attention – ‘Modern performers nowadays reach the city as performers.’ A little girl, standing with her face covered in a hijab, was holding hands and watching the play. When asked her name, she hesitated to tell. One of the neighbours said her name is Nasifa Khatoon. When asked if she liked it, she nodded and said, ‘Yes.’

The true meaning of Kabir’s couplet “Dhai Akhar Prem” is reflected in this journey. This is the theme of the march. In the drama “Hey Dharma” performed by the theatre team, when an actor, Dhuryatiprasad Mukherjee, was giving a speech on “Hey Dharma” and was trying to deceive people with promises of fifteen lakh rupees in the name of religion, people asked various questions, which made him shout ‘Dharma-Dharma.’ Since he had no answers, he ran away. The applause from the audience made it clear that this drama was successful in touching the depths of their hearts. Not sure if it is a coincidence or not, but the applause from the religious audience standing behind was unusually loud.

In the present confusing time, what can be more revolutionary than the decision of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ Jatha by IPTA? In the cultural program, Shaswati Bera, Nupur Javardar, Rajneel Mukhopadhyay, Pranab Das, Devasmita Niyogi, Ruma Rakshit, Sukhendu Mandal, and the team of Ichhapurti from Baynan including Sananda, Suparna, Aaradhya, Suhrida, and Ankita participated. The program was directed by Rajiv Mukherjee.

December 30, 2023, Third Day:

The third day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ cultural journey – Message of harmony in the heart of Kolkata

No division, no discrimination, no difference; we desire harmony and unity. Keeping this goal in mind, IPTA organized a goodwill march on Saturday, December 30, from the historic College Square in Kolkata, beneath the statue of Vidyasagar, through the residence of Swami Vivekananda, and then to Thakur Bari in Jorasanko.

In this march, the Progressive Writers’ Association state committee and ‘Uttaradhikar’ participated as collaborators. On this day, a delegation of IPTA and Progressive Writers’ Association visited the residence of social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy. In his welcome speech, Amitabh Chakravarti, the state president of IPTA, stated that the journey took place at the Freedom fighters’ ground in Tamaluk on December 28th, in Sankarail, Howrah on December 29th and in Kolkata on December 30th.

Eminent Marxist thinker and researcher Shamik Bandopadhyay inaugurated the pre-march meeting held under the statue of Vidyasagar at College Square. He said, “Our country is going through a deep crisis. The powers in control are constantly destroying the harmony of the country, ruining the pluralistic culture, and attacking minorities and marginalized people. This communal fascism is constantly disrespecting the constitution and suppressing the opposition’s voice in the parliament. The country’s wealth is being handed over to large corporations. This corporate hegemony has put our country in great danger. Therefore, we appeal to the aware citizens of the country to confront this communal force in any way possible.”

Abdul Qadir Lashkar presented the welcome song in the meeting. Additionally, music was performed by Atikram Das and Prabal Sarkar. Alongside, Manika Mridha presented a vocal recital. Shamik Bandopadhyay, IPTA President Amalendu Debnath, Amitabh Chakravarti, State Secretary of the organization Shantimoy Roy, along with Kapil Krishna Thakur, the General Secretary of the Progressive Writers’ Association, paid homage to Vidyasagar’s statue after a brief meeting at College Square. ‘Identity’ magazine’s Joint Secretary Parth Pratim Kundu, Einstein Cine Club President Gautam Ghosh, Achala Haldar, Rajiv Mukherjee, Tapas Mitra, Arun Chattopadhyay, Sanjay Das, Subir Mukhopadhyay, Subir Bandopadhyay, Rajnil Mukhopadhyay, Narayan Vishwas, Sunil Chakraborty, Subrato Chandra, Soumitra Mukhopadhyay, Vishwanath Khan, Rabindranath De, Nanda Sen Gupta, Anish Chattopadhyay, Shashank Dasbairagya, Sahana Khatoon, Shyamal Manna and others also participated.

After that, the march started from the statue of Vidyasagar at College Square. In this march, apart from the leadership of the IPTA and Progressive Writers’ Association, many artists, writers, teachers, students, women, and common people participated. Afterward, the group reached the residence of Swami Vivekananda. After the tribute, a brief cultural program was organized at the statue of Vivekananda. Navkumar, Ananya Chandra, Achal Haldar, and Jatin Chandra presented music. Kaushik Ghosh performed a vocal recitation. The artists of Ashoknagar IPTA staged the play “Ai Mrityu Upatyakay Amar Desh Noy.” The entire program was conducted by Shantimoy Roy and Debasish Ghosh. After that, the procession toured various streets of Kolkata and reached Jodasanko Thakur Bari. There, they paid tribute to the statue of Rabindranath Tagore, concluding the third day of the procession.

December 31, 2023, Fourth Day:

Fourth day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ cultural journey in the Barasat

“Divisive forces are tearing the country apart. The present ruling class is ominous. If this force is not stopped, the country and its people will be in greater danger. This is the end of the current year. In the new year, we must send a message of protecting unity, solidarity, and goodwill of the country. We should talk about unity against violence and hatred.” With this message, on Sunday, the fourth day of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ cultural journey was started in the Barasat city of North 24 Paraganas. In addition to the district’s cultural artists, distinguished literary figures such as Bhagirath Mishra, Urdu writer Janif Ansari, and Father Sunil Rosario also participated in the event.

The district of North 24 Parganas has a rich history of anti-British movements and communal harmony. It is a center of literature and culture in the state. The first anti-British soldiers mutiny and the freedom struggle started from Barakpur in this district. Throughout India, the Jatha called ‘Dhai Akhar Prem,’ led by the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) and Progressive Writers’ Association for the defence of harmony, religious tolerance, and saving the democracy, commenced on December 28, 2023. On the fourth day, the march began from the statue of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in Barasat. In this journey, numerous artists, writers, poets, political and movement leaders, teachers, laborers, farmers, and hardworking individuals participated. The march passed through Barasat Court, Bada Bazar, KNC Road, Haritala Barasat Government School, College, Hatkhola, and Jassore Road before concluding at the Barasat Association Ground.

During this march, artists sang songs of unity and brotherhood for the country. They were immersed in joy while singing songs of Rabindranath, Nazrul, Lalan, Fakir, etc. In this march, people paid tribute by offering garlands to the statues of leaders like Chitt Basu, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Master Da Surya Sen(the leader of Chattagaon Armory Loot), Preetilata Wadedar, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Baba Saheb Ambedkar and other martyrs.

Later, at the Barasat Association ground, an open stage cultural program for solidarity began, and respected individuals appealed for love and unity. Bhagirath Mishra, the eminent litterateur, said in his speech that divisive forces in the country are gradually tearing it apart. One must be vigilant against the current ruling class. He said that this divisive force has always created divisions among Hindus, Muslims, and other castes, weakening the country. However, to oppose this power, progressive and democracy-loving individuals have advocated for the convergence of humanity on the path of harmony and unity. While the ruling class now seeks to weaken this unity, In opposition to this, IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) and Progressive Writers’ Association have called for the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ journey. We all need to respond to this call and take an oath to defend the country and prevent this current of division.

Kalyan Banerjee, the editor of ‘Kalantar’ newspaper, said that today is the last day of the year. In the new year, we must send a message of unity and goodwill for the country. In this context, he reminded everyone of Fidel Castro. Urdu writer Janif Ansari explained the meaning of the ‘Dhai Akhar Prem’ journey. Father Sunil Rosario emphasized the need to talk about unity against violence and hatred. Amitabh Chakravarti, the state president of IPTA, and Shobhana Nath, the leader of the Gan Sanskriti Parishad, expressed their reactions. Kapil Krishna Thakur, the general secretary of Progressive Writers’ Association, Amalendu Debnath, Debashish Ghosh, the state joint secretary of IPTA, Parth Pratim Kundu, the joint editor of ‘Idana’ magazine, Dr. Sujan Sen, the district president of Progressive Writers’ Association, Shyamal Ghosh, a leader of the people’s movement, and other comrades were present on the stage.

In the program, Pradyut Ranjan Chakravarti presented the inaugural song. Renowned mime artist Shantimoy Roy performed mime. Music was also presented by artists from the Nazrul Charcha Kendra, IPTA Barasat, and Hridoypur branch. In addition, several artists presented songs and singing. The IPTA Ashoknagar branch staged their popular play “Ai e Mrittu Upatyakay Amar Desh Noy.” The entire program was conducted by Tapas Mitra. In the end, with songs and slogans of love against hatred, the historic journey came to a close.

Report: Debasish Ghosh
Translation: Kritika Sharma

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