PUCL Bulletin, Dec., 1981

Cultural Freedom

Onslaught on Cultural Workers
-- By Kanchan Kumar

When the rights of the common man are trampled under the boots, the humiliation of the nation is expres-sed in the voices of its socially conscious poets, play-wrights and singers.

The poet Kazi Nazrul Islam voiced the grievances of the people and was thrown into the jail. Deenabandhu Mitra wrote the play 'Neel Darpan' (Indigo Mirror) which depicted the brutality of the British indigo farm owners and it was banned. The Bengali daily 'Amrita Bazar Patrika' established by Mahatma Sishir Kumar Ghosh, 'Soje-Watan' a collection of short stories by Premchand and the plays and songs of Mukunda Das were all banned during the British period. But this hated colonial tradition of curbing the pro-people art and literature is still continuing even after the takeover of power by the Indian ruling class. The transfer of power has not brought any basic change in our society. Com-munal riots, burning of the Harijans, torture on women, hatred among the different religious groups are still rampant. On the one hand hoarding and black-marketing is increasing day by day, on the other hand chronic unemployment is driving a section of young people to become anti social elements.

The ruling classes who are benefiting from such condi-tions-want to keep it like this. But they can do so only after demolishing the sense of value of their people. So they hire those writers who are cut off from the so-ciety and interested in themselves only, to do this job. These people hide their crimes under the slogan of 'art for art's sake'! Their literature is packed with sex, crimes, action and miracles of gods and goddesses and have no relation with the problems of everyday life. The main purpose of these writings are to keep their readers away from the reality. Right from our text books in the schools, colleges and universities, news-papers and journals, films, television programmes, theatres and publishing house-all are geared in the same way and the 'coolies of pen' are active everywhere.

On the other hand more and more conscious writers are coming out to fight this. But the government's attack on them is making it clear that they do not recognise their democratic rights. In their 'democracy' if the cons-cience of the artists comes in conflict with the will of the government, officials or the police-the artist is required to bow down before the will of the government, the officials or the police. But "the freedom of the writer is essentially the real freedom of all human beings, so this freedom must be preserved. Because when this freedom faces danger, the entire writing is also in danger. And thus, such historical situation may emerge when it could not be preserved by the pen only."

Poets Facing Black Acts
And this is precisely what is happening in our country. The ruling classes and their intellectuals are never tired of talking about the 'freedom of expression' and 'freedom of the press'-but their attack and ban on the pro-people journals as well as cultural activities exposes the hollow-ness of such slogans. Today like the workers, peasants and the common man, the writers and poets are also facing various black Acts, as well as the hoodlums with and without uniforms.

On the evening of August 24, 1972, a bunch of Congress activists attacked the hawkers who were sel-ling 'Darpan', 'Bangla Desh' and 'Satya Yug' at Sealda~h Station shouting slogans like 'long live Indira Gandhi' long live Congress'. They snatched about three thou-sand copies of those papers and burned them. The edi-tors of 'Renaissance' and 'Janatar Mukh' were given ultimatum by a band of Congress activists to cease their publications-or face physical liquidation. Samar Sen the editor of 'Frontier' was also threatened.

An article entiled 'Police and CRP of Uttar Pradesh are on war-path' appeared in the 3rd July 1973 issue of 'Arimardan' published from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and forthat its editor, advocate Tejbahadur, was arrested under DIR. Vishnu Sharma and Arunesh the editors and Shesh Kumar Shesh, the managing editor of daily 'Adhikar', were arrested under DIR, for publishing a news item that said that 'the police has refused to work as a machinery of operation and defied the order to lathicharge on the striking government employees. Some jawans took leave and many other did not show up'.

In Punjab, the editors of 'Kintu and 'Roholewan' have been harassed. Harbhjan Ilalwarvi was thrown into the Ludhiana Jail. The well known Punjabi poet of Village Salem and the editor of 'Siad' Dash, Darshan Khatkar of village Manguwal, poet Amarjeet Chandan, Mahendra Singh Sandhu of Village Malhari, the editor of 'Jathebandi', Kewal Kaur, the editor of Maan and her husband Ramesh Handa were also arrested and tortured. All these journals had one thing in comman: they all were critical of the present ruling clique.

To put the members of Viplabi Rachaitala Sangham (Revolutionary Writers Association) or Virasam behind the bar had been a regular practice. In 1971, Charabunda Raju, Nikhileshwar and Jwalamukhi were arrested under Preventive Detention Act. In October-November 1973, Varvara Rao, M.T. Khan and Cherabanda Raju were arrested under MISA.

Though the Andhra Pradesh government has declared the expression of thought as illegal and hazardous for peace-it is still finding it difficult to curb the freedom of expression of the writers. So they framed the so-called Secunderabad conspiracy case and charged T. Madhusudan Rao, then secretary of Virasam, Varvara Rao, the editor of 'Srijana', the wellknown Telugu critic K.V. Ramanna Reddy, M.T. Khan, M. Ranganathan, the editor of 'Pilupu', and Cherabanda Raju the famous poet of Sedition and they were thrown in jails. These writers propagated leftist thoughts in their writings and gave words to the militant voices of the oppressed masses who were no longer ready to take everything as granted and were on the war-path. ihis created panic among the ruling class. They banned their collections like 'Jhanjha' 'March' 'Raktaganam', 'Ippadu Vistunagali' and some issues of 'Pilupu' and 'Srijana' Magazines.

A Danger Signal

This has been repeated all over the country. In Bengal, the poet Srijan Sen. Sabyasachi Dev (who is also the editor of 'Nakthrar Rode') and his wife Ratna Dev were arrested before the emergency. Dipankar Chakravorty, the editor of 'Aneek' and the poets and writers like Samir Roy, Shankar Basu, Debabrata ~hattacharya, Shantunu Guha, Robi Sen, Arjun Goswami and Rajat Das (who had several bullet wounds in his body) were thrown behind the bars during the emergency. This is a danger signal and we must be on alert.

Benoy Ghosh has said, "If such a day comes in life of a writer when there is no way out but to take up arms, then to safeguard the freedom of the readers and the greater humanity they will have to do it." We have seen, that poet Subbarao Panigrahi and poet Saroj Dutta did that. The young Bengali poets and writers like Timir Baran Siagha, Amiya Chattopadhyay, Drona-charya Ghosh, Tushar Chandra, Murari Mukhopadhyay, Samaran Chattopadhyay, Ashu Mazumdar and Samir Mitra have followed them. They have sacrificed their lives to pay for their beliefs.

On July 20th, 1974, the police broke the open air drama performance in a rally organised by the 'the Anti-Imperialist Committee' at the Curzon Park at Calcutta and killed Prabir Dutta, a student poet.

Recently the autocratic government of Indira Gandhi has unleashed onslaught on the cultural workers. A few months ago the police raped a woman performing artiste of a drama troup in the police custody in Basti, Uttar Pradesh. In the same state, when the drama troup of Rastriya Janawadi Sanskriti morcha was performing 'Inquilab Zindabad' a play written on the life and thought of Bhagat Singh in Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh, the police banned the play and forced the troups to leave the district.

On 26th December 1980, in Jatalpur Village near Abmedabad, in Gujarat, the upper caste patels burned a Harijan Youth named Sakra Bhai to death. To protest against this atrocity, 'Aakrosh', the weekly poetry magazine of the Dalit Panther, in their 13th April issue. published protest poems by many eminent poets of Gujarat. The police seized that issue. Their logic was that the followers of Swaminarayan (in whose temple the Harijans are prohibited to enter) might feel offended due to those poems and that can create riot.

The responsibility of the police, of course, did not end there. They arrested four persons including the editor, and their houses were ransacked in the name of search. Recently the offensive of the police has increased, which these writers and artists are trying to resist it with the help of the people.

A few months back the Telugu poet Ramlochan, who was a teacher in a government school, lost his job because the state educational department complained that 'he has written poems in favour of the poor and against the blackmarketeers and hoarders'.

Arrested for Singing 'International'.

Direct and indirect pressures on the cultural workers in Punjab, Bihar and Tamilnadu are increasing. In Bihar, Ajay Mitra, the editor of 'Singhbhum Ekta', was arrest-ed a few months ago. Guru Sharan Singh the playwright of 'Inquilab Zindabad' and editor of 'Samata' was arrested. These, of course, are the samples of the' priy-darshini' style of keeping the great flag of democracy flying. But let us look at those who swear by the name of Marxism, and crusaders against 'Apasanskriti'. In Kerala, the now defunct left front government arrested malayalam poet K. Sachithanandan, K.S. Sadashivan, the editor of 'Prerana', one advocate Meghnadan and a student Kartikeyan on 15th July 1980 for singing Inter-national written by Eugene Potier. On 30th July poet Civi Chanderan and four other activitists Janakeeya Samskarika Vedi (people's cultural Forum) were arrest-ed and lost their jobs.

Till now 'Striptease' shows were confined only to big hotels and cabaret places-the left front govern-ment has tried to bring it to the people. But instead of appreciating this 'good job' done by the government, the cultural activists of Tellicherry formed an 'action Committee' and protested against it. In Cannanore, the anti-social elements attacked the house of Ramchandran, the leading activist of the people's cultural forum, with the help of police and killed him.

To protest against this Mr. Balan, the secretary of PCF and four other women activists distributed leaflets in the legislative assembly. The police did not take any action to book Rameshan's murderers, while they promptly arrested Balan and the four activists. In Calicut, on the occasion of the annual function of Verghese Memorial Book Stall, on 8th and 9th May, 'Nattya Gattika' was to perform 'Spartacus' in front of thousands of spectators. 200 armed police raided the place and 23 members of the theatre group were arres-ted. All these savage police actions were justified under the so-called 'Tiru-Kochi' Act which makes, speaking or making signs encouraging rebellion punishable (this act was used by the former Dewan of Travancore against the fighters of Punnapra-Vylar and then it was revived in 1950 as 'Travancore-Cochin Public Safety Measure Act' by the Congress Government 'to curb the growing influence of the communists."

In Custody Without Trial

This black Act has enabled the government of Kerala to ban all cultural works, protests, public meetings, postering, and leafleting. 500 people were arrested for 'shouting slogans against established government', distributing leaflets, singing revolutionary songs, staging street plays defying that ban. They were kept in illegal custody without trial and subjected to third degree treatment. To force the closing down of the publication of 'Prerana', the police is pressurising the press owner and preventing the agents from selling it. The hunting of the cultural workers in Wynad, Calicut and other perts of Kerala is reminiscent of the days of emergency. And the newspapers in Kerala were warned not to pub-lish anything about it. So there is a complete blackout.

In West Bengal the initiative, of course, is in thehands of 'Chatra Parishad' right now. During the performance of 'Abru' pioduced by Shouvik'-a Hindi play that exposed the real characters of the so-called politicians of all shades the storm troopers of Congress(I) attac-ked them and threatened to beat them if they did not stop its performance for ever.

But that, of course, does not mean that the progres-sive police of the left front government was sitting idle. No, they are not. They have already arrested Vijay Ghosh the editor of'Sangram Prastuti' from the Rosai Vanaspati factory gate and tortured him. Mr. Ghosh went there 'to see for himself the activities of the workers and to give support to their struggle.' They arrested Sujay Bhattacharya of 'Shouvik' and beat him mercilessly.

So we see that the autocratic government of Indira Gandhi is trying to crush the pro-people cultural work with the help of the police and the anti-social elements.

Delhi is not deprived of her blessings. The censorship of plays is handed over to the police. To resist this, all the performing artists, play-wrights, writers, poets and other intellectuals have to stand unitedly againsL it. By introducing all these black acts, launching a crusade against the freedom of expression and spreading war-psychosis and national chauvinism-in effect they want to bring back the black days of Emergency-and we will have to work hard to resist them-and that is our main task today.


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