Archive for the ‘Revolutionary-Artists’ Category

Pune to get a dose of leftist revolutionary ideology with Gaddar

January 4, 2007

Pune to get a dose of leftist revolutionary ideology with Gaddar
To mobilise ‘anti-establishment rage,’ Telugu balladeer and Naxal activist to perform at Shaniwarwada on January 7

Prasannakumar Keskar

Gaddar – The revolutionary balladeer

Pune, January 01: SUGAR-RICH western Maharashtra will be in for a shock of sorts on January 7 as Gaddar, a revolutionary Telugu balladeer and Naxal activist from Andhra Pradesh, will perform at the Shaniwarwada. Known for his fiery performances, the stated aim of bringing the activist’s troupe to the city is to mobilise the ‘anti establishment rage’ amongst the masses over the Khairlanji killings, the quota controversy and acquisition of land for Special Economy Zones (SEZs) anti-labour policies and farmers’ suicides.

The Abhivyakti Swatantrya Bachao Samiti, a platform created by over a dozen leftist organisations a couple of months ago, has organised show, which is probably the first time that leftist organisations are organising a public programme in the region. The show will be free of cost and open to all.

Gaddar will arrive in the city from Hyderabad just hours before the show along with an associate, while the other members of his troupe will travel to Pune from Mumbai. However, the tour will not be a hasty one for the performer also plans to stay in the city for at least a day after the show.

Better known for his Telugu songs, Gaddar will perform in the city in Hindi.

Convener of the samiti, Sanjay Dabhade said that though Gaddar is little-known in western Maharashtra, his show is expected to draw huge crowds from the city and rural outskirts.

And with various dalit parties like Republican Party of India and organisations like Narmada Bachao Andolan and SEZ Virodhi Kriti Samiti associated with the Abhivyakti Bachao Swatantrya Samiti, the organisers reaching out to the slum dwellers may not be a difficult task.

But ensuring that the word is spread around, the samiti has printed over 10,000 hand bill and plans to put up posters and banners, besides using vehicles with loudspeakers to promote the show.

“Gaddar’s show is meant to be a public cultural protest against suppression of the masses by the State. It is also meant to give vent to the unrest amongst the masses,’’ Dabhade said.

(Gadar on stage , lakhs of people turn up whenever he performs anywhere in
Andhra Pradesh)

About Gaddar

* Gummadi Vittal Rao came to be know as Gaddar as a tribute to the pre-independence revolutionist Gadar party. Born in 1949 in Medak district, Gaddar comes from a poor dalit family. He dropped out of Osmania University after his first year of engineering to earn a living and in 1969, joined the struggle for a separate Telangana state and formed a burrakatha (a kind of folk art) troupe.

* In early 1970s, Gaddar got associated with ‘Art Lovers Association’, formed by Narsing Rao, who was linked to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). In the mid 1980s, Gaddar started voicing his protest against the killing of several Dalits by upper caste landlords in Prakasam district and went underground after the police raided his house.

* During exile, he started spreading the revolutionary ideology through folk arts, adapting folk forms such as Oggu Katha, Veedhi Bhagotham and Yellamma Katha.

* After four-and-a-half years of exile Gaddar emerged from hiding. He was shot at
on April 6, 1997, but survived. In 2001 and 2004, he was among those named by the Peoples’ War Group as its emissaries for peace.



Paash: An Iron Tale

September 11, 2006

Paash: An Iron Tale
Celebrating the 56th birthday of a poet

In the spring of 1967, peasants of Naxalbari–a sleepy village of West Bengal, India–came out of their fields with traditional weapons to fight the establishment. They fought heroically but the moderately armed security forces suppressed them brutally, for a few years.

Even though it was supressed it made a significant contribution to the field of literature and gave birth to new paradigms, which were path breaking in practice and pro-people in nature. It redefined the relationship of student and education, artist and society, country and city, state and people, repression and resistance, violence and peace.

The influence of the Naxalite movement reached the farthest corners of the country. In Punjab, Paash–pen name of Avtar Singh Sandhu–was deeply influenced by this movement. He was one of those who had from the very beginning expressed their uneasiness over the prevailing discourse of romantic poetry in Punjab.

He was not even twenty when he first came to light with his anthology of poetry “Loh Katha” (The Iron Tale) in 1970. This anthology was a complete breakaway from romantic poetry.

Initially many “established poets” refused to recognize the “young lad.” They termed his poetry a mere “rag of red cloth.” But Paash was altogether different from his contemporaries, he never felt the need for recognition from pro-establishment critics. And his pen always gave them a befitting reply. That is why even almost two decades after his death, his poems still define the struggle.

It is an established fact that Naxalite writers had never written for the sake of fame. Most of them either lived the life of saints or of rebels and have written poetry from the battle fields. They never cared for honors. They wrote what they lived and lived what they wrote. Paash also never wrote for the sake of writing but it was his sensitivity and inner restlessness which motivated him to write. He never stroked his pen to become just a poet.

The poetry of the 20-year-old man challenged the establishment. And the impatient rulers implicated him in a fabricated murder case. He was imprisoned for two years. It was this time which played a key role in his ideological growth. He wrote his best poetry in jail on cigarette packs and smuggled it out.

After two years, Paash was acquitted and he became a celebrated poet of the revolutionary camp. His poems were translated and published in Hindi, Nepali, English and many other Indian languages.

In the early 1980s Sikh fundamentalists waged a war with demands for a separate country, Khalistan. Paash opposed the activities of the Khalistanis. While in the United States, to defeat the reactionary idea of Khalistan on ideological grounds, he started a newspaper named “Anti-47” (after the AK 47, the weapon Khalistanis used to kill).

History proves that the fundamentalist forces rarely indulge in ideological debates, they often suppress their critics with the gun. And the same fate befell Paash. He was gunned down by Khalistani militants on March 23, 1988 (ironically the martyrdom day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, the revered patriots who were hanged by the British during the struggle for India’s independence). He was 37 years old.

They eliminated him physically at a very young age but his four anthologies of poetry “Loh Katha” (Iron-Tale, 1970), “Ud dian Bazan Magar”(Behind Flying Hawks, 1973), “Saadey Samiyaan Vich” (In Our Times, 1978) and “Khilre Hoey Varkey” (Unorganized Papers, publish posthumously in 1989) have become an integral part of the lives of people.

In the long list of revolutionary poets, Paash is another signature who “wrote what he lived and lived what he wrote.” He chose his end consciously. But he was a warrior who never let his dreams die. That is why, September 9th his 56th birth day is being celeberated in Punjab by the peasants in fields, workers in mills and students in universities.

Lal Singh Dil – A naxalite poet

July 26, 2006

Punjabi Poet Lives in Penury

Born to lower caste, Lal Singh Dil made name with his pen

In the late sixties, when he used to recite poems, thousands of people would gather. Lal Singh Dil was a celebrated poet, akin to his contemporary revolutionary poets, Avtar Paash and Sant Ram Udasi (aka the “Punjabi poets”). He revolted against the unjust regime and fought not merely with his pen, but with a gun, as the American writer Ernest Hemingway fought. Lal Singh Dil, once a firebrand in Punjabi poetry, is currently going through tough times in his hometown of Samrala.

These days, most of his time is spent in a dark 10 x 13 room. One room corner still has marks from the last monsoon leakage and another has a small kitchen. Two walls of his room are colored with some written couplets. Except for a long row of mementos, it is hard to find anything in order. As soon as I reached his place, he came upstairs without looking at me, even without any query, and started making tea.

“Now I am in my late sixties and my health is quite poor, even sometimes I find it hard to breathe, otherwise everything is fine,” he began to speak as if he was talking to himself.

When asked about his financial resources, he whispered, “Earlier, I was running a highway tea stall, but three years back that too had to close down. After that, conditions were severe; even sometimes I didn’t have money to post letters. Now, a publisher gives me five hundred rupees ($13) every month as royalty for my books. Recently, I got some money for honor, which I deposited in a bank and I’m waiting when it will be finished. You can’t read or write with an empty stomach.

Dil was the first in his family to finish school. On every step of his life, he faced humiliations because of his low caste. In the early sixties, as he was studying in his tenth standard, his first poem appeared in the famous Punjabi literary journal Preetlari. In the early seventies, he compiled an anthology of poems titled “Satluj di Hawa”, meaning “The Winds of Satluj” (one of the five rivers of Punjab), which is equal to an epoch in the history of Punjabi revolutionary poetry. “With the thunder of spring” (phrase used for an armed peasant uprising of the mid-sixties) he too joined the Naxalite movement and attacked a police station with his fellow comrades. Later on, he was arrested and imprisoned for nine months.

When asked about his treatment in custody, he became silent for a while and spoke with a thick voice, “Compared to my comrades, they tortured me more because I was from a lower caste. It was extreme. But I never bowed in front of jail authorities despite being humiliated, and as a result I got the name ‘rebel.'”

Due to the brutal repression of the police, the whole Naxalite movement suffered a setback. Most of Dil’s comrades were either killed in encounters or were imprisoned, so nobody was there to welcome him when he was released from jail. Thus, in depression, he left Punjab for Uttar Pradesh. There he adopted Islam and worked as a watchman. In the early eighties, he came back to Punjab because of his deep love for his motherland. Even then he did not get married because he wanted to live “free.”

Asked whether it was a mistake to join the Naxalite movement, he answered with little resentment, “No…not at all, it was the struggle for the betterment of society, even today there is need for such struggles, but with valid means.”

When asked what inspires him to still write, for the first time in our conversation he looked into my eyes and answered after a long pause. “Social injustice, physical torture and mental agony all motivate me to write,” and he began to sing the following lines of his poem “Dance”:

When the labourer woman
Roasts her heart on the tawa
The moon laughs from behind the tree
The father amuses the younger one
Making music with bowl and plate
The older one tinkles the bells
Tied to his waist
And he dances
These songs do not die
Nor either the dance…


Related Links

A Readers Words – an excellent blog on literature, left, liberal, socialism, globalization, dalit, books, urdu poetry, south asia, India.

Gaddar – The revolutionary Balladeer

July 1, 2006

Gaddar in a meeting in Nizam College Grounds,Hyderabad – 2005

Gaddar (born as and also known as Gummadi Vittal Rao), is a pseudonym of a revolutionary Telugu balladeer and vocal Naxalite activist from the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. The name Gaddar was adopted as a tribute to the pre-independence Gadar party which opposed British colonial rule in Punjab during 1910s.

Early years

He was born in 1949 in Toofran village of Medak district. He comes from a poor dalit family and his parents Seshaiah and Lachumamma worked as labourers to earn a living. After completing PUC (then equivalent of 12th class) from a government junior college in Hyderabad he joined the Osmania University Engineering College to pursue a Bachelors degree in engineering but dropped out after the first year to earn a living.

Gaddar married a woman named Vimala. He has two sons, called Sureedu and Chandrudu as well as a daughter called Vennela.

Jana Natya Mandali(Peoples Dance Group)

He rose to prominence by singing highly emotional and stirring songs that were popular among the poor and the rural hinterland of the Telangana region notorious for the PWG (People’s War Group) a Maoist organization that uses mainly violence to achieve its goals.

He established a song and dance troupe called Jana Natya Mandali which tours and performs in villages to gather support for the revolutionary ideologies. His style of singing involves use of high pitches in the local Telengana variant of Telugu, thus touching a chord among the locals as popular Telugu media and songs only show the fluent or neutral Telugu. His use of Urdu words is also seen to be a perfect fit since people from this region often mix a few Urdu words unlike the Telugu speakers from other parts of the state.

His songs were also used in many Telangana-centric movies enacted by various cine-persona from the Telugu film industry. Due to his affiliations with the previously banned party he was prevented from singing in public until recently. He is prominently visible on any stage by his trademark black shawl that is typical of the Telengana shepherd dress.

Wikipedia Link

Related Links

Rebel on the Mic: India’s Maoist Dissident
(Audio interview in english)

Listen to Gaddar’s Revolutionary songs (Telgu )

Related Articles

Sepia Mutiny Article on Gadar by Amardeep Singh