Bant Singh Jhabbar is no more the leftist voice of the Dalit rebellion, as he joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) here on Sunday.
Giving an ideological jolt to not only the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation, but also to various organisations of landless peasantry of deep-red ideology, Bant accepted the scarf carrying AAP’s broom symbol from party’s Punjab in-charge Sanjay Singh.
“I will sing at Kejriwal's rally in Kolianwali (scheduled on December 28),” Bant told Hindustan Times. He shared how he had "mentally fallen apart" from his own party, CPI (ML)-Liberation, in August this year.
“I have lost all hope in the party leadership... It has landed into the hands of big farmers, and I am the same poor landless for them,” said Bant, 50, who has been singing heroic ballads of class struggle for nearly 40 years.
- In January 2006, Bant Singh lost both his arms and a leg in a murderous assault by landlords in his native village Jhabbar. The incident elevated him to the status of a hero of Dalit class struggle against feudal landlords.
- The assault was said to have been a punishment for Bant’s fight for justice for his minor daughter who had been gangraped.
- In what could be considered an irony, Bant’s attackers, including Navdeep Singh, alias Appi, and his aide, also joined the AAP at the party’s Sunday event. Both had been behind the bars in the assault case and are presently out on bail.
- “This is a positive development in interest of harmony in villages. Both sides agreed to join the AAP at a single event. This is a good signal,” said Nazar Singh Mansahia, party candidate from Mansa.
Bant said his differences with the party leadership had cropped up when they did not stand by his side during a demolition drive, in which a part of his house was pulled down under the supervision of the village panchayat. This, he said, became an immediate provocation for him to accept the AAP's strong inviting signals.
Will he be singing the same lyrics of Naxal-leaning poet Sant Ram Udasi at the AAP rallies? Bant, who will be performing at the upcoming Dalit film festival in Kerala on January 8, drew a blank, before saying: “Let the right time come, I will see to it then.”
In an interview to author Nirupama Dutt, who wrote his biography “The Ballad of Bant Singh”, Bant had said: “The red salute links me to every worker in the country. In this greeting, red is for the blood that flows through the veins of a labourer… and the same red of the communist flag means the same." Bant has been performing at various literary fests, including those at Jaipur, Mumbai, Kasauli and Saharanpur.
For CPI (ML)-Liberation's Mazdoor Mukti Morcha chief Bhagwant Samaon, Bant’s falling apart came as a big shock. “I knew he had some differences, but didn’t know this would lead such a big decision (on Bant’s part). It is a big loss," Samaon, who is the party candidate from Budhlada, told HT.