Women’s shrieks and slogans of the left-wing ideology from the stage broke the midnight silence and stunned the audience of several hundred people at the annual ‘Mela Ghadri Babian Da’ (the fair of the revolutionaries) at the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall here on Saturday night.
This year’s event was dedicated to the centenary of the ‘Kamaghatamaru’ episode where several revolutionary party comrades were killed on Canadian shores.
After a stimulating discussion on the current socio-economic and political scenario, it was the turn of Punjabi theatre to sensitise the crowds.
The fate of women during the 1947 partition, an adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother’ and the controversial discovery of soldiers’ skeletons from the 1857 revolt, in a well near Ajnala were some of the themes opted by the playwrights.
Kewal Dhaliwal was in his element with his production ‘Kalh Wali Raat’ where a Sikh man forcibly marries a Muslim girl after she is left behind on this side of the Indo-Pak border during the bloodshed.
If the 1947 bloodshed altered her to become a Sikh woman, she loses her son in 1984, a period of terrorism in Punjab.
As the character goes mad seeing the AK-47 rifle in her son’s hands, she screams—“Pher 47, Pher 47!” (Again 47, again 47!)
The message was clear— if the women victims on both sides lost their parents and religion, many of them also lost their sons during the turmoil in Punjab four decades later, both at the hands of the police and the terrorists.
“Mera kehra mulk hai? Mera kehra mulk? Aih mulk kee cheez hai, is dee kee jaat hai? Aih mulk kee cheez hai?” (Which is my country? What is this stuff- country, and what is its class?”) shrieks the character in madness, while the chorus “Beej nafrat de beeje…” (Here we sow the seeds of hatred) captivated the audience.
Dhaliwal later said the play written by Swaraj Beer last year, was based on a true story of a village in Gurdaspur district where a woman turned mad after losing her son in 1984.
Dhaliwal, however, said it was difficult to bring out the correlation between the 1947 communal bloodshed and the Punjab turmoil of 1980s on stage.
The Punjabi adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s novel ‘Mother’ by Sangeeta Gupta of the Chandigarh-based Theatre Art Group was also exemplary. She also played the lead role.
The message was clear to the older generation— hold hands of the young generation, who are experiencing unemployment, inequality and police repression, for a revolution today.
‘Shaheed Khun Di Awaaz’ (The Voice from the Well of Blood), written by Amolak of the Marxist ideology, was based on the recent discovery of skeletons from the 1857 revolt period.
The controversy on whether or not to acknowledge these skeletons as ‘martyrs’ which reverberated among the Sikh clergy and the political lobbies was a new theme which could not be ignored.
‘Aa Galwakri Paa Sajna’ (Let Us Hug Each Other) engrossed the audience with a message for all to hold the hands of the young generation in their struggle for a revolution against the “rotten system giving no space to democracy”.