In farm stir that has unified, Udasi songs emerge as anthem
Sangrur Never has a protest movement been as inclusive as the ongoing farmers’ stir in which contrasting beliefs as well as differences of caste and religion were shed to unite in the struggle against the new agricultural laws. Singing and raising slogans they have moved on, and the most sung poet of this resistance is the dalit-revolutionary poet Sant Ram Udasi (1939-1986).
Even as many young singers and activists compose songs glorifying Punjab’s history and the unity of its peasantry, Udasi, a school teacher, who emerged as the people’s poet from Malwa village of Raisar, is the most popular with protesting farmers. His songs are being sung with zeal at the Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi.
Jasbir Jassi sang this song a decade back and his song is being used in protests by speakers. The song goes as such, Maa dharteye, teri godh nu chann hor bathere Tu magdha rahin ve surja kammian de vehre. (Mother Earth, for your lap, there are million moons; Dear Sun, you should shine on labourers’ abodes.)
Singer Ravinder raised the spirits of protesters by singing Udasi’s songs. The lyrics are, Desh hai pyara sanu zindgi pyari nalon, par desh ton pyare ehde log hania, Asi tod deni lahu peeni jok hania (The nation is dearer than life to me, but more than the nation, its people. We will do away with this blood-sucking leech); Jagjit Nikki said, Dilliey dyala dekh, deg ch ubbalda ni, Aje tera dil na thare. (Delhi. Look at Diyala boiling in the cauldron, yet your heart isn’t placated.)
“The songs of Udasi are relevant even now. Both old and young respond to them,” says Nikki.
Dalit singer Bant Singh, who sang fervent songs of Udasi at the start of farmers’ march at Joga near Mansa, says: “In this movement, there is no Sikh or Hindu, no Jat or Dalit. All Punjabis are in it together and we will fight for our rights.” Commenting on the all-inclusive nature of the protest, Jalandhar-based dalit writer Des Raj Kali adds, “The farmers’ struggle has seen the revolutionary dreams of Udasi’s poetry come alive. It is heartening that all Dalit activist groups from Punjab are a part of it.”
Amolak Singh of Punjab Lok Sabhyacharak Manch (PLS Manch) says, “Udasi’s writings are pro-people and he never glorified communalism.”