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Saturday, February 2, 2008


Safder Hashmi(b. April 12, 1954 - January 2, 1989)

Many youths of our generation do not even know this name.I was also accused of forgetting him in old memories.This name was invoked in me by the movie "Halla bol".The movie left me with little impression but the legacy of "Halla bol" was in my consciousness.I am telling you a story of a martyr.He died not for a noble cause in making world a better place for us.
Today , belonging to a ideology is consider just a time pass. Mostly people are either too liberal or too restricted and highly influenced by dirty politics. Membership of club or resort is more credible than a joining a library .You don’t belong to schools of thought such as liberal communists or liberal capitalist or right of center .I doubt if today’s average college student either knows or bothers about this.It is lack of thinking or more self centered approach in life is responsible for this.
Then why i am speaking on behalf of a dead man?Today development in society is highly selfish.Its all about losing your soul to gain material value.But in end ,you look in your heart and feel sorry for your whole life.

Safdar Hashmi was a Communist playwright, actor, director, lyricist, and theorist, chiefly associated with Street theater in India, and is still considered an important voice in political theater in India.
He graduated from St Stephen's College Delhi in English Literature, and did M.A. English from Delhi University.It was here that he became a associated with the cultural unit of 'Student Federation of India', the youth wing of the CPI-M.
Jana Natya Manch, People's Theater Front or JANAM (Rebirth), as an acronym, in 1973, which grew out of the Indian People's Theater Association (IPTA) and was associated with Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1970 . When Indira Gandhi was blamed with rigging the elections , he produced a street play, 'Kursi, Kursi, Kursi' (Chair, Chair, Chair)[, wherein, when a king tries to leave his throne for an elected public representative, the throne lifts along with him. This play proved to be a turning point for the group .Till 1975, Janam performed open-air proscenium and street plays for mass audiences, then during the Emergency years (1975-77), he worked as a lecturer in English literature in universities in Garhwal, Kashmir and Delhi.

Post Emergency he returned to political activism, and in 1978 Janam took to street theater in a big way, with Machine which was performed for a trade union meeting of over 200,000 workers on 20 November 1978 . This was followed by plays on the distress of small peasants (Gaon Se Shahar Tak), on clerical fascism (Hatyare & Apharan Bhaichare Ke), on unemployment (Teen Crore), on violence against women (Aurat) and on inflation (DTC ki Dhandhli). He also produced several documentaries and a TV serial for Doordarshan “Khilti Kaliyan” (Flowers in Bloom) on rural empowerment. He also wrote books for children and criticism of the Indian stage.
He was the de-facto director of Janam, and till his death, 'Janam' gave about 4,000 performances of 24 street plays, performed mostly working-class neighborhoods, factories and workshops.
The death of Safder hashmi was a brutual murder of free voice in this democratic country.
On January 1, 1989, Safdar and his associates set out to perform a play called “Halla Bol” at Jhandapur village in Sahibabad, on the outskirts of Delhi. The play was a part of their campaign for Ramanand Jha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)-supported candidate in the Ghaziabad municipal elections. Mukesh Sharma, the Congress(I)-backed “independent” candidate, apparently unnerved by the impact the play was making on the workers of the area, went with a horde of armed goons and attacked Safdar’s group. Safdar suffered multiple fractures in the skull and there was brain haemorrhage. He succumbed to his injuries the next day. Even while facing the goons, he made sure that the women folk with the team safely escaped as he fought with the goons.

Fifteen thousand marched at his funeral on January 3, the largest funeral ever for a theatre artist in Delhi. Protest demonstrations swept the country, and several hundred thousand marched in dozens of cities and towns. Thousand voices screamed in unison - “Hamare Safdar Ko Lal salam”as they paid homage to their real life hero

The death of Safdar Hashmi has been covered briefly but effectively by many journalists in the media, after the conviction of nine men by the Delhi High Court recently, including Mukul Sharma, the primary accused, 14 years after his death. This in itself is one of the few cases, where justice has actually been dispensed with, though the delay in itself is a punishment of another kind for the victims – the martyr and those whom he left behind.
The judgment brought some pale consolation to those of us who had followed his career, his work or watched his highly effective tool to create public awareness and opinion.

Hashmi had been enacting street plays regularly to raise public consciousness regarding the misrule by the ruling party, to a fairly appreciative and growing applause. The street theatre format had been adopted and used very efficiently by him to raise public awareness to the issues raised by him, so creatively and in an interactive format Given his socialist leanings, naturally, politics was a significant part of his death as in his life.
And,indeed who remembers him now??Its question for us to look inside our soul.

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