National Book Trust re-launches “Rebellion 1857”
As part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence, the National Book Trust has re-launched “Rebellion 1857”, a symposium edited and in large part written by the late Communist leader P. C. Joshi published in 1957.

National Book Trust re-launches “Rebellion 1857”
As part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence, the National Book Trust has re-launched “Rebellion 1857”, a symposium edited and in large part written by the late Communist leader P. C. Joshi published in 1957.

Speaking after releasing the new edition at India International Centre in New Delhi, in April, eminent historian Irfan Habib said the book’s importance lay in the fact that for the first time it took a view of the events of 1857 that was completely different from those existing then.

“Mr. Joshi relied on Indian resources and took into account most of the elements which were earlier not focused upon,” said Prof. Habib.

Shah Waliullah Institute to hold seminar on 1857

Shah Waliullah Institute organised a seminar in Delhi on April 9 and 10 to mark the completion of 150 years of the First War of Independence of 1857.

The theme of the two-day event was “First War of Independence-1857 in Delhi and its adjoining areas in the light of Urdu Newspapers”.

Chairman of the Institute Maulana Ataur Rahman Qasmi said a number of renowned Ulema and scholars presented research papers on the Ulema and Muslim freedom fighters who sacrificed their all as well as the role of Urdu newspapers in the First War of Independence.

Safdar Hashmi’s film on 1857 screened: Lucknow: April15, 2007

Express Features service
Safdar and Manjunath laid down their lives fighting against corruption in Uttar Pradesh. On the occasion of Safdar’s birth anniversary on April 12, Qalam Naatya Manch and Gyan Vigyan Samiti (GVS) organised a film show of two films produced by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT).

A large number of people associated with different organisations and other intellectuals were present at the screening of Safdar’s films. The two films shown on the occasion were ‘Jung-e-Azadi 1857’ and ‘Safdar’. The film ‘Safdar’ intricately captured scenes from the theatrist’s life and also, from his death.

The second film, ‘Jung-e-Azadi 1857’, is based on the ‘First War of Independence’ of 1857. The film holds a lot of relevance as the revolt of 1857 completes 150 years. It actually showed how Hashmi must have felt about the incidents that occurred in 1857

Jalandhar Meeting in Desh Bhagat Yaadgaar Hall, April 13, 2007
On April 13, 2007, the Desh Bhagat Yaadgaar Committee marked the foundation day of the Hindustani Ghadar Party in a memorable way in the Desh Bhagat Yaadgaar Memorial Center. An important Seminar was organized by the Committee on the significance of the Great Ghadar of 1857.
The function began with the hoisting of the flag of the Ghadar Party by Comrade Karnail Singh Philaur. In his address the comrade pointed out that April 13 was a memorable occasion for more reasons than one. It was also marking the 150th anniversary of the great ghadar, the revolt that shook British rule, after which the Ghadar Party was named.

Comrade Gandharva Sen inaugurated the Seminar. He pointed out that it was important to draw lessons from the Ghadar of 1857 to serve the cause of emancipation of workers and peasants today.
Dr Prem Singh, presented the main paper on the 1857 Ghadar. In this paper, he defended the thesis that the 1857 Ghadar was a movement for national independence against colonial rule. Dr Prem Singh rejected the arguments of people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, EMS Namboodiripad and others on this score. Dr Prem Singh quoted from the contemporary writings of Karl Marx to confirm his views on the national historic significance of the Ghadar. Dr Prem Singh pointed out from the historical material that Punjabis and Sikhs had participated in the1857 Ghadar and laid down their lives just like people from other nationalities and religions. There were definite reasons why some of the maharajas had sided with the British in suppressing the 1857 uprising.

Comrade Prakash Rao, Spokesperson of the Communist Ghadar Party of India made an important intervention in the Seminar. He began his intervention pointing out that it is a matter that is historically settled that the revolution of 1857 failed. This was not the point of debate. The point of concern to communists and to the workers and peasants of India is why, 150 years after the 1857 Ghadar, Indian revolution continues to mark time, and India’s workers and peasants remain exploited and oppressed, deprived of political power.

Film Festival dedicated to the revolutionary memory of 1857

The Gorakhpur Film Festival, second year running, was organized in the Gorakphur University Campus between March 30 and April 2, 2007. Films and documentaries made by many well known documentary filmmakers from various regions were screened.  The festival’s special focus was on cinema of Iran, with Behman Ghobadi’s "Turtles Can Fly" and the screening trilogy of "Majid Majidi". Apart from films, a film seminar, theatre seminar, poetry recitation session, book exhibition, theatrical and song performances  and an exhibition on revolutionary history of 1857, was organized. The Jan Sanskriti Manch has decided to develop this as a central film festival and then make it a traveling festival for the rest of the year.

Youth in Ulhas Nagar organize for Ghadar of 1857
One of the first activities of the people remembering the Ghadar of 1857, was an exciting and memorable event organized by the youth members of the Lok Raj Sangathan in Ulhas Nagar, Mumbai.  Between September-October 2006 cycle rallies, mass meetings, poster exhibitions and cultural programs involving tens of thousands of people was organised.

Seminar in Lucknow
The Mazdoor Parishad took the initiative to organize an interesting seminar along with the Communist Ghadar Party of India, the Uttar Pradesh Krantikari Parishad, the Lok Raj Sangathan, Bangladesh-India-Pakistan Peoples Forum, Yuva Bharat, New Proletarian Path, Kapada Mill Mazdoor Union, Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, and the Kanpur Workers Council in organising an important seminar under the theme 1857 ki Ghadar jari hai… in Lucknow in December 2006.

At the end of this meeting, a committee was elected to chalk out the country wide campaign on Ghadar Jari Hai. Comrade O.P. Sinha from the Mazdoor Parishad dwelt on the content of the work done for the Lucknow seminar. He pointed out that the papers presented at the seminar were the result of research done, on the following subjects: the “rule of law” that was established by British Colonialism to serve the plunder of India, the education system that was established to make Indians slaves of the colonialists in thought, the historic role of the peasantry in the Ghadar of 1857 and in all the revolutionary struggles of the Indian people, and the fact that the Ghadar of 1857 was a peoples’ uprising. There was vigorous discussion on these and other themes.

Summing up the lessons of the Great Ghadar of 1857
On February 3-4, 2007, several organizations and individuals got together in Delhi to sum up the lessons from the Great Ghadar of 1857 and its aftermath and to chart a clear course for our campaign to celebrate its historic 150th year. Among those who participated in the February 3-4 meeting were representatives from the Communist Ghadar Party of India, Lok Raj Sangathan, Mazdoor Parishad, Peoples Front, Yuva Bharat, and the Teesra Swadhinta Sangharsh Abhiyan. There were also several prominent academics, historians, and journalists who participated in this meeting.

Chairing the meeting, Prakash Rao, spokesperson of the Communist Ghadar Party of India gave a brief background on how:

  • The Ghadar of 1857 was a revolt of our people against the foreign invader and the oppressive social order that prevented the people of India, the productive classes, from becoming the masters of India.
  • It was crushed with savagery by the British.
  • Every tree from Peshawar to Kolkotta witnessed at least one patriot hanged and that the legendary Buda Bargad in Kanpur’s central Park witnessed hundreds of patriots hanged on a single day.
  • The Ghadar of 1857 was a continuation of the centuries’ old struggle of our people against Brahmanism and the foreign invader.
  • It was a continuation of the Bhakti and Sufi movement of several centuries, encompassing all of India.
  • It reflected what the Indian people had learnt till that time in their struggle for progress.
    The speaker emphasized that the Ghadar of 1857 was aimed at the establishment of the rule of the people of India . “Hum hai iske maalik, Hindustan hamara” was the call of the patriots and that it was absolutely necessary to take forth the lessons of the Ghadar of 1857 to the workers and peasants, women and youth of our country, in order to assist the Indian people in the struggle they are waging today to overthrow capitalism and the colonial legacy and become masters of their own destiny and this is what we mean when we say “Ghadar jaari hai…”.

The meeting discussed the different approaches to the Ghadar of 1857 in the world. There was discussion on the approach of the government and the official forces to the Ghadar. A historian pointed out that the ruling circles have always ignored anything to do with 1857 in terms of monuments, museums, research publications, etc. They feared that it would kindle mass anti-imperialist sentiments and the spirit of rebellion amongst Indian people and even the armed forces who continue to be used against our own people in various parts of India, just as the East India Company did.

The discussions brought out clearly that there were and are two diametrically opposite approaches to the Ghadar of 1857 amongst Indians.

The first has been, and remains still, that the Ghadar of 1857 reflected not merely a revolt of feudals for their lost privileges, but the revolt of the Indian people against foreign domination and for charting a new course where people were in power. The leaders of the Ghadar of 1857 openly declared that “the people of India will decide their future”. They were inspired by the Bhakti and Sufi movement which was a movement against the oppressive Brahmanical order and the foreign invaders.

The second view is of the capitalists and others who benefited from capitalism and the colonial legacy. They portray the Ghadar of 1857 as a revolt of the feudals. This trend representing capitalists is proud that India is marching on the road of becoming an imperialist superpower, by crushing underfoot the aspirations of the vast majority of the workers and peasants, the nations, nationalities and peoples of our land.

Several participants spoke about the burden of Euro-centric outlook generated by the education system established by the colonialists, wiping out all traces of Indian creativity which was trying to find solutions to societal, political and technological problems in India before the entry of British colonialism. As a result, the development of Indian theory has got stunted and the dominant outlook among Indian intellectuals became Euro-centric accepting the Westminster style parliamentary system and capitalism as the last word.

It was decided to start a broad inclusive campaign to take the first line forward. It was reaffirmed after discussion to call this campaign “1857— Ghadar jari hai. abhiyan”. Several important decisions were taken regarding the development of a Mission statement, production of a magazine, of producing a short film, of poster exhibitions, essay competitions and presentations to involve and attract the youth.

Some Events on the anvil

Pakistanis to present common man’s view on 1857 war
(Courtesy Ruchika Talwar-Indian Express)
The father of television in Pakistan, Agha Nasir, was in India last week along with Nusrat Javeed, playwright and resident editor of the Islamabad edition of The Post. Javeed, also known as Pakistan’s Samuel Beckett, wrote his first play at 17. The play was produced and broadcast by Nasir.

The two men were in India for a conference but spoke to Newsline about the 1857 War of Independence which is the theme of the latest play on which they have collaborated.

“There have been many depictions of the war from the British Army’s point of view, of which works on Mangal Pandey are an example. There have also been many discourses on from the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar’s angle. But Nusrat and I want to bring in the common man and narrate the saga of 1857 from his point of view. Since it was a people’s movement, we wish to tell the story from their angle which has been overlooked so far,” said Nasir, executive director of leading TV channel, Geo TV, and the founder of Pakistan Television (PTV).
Nasir and Javeed went around Old Delhi, combing through the lanes and bylanes in search of little known facts. Over there, they met a person whose family had occupied a part of the palace of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s last wife – Zeenat Mahal. This man told them that Zeenat, 52 years younger to Zafar, lived in a building across the Red Fort. And then flowed a tale of how her elders got there and the problems they faced while adjusting to this building which had a tunnel leading into the Red Fort. “This is how the royal couple met while the world thought they stayed separately,” Javeed chuckled.

At the Jama Masjid, they found some people who became their inspiration for the five characters in the play. Nasir says: “One of our characters is a barber with the British Army. He narrates whatever he sees and hears… The other is a mashki who offers water to people outside Jama Masjid… Whatever people talk while drinking water… becomes his narration.”

Nasir and Javeed also learned how the breakfast delicacy, nihari, came about because of Emperor Shah Jahan’s insistence that construction of the Jama Masjid be done without any break.
Javeed added that they will also include Ghalib’s letters on the mutiny written to his disciple, Tafta, with Nasir informing: “The play… will be staged in India.”

30,000 youth to march from Meerut to Delhi to symbolise 1857 
As many as 30,000 youth drawn from all districts of the country would undertake a historic march from Meerut to Delhi on May 7 to commemorate the 150th year of the First War of Independence in 1857.

Christened national youth rally, the ‘Padayatra’ is being organised to symbolise the march of Sepoys who revolted against the British in May 1857, said Shakeel Ahmed Khan, Director General of the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), organiser of the rally.

The rally is scheduled to start from Kranti Park in Meerut on May 7 and culminate at the Red Fort here on May 11 covering a distance of 80 kilometres.

Khan said another 20,000 youths will join the march at the Red Fort.

Various programmes will be organised at several places along the route, including at Modi Nagar, Muradnagar and Ghaziabad, with special functions being planned at Meerut and Red Fort, Khan said.
A national youth action plan for the commemoration of 1857 was prepared at a national workshop held on May 8-9 last year and the NYKS was assigned the responsibility to carry out various programmes under the plan, Khan added. 

Compiled by
Santosh Kumar

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