SAHMAT Lecture by Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Sat. 24 Sep. 2016, 7pm, at Gulmohur Hall, Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Centenary Year of the October Revolution
To commemorate the Centenary Year of the October Revolution, the first of a series of four lectures by Professor Prabhat Patnaik will be held on Saturday, 24 September 2016 at Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road at 7.00 pm. The topic is “Marxist Theory and the October Revolution”
Subsequent lectures will be held in Casuarina hall, Indian Habitat Centre as follows:

Saturday, 08.10.2016 , 
"The Leninist Conjuncture"
Saturday, 22.10.2016 , 
"The Spontaneity of Capitalism"
Saturday ,05.11.2016, 
"Marxism, Liberalism and the Contemporary World"

Article 14: Ladai Barabari Ki, 15 Sep.2016

The Constitution of India under Article 14 guarantees each and every individual irrespective of any caste, class or gender differentiation the Right to Equality. Unfortunately, under the aegis of the current ruling dispensation there have been repeated attempts to curtail this fundamental right in case of certain groups including Dalits and other marginalized sections of the society. To bring to light the everyday violation of this right as perceived by the Dalits an evening of protest songs and music was held on 15th September 2016 at Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi. The event was organized by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT).
The programme, it may be mentioned, was a part of the massive protest march to parliament by the Left parties including CPI(M), CPI and very many Dalit organisations including Prakash Ambedkar— grandson of B.R. Ambedkar. The march to highlight the nationwide atrocities on Dalits under the current regime was to take place the very next day ‘ Dalit Swabhiman Rally’
The Mavalankar Hall was packed to its capacity by people from various walks of life including senior party leaders like Sitaram Yechury, Nilotopal Basu and Prakash Ambedkar. The audience of the evening was witness to some scintillating protest folk songs and music by various popular Dalit bands and artistes.
The proceedings of the evening began with a short but moving poem which brought out the pains felt by the Dalits at each and every juncture of their everyday lives. The poem which was in Hindi was beautifully read by M.K. Raina who was also the conductor for the evening’s programme. The poem had beautifully set the rhythm for the evening and acted as a nice precursor to the lavish musical treat that those present were to enjoy as the evening proceeded.
The first performer of the evening was Ginni Mahi an 18 year old singer from Jalandhar (Punjab). The rising young talent along with her band left the audience mesmerised and spell-bound with an array of protest songs which focused primarily on the teachings of B.R. Ambedkar, Ravidas and Kabir. It was interesting to notice the way she sought blessings from the various musical instruments on her entrance on the stage and the manner in which she raised the now popular slogan of ‘Jai Bheem Jai Bharat’ after every song. Though she sang mostly in chaste Punjabi it hardly took the joy away from the performance.
Ginni Mahi’s performance was followed by that of Sanjay Rajoura, a stand-up comedian who achieved fame through much acclaimed Aisi Taisi Democracy act. Known for his witty and sharp satirical acts on the current political scenario Rajoura had plenty of clever and hilarious jokes and satires to offer to his audience of the evening. His act was followed by Shital Sathe’s performance. In her turn she read some moving poetry of the popular Dalit poet and activist Sambhaji Bhagat. Her rendition of the poems was extremely powerful and engaging.

At the beginning of the programme read out Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and connected to the present day conditions of the Dalits and how this Right is being violated repeatedly in the present scenario. He argued that the current conditions have made it almost impossible for the Dalits to live and survive peacefully without any fear and discrimination.

Statement on Bipan Chandra’s Book, 07/09/2016

Statement on Bipan Chandra’s Book

Professor Bipan Chandra was not only one of India’s foremost historians, but also one of the most uncompromising defenders of the secular and democratic cause in this country. As Chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT), he breathed a new life into it.
          We have been shocked to learn that the very National Book Trust over which he had presided, has revoked the reprint order for the Hindi version of his book, Communalism - a Primer; and it is reported that the English and Urdu versions of the book are also being withdrawn.
          Such action on part of the NBT is a gross violation of freedom of views, and amounts in effect to the assumption that communalism is now the official doctrine of the country and no criticism of it or its practitioners can be permitted.
          As academics and citizens we fear that such actions as that of the NBT in respect of Bipan Chandra’s book portend the imposition of an authoritarian regime. We, therefore, demand that the NBT remove its ban on Communalism-a Primer and continue to reprint and publish it.   


Irfan Habib, AMU, Aligarh
Romila Thapar, JNU, New Delhi
D.N. Jha, Delhi University (DU)
Prabhat Patnaik, JNU
K.N. Panikkar, JNU
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, JNU
J.V.Naik, Bombay University
Ravi Ahuja, Gottingen, Germany
Shireen Moosvi, AMU
Jane Ohlmeyer, Trinity College, Dublin
Rajan Gurukkal, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam
Kesavan Veluthat, DU
Sukhmani Bal Riar, Punjab University, Chandigarh
Ajay Patnaik, JNU
Shantha Sinha, HCU
Erhan Dogan, Turkey
Arjun Dev, NCERT
V Krishna Ananth, Sikkim Central University
Mridula Mukherjee, JNU
Salil Misra, Ambedkar University, AU
Vivan Sundaram
C.P.Chandrasekhar, JNU
Harsh Mander, Centre for Equity Studies
Sajal Nag, Assam University, Silchar
Aditya Mukherjee JNU
K.L. Tuteja (IIAS, Shimla)
Bhupendra Yadav, Azim Premji University, APU
Sarvani Gooptu, Netaji Institue for Asian Studies
Gopinath Ravindran, Jamia Millia Islamia
Sebastian Joseph, UCC, Kerala
Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad
Peter Pozefsky, Wooster College, USA
Thierry Costanzo, Strasbourg University, France
Geeta Kapur
Sohail Hashmi
Indu Chandrashekhar, Tulika Press
Abhijit Sarkar, Oxford
Alex Tickell, Open University, Walton Hall, UK
Ania Loomba, Univ of Pennsylvania, USA
Iqtidar Alam Khan, AMU
Ishrat Alam, AMU
Ramesh Rawat, AMU
Nadeem Rezavi, AMU
Pradeep K. Saxena, AMU
Jawed Akhtar, AMU
T. N. Satheesan, AMU
Kranti Pal, AMU
Shamim Akhtar, AMU
Vijay Bisaria, AMU
Ved Prakash, AMU
Indira Arjun Dev, NCERT
Himanshu, JNU
Udaya Kumar, JNU
Saradindu Bhaduri, JNU
Mohan Rao, JNU
Jayati Ghosh, JNU
Ayesha Kidwai, JNU
Rajat Datta, JNU
Surajit Das, JNU
P. Billimale, JNU
Neeladri Bhattacharya, JNU
KJ Mukherjee, JNU
Kunal Chakrabarti, JNU
Rakesh Batabyal, JNU
Dhruv Rainz, JNU
Hemant Adlakha, JNU
Sucheta Mahajan, JNU
Bhagwan Josh, JNU
Jyoti Atwal, JNU
Urmimala Sarkar, JNU
Supriya Varma, JNU
Rajan Kumar, JNU
Ira Bhaskar, JNU
R Mahalakshmi, JNU
Deepak Kumar, JNU
V V Krishna, JNU
Surajit Mazumdar, JNU
Ranjani Mazumdar, JNU
Brahma Prakash, JNU
Sangeeta Dasgupta, JNU
Biswajit Dhar, JNU
Nivedita Menon, JNU
Shukla Sawant, JNU
Susan Vishwanathan, JNU
Burton Cleetus, JNU
Najaf Haider, JNU
Anvinash, JNU
Rohit, JNU
K.M. Shrimali, DU
Amar Farooqui, DU
B.P. Sahu, DU
Biswamoy Pati, DU
Prabhu Mohapatra, DU
Yasser Arafat, DU
Shamsul Islam, DU
Shubhra Chakrabarti, DU
Shobhana Warrier, DU
Maya John, DU
Christhu Doss
, DU
Richa Raj
, DU
Saurabh Bajpai
, DU
Amita Paliwal
, DU
Amit k Suman , DU
Ranjana Das
, DU
Gulzar Hussain
, DU
 Rajesh, DU
, DU
Mukul Chaturvedi, DU
Vibha Iyer, DU
Sangeeta Kumari, DU
Tanu Parashar
, DU
Shams Tabrez, DU
Gagan Preet Singh, DU
Alok Bajpai, JNU
Shashi Bhushan Deo,JNU
Akanksha Kumar, JNU
Sukanya Kanarally, JNU
Kashmir Dhankar, JNU
Shubhneet Kaushik, JNU
Sudha Tiwari, JNU
Sayandeb Chowdhury, AU
Bodh Prakash, AU
Rukmini Sen, AU
Virendra Yadav
R.P.Bahuguna ,Jamia Millia
Amman Madan, APU
Manu Mathai, APU
Suraj Jacob, APU
Gayatri Menon, APU
Jyotirmaya Sharma ,HCU
Atlury Murali, HCU
David Thomas
Chandana Dey, Editor, Social Science Press
Jaques Pouchepadass, Pondicherry
Anna Bryson, Queens University, Belfast
Felix Padel, JNIAS
Ahona Panda, Chicago University
Dr Vinita Damodaran, Sussex University
Chandi Prasad Nanda, Ravenshaw College University, Cuttack
Ramakant Agnihotri, DU​

Raising the banner of liberty, The Hindu, New Delhi, May 13, 2016

Protest rallies and pride parades are clouds of characteristic din — voices turning hoarse while trying to drive home a point. But often in the middle of all the hullaballoo, a well-made placard or banner drives home the point and leaves an indelible impression.
These posters, which are often discarded after a rally, are actually works of protest-art that capture the angst of a section of society at that given time.
In 2015, artists, curators, critics, art teachers and members of the creative community were invited by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) during the height of the “intolerance debate” to create small banner works to show to the public their creative response to increasing imposition of a narrow and singular agenda by the government.
The works were thought-provoking and creative, with the artists not holding themselves back. A selection of these banners are now on display at an exhibition titled “Avaaz Do!”.
Ram Rahman, one of the founding members of Sahmat and curator of the exhibition, said the banners were created at a time when 400 members of the creative community had issued a statement in October 2015 in support of writers who had relinquished their awards and spoken up against the alarming rise of intolerance in the country.
Most of the works are a reaction to the situation in the country around the time that saw the beef ban, Dadri incident and protests at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune.
Some posters are abstract and a comment on society at large, while others are more specific. One poster by artist Tushar Joag deals with the death of rationality, secularism, tolerance, freedom of expression and right to choice of food. Another by Madhu D., which sums up the mood perfectly, reads “Political Advisory Erases Culture”. A banner by Yogesh Barve is more satirical and reads “Hahaha...The Feat Of Being Murdered Or Going To Jail, Made Me Do This Work Like This! Such A Country I’m Living In?”.
A human body with the head of a cow in another banner by Veer Munshi is seen holding up a sheet of paper that reads “never so misused abused used”.
Also on display are freshly re-printed “Postcards for Gandhi” — Sahmat’s landmark project celebrating Mahatma Gandhi from 1994. Postcards by 100 artists celebrating the Mahatma are on display. The project was based on Mahatma Gandhi’s famous practice of using inexpensive postcards to communicate with a vast number of people.

The exhibition is on till May 15 at the Art Gallery, IIC Annexe, Lodi Estate.

May Day, 30 May, 2016

On the occasion of the International Worker’s Day, or May Day, Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), All India Lawyers Union, Jan Sanskriti, Janwaadi Lekhak Sangh and Jan Natya Manch organized an evening, “Mahnat Kasho ki Himayat Mein”. May Day historically has been a day of the working class women and men; a day to remember fallen comrades, achievements from the past, struggles of the future and to make a strong resolve to fight the forces of oppression and division that plague our lives. However, it is also an important date to remind ourselves that the prerogative of working class struggles does not fall solely on those whose name the struggle is being led. It is a struggle for an entire society to wage, students, artistes and professionals included.
In that spirit of solidarity , the event was organized on the lawns of 29 Ferozeshah Road on the eve of May Day. The organizers took the opportunity to remind those in attendance that the idea of such events was to spread the word of the ongoing struggles of the toiling people and to enthuse most to participate in the Trade Union Rally, that is organized every year to mark this day. Such events help to reach out to a broader audience, many of whom are often misunderstood as ‘apoltical’ or divorced from the quotidian experiences of the precarious classes. The event was set off in motion by Suriner Singh Negi, with his song “Moji Chacha” which is Negi’s cover of an old, popular Bollywood song to highlight the hypocrisy and failings of the present government. Singer Kajal Ghosh and Munesh Tyagi also used the medium of songs over the evening to spread the message of hope for a better tomorrow. Many in the audience, who have long associated themselves with the Left parties in India or familiar to rich legacy of Indian People’s Theatre Association’s  (IPTA) revolutionary songs were seen singing along while Ghosh was performing on stage.
Surajit Mazumdar, Professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP), Jawaharlal Nehru University spoke about the historical struggle of working class and its role in the present environment of un-freedom and growing state apathy towards them.  Mazumdar’s time on stage was that rare moment (of this evening) when ideas were not being relayed in verse – though one records that as an observation, not in least as a complaint!

In due course of the evening, people heard the veritable ‘all-things-Delhi’, Sohail Hashmi as well as a spirited folk performance from Purushottam. Jan Natya Manch’s “The Last Letter” – an adaptation of Rohith Vemula’s suicide letter punctuated by verses from Dalit poetry – was a poignant performance as well as an important reminder of the multiple axis of hierarchies and exclusions that working class movements need to confront in order to be truly revolutionary in spirit. After all, Vemula’s death is not a travesty for India’s educational system but indeed a brutal reiteration of how the task of political action needs to suture wounds, repeated and naturalized by history.
The curtains came down on the evening by an energetic and rousing performance from young comrades belonging to Jan Sanskriti (some members too, of Student’s Federation of India). They chose from a wide array of folk and popular songs, including a rendition of “Tu Zinda Hai” – a song, so dear to many in the left, progressive circles in India. They danced and sang, asking the audience to join the rhythmic beats of their percussions and ended the evening on a high note of hope and vigor.

Hanan Mollah, Member, Politburo of the CPI (M) addressed the meeting as well. 

SAHMAT Statement Against the Attack on Bipan Chandra's Book, 30-04-2016

In recent days it seems to have become a habit of some latter-day “nationalists” to raise divisive or non-substantial issues to parade their patriotism. The most recent example of this is the attack on a major history of our National Movement authored by the distinguished historian Professor Bipan Chandra and his colleagues, titled India’s Struggle for Independence, published 28 years ago in 1988. The objection is that Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades have been described there as “revolutionary terrorists”. The critics, however, forget that this was really a term the martyrs had practically used for themselves. The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, to which Bhagat Singh and his colleagues belonged, said in its Manifesto (1929): “We have been taken to task for our terrorist policy. No doubt, the revolutionaries think and rightly that it is only by resorting to terrorism that they can find a most effective means of retaliation… Terrorism has its international aspect also. England’s enemies, which are many, are drawn towards us by effective demonstration of our strength. That in itself is a great advantage”. To Gandhiji’s critical article ‘Cult of the Bomb’, the Association answered through a statement titled “Philosophy of the Bomb”. Here it was asserted that it was owing to British repression that “terrorism [has] been born in this country. It is a phase, a necessary and inevitable phase of the revolution. Terrorism is not the complete revolution, and the revolution is not complete without terrorism”.

It is true that in his later phase Bhagat Singh stated: “Apparently, I have acted like a terrorist; But I am not a terrorist”. Clearly, two definitions of the word ‘terror’ were already at work, and Bhagat Singh was being influenced by his reading of Lenin’s teachings against individual terror. But the main point is that the entire movement to which Shaheed Bhagat Singh belonged, terror had till then seemed a revolutionary path that they were wholly committed to.

Their conception of “terror” as a method of revolutionary action actually derived from a tradition that went back to the Russian revolutionaries’ struggle against Czarist tyranny. Now, however, in the last two or three decades, terror has come to mean almost all over the world the killing of innocent men, women and children. And it has thus assumed a heavily pejorative sense, not necessarily borne by it in the 1920s and 1930s.

Clearly, today many of us would not like to call our national heroes Bhagat Singh or Surya Sen or Chandrasekhar Azad, “terrorists”. But if we claim to be nationalists we should at least know more about our National Movement and not forget that there was a time when this tag was borne with pride by people who actually died for the cause of this country. And so let us not go about demanding changes in books, or banning them altogether and so display our own ignorance to the world. The withdrawal of the translation of the book by the Delhi University and the hounding of the authors on TV shows and at law courts that has now begun is particularly odious and only too characteristic of such campaigns by the RSS and its various fronts.

Irfan Habib
Amar Farooqui
Arjun Dev
Biswamoy Pati
D N Jha
Iqtidar Alam Khan
K M Shrimali
Lata Singh
Prabhat Shukla
R C Thakran
Shireen Moosvi
Suvira Jaiswal
Vishwamohan Jha
Romila Thapar
R P Bahuguna
K L Tuteja
Rajesh Singh
Kesavan Veluthat
A K Sinha
Santosh Rai
Shalin Jain
H C Satyarthi
V Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna Chatterjee
Arun Bandopadhyaya
S Z H Jafri
Vivan Sundaram
Prabhat Patnaik
Mushirul Hasan
Mihir Bhattacharya
Sashi Kumar
Ram Rahman
Sukumar Murlidharan
Anil Bhatti
Anuradha Kapur
Archana Prasad
Badri Raina
C P Chandrasekhar
Geeta Kapur
Dinesh Abrol
Indira Chandrasekhar
Jayati Ghosh
M KRaina
Madangopal Singh
Madhu Prasad
Malini Bhattacharya
Moloyshree Hashmi
N K Sharma
Nilima Sheikh
Nina Rao
Parthiv Shah
Praveen Jha
Rahul Verma
S Kalidas
Saeed MIrza
Saif Mahmood
Shakti Kak
Sohail Hashmi

Ari Sitas
Thierry Costanzo
Veer Munshi
Vikas Rawal
Indira Arjun Dev
S  Irfan Habib
Shireen Gandhy
Rajat Datta
Mukul Kesavan
Zoya Hasan
Tadd Fernee
Shantha Sinha
C P Bhambri                  
Rahul Mukherji
Krishna Ananth
Chandi Prasad Nanda
Shri Krishna
Pritish Acharya
Neerja Singh
Najaf Haidar
Bhupendra Yadav
Richa Malhotra
Richa Raj
Deepa Sinha
Amit Mishra
Rizwan Qaiser
Bodh Prakash
Rakesh Batabyal
Saurabh Bajpai
Ranjana Das
J V Naik
Ajay Patnaik
Subodh Malakar
Girish Mishra
Archana Hande
Neeladri Bhattacharya
Ania Loomba
Rukia Husain
Amiya Kumar Bagchi
Rekha Awasthi
BS Butola
Vikas Bajpai
P. Bilimale
Sujoy Ghosh
Pushpamala N
Nadeem Rezavi
Ishrat Alam
Alok Bajpai
MMP Singh
Sumit Sarkar
Vaishna Narang
Atluri Murli
G. Arunima
Ayesha Kidwai
Susan Visvanathan
Ramesh Rawat
Javed Akhtar
Achin Vinayak
Pamela Philipose
Tanika Sarkar
Jyoti Atwal

12th April 2016, JNU

“Assault on Thought”: Public Symposium

On March 20th, 2016 SAHMAT organized a Public Symposium themed “The Assault on Thought” at the Constitution Club, Vitthalbhai Patel House in New Delhi.The Symposium was organized close on the heels of the systematic attacks on public universities across the country and the brazen acts of intimidation that the government (and its lackeys) is engaged in over the past few months. Specifically, the recent turn of events in Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University provided the backdrop to the conversations that was being organized. Moreover, an attempt was made to move the discussion out of the environs of JNU campus and give it a different location and audience.
And then there was the surprise of meeting and listening to Kanhaiya Kumar in a more intimate and smaller setting than most of us have been used to.  The thing that was perhaps, the most remarkable of all was the canny choice of red and blue drapes that adorned the backdrop and the stage for the event. The unlettered cloth in their immediate juxtaposition served to speak to the audience in the most unambiguous way. On the wall a series of pictures were being projected, on a loop of which the image of two older men sitting on the footpath with a red CITU flag stood out. The two men with their clear identity as trade union activists was an appropriate reminder that the struggles in JNU cannot be seen as “students-centric” or about the autonomy of the university. This movement is a far ranging one and carries implications for the right to struggle and dissent in other spaces, including the factory. The workers in the picture that came up alongside the images of students and professors from Delhi also reminded us of the cross-class and caste nature of this present conjuncture. More on that below.
Ram Rahman, noted photographer started off the proceedings with a brief description of the genesis of SAHMAT and the culture of protest that it holds so close to its identity. He recalled how he was about the same age when SAHMAT was established as the dissenting young voices from HCU and JNU are today. The convention was presided over by Professor Prabhat Patnaik, who gave a brief introductory remark. Patnaik talked about how a metaphysical or an abstract notion of nation is intrinsic to the fascist tendencies gaining ascendency in their particular context. This idea of a nation, he said , received its precise contours not a priori but often on the basis of the strands of opposition that the fascist forces encountered. However, while nationalism was the legitimizing trope for these forces, by curtailing the spaces of thought what these forces ended up doing was perpetuate the role of USA as the global hegemone as more and more thinking people would take flight to the universities there.
The first speaker of the day was Ajay Patnaik, President Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association (JNUTA). JNUTA and Patnaik have earned a lot of admiration for their steadfast support to the JNUSU and the way in which they have been able to sustain the movement against many odds. Patnaik was keen on discussing what he thought was the reason for this attack on JNU. He underscored that “humanism” was at the very core of JNU philosophy and that it manifests itself in its progressive admission policy or the kind of relief work that it undertakes in different parts of the country. Patnaik also went on to list how dramatic the demographic transition has been on the JNU campus due to its “deprivation points” admission policy whereby women scholars constitute the majority while over two-thirds of the students belong to the more backward regions of the country.
Prof Nandita Narain, President Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA) was the next speaker. She began by congratulating the JNUTA for its heroic role in the struggle while at the same time highlighting the challenges that the teachers and students confront at the Delhi University. She was quick to explicate further on the point made by Moderator, Prabhat Patnaik and showed how the struggle against communal-fascism (a formulation that was coined to specifically identify the strand of right wing movements represented by the Hindu RSS) cannot be divorced from the struggle against neo-liberalism. The twin struggle against communal-fascism and neo-liberalism was a recurring theme of the afternoon though the differences in how this idea was being deployed were discernible too. Narain passionately outlined how the lobotomizing of the student, the veritable assault on thought, should not be seen as a preserve of the present government but was put in motion by the neo-liberal policies of the earlier period.
Chander Uday Singh, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court spoke about the redundancy of the Sedition Law and asked the audience to realize that the recent spate of judgment(s) was upending the slew of progressive judgments of the decade beginning towards the end of 1970s that gave far less scope for the abuse of the sedition law. He discussed  Article 19(1) and (2) which outlines the fundamental rights and the reasonable restrictions on it on exceptional grounds. He even noted the irony of denying freedom to young students for over three weeks in each instance in the name of upholding and preserving freedom.
Rohit Azad, Assistant Professor at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU concentrated on the need for the Left to review its own limitations and the theoretical premise with which it approaches people.
The last speaker for the day was Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU President and the man in the eye of the storm. Kumar was astute to note the audience he was addressing was markedly different from the one that he was asked to address on a routine basis and he presented his ideas accordingly. He spent most of the time lamenting the internal frictions and mutual suspicion which the broader Left movements continue to suffer from. He remarked on his own failings as a left activist too saying, that the signs of something sinister was always there for some to see but those on the left failed to unite against the challenge posed by the right wing forces. As is his wont, he presented most of his insights as his personal experiences in his time as a student activist. He said that the new wave of Jai Bhim- Lal Salaam is not a matter of political expediency but rather the political reality in which the democratic, left movement finds itself. Kumar was precise and articulate in his understanding of the larger repercussion of the JNU struggle and did not shy away from complimenting the DUTA for the militant struggle it had been waging in a far more repressive university.
The session concluded with willing members of the audience coming up to the podium to present their thoughts. Ram Rahman thanked everyone who attended the session and hoped that the young take the lead against the new waves of communal onslaughts in the country. 

Shatam Ray


Date: 08-08-2009
The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust held a one day seminar Against the Neo-Liberal Thrust that is being given to the education policy by the UPA government. The seminar focused on the recently passed Right to Education Bill and the hundred days agenda of the new HRD minister Kapil Sibal.

Eminent educationists, teachers from Central Universities , Representatives of School and College Teachers’Associations attended the seminar and highlighted the dangers of the UPAs agenda in school and higher education.

The inagural session of the seminar was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, Prabhat Patnaik ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ), Muchkund Dubey (President, Council for Social Development), Yashpal and Zoya Hasan (National Commission for Minorities). All speakers in this session spoke of the need for having an equitable and publically funded educational system which also met the need of socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Prof Patnaik stated that the university needed to be oriented towards intellectual engangagement which was not subservient to the market. This could not be achieved without fighting the neo-liberal context. Sitaram Yechury hightlighted the need for expanding state responsibility in education and increasing social control over all private educational institutions, both in terms of their fee structures and admission policies. The dangers of privatisation of educational institutions was highlighted by Prof Yashpal, while Prof Zoya Hasan emphasised the need for increasing access of minorities to state funded institutions and reducing their dependence on minority educational institutions.

The second session of the seminar focused on school education and was chaired by Arjun Dev (formerly of NCERT) and addressed by Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Ashok Agarwal (Social Jurist), Ravi Kumar (Jamia Millia Islamia) and Mr Rajendran (School Teachers Federation of India). This session highlighted the problems in the Right to Education Act and the Minister’s proposal to make 10th class examinations optional. Prof Jayati Ghosh highlighted the silences within the Right to Education Act in terms of absence of financial responsibility of the state for providing education, and on the norms for educational institutions. Ashok Agarwal used his vast experience in dealing with private schools for evaluating the ways in which the current Right to Education Bill created and institutionalised a discriminatory system against disadvantaged groups and diluted Article 45 of the Constitution guaranteeing right to education to all children from 0-14 years. This aspect was also taken up by Mr Rajendran who stressed the need to include children from 0-6 years within the ambit of the act and the need to struggle against the current neo-liberal educational agenda through a broad mobilisation of ordinary people. He also demanded a National Commission on Education and a debate on Kapil Sibal’s proposals in the CABE so that the federal structure of education was respected. Ravi Kumar highlighted the basic contradiction between the goal of achieving an equitable educational system and the broader neo-liberal context and said that the Right to Education act needs to be seen in this context.

The third session of the seminar focused on higher education and was chaired by C.P Chandrasekhar ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ). Speakers in this session included Sudhanshu Bhattacharya (NEUPA), Dhruv Raina and Soumen Bhattacharya ( Jawaharlal Nehru University ), Vijender Sharma (Democratic Teachers Forum, Delhi University ), N Raghuram ( Indraprastha University ) and Dinesh Abrol (National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies). The session highlighted the limitations of the National Knowledge Commission and Yashpal Committee with respect to their recommendations for reforming higher education. Sudhanshu Bhattacharya said that the government needed to set up a National Commission on Higher Education to check malpractices and privatisation of education. Vijender Sharma showed how the Yashpal Committee had created space for private education and why there was a need to oppose foreign investment in education. This could only be done by increasing social control over private capital. Dhruv Raina highlighted the need to democratise education and research in institutions of higher learning. Dinesh Abrol argued that technical education needed to be subservient to social goals and control and not to the market. Thus market and not overregulation was the problem. The seminar ended with a resolve to oppose the current neo-liberal agenda and called for a sustained fight to amend the right to education act for achieving equity in educational opportunities.

Press Release condemning ban

Date 3.08.2009
We are shocked to learn from press reports that the BJP government of Chhattisgarh has banned Charandas Chor, a classic of the modern Indian theatre, written and produced by Habib Tanvir. The play was first done in the 1970s, and is originally based on an oral folk tale from Rajasthan. Habib Tanvir worked on this tale, introducing into it elements of the art and beliefs of the Satnami community. Satnami singers and dancers have performed in this play, and it has been seen by members of the community several times. In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, there are several rural troupes who are today performing some version of this play.

The play itself is the story of a thief who, under the influence of a guru, pledges never to tell a lie. He sticks to his pledge, even at the cost of his life. This superb tragic-comedy, in a thoroughly entertaining and artistic manner, brings into focus the moral and ethical degeneration of our society, in which, paradoxically, it is a thief who ends up being more honest than those who supposed to be the custodians of our morality.

Charandas Chor remains Habib Tanvir’s best-known play, and has been performed literally hundreds of times by his world-renowned Naya Theatre troupe all over India and in several countries across the world. It was made into a film by Shyam Benegal, with Smita Patil in the lead, in 1975, and was the first Indian play to win the prestigious Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in 1982. It then did a successful run on the London stage.

We demand that the Chhattisgarh government immediately revoke this absurd ban.

Act One, M.K. Raina, Arvind Gaur, Moloyashree Hashmi, Asmita Theatre Group, N.K. Sharma, Bahroop Art Group, Sahmat, Brijesh, Shahid Anwar, Govind Deshpande, Sudhanva Deshpande, Jana Natya Manch, Vivan Sundaram, Jan Sanskriti, Wamiq Abbasi, Janvadi Lekhak Sangh, Javed Malick, Madangopal Singh

Press Statement Date 29.07.2009

We are deeply disturbed by attempts being made by interested quarters to take over several historically important and protected monuments in different parts of the country, in clear violation of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, on the excuse of offering worship there. Many of the monument are parts of the precious legacy of the country and under the rules framed under the Ancient Monuments Act, there can be no installation of worship wherever it had ceased.

We call upon the PM, who is also in-charge of the ministry of Culture to initiate immediate action to save these monuments from encroachment. We also call upon the Chief Minister of Delhi to rein in all such elements who are aiding and abetting the violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. We also call upon the authorities to initiate immediate steps to evict the encroachers and to take all steps to ensure the protection of all listed monuments. This should set a model for official action against law-breakers irrespective of the religious community or ritual concerned.

Irfan Habib, Ram Rahman, Amar Farooqui, D. N. Jha, Prabhat Shukla, Arjun Dev, Sohail Hashmi, Zahoor Siddiqui, Shireen Moosvi, Suraj Bhan, Suvira Jaiswal, Archana Prasad

Released to the press

To celebrate the life, theatre, politics and creativity of

Habib Tanvir

(1923-2009) join us at the memorial meeting at

6.00 p.m. 10 June 2009 Muktadhara Auditorium Banga Sanskriti Bhavan 18-19 Bhai Veer Singh Marg, near Gol Market

Jana Natya Manch Sahmat Janvadi Lekhak Sangh Directions: This is the road between Gol Market and St. Columba’s School. From south and east, take Ashok Road up to Gol Dak Khana, then Kali Bari Marg, and turn immediately right. From west and north, take Mandir Marg, Gol Market, turn right on Bhai Veer Singh Marg. Most bus routes for Shivaji Stadium take this road and will drop you in front of Muktdhara. From west and south-west, from RML Hospital, take Baba Kharag Singh Marg where there is the construction of the express metro, Gol Dak Khana, then left at Kali Bari Marg, and turn immediately right.
9868301864 (Sudhanva), 9868254822 (Moloyashree), 23711276 and 23351424 (Sahmat),,

Habib Tanvir
, the legend of contemporary Indian theatre, was also a writer, poet, actor, organiser of progressive writers and people’s theatre - passed away on June 8, 2009 at Bhopal. Habib Tanvir, whose plays make him a true citizen of the world will always be remembered for his abiding commitment to the values of secularism and progressive ideas.

For us at SAHMAT, Habib Saheb was an inspiring presence as its founder trustee and its chairman after Bhisham Sahni’s passing away in 2003. His was one of the most militant voices in the spontaneous protest after Safdar Hashmi’s brutal murder in 1989. Habib Tanvir had earlier collaborated with Safdar Hashmi in dramatizing Premchand’s story

Mote Ram Ka Satyagraha”. Habib was an important organizer and participant in SAHMAT’s Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition and the Mukt Naad cultural sit-in in Ayodhya in 1993, after the Babri Masjid demolition.

Habib Tanvir was born on September 1923 at Raipur, Chattisgarh. After initial education at Nagpur, he went to RADA in 1955 and travelled in Europe during 1956-57. He became the organiser, secretary, playwright and actor-director of IPTA during 1948-50.

In 1954 he had directed ‘Agra Bazar’ which he himself described as “the first serious experiment integrating song with drama and rural actors with urban” For the last 55 years Agra Bazar’ has been performed all over the country countless number of times. He founded Naya Theatre in 1958. Habib’s abiding contribution to contemporary culture will be his remarkable incorporation of traditions of folk and tribal theatre, music and language into his modern formal craft. The power of his plays delighted and moved audiences cutting across all class boundaries from the man on the street to the powerful elite.

During the last two decades Habib Tanvir had through his plays invited the ire of the Sangh Parivar and the reactionary forces for firmly standing against fundamentalism and obscurantism through plays like “Ponga Pandit”, “ Zamadarin”.

Habib Tanvir will be missed by progressive artists all over the country. His passing marks the end of an era.

To Nagin and the artists of Naya Theatre we convey our heart-felt condolences.

Statement on 14-04-2009

Press Statement on Tendentious Reporting in Media

We are deeply disturbed by the tendentious reports in the media of the Supreme Court proceedings on April 13 dealing with the S I T report on the Gujarat carnage of 2002.

This unhealthy trend in the media reporting is going to seriously compromise the credibility of the media and undermine “ freedom of expression” enjoyed by the media which we all cherish.

An impression being created in a section of the media that the former CBI director R K Raghvan who led the S I T has “told” the court that Teesta Setalvad “ cooked up macabre tales of wanton killing” is mischievious. Only the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae and the Gujarat government have access to the report. The S I T has not filed any other document in court to which the media has access nor was Mr. Raghvan in the Court. It is therefore obvious that the media is only uncritically reporting what the Gujarat government’s lawyer said in the note liberally distributed to the press outside the Court.

While the Supreme Court observed that there was no room for allegations and counter allegations at this late stage, the media coverage has brazenly flouted this observation by reporting the totally baseless allegations against social activist Teesta Setalvad and the organisation she represents Citizen for Justice and Peace on the basis of the Gujarat government’s note circulated in the Court. This is all the more reprehensible because Teesta Setalvad and Citizen for Justice and Peace have neither been given a copy of the S I T report nor has their response been sought in the matter.

The proceedings in the Supreme Court related to the response of the Gujarat government and the amicus curiae Shri Harish Salve to the S I T report. The very fact that the Supreme Court had to set up the S I T to correct the miscarriage of justice due to the tardy investigation by the state of Gujarat was highlighted in the court’s observation that but for the S I T investigation many more accused, who were freshly added, would not have been brought to book. It was the untiring efforts of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP and the National Human Rights Commission that persuaded the Supreme Court to set up the S I T and on the basis of its findings further arrests have been made of persons who held administrative and ministerial positions in the government of Gujarat.


Statement on 23.3.2009

Open Letter to NDA Allies condemning Varun Gandhi’s hate speech

Press Release March 23, 2008

Open Letter to NDA Allies

The Citizens for Justice amd Peace (CJP) and SAHMAT urge the various allies who constitute the NDA coalition and who believe in Constitutional Governance to not only condemn outright, the communal hate-ridden speeches of Varun Gandhi while campaigning in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh but to ensure that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not nominate him as a candidatefort he forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The letter has been written to Nitish Kumar of JD(U), Om Prakash Chautala Indian National Lok Dal, President Assom Gana Parishad and Ajit Singh of the RLD.

Varun Gandhi’s hate speech epitomises the core of the BJP’s supremist and ultra nationalist ideology that has always targeted India’s syncretic civilisational ethos and specifically (and crudely) targets Muslims, Christians and others sections of Indian.

The BJP’s core ideology stems from its politcal heart the Rashtryiya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and is openly being backed by the BJP party.

The allies of the NDA who swear by the Indian Constitution need need to make their position clear on Varun Gandhi’s speech and his possible prospective nomination as a Lok Sabha candidate from Pilibhit. Not to oppose his nomination and candiadture as Lok Sabha candidate is to support not just Varun Gandhi but the BJP that has grown from strength to strength through flagrant violations of the Indian Constitution and the rule of law.

In the past, prime minsterial aspirant Shri LK Advani has been known to have indulged in similar hate mongering (en route to Ayodhya in December 1992); senior party leaders like Shri Murli Manohar Joshi have also committed similar offences; Gujarat chief minister Naremdra Modi’s statements on the internally displaced refugees livng in pathetic conditions in relief camps of the state in 2002 were not just violations of the law, but shocking; fratermal organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parisgad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD) have taken the entire content and tempo of hate speech to the levels of a cynical game and continue to indulge in these criminal violations because they escape the long arms of the law.

It is about time that all those political players who have a stake in the future of Indian democracy, who are fighting the elections and especially those who have in the past and still continue to support the BJP-driven NDA come clean on Varun Gandhi’s speech and oppose his nomination as a BJP canbdidate. Not to do so would be to support the content of the violence ridden speech made by him.

Teesta Setalvad, Javed Akhtar, Javed Anand, Rahul Bose, Vivan Sundaram, Ram Rahman, MK Raina, Shakti Kjak, Archana Prasad, Madhu Prasad, CP Chandrashekhar, Indira Chandrashekhar, Badri Raina, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Chanchal Chauhan

Minister of Information & Broadcasting
Govt. of India
New Delhi
Dear Minister,

We are deeply shocked at the decision to cancel the screening of a documentary made by the eminent Indian painter M.F. Husain, after it had been scheduled for November 25 at the ongoing International Film Festival of India in Goa. We are also profoundly alarmed at the wider implications of this act of blatant censorship imposed on artistic production. You are surely aware of the background to this decision by the Directorate of Film Festivals. On November 22, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and an affiliated body that calls itself the Sanatan Sanstha, petitioned the chief minister of Goa and the director of the film festival, urging that the screening be cancelled since it involved a person who had allegedly caused offence to the “religious and National sentiments of crores of Hindus and Indians (sic)”. Almost at the same time, activists of the same two bodies carried out a series of protests in the city of Mumbai, in the vicinity of the Films Division office. As the website of the HJS puts it: they made a “representation with a warning” to the Films Division officials, about the plan to screen the Husain documentary. Then, in the narration on the HJS website: the official at Mumbai had “a long discussion with the Chief Officers in the Film Division”, “tried to contact the officers in Goa and New Dehli (sic) again and again and finally told the delegation at 3.30 in the evening that the screening of the abovementioned film was cancelled”. The craven and unprincipled capitulation by the film festival organisers has been portrayed by the HJS as “one more feather” in its cap ( At the same time, the official response has been to either feign ignorance or pretend that the issue is of little consequence. The chief minister of Goa has reportedly said that he had no knowledge of the entire process and the director of film festivals has taken the position that the screening was being “deferred”. Frankly, we are appalled at this abject failure of principle and the thorough abdication of responsibility by officials entrusted with safeguarding the autonomy of cultural and artistic production. The HJS and its affiliated organisation, the Sanatan Sanstha are, as you would know, under investigation by police and intelligence agencies for their possible complicity in a number of terrorist actions in the country. Indeed, the option of declaring them “unlawful” organisations, is reportedly under active consideration. You would also be aware that the HJS has for years been the central switching-board for a number of cases against M.F. Husain, lodged on the grounds of “obscenity”, “causing ill-will on grounds of religion” and “incitement”. This entire range of charges was considered by the Delhi High Court and in a historic verdict of May 8, held to be completely without substance. The Delhi High Court finding was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, the HJS and its associates have managed to effectively mobilise a sufficient number of complainants scattered all over the country, and the Supreme Court is yet to decide on a petition requesting that all cases be brought within its jurisdiction. You would appreciate then, that the continuing harassment of one of India’s greatest living artists, is a consequence of technical procedures involved in the administration of justice and most importantly, the failure of the administrative authorities to stand up to the coercive strategies of bodies that are currently under investigation for terrorism offences. We urge you to reflect upon the consequences that this would have, for the faith that the common man places in the system of administration he lives under. We urge you moreover, to reflect upon the consequences for artistic production in this country. Husain’s documentary was produced in 1967 and has been widely recognised and awarded by the most discerning judges. It is a sad day for creative activity everywhere, when work of such calibre is deprived of an audience, because of the power of the mob. In the interests of cultural freedom, we urge you to rescind the ban on Husain and allow his documentary to be screened at the ongoing film festival. In anticipation,


Vivan SundaramRam Rahman

ATTACK ON SAHMAT exhibition!

Protest meeting at 11 am on 25 August, at SAHMAT

SAHMAT had organized an exhibition of reproductions of eminent artist M.F. Husain’s works on 22, 23 and 24 August 2008, to coincide with the three-day Art Fair at the India Art Summit, Pragati Maidan, Delhi , at which galleries had been advised not to show the artist’s work. The exhibition had on display, apart from reproductions of Husain’s paintings, eight photographs of Husain by Parthiv Shah, two photographs of Husain painting a hoarding by Madan Mahatta, and three photographs from Husain’s ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ series from the Village Art Gallery, Delhi.

On Sunday, 24 August, at around 3.30 pm, the exhibition, which was being held in a shamiana outside the SAHMAT office, was attacked and vandalised by 8 to 10 miscreants. The television channel ETV, whose crew was present, has recorded the entire episode. The vandals ran away from the scene after destroying the framed photographs and prints, a television set and DVD player (on which Husain’s films were being screened), and furniture. The artist Arpana Caur, and Anil Chandra and Santosh Sharma, SAHMAT members, were witnesses to the episode.

In protest against the attack on SAHMAT and the vandalism, the exhibition has been extended, in ‘as-is’, vandalised condition, for a day – till the evening of 25 August.

A meeting to protest against this cowardly attack, and the attempt on the part of rightwing forces to impose a narrow, majoritarian view of our culture, was held on Monday, 25 August, at 11 am, outside the SAHMAT office at 8 Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg. Those present at the protest meeting, and those who have sent messages of solidarity, include:

Abhijeet Tamhane, Aditi Magaldas, Aditi Raina, Ajay Srivastava, Akila Jayaraman, Albeena Shakil, Ali Abbas Yakutpura, Aman Farooqi, Amar Farooqi, Anant Raina, Anil Chandra, Anjali Raina, Anup Karar, Arpana Caur, Asad Zaidi, Ashalata, Ashok Kumari, Ashok Rao, Aziz Ahmed Khan, Badri Raina, Bani Joshi, Brinda Karat, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Chanchal Chauhan, Dadi Pudumjee, Danish Ali, Dayanand Singh, Dhiresh, Faizan Farooqi, Gautam Navlakha, Geeta Kapur, Geetanjali Shree, Hannan Mollah, Inder Salim, Indira Chandrasekhar, Irfan Habib, Jatin Das, Jauhar Kanungo, Javed Malick, Javed Naqvi, Jayati Ghosh, K. Bikram Singh, Kalpana Sahni, Kamakumar Hirawat, Kanishka Prasad, Kanti Mohan, Kumi Chandra, Lima Kanungo, M.K. Raina, M.M.P. Singh, Madan Gopal Singh, Madhu Prasad, Maimoona Mollah, Manjira Datta, Martand Khosla, Mithilesh Srivastav, N.D. Jayaprakash, N.K. Sharma, N.S. Arjun, Nalini Taneja, Nandita Narayan, Nandita Rao, Naslima Shahana, Neeraj Malick, Nilotpal Basu, Nina Rao, P. Madhu, P.K. Shukla, Parth Tiwari,
Parthiv Shah, Prabhat Patnaik, Preeti Bawa, Pushpamala N., Qausar Hashmi, Radhika Menon, Rahul Verma, Raj Chauhan, Rajendra Prasad, Rajendra Usapkar, Rajinder Arora, Rajinder Sharma, Rajiv Jha, Rajni B. Arora, Ram Nivas Tyagi, Ram Rahman, Riyaz Ahmed Bhat, Romi Khosla, S. Kalidas, S.M. Mishra, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Sahba Farooqi, Sahba Husain, Sahiram, Samar S. Jodha, Sania Hashmi, Santosh Sharma, Sashi Kumar, Shabi Ahmad, Shakeel Ahmed, Shamim Farooqi, Shamshad, , Shamsul Islam, Shankar Chandra, Shanta Chopra,
Sheena Bhalla, Shireen Moosvi, Shruti Singhi, Shubha Mudgal, Sitaram Yechury, Sohail Hashmi, Sravan Kumar, Subhashini Ali, Sudha Sundararaman, Sudhir Chandra, Sudhir Suman, Sukumar Muraleedharan, Suneet Chopra, T.S. Johar, Utsa Patnaik, Uzma Mollah, V. Srinivasa Rao, Vandana Sharma, Veer Munshi, Vidya Shah, Vijay S. Jodha, Vijender Sharma, Vivan Sundaram.

Press Statement

We are surprised and unhappy at the decision of the organisers of the first India Art Summit to exclude the works of MF Husain from the displays of all the participating galleries from across India . The Art summit and three day fair, which opens at the Trade Fair venue in Delhi on the 22nd, is also supported by the Ministry of Culture. While the organisers may have made this decision out of a fear of attacks or protests against the work of Husain, by giving in to such threats by extremist political groups, they are playing into the hands of these forces. It is the duty of the state and the police to protect our institutions and citizens against threats of violence and surely the Trade Fair authorities and the Delhi police are capable of confronting any such threat. An earlier exhibit by Husain continued at the India International Centre last December under just such assurances by the Delhi police.For the artists community, Husain is the reigning father-figure, commanding enormous respect. In fact, Husain has been single-handedly responsible for putting Indian art on the world map and equally responsible for creating the world market boom in Indian art, without which such a summit and fair would not be taking place in Delhi at this moment. It is therefore deeply ironical that his work is being excluded by dictat. We request the organisers to rethink this decision. In solidarity with Husain, Sahmat will show Images of his work on all three days of the summit outside its office at 8 Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg. We invite all the citizens of Delhi and all artists to come view his work at Sahmat.
Ram Rahman, MK Raina, Madan Gopal Singh, Sohail Hashmi, Parthiv Shah, Vivan Sundaram, Indira Chandrasekhar, Geeta Kapur, K Bikram Singh