‘Bin lade kuch bhi yahan milta nahin yah jaan kar, ab ladai lad rahe hain log mere gaon ke’
This year we made a concerted effort to reach out to our saathis and talk about the various divides along the lines of caste, gender, religion and class. To get there, we used creative mediums like drama and songs to depict the realities of our lives. We also made some innovative banners comparing salaries and other benefits of Government employees vs. NREGA workers, which had stuck in the mind of saathis who had seen similar banners made in the Rajasthan Mazdoor Hak Satyagraha of 2009.
1. Drama workshop in Araria
With the help of saathi Shiv (from Alaripu) and Saathi Shanker ji (from MKSS), we conducted our first drama workshop in Araria. Trainees included: Kalanand Mandal, Brahmanand Rishidev, Prithvi Rishidev, Chandeshwari Rishidev, Johan Marandi, Siken Yadav from Raniganj block; Vimlal Sada, Shivnarayan and kamayani from Araria; Deepnarayan Paswan, Jiten, Chettan Rishidev, Laldev Rishidev and Dallu Rishidev from Katihar. Our first play was a nukkad natak on the plight of migrant workers and was enacted at Chandni Chowk, Araria. This was followed by enactments at the karyakarni meeting in Araria, and meetings in GPs Mohanpur and Parihari. The script and original songs were composed and written by our saathis during the course of the workshop. The rawness of our worker turned actors, who are essentially reenacting scenes from their lives, connected very well with the audiences in all these places.
The workshop itself helped us think not only of acting skills and the ease with which we communicate with the audience, but why we had come together, what the sangathan wanted to achieve etc.
According to Saathi Shiv the strengths of the Sangathan are:
— humari sankhya, humari takat!
(matbhed ho par saathiyon mein manbhed nahin hona chahiye )
— kaam ka uddeshya saaf hona chaahiye
— jaankaaree honi chahiye
— sansadhan hone chahiye
2. Sangathan ke geet
Another outcome of the drama workshop, our first book of songs was released at the working committee meeting in Araria on Sep 22, 2012. It is a collection of songs by our own saathis like Jiten, Shivnarayan and sometimes a collective effort of saathis, and also a collection of songs from sangathans across the country. The book has been received very well by our members, selling out at each of the events. We have sold almost all the 1500 copies of the first print, each at a suggested contribution of Rs. 10.
3. Overcoming the gender divide
Whether it was the increasing number of female saathis taking leadership positions in the sangathan, or their independent journeys without male companions, the sangathan took some important steps in overcoming the gender divide. Probably the most noticeable case was of that of our female saathis overcoming the doubts of their male counterparts by traveling alone in the ladies coach from Delhi to Katihar, after a rally in Delhi. Not stopping there, three female saathis independently traveled to the UN women’s dialog on “women’s participating in NREGA” in Lucknow, aptly represented the sangathan, and returned safely much to the disbelief of the male members J Hopefully, these episodes will lead to a more equitable role playing in the future and a realization that adult women can define their own paths!
4. Bringing mazdoors and kisans on the same platform
Senior socialist leader, Sunil Bhai of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan of Madhya Pradesh, spent time on 8th Nov 2012 with representatives and saathis of four units in GP Chittoriya of Katihar. In this meeting he talked extensively about the need for a common school system, and it was an immediate hit with our saathis as it resonated with their default setting.
The second meeting was with a group of small peasants of Chittoriya. Though their economic condition is similar to those of our members, they have not been able to join the sangathan as they see the sangathan as only an organization fighting for NREGA entitlement. We were able to break the ice with our mazdoor-kisan saathis with Sunil bhai talking about the crisis in Indian agriculture, and sangathan painting the larger vision of a just and equitus society. So far the commitment is to hold a larger meeting of the small peasants and members of the union in January 2013, hoping that we could come together in the larger struggle.