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Gurusharanji—In Lieu of a Homage

The most beautiful thing for those who have fought a whole life is to come to the end and say; we believed in people and life, and the people never let us down. -- Otto Rene Castillo

It is with immense grief that the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) would share the demise of Gurusharan Singh. Apart from all other things which many of the readers might already know about him, he was for us, at CRPP, the honorary president of the committee, a spirited fighter who was always a source of strength and support. What was so disarming about Gurusharanji was his unflinching commitment to the people that too, to the oppressed, discriminated and exploited.

Whenever we met him he kept us reminding of the need to carry forward the campaign to the vast sections of the people. As the conversation progressed in such meetings Gurusharanji used to forget his failing health and soon transform into his inimical thunderous and emotional self talking with a conviction steeled in the vast and arduous experience of his work among the masses, in the most challenging and trying circumstances—always going against the tide. Gurusharanji was everything. An artist par excellence he took the theatre to the common people of Punjab dealing with their problems thus connecting with the particularities of the everyday life of the toiling masses. Taking theatre to the common masses was no mean task. It made the dramatist in Gurusharanji aware of the acute/minute problems faced by the common masses of Punjab. It was through the grain of the everyday lives of the people of Punjab as landless agricultural labourers, factory workers, poor peasant, construction labour, peasant, dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus etc. that Gurusharanji used to open to the world where through the struggles of the toiling masses for a better world he related himself with the struggles of other peoples of the subcontinent.

It is this deep sensibility and commitment to the people that was the motivating spirit for several generations of activists, young and old, not only in Punjab but in other parts of the subcontinent. So when people approached Bhaji—as he was fondly called—there was that unfailing faith that he will never let them down. And it was that fearlessness, the forthrightness in criticism, that he inculcated within himself and by example among his comrades that he raised the bar of the activist in him in that process egging others to move against the tide.

It is this tireless enthusiasm that made him initiate the Chandigarh School of Drama in the late 80s inspiring an entire generation of young theatre activists, actors and directors. He was a champion of human rights of the most deprived and downtrodden and an outspoken supporter of the Right to Self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. He was always ready to go to Srinagar and stage a play there while at the same time declares that Kashmir belonged to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. But his failing health prevented him from travelling as he was bed-ridden for several years. But that didn’t prevent him from sending his solidarity speech in the historic convention on Kashmir, Azadi: The Only Way organised by the CRPP at Delhi in October 2010. His daughter Navsharan read the speech on his behalf in this historic convention which remained in the debate among intelligentsia for several months.

The demise of Gurusharanji is an irreparable loss. It is a difficult act to emulate. But it is certainly an act that will motivate many an activist, theatre enthusiast, people who are fighting for life, livelihood and dignity. It is certainly an act which primarily stands in solidarity for the most deprived and exploited and looks at the overall well being of the society from the vantage point of their unhindered development. Gurusharanji will live with us forever!

29 September, 2011

Committee for Release of Political Prisoners

SAR Geelani (Working President)
Amit Bhattacharyya (Secretary General)
Rona Wilson (Secretary, Public Relations)