Ajmer Singh Aulakh was one of the most creative and impactful writers and playwrights in the history of the revolutionary movement on Punjab or India, whose mark will live forever. Sadly 4 years ago .on June 15th he left us, after suffering from a prolonged period with Cancer. His name will permanently illuminate in the annals of revolutionary artists, like a legendary figure. Aulakh reflected touches of genius when formulating themes illustrating lives and aspirations of the opressed masses, hitting the nail on the very head. He had the deepest insight into the mindset of the masses and accordingly formulated idioms. His plays were not melodramatic or emotional but still touched the soul of people in the very core. They brimmed revolutionary fervour at magical heights.Aulakh was perfect illustration how a revolutionary movement plants seeds for creativity to reach unprecedented or mythical heights.
Ajmer reflected the essence of the semi-feudal character of rural opression or the forces that governed it .His plays illustrated the social reality of the peasantry in sublime depths, as though incorporating real life characters. Watching his plays workers and oppressed peasant could at the very backbone make a link with his day to day struggles and the forces intervening putting clamp on any resistance. Aulakh judged the pulse of the people at the very pitch. In recent times no playwright as artistically portrayed the factors that led to farmers suicides.Ajmer’s plays shimmered the very spark of revolts like Naxalbari and crystallized many a heart to integrate with the mass people’s movements. With artistic precision he portrayed how environment shaped the lives of people.
Few activists were ever such an epitome of simplicity and down to earthiness as Aulakh.I can never forget the qualitative impact on the masses in his memorial meeting in 2017 and celebratory function in 2015.Few writers plays integrated or penetrated into the very thick of struggles as Aulakh’s plays .They were reminiscent of coal in a furnace turning into steel. With the skill of an engineer he dissected scenes, to give the theme a cutting edge.
He was one of the most daring warriors ever carrying the mantle of liberation. He would confront the most turbulent waters or tortuous paths in the course of his life. At every juncture he would rekindle the sacred flame of revolution, even in the depths of despair. Few artist so perfectly judged the pulse of the enemies and reactionary movements as Aulakh whose work embarrassed them to the very skin be it the Khalistanis,Akali Dal or Congress.Aulakh played a major role in craving the path or steering the work of the Democratic Front against Operation Greenhunt ,formed in 2010.I can’t forget the qualitative impact that front made on confronting the tyranny of Operation Greenhunt.Revolutionary journal Surkh Leeh reported how successful his memorial programme was and his monumental role in shaping the revolutionary movement.
What is pertinent is that Aulakh was never mechanical or delivered revolutionary rhetoric but posessed the originality or inventiveness s of a magician. Few comrades contributed more to sparkle the scent of late playwright Gursharan Singh. as Ajmer.Aulakh was a living example of how revolutionary ideology was only learnt from the masses themselves and that Marxism had a spiritual touch to it. His work created abrading ground to bring many a person into the fold of the revolutionary movement. It is comrades like Aulakh who made the coal burn in the furnace to enable the torch of revolutionary democratic movement in Punjab, to be the best organized in India.
Born on 19 August 1942, in the village of Kishangarh Farwahi, close to Mansa in Punjab, Aulakh had suffered from incurable cancer since 2008. Doctors were not hopeful that he would survive beyond two or three years, but Aulakh fought cancer with the indomitable spirit with which the characters in his plays fight against their oppression. His family, friends, the several organisations he was part of, and even the Punjab government, under both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress, extended financial support during his medical crisis. Even the Punjab assembly paid tributes to him after his death.
On 29 November 2013, he wrote a brief will in Punjabi and signed it. A translation of it is provided below.
My last wish is that after my death –
(1) My daughters, whosoever is present at that time, should light the pyre.
(2) No religious rite like bhog, etc may be held, only [a] memorial meeting may be held. In this meeting, no political speaker [should] be allowed. The number of speakers should be limited, and socially they should include my friends, writers, cultural activists, and representatives of workers-peasants, [and] organisations.
(3) [The] memorial meeting should not be unnecessarily long.
The Naxalbari uprising Aulakh turned the whole shape of Aulkah’ s life in his college days. For 35 years from 1965 Aulkah served as a college lecturer.
He received baptism in his political career in the Nagi Reddy group led Cultural forum ,Punjab Loksabhayacharak Manch.Aulakh was part of a contingent that published a popular journal ‘Hem Jyoti.; with comrades like Paash,Gursharan Singh etc,He was arrested during emergency but heroically ressurected himself after it to ignite spark of revolution. His plays sharpened the link or broadened the base of the movements of Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha with the masses of the 1970’s.
In times of Khalistani movement he counter attacked the nefarious Sikh Separatism with the sharpness of a sword blade. With his plays projecting the ideals of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at the very core.Aulakh’s plays most effectively intervened the darkest days of twin terror of Khalistan and State.
With the intervention of globalisation Aulakh with the skill of surgeon knit plots exposing how the new economic policies were enslaving or strangulating the people as never before.Aulakh devised idioms which made the farmers and labourers probe into how liberalization was breaking the very back of their day to day struggles. His work was a pivot for the major farmer’s agitations to prop up, in the manner of thread stitched. Aulakh literally reflected the very soul of the masses.
Aulakh wrote nearly 13 one-act plays and about 20 short plays, apart from dramatising stories by other writers. In the early period, Aulakh’s one-act plays, Aabra Cadabra and Arbad Narbad Dhundukara (Eons and Nebulae), were a big hit at festivals. His other one-act plays to become immensely popular were Bigane Bohad di Chhan (The Shadow of the Alien Banyan Tree) and Annen Nishanchi (Blind Sharpshooters). He wrote eight full-length plays, which include Satt Bigane (Seven Aliens), Kehar Singh di Maut (Death of Kehar Singh), Salwan, and Bhajjian Bahin (Broken Arms), which was based on a story with the same name penned by Waryam Sandhu. One of Aulakh’s plays, Jhana de Paani, is available in a English translation—Waters of Chenab.
Towards the climax of his life it is most admirable how he waged a battle against cancer from 2008, when he looked like a ship on the verge of sinking. Few revolutionaries ever exuded intensity of such magnitude in the mist of cancer. It was the perfect illustration of the soul of a Marxist revolutionary. It is fitting what he wrote to hi s daughters on the verge of his death.
Although independent Aulakh was a fervent admirer of the movement guided by the T.Nagi Reddy or Harbhajan Sohi line, which in turn projected him morally as mascot of the revolutionary movement. I can’t forget the depth of the flow in the commemorative speeches at his homage meeting on June 25th, creating the scent of red roses blooming or taking revolutionary fervour to its highest pitch. The speech of convenor of the conference, Jaspal Jassi,was most notable. What I learnt from the homage memorial was how Aulakh integrated into the very thick of the hearts of revolutionary cadres and masses .I hardly have an adjective to do justice to the spirit of the farmers and labourers in the rally whose intensity simmered at a boiling point. They created the scenes of a mini- inferno, shimmering spirit of revolutionary resistance in sublime proportions like a festival of the masses. Till today I am amazed of the esteem with which the farmers hold Aulakh.Revolutionary Journal Surkh Leeh in vivid detail projected Aulakh as a true champion of the revolutionary masses.
Today in the farmers agitation against agricultural bills the Organizations portray Aulakh as mascot, symbol of crusader against Neo-fascism .His memories flash in the minds of lakhs of farmers of Punjab ,like moonlight reflecting in water. It is a result of crusaders like Aulakh that the revolutionary democratic movement in Punjab sparkles at a magnitude as nowhere else in India .It may not be wrong to class Aulakh as a Lu Hsun or Maxim Gorky of Punjab. Above all he portrayed the spiritual side of a Marxist revolutionary or the creative essence.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has travelled around India and written on blogs like ‘Democracy ad Class Struggle’, ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Frontier Weekly.’ Mainly written on politics of mass line in Communist Movement , Maoism, peasant struggles but also on blogs on Cricket and films. Email- firstname.lastname@example.org