The 7th Conference of Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM) was held at Pandit Raghunath Murmu Sabhagar (The Goessner Theological College Hall) in Pablo Neruda Nagar (Ranchi) of Jharkhand on 2-3 October, 2004. The theme of the conference was developing the culture of resistance to the culture of commercialisation and market domination.
The conference started with a protest meeting against state repression on the poor and tribal people in Jharkhand and particularly against the arrest and harassment of JSM activists by police during the conference propaganda campaign. Hundreds of cultural activists assembled at the local Sainik Maidan, from where they were supposed to take out a procession but were prevented by the administration in the name of complying with a directive of the High Court, were addressed by noted Jharkhandi scholar and president of Jharkhand Sanskritik Manch Dr. BP Kesri, JSM General Secretary Ajay Singh and the convener of JSM in Jharkhand, Anil Anshuman.
The inaugural address of the conference was delivered by noted Hindi literary critic and president of Jan Sanskriti Manch, Dr. Manager Pandey. In his speech Dr. Pandey emphasized the organic links between rampant commercialisation, imperialist globalisation and the American aggression for global hegemony. Exposing the Congress culture of appeasement of majority communalism, he cautioned against underestimating the danger of communalism in the wake of the BJP’s electoral defeat. Pointing out that the relevance of literature lies in its contribution to the resolution of social crisis, he called upon cultural activists to locate new springs of resistance among women, dalits and adivasis, and the rural poor, and reach out to the toiling people in a bigger way. The open session of the conference was also addressed by the chief guest of the occasion, noted novelist Maitreyi Pushpa, story writer and vice president of JSM Madhukar Singh, and veteran Telugu poet Jwalamukhi. This session was conducted by Dr. Ravibhushan, vice president of JSM and presided over by noted poet Mangalesh Dabral.
This was followed by cultural programmes staged by teams from various states, including Punjabi folk singers led by Jagsir Jidda, Dasta of Varanasi and Hirawal of Patna, which staged “Raja ka Rasoiya” (The King’s Cook). Thakurnagar Sanskritik Sanstha from West Bengal won a lot of applause with its powerful presentation of a mime ballet “Hungry Wolf”.
The delegate session held later in the evening discussed the draft report presented by Ajay Singh, General Secretary of JSM. The report took note of the growing plight of the rural poor and increasing state-sponsored violation of human rights, especially violence against women, from Kashmir to UP and Bihar to Manipur. It also drew attention to the fact that while rampant commercialisation was promoting and legitimising all kinds of vulgarity in the realm of mass culture, struggles for change were being systematically dismissed and ridiculed even as the state continued to stifle the voice of change and curtail the freedom of every cultural expression that sought to challenge the status quo. The draft identified the forces of cultural resistance and expressed hope that the level of cooperation among left cultural organizations would grow in the coming days.
The delegate session was conducted by a presidium composed of editor of ‘Parakh’ Krishna Mohan, critic Ashutosh, storywriter Suresh Kantak, poet Prabha Dixit and writer Kailash Banwasi of Chhattisgarh. After a very lively and focused debate, in which apart from Maitreyi Pushpa a good number of delegates including Siyaram Sharma, Gopal Pradhan, Manmohan Pathak, Bhasha Singh, KK Pandey, Nirmala Putul and Brij Bihari Pandey took part, the draft report was passed and an organizational session followed. In this session a 65-member national council was elected. Dr. Manager Pandey and Ajay Singh were reelected respectively as president and general secretary. Madan Kashyap, Madhukar Singh, Ajay Kumar, Ravi Bhushan and Manglesh Dabral were elected as vice presidents and state conveners were also appointed and entrusted with the task of convening state conferences to elect state-level bodies. They include: Pranay Krishna (UP), KK Pandey (Bihar), Bhasha Singh (Delhi), Siyaram Sharma (Chattisgarh) and Anil Anshuman (Jharkhand). Several new faces in the council include Magalesh Dabral, Nirmala Putul and Satya Prakash. Maitreyi Pushpa agreed to participate in National Council meetings as a special invitee.
Cultural performances at the end of the conference included mime ballet ‘Flaming Field’ presented by Thakurnagar Sanskritik Sanstha and directed by Dipak Mitra, ‘Ulgulan Continues’ – a chhau dance-drama presented by Sengel of Bundu (Ranchi), Punjabi folk songs portraying the plight of the peasantry who are forced to commit suicide, presented by Jidda’s team, Nagpuri songs and dance presented by noted Nagpuri folk singer Mukund Nayak, which drew thunderous applause from the gathering, ‘O My Jharkhand, We Salute You’ by Kunjaban in Nagpuri, ‘Jamun ka per’ (Blackberry Tree) by Arrah JSM team, ‘Krishna Uwach’ (Thus Spake Krishna) by Begusarai JSM team and folk songs by ‘Kala Kammune’, ‘Jagran’ and dozens of other programmes by Jharkhandi cultural teams including ‘Samar’, ‘Dahar’, ‘Injore’ and ‘Prerna’. Representing participants from non-Hindi zone, Sukhdarshan Natt from Punjab and Chiranjib Bhattacharya and Samar Chakravarty of Tripura greeted the participants and admired the way the conference was held and expressed their hopes of closer integration in future.