Sunday, June 22, 2014

Play to celebrate Kenya’s Sikh revolutionary

According to Sikh 24 "—A play celebrating the life and times of Makhan Singh, a Kenyan revolutionary of Sikh origin, will be recited at Punjab Kala Bhawan in Sector 16 on Sunday evening. ‘Mungu Comrade’ has been written by Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi award-winning playwright Atamjit and will be recited by him and Sangeeta Gupta. The play starts at 7pm.Forgotten in his own land, Makhan Singh (1913-2013) is a celebrated figure in Kenya, whose independence he fought for. Born in Garjakh near Lahore, he moved with his family to Nairobi. In 1935, he formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya and succeeded in making the union embrace all workers, irrespective of race, religion, colour or creed. Makhan Singh was detained by the British government in both India and Kenya to curb his trade union activities and political views several times, the longest being for 11 years in 1950 without any charge or trial. This, in fact, makes him one of the longest detainees in the history of Kenya.Atamijt first heard about Makhan Singh on his maiden visit to Kenya as part of a delegation of college principals by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, in 2005.

“I was filled with reverence for the man who did a lot to organize the workers of East Africa and sent shudders down the spine of the rulers of the time who were actually afraid of his charisma. Seed of a drama was sown. The combination of leftism and non-violence prompted me to see him as Mungu, a God. The most surprising element of his story is that people of Kenya gave him the respect of a Mungu while he was branding himself as a comrade,” said Atamjit. Hence the name.

He said that what attracted him most was Makhan Singh’s love for the adopted nation. “He never faced apartheid personally as Gandhi did, yet he decided to fight for the cause of Africans. He relentlessly fought, against the wishes of his own people who were from the Punjab, for the equal wages for Europeans, Asians and Africans,” he said.

Though the play was written some years back, Atamjit has begun recitals afresh as part of Makhan Singh’s birth centenary celebrations. Last month, he took it to Nairobi."

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