PM: What are the
aims of the Chaitanya Natya Manch?
people’s art and literature are a rich cultural heritage preserved by the people
since ages. But now they are getting destroyed by the imperialist consumerist
culture. People’s cultural heritage is being gobbled up by the exploitative
rotten culture permeating to all corners. So some important tasks have come up
before us. On the one hand we have to preserve the ancient cultural heritage
among the people. We have to study deeply and thoroughly what is outdated and
what is fine in it. Chetana Natya Manch (CNM) is a revolutionary mass
organization consisting writers and artistes. It has many opportunities to study
and revolutionize the people’s arts. It should study the arts and literature of
the people. This should be done subordinate to the task of building the base
areas. Every mass organization should strive to advance the war. And war should
help every organization to carry on its activities efficiently. There is an
inseparable bond between the two. So
cultural front should help the war efforts in building the base area. Likewise
people’s wars are going on in adjacent states like Jharkhand, Bihar, etc. We
have to study their efforts in the cultural front and pass on those experiences
to the cultural movement here. In other words our effort will be to destroy
feudal and imperialist culture and develop a new democratic culture.
PM: Is the
formation of CNM helping in the centralization of cultural work? If so how?
We could bring forth many new artistes and writers. We are studying people’s art
forms and trying to revolutionize them. We are preserving the people’s cultural
heritage. Likewise we are studying the cultural efforts going on in other areas.
Recently we went to another area to study the revolutionary movement and the
cultural front there. We are trying to study and understand the changes in the
cultural front in other states.
On various occasions
like parliamentary elections, March 8th, party classes, July 28th etc, we are
preparing and sending the necessary songs, dance forms and plays that fit the
occasion, to the cadres. We are trying to print song books. We are even trying
to record the co operative movement and the collective movement going on here in
a documentary form. The formation of CNM has enthused artistes in this field
theoretically, politically and in cultural matters. Since this consists of
members with specialized experience in the cultural field, it is helping in
developing it in the right direction and giving leadership to the cultural
PM: Comrade, tell
us the background for the birth of CNM in Dandakaranya.
Lenj: To answer
this question we will have to go back right to the days the revolutionary
movement set its foot in the DK area. Revolutionary cultural activities entered
the DK along with the revolutionary movement 25 years ago. As you know, the DK
area is totally an adivasi area. Here arts are an indivisible part of the
peoples’ lives. So the revolutionaries, from the beginning many art forms like
songs, dances etc; to arouse the masses. In fact , no meeting ever took place
here in DK without a cultural performance. In the earlier days only the
guerillas were giving cultural performances, based on songs and dance forms of
AP Jana Natya Mandali, of course, translating them into local Gondi language.
Later the guerillas started composing songs based on the tunes of the
traditional adivasi songs,. By then, the revolutionary movement has already
became a mass movement , with hundreds of people coming forward to take various
responsibilities. Many among them started composing songs and started giving
expression to their new revolutionary fervor through various art forms, thus
bringing in a transformation both in form and content. In this way hundreds of
new writers and artists emerged from the masses during the course of the rapid
development of the revolutionary movement. Until 1997, cultural teams comprising
of artists drawn from the guerilla squads or from various mass organizations, or
dawn from both were giving performances in villages as and when needed basis. So
the party decided to form the CNM so that all the energies of these hundreds of
artists can be channalised in to a single organization so that a concentrated
emphasis can be given on the work in the cultural field
PM: What were the
tasks of CNM when it was formed?
propagates its goals and tasks through its various departments. So the cultural
front also has the task of propagating them through art forms and various
writings. So the first task is to take the tasks of the movement among the
people on a large scale. The second is to study the people’s arts, third is to
revolutionize people’s art forms. When CNM was formed there was only one team
for the whole of DK. So we took up the task of forming more of such teams and
training up many new artistes in large numbers. This was the fourth task.
PM: Will you
explain the progress you have achieved in fulfilling these tasks?
Lenj: The last
ten years effort was a process of development of the movement, changing ideas,
changes in understanding, the ensuing results in practice and that again
developing our understanding. In practice it took us some years to develop CNM
as a mass organization in DK. Since the past three years it is getting
consolidated as a mass organization at the grass roots level in villages. It is
able to unify and consolidate the adivasi, non adivasi writers and artistes in
the villages. At present we have consolidated thousands of artistes and writers
in CNM. This was a great achievement by itself. It was a good progress that CNM
was developed at the village level as a revolutionary mass organization and a
manifesto and constitution were drafted and a flag was decided. Another
achievement was that ‘Jhankar’, the cultural magazine which was started in 1994,
became the official organ of CNM.
We are developing
people’s culture and are revolutionizing their art forms. The task of building
base areas was given by the 9th Congress of the erstwhile People’s War Party.
Accordingly, the cultural front has also formulated its task of playing its due
role in fulfilling this task and consolidating the people’s power springing up
here as part of it. So CNM work is done in tune with those four tasks and those
coming up in the course. We feel this is a good progress.
PM: What are your
efforts in building CNM teams?
Lenj: There was
only one CNM team in South Bastar in 1997. Gradually some more teams were formed
all over DK. The results were promising and so teams were formed in all
divisions (roughly districts) by 2003. Area teams were also formed under these
division teams in some areas. At first we formed teams with the persons having
artistic and cultural talents from among the youngsters joining the movement.
Now teams and units are formed at village centre (4, 5 villages) levels too on a
large scale. Another aspect is that those artistes –both men and women- whose
consciousness level is high and are ready to work with dedication for the people
are opting to work full time for CNM. They are working at area and division
level in accordance with its manifesto and constitution.
compulsory to develop any organization. Now the district teams are concentrating
on consolidating and developing the area teams in the cultural sphere. Similarly
area teams are concentrating on developing local teams and teams working within
a centre. Thus CNM is putting efforts to develop the cultural movement and train
up teams at various levels.
PM: How are you
trying to build up CNM as a mass organization? Tell us about the structures.
Lenj: Till now we
have been able to consolidate five to six thousand cultural activists
separately. In DK, in general, there are small hamlets. Every hamlet has
20 to 30 huts. The men and women are members of DAKMS and KAMS, the peasant and
women organizations respectively. But there are no restrictions that they cannot
join other organizations. A peasant becomes a member of peasant organization,
but he may be interested in cultural activities too and may join CNM. The only
principle is that they should not be in leading positions in both organizations
simultaneously. This was written into the constitution keeping in view the
practical problems in fulfilling responsibilities. So we thought of forming
cultural units not at the village level but one for every 4 or 5 villages. We
came to the conclusion about this keeping in view the emerging new power also.
An organ of people’s power is formed for 500 to 3000 people. This is taken as
one unit. People of 4, 5 villages elect a people’s government. So a CNM unit is
formed with those interested within these 4, 5 villages. In big villages we are
forming a unit for the village. Executive committees are elected above these.
There are district and area ECs. In future we will have a DK (Zone) level EC
too. Thus we are trying to consolidate the structure by forming ECs from the
village to Zone level and by strengthening the mass organization.
PM: Tell us the
details of the training camps and workshops conducted by you till now? How are
Lenj: There were
two DK wide training camps – in 1998 and 2001- conducted with the help of JNM.
After the All India Workshop in May 2002 we conducted a DK wide workshop in
December 2003 on the topic ‘Let us revolutionize Adivasi arts’. We placed the
draft manifesto of CNM before the delegates here and took their opinions. We
revolutionized some dance forms out of a myriad of them in DK and tried to take
it into the people in a systematic manner. We even trained people to create more
and more revolutionary literature. We also trained delegates in producing plays
by discussing with them on that form and the need to take it among the people.
After this workshop,
training camps were held at district, area and village level. These helped, to a
great extent, in achieving uniformity in the cultural field in the whole of DK.
A workshop and two training camps were held in S.Bastar in 2002. As a result a
revolutionary atmosphere was created where youth formed teams on their own and
performed in neighbouring villages with those songs. Keeping these results in
view we conducted many training camps in N.Bastar, W. Bastar and Maad division.
Due to these youth are writing songs on their own in many areas.
Between 2002 May and
2003 December nearly 1500 artistes were trained in the training camps conducted
by the area and district CNM teams. We mainly trained youth in the villages
under RPCs (Revolutionary People’s Commitees) or those from villages where RPCs
were to be formed. DCSC conducts political, theoretical and cultural classes for
the CNM teams. These teams are taking the message into the masses. Thus we are
achieving positive results due to all these kinds of collective efforts.
PM: What is CNM’s
role in the All India workshop? How did the workshop help you in your efforts?
drafting of a perspective paper in the workshop was a good thing for the
cultural movement. Since comrades leading the cultural movement in various
states discussed that document it helped in achieving theoretical clarity. CNM
shared its ideas and experiences with cultural organizations from various states
and played its role in discussing the document. We discussed the various
problems, challenges, experiences which came up in the DK cultural movement. It
is a fact that the influence of the workshop is very much there in the
functioning of CNM as a mass organization today.
PM: What kind of
training are you imparting to the young men and women and to children in the
Lenj: We impart
training to all members of CNM. Children from the age of 10 years to elders are
members of CNM. We invite them to special camps according to their activities
and enthusiasm. We are trying to teach marching songs, songs with simple words
to increase scientific thinking and dances to children. We are concentrating
more on young men and women. We are facing severe police repression in giving
training. Especially it is a big problem to give training in places like
We go to the villages
and mobilize the CNM members. We fix a schedule of 4, 5 days or two days
according to their agriculture works, wage earning or collection of forest
produce works. We participate in production work along with them and give them
training. We don’t teach them many songs, dances, steps or instruments at one
go. We teach one song or a dance or an instrument one at a time. We give
training by keeping in view their talents, interests and learning capacity. This
is giving good results. Some times we are teaching them to write songs also as
part of training. For example we held a five day training camp in
South Bastar in 2002.
We concentrated on encouraging them to write. The people here are experts in
singing songs extempore. So we concentrated on revolutionizing the songs they
sing from their own experiences and problems. The men and women who attended the
camp wrote the song ‘Palapitta keyamuntha’ on martyr Com. Ranadev and ‘Errajanda
dadimithe’ (under the red flag) in this camp. This song described how new
people’s power is developing under the red flag. The inspiration, the fact, the
practice that these new power organs are coming into existence for their own
sake was reflected in this song. Their confidence in writing new songs is
increasing. That is what we want. It is very important for them to say with
confidence that we are able to write and sing and reflect the revolutionary
movement in our traditional forms. This phenomenon has a great future. This is
worthy of mention as CNM’s guiding principle is - ‘People are the makers of
history and people are the creators of new culture’.
PM: Explain the
main characteristics of adivasi culture.
arts and literature are mainly oral. Their literature is extempore. Its greatest
quality is that everything is collective in it. On moonlit nights, especially in
winter when the fields are thriving - before harvest and after the rainy season-
the whole village gathers happily around fires and dances with joy. Everybody
participates cheerfully in this. It is a collective feeling. There are no
restrictions that some could participate and some could not. If one starts
singing, all the dancers join in the chorus. In adivasi culture there is song
for dance and dance with instruments. But there is no fusion of song, instrument
and dance. This has to be developed. When the people dance to the music of
instruments it is very rhythmic and they all look like one entity. They play the
instruments in a melodious and harmonic way. The most important, common and
noteworthy characteristic is the collective spirit in everything. There is no
parasitic class of court artistes, court writers or court poets like outside.
This is a significant feature.
PM: What is the
programme of CNM in these concrete conditions?
Lenj: We are
taking care not to damage the collectiveness. So when we are forming CNM teams
we are not giving importance to the number of members whether there are eight or
ten or whatever. Especially once the team enters the villages the whole village
turns up. So they are performing plays by taking all of them or some of them to
play the roles. So people become the performers. CNM activists make the whole
village participate in dance and are thus developing dances. When a singer sings
a song not only the team members, but the whole village gives chorus. We are
teaching songs collectively. We have introduced a new form. In the oral
tradition one person sings extempore and another answers her or him. Now what we
have done is - one is preparing the first stanza and the direction for the song.
Another prepares the next stanza and two or three persons continue it. Then
another follows. Thus all of them together write a song. If there are ten
members in a CNM team all ten of them are writing a song i.e. collectively. The
song ‘Narayanpur atum the baathal naiku keyantha’ was written sarcastically on
the police and their repression. There are many such collectively written songs.
Then there is the
oral tradition. The songs which they sing extempore are our new writings. They
are mixing revolutionary practice with their life experiences. We are writing
them down. Everything is done collectively. Meanwhile we are trying to develop
poetry writing too.
PM: How are you
recording the adivasi art and literature?
we are collecting materials on some ancient art forms like Gotul Paata and Gotul
Peto. We studied in history that the primitive people expressed their joy and
other feelings with sounds. We can still find this in Maad. Now they are
becoming extinct. Even Gotul Paata and Gotul Peto are vanishing. Only a few
Gotul Peto Gurus are left. When we go to those areas we enquire from people and
know who the old artistes are, how many village elders are there, what kind of
artistes are available in that area etc. We meet them and spend time with them
and study their art. We attend marriages. We go to their Karsads (village
fairs). We attend ceremonies for birth, death, naming the newborn etc. We are
observing and recording them. We take photographs when camera is available and
record audio cassettes. Since 4, 5 years the process of preserving picked up.
After the formation of DCSC this gained momentum.
PM: What is the
role of women in CNM?
marriages and festivals or in the evenings when youth gathers at Gotul they sing
songs. Though they did not receive any training in classical singing, the
adivasi women sing clearly, melodiously and in one voice. There are nearly 50
percent women in the DK movement; in CNM also right from the village to the
division level the number of women exceeds 50 percent. Among the leading cadres
in CNM also more than half are women. In the social conditions prevailing here
women are free till they are married. So generally the role of women in arts is
considerable. This is a positive aspect for CNM. Their role is increasing in
writing literature. CNM has formed special women teams to increase their role in
the cultural movement. This came into existence first in South Bastar. We are
getting very good results through them. In every village the women artistes feel
this is our team. They are providing protection to the team. Many women are
rallying behind it and getting consolidated. The number of women teams is
increasing in the areas in various divisions.
PM: Tell us about
the dress and the instruments you use?
Lenj: We have a
dress for dances. In the plays, as you know, it will be according to the scene
or the character portrayed. Though we tried to adopt the dress of the Guru in
the popular art form called the ‘Gotul Peto’ while portraying his character it
did not go down well with our cadres. They thought that the dress was not
attractive enough. We failed in convincing them. The dresses of various cultural
organizations seemed more attractive than the Guru’s dress. Gradually CNM
thought it should have a special dress while performing. We decided the dress
according to the task of DK. Since liberated areas were to be built up here
everything is linked to the people’s war and military activity. We will have to
perform amidst repression. So we chose a dress which blends with the forest and
protects us. Our artistes wear a green ‘Ger’ (lehenga). They wear a banian or
jacket of the same color as top. Women wear a half saree over it. Green reflects
the beauty of the forest and blends with it.
The instruments of DK
are very ancient. There are 18 kinds of them. Only a few are in use now. We are
using these instruments and also some modern ones. The importance of instruments
cannot be underestimated. We did not put any restrictions that only the local
instruments should be used. We are using a combination of various instruments.
Music should not dominate the song and its lyrics. So we are using modern and
local instruments according to the needs of the performance and in a way that it
is enhanced. The main ones are the ‘Dappu’ (a percussion instrument) and the
‘Melam’ (wind instrument).
PM: How are your
relations with the people? How do you apply mass line in your work?
Lenj: CNM is
achieving fine results in this aspect. If a team goes to the village all of them
including children cheerfully gather around them. They look after the team with
great love and affection. The news of the arrival of the team spreads rapidly
and everybody tries to finish off their work quickly so that they can meet the
team. They are very popular with the villagers. CNM activists also go into their
homes, mingle with them, take part in their work and build up close relations
CNM follows mass line
as well as class line. CNM is expressing the sufferings, the problems and
solutions to these problems in its songs, dances and plays. It is also raising
the consciousness of the people and fighting against the consumerist,
imperialist culture permeating to all corners. CNM develops closeness with the
people by taking up their problems.
PM: What kind of
repression is CNM facing? How are you overcoming it?
Lenj: CNM was
born amidst repression. It is becoming the victim of all kinds of repressive
measures adopted by the central and state governments – directly or indirectly.
Enemy surveillance on CNM teams is increasing by the day. If they come to know
of a performance, they are alerting the forces and conducting combing
operations. Sometimes they tried to surround the camping places of CNM teams.
But they turned into futile exercises due to the support of the people. In areas
like Gadchiroli there were firings on the teams too. When the youth of the
villages dance collectively during festivals or marriages, they are attacking
them indiscriminately thinking they are CNM members. But the people are guarding
CNM like the pupil of their eye. CNM also has ample support of the militia. On
special occasions PLGA forces are providing protection. Under militia protection
CNM teams are giving performances even at a distance of one or two kilometers
from the police stations on demand from the people. People’s artistes are
carrying on revolutionary propaganda amidst severe repression. On April 19th
Chhathisgarh government banned CNM.
PM: Let’s talk
about ‘Jhankar’ now. Explain the background of its formation, its history and
Lenj: Since the
inception of the DK movement in 1980, there were some writers and artistes among
the revolutionaries and they produced some literature in the form of stories,
poems, articles and small novels. All of them were written due to the pressing
needs of the movement. Revolution demands everything. Who will fulfill all these
demands? A few people outside (revolution) cannot fulfill these. The
revolutionary movement has to fulfill the demands of the revolution and people.
Then only the revolutionary movement can develop in all fields. The language is
different here. The problems are different. There is difference in backwardness.
There is some specificity. Literature is being produced keeping all this in
view. To encourage these writers and artistes and to record their writings
depicting people’s life and preserve people’s literature we thought of
publishing a magazine. As a result Jhankar was started in July – August 1994.
Every comrade here is involved in bringing this. This is being brought out
amidst repression. Since the enemy attack is multi faceted our resistance should
also be multi faceted.
Comrades write in
Gondi, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Telugu in this magazine, this is another
special feature of Jhankar. They can write in whatever language they fell they
can express. There are adivasis, non adivasis, Bengalis, Telugus, Marathis and
Odiya i.e. people belonging to various areas and nationalities in the DK
movement now. So Jhankar is a multi lingual magazine. We are trying to make
writers not only out of people but out of cadres also. Regarding people since
they are already extempore poets the need is more to revolutionize them than to
make them into writers. They express excellently all their problems, sufferings,
happiness and feelings in those songs. Mainly we have to give them the
revolutionary vision to write about solutions too in them. CNM members are also
learning to read and write now. We are correcting and publishing their writings
and developing them. There are some shortcomings in this effort too. We are not
able to concentrate fully on what the new writers are writing and on improving
them. By correcting this we can produce better results.
PM: What are the
goals you aim to achieve in the context of publishing the tenth year issue of
publishing of the tenth anniversary issue of Jhankar is a happy occasion. We
mentioned the problems faced by our writers in the issue. Mainly the writings
are in the same mould. So we have to change that. So our main goal is to help
the writers in taking up people’s issues and expressing them in an outstanding
manner and to make them write in new literary forms. There are many problems
here. Though there are only limited literary forms in this society we should
take other forms from the outside world. There is no development anywhere
without exchange of ideas. We should express the sacrifices, struggle
experiences and problems of people in art and literary forms. We are not able to
catch up to all these needs. So we have to give a direction to our writers to
catch up. Jhankar will play a role in moulding them as writers.
PM: What are the
goals you formulated in relation with the developing people’s war in DK?
Lenj: If we have
to achieve something in this field then we have to develop ourselves first. Our
advancement is linked to the advancement of the people’s war in this field. When
people’s war is in the initial stage the artistes and writers should be a step
ahead and prepare the people for it. They should improve their writing standards
and language style. All their writings should help in advancing the war. Here as
we are working with a base area perspective we have to explain to the people
through writings and art forms what a base area is, how people’s power is
exercised, how two classes fight for power and how revolution means political
power to the people. Since the consciousness of the people in these areas is
relatively higher the level of the writings should also rise accordingly. They
in turn should raise the level of the people. So our revolutionary writers
should be a step ahead than ordinary people and envision the future for the
PM: How will the
formation of CPI (Maoist) boost up the efforts in the cultural field?
Lenj: The merger
of two streams raised the hopes of all working people. Similarly it inspired and
stimulated the writers and artistes in the cultural field. This will help us a
lot in developing further. It will be very useful to learn the experiences of
writers and artistes who have been working with base area perspective for the
past thirty years in another area. It will be useful for them to learn our
experiences here. There were such efforts before also. But then it was under two
parties, under two leaderships. Now it will be carried under a unified party and
will help in carrying forward in a consolidated manner. It will help in building
new democratic culture rapidly.
PM: Finally, what
is your call to the writers and artistes outside?
what can any fighting people say to other fighting people? We are fighting here.
We ask all others to fight. That is all. We are fighting with all our efforts to
build up an anti imperialist, anti feudal new democratic culture. Our call to
people is to dare to fight to eliminate the exploitative classes’ culture. Since
our aim is the same lets try to carry on this fight by unifying in a more
consolidated manner. ‘Let us build new democratic culture by uniting’.
We extend our Lal
Salm to People’s March for coming here amidst many difficulties and taking
this interview and giving us a chance to tell about our cultural movement to
people of our country and other countries as well.