Gurmeet Singh or ‘‘Satnam’’ (1952-2016)

Asis Ranjan Sengupta

He was Grumeet to his mother, was G fellow, to the readers of "People's March", while to the Gond Tribal people of Bastar, his favourite place of travel, he was known as "Iswar dada", again he assumed the pseudonym of "Satnam", as the author of the famous travelogue "JANGALNAMA : Travels in a Maoist Guerilla Zone". In fact, for decades, he lived under multiple identities, as an underground communist revolutionary, a workers' leader, a leader of the migrant labourers, a democratic rights activist, a political commentator, and a translator. In 1970 he left Khalsa College, and home in Amritsar to join Naxalite movement. He worked as a Latheman, a Foreman, daily wage earner to organise the working class.

He also worked among religious minorities, dalits, oppressed nationalities, and played a pivotal role in collaboration of different Muslim democratic organisations after Gujarat genocide, in 2002.

He was also a member of executive committee of People's Democratic Front of India (PDFI), and Mumbai Resistance 2004. He consistently opposed state's atrocities on people of Kashmir and launched a campaign against Operation Green Hunt at all India level. Satnam wrote in Punjabi and English equally beautifully, and wrote under various names in revolutionary magazine 'People's March'. He also remained an active member of editorial boards of Punjabi magazines 'Sulgde Pind', 'Lok Kafla', 'People's Resistance', and 'Jan Pratirodh'. He threw away his customary Turban, shaved his head, and moved freely, when Khalistani activists were killing Hindus in Punjab. "Let them kill me" was his standpoint. Again after the Gujarat riots, and atrocities against the Muslims, he started wearing skull caps and visiting Mosques, to invite attack on his person. He translated Karl Marx's "Economic and Political Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844" and Howard Fast's "Spartacus" into Punjabi.

His monumental work was his Travelogue "Jangalnama : Travels in a Maoist Guerilla Zone" of Bastar where "People do not know who Nehru was, or what happened in 1947, nor do they know anything about the change of rule from Whites to the Browns. For them 'Dilli' (Delhi) is only a word associated with the 'Sarkar' and Government to them means Greedy Contractors, Torturing Police, all displacement and harrassment" (a quote from the Travelogue named Jagalnama by Satnam). This captures the unequal but Epic struggle and fight of the Gond Tribals, of Bastar against the might of the Indian state. He had one dream of making the world more beautiful to live in and this landed him among the Gond tribals in the jungles of Bastar in 2001. For nearly two months, he walked with Maoist guerillas, and discovered the dreams in their eyes. He was the witness to the breaking of a new dawn, an invigorating for survival and over "Jal, Jangal and Zameen". Till then Bastar was known as a place of ambushes and IED blasts but he ushered in an era of understanding the era of Maoist struggle as people's war. His monumental work was translated from Punjabi into English by famous Journalist and Writer Vishav Bharati and published by the Penguin Books and after that the reading public of the World became aware of the phenomena named 'Bastar'.

Satnam ended his life at his residence on 28th April, 2016 in Patiala struggling with the society's complicated relations, movements' complexities, and crisis of revolutionary movement. He will always be remembered as an innovative writer, a vigilant social scientist, a dedicated worker and at the same time, a critic of revolutionary movement. Satnam was a multitalented person who could argue about society and science, about poverty and stars, about revolution and big bang, about Marx and Einstein, about history and time machine, and about future and black holes equally well.

His ultimate decision to end his own life by hanging reminds one of tragic end, under similar circumstances, of Kanu Sanyal, the legendary "First Naxal" of Naxalbari uprising in 2010.

Vol. 49, No.4, Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2016