Ranchi: In the early Eighties a social activist became such a threat to the influentials of his area, simply because of his social work, that they implicated him in a false murder case. The lower court sentenced him to life imprisonment, which was later quashed by the High Court. It was this imprisonment that gave birth to a new leader—Mahendra Singh. When Singh was inside jail, he soon found out that the jail manual was not being followed. He made his fellow prisoners realise the same and thereby pressurised the authorities to follow the manual. He, along with other prisoners, even went on a hunger strike to bring about a change behind the high walls of the prison.
On being released, Mahendra Singh contested election for the Bihar legislative assembly. He didn’t taste success at the first attempt. However, he continued his work—fight against injustice and raising people’s issues consistently. Soon he gained immense popularity among the masses, which translated into a thumping victory at the next assembly polls in 1990. Since then he never tasted defeat in any of the assembly elections that he contested till he breathed his last.
Just ahead of the newly formed Jharkhand’s first assembly polls his political enemies, who were well aware that defeating him at the election was next to impossible, assassinated the popular leader the very next day after he filed his nomination for the fourth consecutive term. This killing shocked and infuriated almost everyone in Jharkhand, leading to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry being set up. But, even after 15 years, India’s premier investigative agency has failed to nail the culprits.
The CPIML leader, a standard eight school drop out, who was a legislator for over 15 years, was the lone leader in the opposition worth his salt, be it in undivided Bihar or later in Jharkhand. Mahendra Singh wrote many books, one of them being Keemat Chukati Zindagi – a collection of poems, which he dedicated to all those who lived or died for liberation or love.
His struggles and work, which has been appreciated by many, is all set to be documented in a docu-film.
“Keemat Chukati Zindagi, is also the title of our documentary, which is being made on Mahendra Singh. Earlier we had a working title – Ek Aur Spartacus. He used to like the character of Spartacus a lot. But later we decided that this title would suit the documentary, as he died fighting for liberation,” shared the international award winning documentary filmmaker Shri Prakash with eNewsroom.
Prakash is a noted Indian documentary filmmaker. His docu-film The Fire Within and few others have won a dozen international awards and mentions. He has been an activist as well, and has closely witnessed the activities of comrade Mahendra Singh. Prakash was very impressed with his concern for the poor and the marginalised communities.
The internationally acclaimed director further said, “I had closely witnessed many Mahendra Singh led movements in Jharkhand and Bihar including the Koyal Karo movement, which will have an exclusive part in the film. I know how he raised the issues of people, both inside the assembly and on the streets. His idea of people’s democracy, struggle for better society, standing with the suppressed, fighting for the causes of workers and labourers were extraordinary work done by an ordinary man. Unfortunately, when he was killed, I was not in India.”
Prakash continued, “Later, when I returned, I participated in the first death anniversary of the assassinated leader. The huge crowd that assembled to pay homage to the slain leader made me realise how dear he was to the common man. At that very moment I had decided to make a documentary on him.”
“But I could not make one then. Post 2014, when India’s political narrative changed, it made me realise how the issues of the common man has gone to the back burner and other irrelevant matters have taken centre stage. I also realised how important it is for me to complete my project and bring Mahendra Singh’s work, thought and persona before the youth of today, who are only glued to social media. Today’s youth should know about leaders like Mahendra Singh,” he added.
The lockdown also helped Prakash to complete his decade old project. The film is being edited by Divya Hansda, an alumna of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata. Divya has also made award winning documentary films.
“Apart from Divya, some of my students from Ranchi, who are now studying at Jamia Millia (Delhi), SRFTI (Kolkata), St Xavier and Gossner (Ranchi) are part of this documentary,” informed Prakash.
The docu-movie is expected to be released in a week’s time.