Ashok Shettar in his regular column in Avadhi wrote about Saket Rajan. I refused to read it on the day it was published. The following day I couldnt resist myself from reading. I read it and sat silently for a while and coincidentally one Abhishek Srivastava had written about Saket Rajan on his wall:
“क्या आपने साकेत राजन का नाम सुना है? आज पत्रकारिता दिवस पर उन्हें याद करना बहुत मौजूं है। साकेत राजन उर्फ कॉमरेड प्रेम- जिन्होंने अस्सी के दशक में IIMC से पत्रकारिता की पढ़ाई की और दीक्षांत समारोह में इमरजेंसी के लिए कुख्यात उन्हीं विद्याचरण शुक्ल के हाथों डिग्री लेने से इनकार कर दिया जो आज मेदांता अस्पताल में मौत से जूझ रहे हैं- उन्हें 6 फरवरी 2005 को धोखे से मार दिया गया था। IIMC Alumni Association से तो खैर क्या ही उम्मीद की जाए, लेकिन जिन्हें अब भी एक्टिविज्म और पत्रकारिता से न्यूनतम सरोकार बचा है, वे साकेत राजन के बारे में जानने, उनका लिखा पढ़ने और ज्यादा जानकारी जुटाने का प्रयास करेंगे, ऐसी आशा है।”
The very thought of Saket Rajan makes me restless and I cant lay my fingers on one reason and explain why he makes me restless. Now in a restless state of mind, after read Ashok Shettar’s column- with all the comments- and the note by Abhishek Srivastava I sit to write this note, on what I know not…
It was only during my last days of class 12 that I started becoming politically conscious. When I joined for my under graduation because of my association with some radical seniors I started reading about and on Marxism, Socialism etc. Not that I understood everything but still I continued to read and whatever little I grasped charged me up.
When I was in my second year of UG that I started fancying armed revolution as a romantic idealist. In a few months I came across an interview of Comrade Prem in Lankesh Patrike. The editorial of Captain (Gauri Lankesh) also spoke of Com. Prem and also had a slice from a poem that he had written on the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian playwright and activist, who was hanged by the then Nigerian regime in 1995 for his anti Shell mobilization and movement of the Ogoni people. The part of the poem published in Lankesh Patrike, monsoon 2004 was:
It was a lesson
You learned too late.
Should’ve been backed
By the gun, alright.
Its past night
Your corpse sleeps in the coffin
Your spirit fills the air.
Stab the heart
That pumps out oil,
Shell the brain
That causes the drain,
Avenge the Saros of humankind.
By then I was under the heavy influence of Ken Viva’s short story Africa Kills Her Sun, in which Bana writes to Zole the day before him being hanged, explaining why he took an anti-social route which made a heavy impact on me. So when I read Com. Prem’s poem, especially the line, “Your pen playwright should have been backed by the gun,” I wondered if that is what Ken Viwa who fought for the Ogoni people and against the multi-national Shell oil company lacked which caused him his life and the weakening of the battle for Ogoni people. Yes, said my naive mind. I saw the short story of Ken as his own changed belief regarding armed revolt, at the face of death. Com. Prem happened to say the same thing and it was all convincing to the naive mind of mine. As the poetry and the words of Com. Prem uttered in the interview seeped into my heart he became my hero.
Few months later some of my friends decided on a trek to Western Ghats. I agreed and we all went for a trek on 6 Feb 2005. While walking thorough the forests I kept remembering the description by Captain, in her editorial, on the path cutting through the forest to reach Com. Prem I remember having recited the poem of Com. Prem to a friend of mine after speaking about him for a while and also telling my friend, in my romantic ideas of armed revolution, that I wouldn’t mind joining Com. Prem in the forest.
When I woke up from deep sleep next morning the news paper carried the news about the assassination of Com. Prem whose name, which I wasn’t aware of, in real was Saket Rajan. My eyes swelled. I felt restless. I read the newspaper again and again and tears rolled down my eyes. Was it only his assassination that disturbed me or was it something more, I dont know. Because I had read and re-read the line saying a gun was found next to his body and I kept remembering the line, “Your pen and playwright should’ve been backed by the gun,” and it convincing me that Ken had lost the battle because he was not backed by the gun. But now here was the photo of Com. Prem alias Saket Rajan’s dead body and the report saying he had a gun in his hand. Suddenly it felt like the path that I had fancied also did not assure changing the world. The unarmed struggle of Ken stood at one end and the armed struggle of Com. Prem stood at the other end and I saw both ends meet at one point, not succeeding to change anything much but ending in almost a similar manner- at the hands of the state. It looked like a dead-end to me for I saw Ken and Com. Prem both die without achieving the larger cause that they dreamt of that they lived for and also died for. The system had managed to beat both of them and both the ways too. It was a moment of disillusionment to a naive romantic idealist. I cried like a child for I had lost not just a hero but also had lost a hopeful illusion.
The newspapers spoke of his background and his education reading which my admiration for the man shot up sky high, which was until then based on just the poem, the interview and the writing by Captain. Saki was born to a upper caste upper class family in Mysore. His father was a Major in the Indian army. Saki had left all of this behind for the causes of the wretched f the earth. One of the magazines, I remember, spoke of an incident where a policeman was abducted by Com. Prem and co who on being released did not get his job for it was suspected that he had some association with the Naxalites. Com. Prem then, the article has read, had pressed the department of police to take the policeman back for it was a matter of his livelihood. This incident showcased the human side of the so called “greatest internal threat”. This quality to respect and understand the member from the so called enemy camp was simply amazing and unheard of. To Com. Prem the policeman was not the enemy but a human being working for his livelihood which he respected. His enemy was the larger system and its that which he was fighting.
The newspaper also read that he had authored two volumes of Karanataka history titled MAKING HISTORY in the name Saki. I was shocked. Shocked because I had seen those books in the book stalls of Mangalore then and wondered how come Saki- Hectar Hugh Munro- had written about Karnataka history and had ignored it as “bogus” because I couldn’t imagine a British fiction writer would write two volumes of Karanataka history. Now I went in search of the book again and couldn’t find it anywhere. One of my teachers said that he had bought two volumes and given it to the library. But the then Principal of the college burnt the book fearing it being found in the college library. My search for the book was on even when aware that the book, which untill then was a prescribed text in one of the Universities in Karanataka, was banned overnight when it was realized that the unknown author Saki was Com. Prem alias Saket Rajan. I finally read the first volume of the book in 2008.
The ‘dead-end’ which my naive mind saw those days (2005) made me write an article on Saket Rajan alias Saki alias Com. Prem for our college magazine which went unpublished. The editor of the college magazine had called me and said, “Do you want me to lose my job? I cant approve this for the college magazine.” In 2011 I had also attempted writing a play on Saki and wanted to meet some of his friends who could give me some inputs on his life. Because I couldn’t access those details the play got stuck after the first act. Now I hear that a film is being made on Saki about which I feel happy and also envy.
But every time I remember Saki alias Saket Rajan alias Com. Prem I remember that day when I read the news of his assassination and the ‘dead-end’ that the I the hot blooded naive romantic idealist saw then. “What is the way?” was/ is the question that Saki, my the then hero, left me with intertwining himself, for me, with Ken Viwa. Its that question which still makes me restless for I, in my struggle to be intensely and regularly associated with social activism and living my life, am still struggling to answer for myself and also feeling guilty about not being able to leave behind all comforts like Saki did and not being able to make the greater common good a completely personal goal, merging the self and the world.