(A shorter version of this review appeared in Tehelka)
Writer: G P Deshpande
Director: Atul Pethe
Performed by Pune Safai Karmacharis Union
It was apt that a landmark production of G P Deshpande’s 1992 play Satyashodhak on the life of the 19th century anti-caste crusader Jyotiba Phule was performed in a week that witnessed the killing of the head of the Ranbir Sena – a week in which we were reminded that the bitter legacy of caste haunts us as strongly as ever. It was unusual however, that the performance should be held at the recently-opened May Day café and bookstore in Delhi – a space dedicated to the different and more hopeful legacy of the international working class movement, and located close to the heart of a former industrial district in a city that practices careful amnesia about its working classes. It is entirely unusual further that the performers were both Dalit and members of the Pune Municipal Safai Karmacharis Union. While the ancient, poisoned streams of caste and class have often overlapped on the subcontinent, they have not, as we are aware, produced unified or even similar political responses.