80 Years of IPTA – India’s Theater Movement Truly ‘For the People’

Something remarkable happened in a school hall in Bombay from May 22-25, 1943. The fourth All India Conference of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) was held in the Marwari Vidyalaya. Unlike the three previous Pan-Indian meetings of this influential literary group – the first being in Lucknow on April 9, 1936, followed by the second in Calcutta on December 24-25, 1938, and the third in Delhi in 1942 – this one in Bombay was a great affair. It was significant also because on its closing day, May 25, a remarkable institution came into being – the Indian People’s Theater Association (IPTA) – with the motto “The people’s theater puts the people in the limelight”. “.

Sri Lankan activist Anil de Silva was appointed its first general secretary and NM Joshi, the union leader, its first president. While the initial impetus behind the formation of the IPTA was the man-made famine of Bengal and the Urdu poem by Wamiq Jaunpuri, Bhooka Hai Bangal (“Bengal is hungry”), becomes its rallying cry, soon almost all the great “isms” of the time feed its mill: anticolonialism, antifascism, anti-imperialism, feminism, agrarian reform, rights of industrial workers, peasants and landless workers, not to mention national unity, community harmony, secularism, pluralism and multiculturalism.

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