September 1970. Ramchandra Singh enters the Hardoi District Jail in Uttar Pradesh as a naxalite undertrial. Barely twenty, his life of expanding prospects–in studies, politics and love–is reduced to the horizon of a life term. The odds are stacked against the survival of his humanity and imagination, but Singh regenerates his gifts of empathy, humour, reflection and, above all, language–in a secret diary smuggled out with the help of friends. 13 Years offers an unprecedented intimacy with the everyday life of the imprisoned everyman. It challenges us to look without flinching and question our assumptions about crime and punishment.
Ramchandra Singh (1949–2018), of Bangarmau village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Red Star, and served on its Central Committee. He was part of the editorial board of Red Star Monthly (Hindi). He passed away when this book was in press.
Madhu Singh is a professor in the Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Lucknow. She has previously translated the scholar G.N. Devy’s work, A Nomad Called Thief, into Hindi as Ghumantu Hain Chor Nahin.
Read this report on the launch of the book in Delhi at Studio Safdar on 25th May 2018 when Kavita Krishnan, Aman Sethi, Anand Swaroop Verma, Madhu Singh and K.N. Ramachandran spoke about the life and work of Comrade Ramchandra Singh.
Read our March 2018 newsletter The Ides of March: Faiz reading Ramchandra Singh where we recount how Singh’s life, work and death came about.
The Wire: Another unmarked grave in history. Remembering the anonymous revolutionary from Bangarmau—a man broken in love, and a man whose arrival on this stage of history coincides with his death.
Its autonomy is important for 13 Years; for the diarist has utilised his relative obscurity to put forth his views candidly.—The Telegraph
‘A coming-of-age story of a revolutionary driven to move his world towards justice and equality’—Angela Davis, in her Foreword
‘A trenchant book… when terms like “urban naxal” are thrown around to vilify whole categories of people’—Hindustan Times
‘This smuggled-out account exposes the bosom of the Gulag that India has become’—Anand Teltumbde
‘This diary holds a mirror to our collective shame’—Teesta Setalvad
‘Singh’s honest account of fetters, love and revolution sparkles with life’—Arun Ferreira
‘A memoir about revolution, life and love told from the heart’—K.R. Meera
‘Ramchandra Singh raises our spirits with the earthy fragrance of his ‘criminal’ life. His memoir, in fact, bears the fragrance of fire’—Varavara Rao