Saturday, April 12, 2014

Remembering Anuradha Ghandy by Harsh Thakor

Today on 12th April  we dip our blood in memory of the late Comrade Anuradha Gandhy who expired exactly 6 years ago

She was one of the greatest women comrades ever in the history of the Indian revolutionary movement who harnessed her entire energy towards the emancipation of mankind.

She would traverse the most turbulent of seas with the coolest mind and relentless determination and no obstacle could block her endeavour in lighting the flame of Maoism.

She had the creative flair of a poet, the skills of a doctor and the theoretical mastery of a professor.Anuradha sowed the seeds for the sprouting of many revolutionary cadres resembling a red rose blooming.

She was a powerhouse of energy and would inspire all sections of people. The author remembers the meetings of fronts like the Naujwan Bharat Sabha which she inspired.

She proved that MLM ideology was not mechanical but a powerful creative treasurehouse.Above all she was not mechanical and was creative in her perspective.

Her writings on the Dalit movement reflected this.I can never forget how she made so many red flowers bloom in the 1980's and 1990's. making such an impact on revolutionary circles.

She withstood the most turbulent of seas,the steepest of mountains and the densest of jungles in treading her path and defying any obstacle .

Her life was an abject lesson in the invincibility of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and it's creative essence.Above all she depicted that it is revolutionaries who are morally the most spiritual of people.Inspite of so many activists leaving the movement in the 1980's this great comrade relentless committed herself to the revolutionary movement.She was a thorn in the flesh for the ruling classes and their culture.

Her vast reserves of energy carried her towards becoming the only women central Commitee member of the C.P.I.(Maoist)The  most remarkable journey she made was in Dandkaranya where she illuminated the red torch of Maoism more than ever before.
Today comrades still remember her.

She posessed the unique spiritual qualities of a revolutionary.

Red Salutes to Anuradha Gandhy!

Below I am re-posting an article from journal 'peoples truth.'

On April 12, 2008 Anuradha (alias Narmada, Varsha, Janaki, Rama) passed away after an attack of falciperum malaria. With this the Indian working class lost one of its ablest and topmost woman leaders who with sheer hard work, deep ideological and political study, and revolutionary dedication rose from the ranks to become a member of the Central Committee of the C.P.I (Maoist).

The oppressed women of India lost one of the greatest champions of their cause, one who, for more than three and a half decades, relentlessly organized them, led them into struggles against oppression and exploitation; the Nagpur dalit masses and workers of the unorganized sector lost a leader who stayed among them, awakening and organizing them; and the adivasi masses of Bastar, especially those of South Bastar, worst affected by the genocidal Salwa Judum, lost their beloved didi, who worked among them for years sharing their weal and woe; and the students and intellectuals lost a revolutionary role model, who gave up the comforts of a middle class life in order to integrate with the oppressed masses.

She was just 54 at the time of her martyrdom. She had just returned after spending a week in Jharkhand taking classes amongst the tribals on the question of women’s oppression. After getting high fever on April 6th she was not able to get proper medical attention due to the difficulties of underground life. The local pathologist said there was no malarial infection in the blood and so she was treated for stomach upset by a local doctor. It was only on 11th after another blood test that she realized that she had falciperum malaria.

Though even on that morning she appeared fine, inside, the falciperum bacteria had already affected her lungs, heart and kidney which had already been weakened by systemic sclerosis. Though she was admitted in a hospital immediately, barely within an hour her systems began failing. Though she was put on oxygen and later life-support systems, the end came the next morning. While on oxygen she was conscious and her eyes wide open. The same soft eyes with her depth of expression, though in acute pain with probable knowledge that she was sinking.

The degeneration was catalyzed by the fact that she had an incurable disease, systemic sclerosis. This auto-immune disease first affected her hands and slowly attacked the inner organs. Detected two years ago and probably in existence since the last 5 years, it had already affected her lungs and heart beat. Yet, with her commitment to the masses and revolution she worked with the same ardour as earlier. She rarely spoke of the disease and took on even the most strenuous tasks. Her commitment to the cause of revolution was unshakable no matter what the ups and downs. Being with the incipient revolutionary movement right from her college days in the early 1970s in Mumbai, she gave up a career as a brilliant lecturer, and dedicated her entire life to the revolution.

At the 9th Congress-Unity Congress of the Communist Party of India (Maoist)she was the single mahilla comrade to be elected to its Central Committee.

In this span of about 35 years work with the Indian revolutionary movement she has contributed much to the building of the revolutionary movement in the country, not only organizationally, but also politically and ideologically. She was one of the founders of the CPI (ML) Party in Maharashtra. Though her prime focus was in Maharashtra (both the Western and the Vidharbha region) her work also contributed to the building of some all-India organization and even of the Dandakaranya movement.

Even at a late age of over 40, and after serving as a senior professor teaching sociology to post-graduate students at Nagpur University, she moved to live with the tribals of Bastar staying with the armed squads for three years.

She started her political life at Elphinstine College Mumbai in 1972 which became the hub of radical left-wing activities in the 1970s, primarily due to her initiation. Earlier she had visited the Bangladesh refugee camps and had gone to the famine hit people with a group of students during the horrible famine in Maharashtra of 1972. Deeply moved by what she saw there, and being a very sensitive person, she began taking part in college activities and social work with the poor. While active amongst students she came in touch with the student organization PROYOM (Progressive Youth Movement), which was connected to the then Naxalite movement.

She soon became its active member, and later one of its leaders. She also worked in the slums through which she developed her first interaction with dalits, the dalit movement and the horrors of untouchability. She was a participant in the radical Dalit Panther movement of 1974; and in the 3-month long Worli clashes with the Shiv Sena. Her sensitive nature drew her to the agony of dalit oppression and led her to seek answers to it.

She read voraciously and gained a deep knowledge of Marxism. Later, in the post-Emergency period she became one the leading figures in the country in the civil liberties movement and was one of the initiators of the CPDR (Committee of Protection of Democratic Rights). In 1982 she moved from Mumbai to Nagpur and while teaching at Nagpur University she actively participated in, and played a leading role in the trade union and dalit movements in the region. In the process she went a number of times to jail. With State repression increasing she was forced to go underground. Later, at the call of the Party she went to Bastar to work among the tribals, and on returning she took up the responsibility once again of building the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra. Since the last 15 years she has been working in the underground, building the Party and Maharashtra as well as leading the women’s wing of the Party, until her sudden and untimely demise.

Early Life

Anu was born into a family that came from the CPI of the 1940s and 1950s. Her parents, the Shanbags, were married in the CPI office of the undivided Party in Mumbai and active in the Party till the mid 1950s. Her father was, in the 1950s, in the Defence Committee taking up the legal cases of the communists arrested in the Telangana struggle and later became a well known progressive lawyer of Mumbai; the mother is an active social worker who, even at this late age, is active with a women’s group. It was in this liberal atmosphere that the children grew up. Anu grew to become a revolutionary, while her brother is a noted progressive play-writer and theatre artist of Mumbai. In her school days Anu was a brilliant student of the J.B. Petit School at Santacruz, always topping in her class. Here, she also learnt classical dancing. With her parents from a communist background, Anu was open to all ideas and views, including communist, and encouraged to read.

It was within this environment that she could easily get attracted to revolutionary politics when she came in touch with it in her college days. Those were the days when the communist movement was sweeping the world. The youth throughout the world was reverberating with the great impact of the Cultural Revolution in China and the historic advance of the Vietnamese people in their war with the US imperialists. Within this international ferment, Naxalbari exploded over India and inspired an entire generation, not only in India, but all of South Asia. All this had its impact on the young Anu. As already mentioned she joined the radical student organization, PROYOM, and later went on to become one of the founder members of the CPI (ML) in Maharashtra. In 1977 she married a fellow comrade. She was one of the most important persons to initiate the revolutionary movement in Mumbai and then again a prime factor to spread the movement to Vidarbha in the early 1980s. Particularly notable is the fact that she was the comrade who was primarily responsible for bringing the dalit issue in Maharashtra onto the revolutionary agenda.

Growth as a Renowned Revolutionary Mass Leader

During the late 1970s, Anuradha was in the forefront of the countrywide civil liberties movement. In the early 1980s, with the formation of the CPI (ML) (People’s War), and the spread of the revolutionary movement to Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, there was talk of the need to spread the revolutionary activities from Mumbai to Vidharbha. Here too she was one of the pioneers, giving up her job in the Mumbai College and her high profile public life and shifting to Nagpur; a place totally unknown to her. Her focus of activities in Vidharbha was primarily trade union work and amongst dalits.

In the trade unions she worked primarily amongst construction workers and led many a militant struggle. Most notable was the lengthy strike at the Khaparkheda (30 kms from Nagpur) thermal power plant being constructed, of about 5,000 workers. This ended in police firing and curfew being declared in the region. She was also involved in organizing the ‘molkarins’ (house servants) of Nagpur, workers in the MIDC companies at Hingna (Nagpur), railway workers, bidi workers in Bhandara, power loom workers at Kamptee (15 kms from Nagpur), and other unorganized sector workers, and later shifted to Chandrapur to help organize the coal-mine and construction workers there.

Most of these unorganized sector workers had defacto no basic trade union rights and were totally ignored by the traditional unions. She also developed links for joint activities with other progressive trade union leaders of the region from not only Nagpur, but also from Chandrapur, Amravati, Jabalpur, Yeotmal, etc. In these struggles she was arrested a few times, and had spent a number of days in Nagpur jail. In spite of her job, she became a renowned revolutionary trade union leader of the region.

Besides this, she was even more active within the dalit community organizing and awakening them against caste oppression and for their liberation from this oppressive system. She was in fact one of the pioneers amongst the revolutionary Marxists to have addressed the issue of dalit oppression and caste discrimination at a very early stage itself. She had read extensively Ambedkar and other sociological writings on the caste question. Unlike the traditional Marxists she fully identified with dalits and in fact moved her Nagpur residence to one of the largest dalit bastis of Mahrashtra, Indora. Though this was a stronghold of most of the dalit leaders and a hotbed of dalit politics, large sections of the youth soon began getting attracted to the Naxalites. Particularly the cultural troupes she helped organize had enormous impact.

She grew to become the open face of the Maoists in the dalit movement; and became one of the major public speakers at most dalit meetings in Vidarbha. Though vehemently opposed by the dalit leaders, with her deep study of Ambedkar, dalit issues and caste oppression, she could stand her ground, with widespread support from the youth.

Besides, all this, she was also instrumental in building the revolutionary women’s movement in Nagpur. She stood out as a shining example for all progressive women who played an active role overcoming all the patriarchal constraints of society around. She inspired a large number of women not only in to the women’s organization but also in to the Party.

She wrote profusely on the topic in both English and Marathi, presenting a class view-point to the issue and countering not only the numerous post-modernist trends on this issue but the wrong Marxist interpretations of the dalit and caste questions. The most elaborate article on the issue was a 25-page piece in Marathi that appeared in Satyashodhak Marxvad (the organ of Sharad Patil from Dhule) explaining a Marxist stand on the dalit question and linking dalit liberation with the task of the new democratic revolution in the country. Till today this article is quoted by many. Many years later it was she who prepared the original draft on the basis of which the erstwhile CPI (ML) (PW) prepared the first ever caste policy paper within the Marxist movement in India. In this draft she outlined that in India the democratization of society is inconceivable without smashing the elitist caste system and fighting all forms of caste oppressions, most particularly its crudest form against dalits in the form of untouchability. Much of the views expressed by her then in the mid-1990s have now been adopted by the CPI (Maoist) in its recent Congress. …

During the last month, whenever I have had occasion to write to anyone about Anuradha, I have been at a complete loss for words on ways to express the depth of my sorrow and anguish at her so untimely death. The shock of it all, the fact that one will never again see her bobbing her head, tilting it like a dancer, the unguarded display of emotions and thoughts on her so expressive face — it has become really very difficult to accept this reality. What a loss to the Party and all of us, her colleagues and friends. A life abruptly cut short just as it was poised for new flights after decades of hard solid work, just when the new responsibilities were unfolding before her; a kind of rare plant which was once again on the verge of bloom at an age when most had become dry and sterile.

When she was there, I took her so much for granted. A dependable, reliable person always there when a hard difficult task we all hesitated to undertake and was to be done. Now that she is gone her importance, her significant contribution hits you — hits you because we are be all the weaker; poorer owing to her absence.

The importance of com. Anuradha goes far beyond what she contributed organizationally. Her life and work has a visible social significance and impact rarely enjoyed by an underground communist activist. To my mind very few communists in the recent decades have had such a wide reach, an appeal which went far beyond the organization and the immediate masses organized by it; an ability to bridge many disparate social groups with the revolutionary movement as Anuradha did. It is in this quality that lays her uniqueness and it is this quality which will serve the Party and movement long after she has physically died. She had appeal not only for the basic masses — workers and peasants — but also the intellectuals of all hues: students, lawyers, educational professionals, researchers, dalit activists and even non-dalit Marathi progressive circles.

She also represented the communist women activist in the feminist milieu. Standing firm on the bedrock of communist ideology and practice, her physically diminutive frame stretched across and built links with all these sections.were facing in the Party, the varied forms of patriarchy they face, and devising a rectification plan that would help the growth of women comrades, so that they can grow to take greater leadership responsibilities. In fact her very last task was taking a class of the leading women activists from Jharkhand, mostly from tribal background, to explain the Women’s Perspective of the Party. Her untimely and premature death will have a serious impact on the revolutionary movement in the country and particularly on the development of women’s work in the Party as also the development of work in Maharashtra. …

Anuradha’s contributions to the Indian revolutionary movement, and particularly the movement in Maharashtra, have been substantial. She had the rare qualities of being not only an effective leader in the field, but combining it with significant ideological and political contributions. And as her long-standing comrade said, she had that uniqueness in being able to connect with a vast spectrum of people and thereby bridge so many social groups with the revolution. Most important of all, she had many of the qualities any genuine communist should inculcate — extreme straight-forwardness, modesty, selflessness, disciplined and hardworking, and unwavering commitment to the revolution. Finally, her liveliness and child-like simplicity made her a most lovable person, leaving an indelible impact on anyone she met, even once.
Besides this she was a good mass leader, an effective Party organizer and an ideologue who wrote extensively and particularly helped enrich the Marxist understanding on the caste/dalit and women’s question.

To grow to such heights in this deeply patriarchal society, is a source for enormous inspiration to all women comrades and activists. Her life and work will remain as an important chapter in India’s revolutionary movement and will continue to inspire people to the cause of revolution. Though her untimely death extinguished a glowing star, the rays will linger on to illumine the path towards a just and equitable new order. Anuradha will continue to live on in our hearts.

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