Saturday, October 14, 2017

9th Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Seminar - Report by Harsh Thakor


The 9th Anuradha Ghandy memorial meeting was held yesterday in the Press club hall near Victoria Terminus station being attended by around 500 people.It had great qualitative significance in the light of the twin onslaught of fascist attacks by Hindu Saffron and Corporate forces on the democratic movements of the people of India.

It was ultimately held resisting the tyranny of the Hindu fascist brigade represented by the Indian legal forum from staging the event.

Comrade Tilak Das Gupta,formally associated with the C.P.I.(M.L.) and later the Party Unity faction util 1991 summed up how any democratic gains achieved were won only through the influence and struggles of the Naxalbari peasant struggle.

He elaborated how for the first time a chord was struck with the landless peasant and also certain sections of unorganized workers.He described how the movement created a political renaissance among the students and youth .Significantly he felt that in today's context the corporates had become an equal enemy of the big landlords and that the fundamental contradiction was between the big comprador bourgeoise and the masses which was the original stand of the C.P.I.(M.L.) Party Unity.

Although landlordism and feudalism was prevalent he felt it was imperialism that is controlling it which through corporates has made big inroads in the agricultural sector.In his view anti-feudal struggle has to be combined with that against the monopoly capitalists.

He hailed the sacrifices and achievements of the Maoists but felt that a much more broad based movement should be built engulfing the major industrial belts to mobilize the industrial workers.His main accent was that India could not duplicate the Chinese path of protracted Peoples war but neverthless still pursue the path of New democratic revolution.

In Dasgupta's view even after completing the revolution a multi-party system should not be abolished which is in contradiction to the orthodox MLM view.

Neverthless he admired the rectification made in pos-t1977 period of the left adventurist aspects of the Charu Mazumdar line.

NDasgupta maintained that the subjective factors existed all along to wage an armed struggle and was critical of al trends that deferred it.Overall I was impressed with Tilak Dasgupta's balanced and objective approach which could relate to the audience .

Varavara Rao summed up the history of the naxalbari movement and explained the link between the current developments in Dandakaranya to that of the original Naxalbari Struggle

He also explained how Fascism in India was reaching it's highest zenith under the Narendra Modi B.J.P.Govt.and analyzed the impact of globalisation on the nation.He made major efforts t to connect the question of dalit caste struggle with the revolutionary armed class struggle He summed up the connection between the Naxalbari movement and the emancipation of the dalit castes and Adivasis in areas...I am briefly breaking up his speech in 5 parts.

1.Dandkaranya region has become base are for the Indian revolution and compares to the achievements of Hunan in China.In Vara Vara Rao's view an alternative form of developments was established in Dandkaranya by the Maoists in terms of agricultural production,education,medicine and all other walks of life. 

He described the unique features of the Chetana Natya Manch and the Krantikari Mahila Sanghatana -compared to that of other women's organizations.He admit that major mistakes were made in practice but felt overall a mass line policy was practiced.The dandkaranya and earlier naxalbari movement made  the Adivasi and dalit communities scale a new height.

2.Described the historical gains and events from the era of the founding of the C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War group in 1980 with meticuluos clarity .He summed up the struggles of the mass organizations like the Radical Students UN ion and the Youth League in context of the agrarian revolution and awakening the political consciousness of the dalits.

Examples of past 'Go to village campaigns 'were given where the students understood the necessity of merging the struggle of caste with class.V.V.recounted the Indravelli massacre ,when the revolutionary movement was spreading it's forces enjoining the forests and the plains in the Tendu leaf struggle.The Radical Students Union,Radical Youth League ,Rytu Coolie Sangham and Jan natya Mandali led the movement for caste annihilation in an exemplary manner till 1985.

However the mistake was in conceptualizing these movements only in terms of political economy and not as socila or cultural struggles.Karemchedu gave the instance to rectify it,where upper caste people assassinated dalits. The Peoples War group confronted the upper caste elements and punished the demurer of the dalits. In his view the Maoist movement failed to sufficiently integrate the Muslim minorities who formed a significant section of the working class and the dalits

3.Like Tilak Dasgupta V.V.admitted weakness of movement in urban areas but still mantained that the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses was principal.

In his view what made the Maoist party the major political force was it's stress and practice on capture of state power unlike other groups within the revolutionary stream.Tooth and nail he defended the contribution of Comrade Charu mazumdar and the original C.P.I.(M.L.)Apart from creating changes at the level of the base it made significant changes in the politics ta the level of the superstructure and creatively defined the relationship between the base and the superstructure.

4.Raised the importance of bringing to light and defending the rights of various nationalities ,be it in Kashmir,Assam or Punjab.He felt that before the pervading of Hindu fascism the regional bourgeoise like that represented by the Akali Dal in Punjab had a very progessive role.He spoke about the role of the erstwhile All ndia Peoples Resistance Forum in holding a national seminar on the nationality question. in February 1996.

5.The Maoist movement failed to adequately win over the minority Muslim section in the revolutionary movement of the dalit section.Inspite of the great rage felt by the Muslims after the demolition of Babri Masjid the maoist ranks failed to properly integrate them in the revolutionary struggle.Significantly the muslim minority comprised a most important and militant section of the wo rking class.He felt that inspite of fifty years the Muslim minority could not identify the Maoist party being it's very own..

5.The major obstacle was the absence of revolutionary mass organizations that can openly propagate the revolutionary political line of protracted peoples war path and revolutionary world outlook.He felt in the past fronts like Jana Natya Mandali ,Virasam,AIPRF and AILRC could provide the role.
In his view to day only Virasam in Andhra or Telengana could fulfill that role.It is the biggest deficiency in the movement which could not now transparently endorse revolutionary programmes.Today even minumum essential work cannot be undertaken like what the Fronts mentioned could do before.

Gurbir Singh closed the event raising some relevant points.In his view in today's context the state had become repressive as never before even surpassing the time of the 1976 emergency.In his view all the rights prevailing in the Indian constitution wee impeached as never before and even al the hard won rights of the people are on the brink of being lost.Gurbir gave an example of the situation of the girls of Benares Hindu University who were forced to eat vegetarian food and observe a Hindu dress code.Gurbir felt that today all laws protecting democratic forces are diminishing at a pace as never before.

He particularly threw light on how the Hindu Saffron RSS brigade was infiltrating al walks of life taking communal Hindu fascsim to ah eight never reached before in India.In his view but for the positive initiative to counter the Legal forum blessed by Hindu saffron forces who wished to ban the programme the memorial meeting would never be held.He projected how revolutionary democrats were treated by the administration as though they were carrying guns.

The meeting was chaired by Bernard d'Mellow and Vernon Gonzalves.

In my view even if the numbers were not more than 450 people such a meting was a stepping stone in resurrecting or shimmering the light of the historic Naxalbari armed struggle.

I was impressed with the attendance of students and youth who looked engrossed in the lecture and a small section of the lower middle-class.Many veteran activists of the past also attended the meet.Above all my mother even attended the event which was touching.

The revolutionary fervour of the decades of the 1970's and 80's was echoed.The speakers combined Hindi and English in their speeches.I was particulary impressed with the broad based approach of both the speakers throwing light on the subject in a diverse manner.Vara Vara Rao answered an important question on how the movement had to spread and make base in urban areas.

I recommend all cadres to hear the speeches when they are put on youtube.The arguable weakness was that the question and answer session was short and could not provided for an engrossing debate.Sadly it was also hardly attended by other sections of the revolutionary camp.   


A major achievement of the Naxalbari movement was giving Dalits, adivasis a sense of self-respect, says Telugu writer Vara Vara Rao.

The Naxalbari movement began 50 years ago, and is still on. ?Nowhere else in the world will you find a continued class struggle that has lasted so many years,? said Vara Vara Rao, the famous Telugu poet and writer, speaking on ?50 Years of Naxalbari, Looking Back, Looking Forward?.

Rao was delivering the ninth Anuradha Ghandy Memorial lecture at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh. Ghandy, an alumnus of Elphinstone College, became part of the central Committee of the CPI (Maoist). She passed away from cerebral malaria in 2008. Since then, her colleagues have held an annual lecture in her memory.

A remarkable achievement of the Naxalbari movement was giving Dalits and adivasis a sense of self-respect, he said. The movement had also brought forth an ?alternative to parliamentary politics?, Rao said.

Describing the parallel government that exists in the forest region spread across the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand, Rao said this was a government based on ?people?s power. They don?t fight elections, they don?t pay taxes. This seizure of power started with liberating land from the hands of landlords and forming co-operatives, and protecting this land from the landlords? armies and the police?.

According to Rao, power in this parallel government was shared by a ?united front of adivasis, Dalits, small and middle farmers, and the landless, all protected by a people?s army. This has been in existence since 13 years, and has survived in the face of the harshest repression in the form of Operation Green Hunt under the UPA government, and now an all-out war under the NDA government?.

Tilak Dasgupta, who had been part of the Naxalite movement in Bihar, spoke of the movement?s legacy. ?India was at that time an 80 per cent agricultural economy. The Naxalite movement centred around agrarian issues. For the first time, poor and landless peasants were brought into the political arena as independent actors. Earlier, peasant movements had been led by those who owned land. For the first time, too, adivasis and Dalits were brought into the class struggle.?

While the movement did not bring too many material benefits to the people, Dasgupta said, it led to the democratisation of society to a large extent wherever the movement was strong. ?The Constitutional rights to free speech, to organise, even to vote – everything was crushed when we began working. All of these rights had to be won through struggle. Ironically, though we did not believe in Parliamentary elections, because of our struggle, those who had never been allowed to vote till then could now exercise their vote.?

Dasgupta said the challenge before the movement was to break out of its narrow confines and reach wider sections of the people – the working class, as well as the small producers and farmers who were fighting a last ditch battle against big corporates.

Three days before the event, members of a right-wing group called the Legal Rights Observatory wrote a letter to the Mumbai police commissioner urging that the ninth Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Lecture be cancelled.

The public lecture series is conducted every year in honour of Anuradha Ghandy, one of the founders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninst). Ghandy died of cerebral malaria in 2008 while working with tribal women in Jharkhand. The event features various speakers – often intellectuals and activists from the Left – to speak on socially relevant issues.

This year, to mark the half-centenary of the revolutionary Naxalite movement, the lecture organisers invited revolutionary poet and writer Vara Vara Rao from Andhra Pradesh and veteran left-wing leader Tilak Dasgupta from West Bengal. It was held at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh in downtown Mumbai.
Terror claims

In its complaint to the police commissioner and in a Whatsapp forward demanding action against the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, the Legal Rights Observatory group claimed that the Patrakar Sangh was providing a venue for a “notorious anti-Indian terror group”.

“Officers from the police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad also landed up at the venue a couple of days before the lecture and asked for a cancellation of the event,” said Gurbir Singh, a member of the Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee.

When the Patrakar Sangh refused to cancel the booking of the event, the right-wing group threatened to disrupt the lecture. However, the lecture sessions on Friday eventually progressed without any interruptions, with over a 100 people in attendance.
Standing firm

The managing committee of the Patrakar Sangh said that it stood its ground after verifying that the Memorial Committee is officially registered as a trust with the Charity Commissioner. “The Home Ministry has a list of banned organisations that we cannot give out our venue to, but this Memorial Committee was not one of them,” said Narendra Wable, the head of the Patrakar Sangh’s managing committee.

Wable pointed out that the Patrakar Sangh had served as the venue for the Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Lecture in 2015. “A lot of right-wing groups have been allowed to rent the Patrakar Sangh venues for their press conferences, so how can they object?” he said.

The Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee has faced threats from the right-wing in the past as well. In 2012, when author and activist Arundhati Roy was to speak at the Lecture in Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College, the police had warned the organisers that the Shiv Sena would attack the event. “But we carried on with the lecture anyway,” said Gurbir Singh.

Friday’s lecture, too, went off without disruption even though the organisers had decided against opting for police protection.

Speaking at the memorial lecture, writer Tilak Dasgupta described the 50-year-old Naxal movement as one that is about the revolutionary seizure of power by the people, and a movement that has brought peasants, workers, Dalits and Adivasis to the forefront of the political arena, as independent actors.

“Whatever has been achieved in this movement is through struggle from below,” said Dasgupta, who believes the way forward for the Naxal movement is to resist and target the “big bourgeoisie” of corporations that are destroying small-scale economies in India. “Our country’s political environment has now distinctly shifted to the right, and we need to strategise about how best to use available democratic spaces to expand the reach of the left.”

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