This April 22 we will observe the 47th anniversary of the foundation of CPI(ML), and May 25 will mark the commencement of the 50th year of the historic Naxalbari uprising which presaged the emergence of the CPI(ML) as the new rallying centre for a whole new generation of communist revolutionaries in India. As we remember the glorious past our feet are firmly placed on the fighting ground of the present and our vision is focused on the challenges and great potential that are knocking on our doors.
With Narendra Modi at the head of India’s first BJP-majority government at the Centre, it is amply clear that the Sangh brigade is busy systematically unleashing the whole gamut of its corporate-worshipping communal fascist agenda. From the natural and human resources of the country to the institutional structure of the state, from the realm of history, culture and knowledge to the constitutional domain of liberties and rights of the people and secular and democratic foundation of the republic – the Sangh brigade has launched a concerted attack in every sphere, using the state power to the hilt to suppress and incriminate dissent, brazenly plant its hand-picked people in key positions in various institutions and protect its thugs and goons with utter impunity.
While confronting this offensive of the Sangh brigade we must of course focus on the brighter side of the picture – on the reassuring signs of unity, determination and courage with which the people are resisting, successfully exposing, challenging, and even beating back the corporate-communal offensive at times. In 2015 the government had to withdraw the land acquisition ordinance in the face of stiff opposition from peasant organisations and most opposition parties. In this year’s budget, the government had to roll back the proposed taxation on withdrawals from workers’ provident funds. And the protests that were initiated last year by prominent writers, historians, scientists and cultural personalities in the wake of the killings of Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Mohammad Akhlaq have now found its complement in a powerful student-youth upsurge.
This student upsurge or India’s growing youth spring has a great potential to challenge and thwart the fascist offensive of the corporate-communal order. It is an upsurge of a protracted nature, glimpses of which we have been seeing intermittently for the last few years. We saw it erupt in Delhi against the horrific rape and murder of a young girl, and go on to resonate across the country with the call for freedom for India’s women from the shackles of patriarchy. We saw it erupt in Hyderabad in the wake of the tragic end of young dreamer and researcher Rohith Vemula and strike a chord across the country against the continuing shame of social discrimination and the growing danger of saffron regimentation in India’s educational institutions. And then we saw it erupt again in Delhi following the police crackdown and saffron witch-hunt in JNU and grow into a loud cry for ‘azaadi’ and democracy in today’s India.
What we are witnessing is an assertion of the awakened youth that refuses to be sedated after a change of government. After the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and AAP in Delhi on a popular anti-corruption plank in early 2014, many had thought the upsurge had found its new political destination. In May 2014, many more claimed that Modi had emerged as the most decisive answer for young India’s quest for change. But the renewed post-Modi assertion of students has made it clear that far from being quenched, the thirst for change among India’s young is only growing and they have all the courage and strength and ability to confront the diktats and machinations of the forces in power. It is a quest for change which inherits the legacy of both Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and if we look at the desperate attacks by RSS-BJP-ABVP goons on activists and academics whether in Delhi or Allahabad, Gwalior or Muzaffarpur, it becomes quite clear how mortally afraid the Sangh brigade is of this legacy and this quest.
And it is not difficult to see why they are so afraid of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and the prospect of the two legacies coming ever closer in action. The BJP is keenly aware that it has no roots in the glorious history of India’s freedom movement. The best known figure from its ideological family during the freedom struggle days was Savarkar who eventually became notorious for his mercy petitions to the British rulers and his advocacy of Hindu Rashtra. The founder leaders of RSS drew their inspiration from Mussolini and Hitler and when the colonial rulers finally had to leave the country amidst the bloodbath of Partition, the RSS-Hindu Mahasabha contribution was the assassination of Gandhi, which invited a ban on the organisation imposed by none other than Sardar Patel, the Congress leader who Advani and Modi have been so keen to appropriate. In contrast to this history of shame and disgrace, the radical youth of India continues to draw their inspiration from the sacrifice and vision of Bhagat Singh, his legacy of uncompromising battle against imperialism and total commitment to the cause of the emancipation of the people from all kinds of slavery and bondage.
Like Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar too is an anathema to the RSS because he strikes at the very Manuvadi foundation of the RSS vision of Hindu Rashtra and challenges the RSS dream of resurrecting the caste system with his clarion call for annihilation of castes and the constitutional proclamation of liberty, equality and fraternity as the basis of the Indian republic. In recent years while maligning secularism as minority appeasement and invoking Hindu majoritarianism to transcend the caste divide, the BJP has been trying to hard to hide its casteist core and project a pro-dalit OBC-friendly image of the party, marketing Narendra Modi as India’s first EBC Prime Minister. Ambedkar not only tears asunder this carefully constructed camouflage but also inspires the building of bridges of solidarity to unite a whole range of struggles for justice. This is why a desperate Sangh brigade forced the IIT Madras authorities to disband the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, restoring it only after countrywide protests, and accused Rohith Vemula and his comrades in Hyderabad central university of indulging in casteist and anti-national activities when they questioned the communal carnage in Muzaffarnagar.
The ongoing student-youth awakening will have to confront the political machinations, ideological diktats and fascist offensive of the Sangh-BJP establishment not only in university campuses but also in the larger battlefield of the society and state and unite with the fighting people on different fronts. This was the mission of Bhagat Singh during the freedom struggle; this was the call of Charu Mazumdar to the revolutionary students in the 1960s and 1970s which united the historic student upsurge of that period with the uprising of the rural poor; this is the spirit of Ambedkar’s message ‘educate, agitate, organise’. Let us carry forward this mission by infusing the ongoing ‘youth spring’ with the revolutionary spirit of the ‘spring thunder’ of Naxalbari and defeat the fascist threat to march towards a new India of fuller freedom and deeper democracy.