On September 2 India witnessed a powerful general strike cutting across most sectors of the economy and civil administration. The strike had been called jointly by central trade unions and supported actively by almost all sections of the Indian Left. Initially, the RSS-led pro-BJP Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) was also a signatory to the strike call. But at the behest of the RSS, the BMS eventually withdrew from the strike. But undeterred by the BMS backout and empty announcements made by the Prime Minister in the recent session of the Indian Labour Conference, millions of workers joined the strike and made it clear that the Indian working class would resist the Modi government's proposed anti-worker labour reforms tooth and nail.
The impact of the strike was huge in sectors like road transport, banking and insurance, and various mining and manufacturing units. Offices and educational institutions too remained virtually closed in many areas. But what made the strike really a mass action of the working class was the massive participation of contract and casual workers and honorarium- and incentive-based employees, and workers in the unorganized sector. The solidarity of students, peasants, small traders and shopkeepers transformed the workers' strike into a complete shutdown in several states. The Modi government's sinister attempt to justify its labour reform plan in the name of solving the unemployment problem and bringing benefits to the unorganised sector thus met with a resounding rebuff.
The strike came close on the heels of the Modi government's admission of defeat on the issue of the pro-corporate landgrab ordinance. Despite repeated re-promulgation of the ordinance, the government failed to convert it into law and eventually had to allow the ordinance to lapse or die. The fact that the government had to beat a retreat on an ordinance which was so central to Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' campaign must have inspired the working class with renewed confidence and courage in its battle with the Modi regime against the proposed labour reforms, the other core plank of Modi's economic agenda. Anger against the relentless rise in prices of essential commodities and services, the continuing spate of scams and various dictatorial moves of the BJP turned the strike into an emphatic expression of growing popular opposition to the Modi government.
In view of the popular support for the strike, even BJP-led state governments did not dare to crush it with a heavy hand. But it was the TMC government of West Bengal which unleashed severe repression on the strikers, with the police and TMC goons often working in tandem. There are reports of trade union leaders having been attacked on the eve of the strike, while on the day of the strike, TMC goons and the police visibly went berserk, brutally beating up and injuring strikers and leaders of various Left parties in several districts. Those who remember West Bengal of the mid-1970s during the reign of semi-fascist terror under Siddharth Shankar Ray, the TMC-police terror of September 2 rekindled memories of those days of unmitigated police repression and state-sponsored Youth Congress hooliganism and violence.
While the strike epitomised the bold resolve, courage and capacity of the working class to resist the anti-people offensive of the Modi government, what happened in Delhi immediately after the strike can only be described as a wake-up call for every citizen who cares for democracy in India. In one of his recent rallies in Bihar, Modi said people who are insisting on his accountability for his government's performance must wait till 2019. Only a few days later, the Prime Minister and key ministers of his cabinet deposed before the RSS in the national capital, subjecting the government's performance to scrutiny by the RSS top brass. So, the RSS, which was banned after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the ban was lifted only after it gave a written undertaking declaring its loyalty to the Constitution and National Flag of India, has now come out of the shadows to impose itself as a super-government and super-cabinet openly calling the shots.
Just as we cannot allow the corporate brigade to plunder the precious resources of the country, we cannot allow the Sangh-BJP combine to play with the intellectual resources of the country and undermine the basic tenets of Indian Constitution. The supremacy of the people and the principles and institutions of democracy must prevail and the RSS campaign of institutional takeover and subversion must be stopped.