Aligarh —Compilation “1857- Continuity and Change” released at a special function
In the last week of May, a special bumper issue of the literary journal “Udbhawana” was released at a public function in Aligarh. This special bumper issue of over 500 pages is dedicated to the 1857 Ghadar and is entitled “1857  — Nirantarta aur Parivartan” or  1857 – continuity and change”. It is a work in Hindi consisting of articles on different aspects of 1857 by different authors, which has been edited by Prof Pradeep Saxena of the Hindi Department of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Aligarh —Compilation “1857- Continuity and Change” released at a special function
In the last week of May, a special bumper issue of the literary journal “Udbhawana” was released at a public function in Aligarh. This special bumper issue of over 500 pages is dedicated to the 1857 Ghadar and is entitled “1857  — Nirantarta aur Parivartan” or  1857 – continuity and change”. It is a work in Hindi consisting of articles on different aspects of 1857 by different authors, which has been edited by Prof Pradeep Saxena of the Hindi Department of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

The function was jointly organized by the Hindi Department of the AMU and the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh (Democratic Writers Association). The function was graced by some of the most well known figures in the fields of history and Hindi literature. Well known historian Irfan Habib gave the main speech at the function. The editor of Udbhavana, Shri Ajay Kumar, the editor of the compilation “1857-Nirantarta aur Parivartan”, Dr Pradeep Saxena, renowned literary critic Prof Namwar Singh, member of the presidium Dr Namita Singh, and the Chairperson of the presidium Prof Kunwarpal Singh were amongst those who contributed to  the discussion. Shri Ajay Bisariya conducted the proceedings. At the beginning of the seminar, Dr Ramesh Kumar read out the firman or proclamation of Khan Bahadur Khan.

Professor Saxena elaborated on the title of the compilation, "continuity and change". He pointed out that the title was to reflect the changes in the assessment of the events of 1857 over time. In 1957, at the time of the centenary of the Ghadar, there was very little material available. Now, 50 years further on, there is a wealth of hitherto undiscovered material available, on the basis of which assessment and reassessment of 1857 is continuously taking place.

Delhi — Communist School on the Great Ghadar
At around 9 a.m., students started entering the makeshift classroom in a trickle that soon grew into a steady flow accompanied by babble characteristic of the restless and expectant.

It was a special class of history – a subject many dread – and it was to stretch for hours on the one weekly holiday, Sunday. Yet, the excitement of the students would have made any teacher entering a class green with envy.
They were no ordinary students, and this was no routine history class.
Girls, boys, men and women of all ages and backgrounds speaking diverse languages from across the country hugged, laughed and shook hands with the warmth normally reserved for the closest of friends.
That many hadn’t previously met anyone else in the class didn’t appear to matter to them.

The students were communists or men and women influenced by communist views and ideals.

They had gathered in Delhi, on June 9, to draw lessons for the present from the heroic struggles waged by the Indian people in 1857 against the mighty British Empire to gain freedom from colonial and other forms of exploitation.

Organised by Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors, the class was aimed at understanding the linkages between present day battles against capitalist oppression and  struggles of the past. 
The Urdu word Ghadar means "revolution", "rebellion" and "uprising."
The uprising of 1857 – unparalleled in history in many ways – was certainly a Ghadar.
As the lecturer explained: “No Ghadar starts overnight.”
The seeds of revolt against oppression, he said, had been sowed long before 1857.
And the Ghadar of 1857, proclaimed the posters on the walls, is not over.

The school began with an inaugural keynote speech by Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India entitled "Ghadar ki goonj amar rahe…"  "Long live the reverberations of the Ghadar of 1857".

Through penetrating analysis and argument, he brought out that what happened in 1857 and before and after that, continues to impinge on our lives till today. Not only did the colonialists carry out a physical genocide of our people. The worst thing was that they carried out a systematic cultural genocide.

Indian intellectuals have been taught to look down at our own history and culture, and our philosophy. We have been fed with Eurocentric ideas and theories on all fronts. This has led to a big vacuum in our country, a gap between the educated classes and the masses of workers and peasants. Combating Eurocentrism is essential in order that India can march on the highroad of civilisation, he said.

The class was conducted in three sessions. The first dwelt on the several struggles against the British East India Company, that culminated in the Ghadar of 1857.

A lecture followed on the simultaneous tactics of appeasing some sections on Indians, while using the strategy of ‘divide and rule’ to break the unity of the revolutionary masses, following 1857. The British Queen took over the reins of India from the East India Company, the lecturer explained.

The last session focused on the betrayal of the hopes and dreams of crores of Indians post 1947, and the battles for genuine people’s power that have continued since what is officially described as India’s independence.

Though the sessions each had a distinct focus, they melted into each other in a manner that demonstrated how a six hour long class could, if conducted properly, hold the attention of students through a heady journey through the past:

  • from the threats the British faced from tribal communities across India’s central regions – now the states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh
  • to struggles on a more national scale.
  • from the heroes of those innumerable battles that peppered the years of British rule, to the traitors among the upper classes who cost India’s fighting masses victory.
  • from the manner in which those traitors were trained and groomed before being rewarded with the reins of "independent" India, to the grim reality that the same classes control India’s vast fortunes today.
  • The avid attention with which students listened to the lectures, was in no small measure due to the techniques of pedagogy used.

Colourful slides with maps, sketches, paintings and portraits of key events and players in India’s history of the last 250 years would leap up to renew the enthusiasm of the students.

And if the slides got too strenuous, the lecturer was ready with a bag full of anecdotes to liven up the class.
The class ended with a long question-and-answer session, where students were encouraged to clarify any doubts with the lecturer.

“Do not think before asking whether the question you ask will be mocked. There is no question that is not worthy of being asked,” said Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, setting the tone for the discussion.

If the class started with warm camaraderie, it ended with the song that symbolizes the internationalism that Communism stands for.

“Tis the final conflict, let each stand in his place. The Internationale shall be the human race,” sang the students.

(Note: A similar school was organised by Lok Awaz Publishers in Mumbai – Thane on July 15th)

Commemoration of 1857 in Southall, London
An important meeting was held at Dominion Centre, in Southall in early June to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the great Ghadar. The meeting was supported by Indian Workers Association(GB), Respect (Ealing – Southall), South Asia Solidarity Group and South Asia Society.

The meeting reflected the unity of the Indian working class and people with the British working class and people against capitalism and imperialism. It was addressed by many speakers, including Dalvinder Atwal, leader of Indian Workers Association (GB), Lindsay German, the London Mayoral candidate for the organisation Respect, Salvinder Dhillon from Respect and the IWA (GB), Arman Riazy from the International League for Peoples Struggle, Paramjit Bains, a leading representative of the Gate Gourmet workers, Oliver New, a trade unionist and a local community activist, and Anwar Dholan from the South Asia Society.

Speakers detailed the crimes of British imperialism, in the past and the present, and drew parallels with the way the imperialists had exploited Ireland and India, and how they are aggressing on Iraq and Afghanistan today.
The meeting concluded with a call for strengthening the unity of the working class in Britain and of the people of the world in the struggle against imperialism and capitalist exploitation.

Tamil Nadu — massive public campaign begins

A Ghadar Jari Hai Campaign has been launched in Tamilnadu. Nearly sixty organizations of workers, peasants and women — under the leadership of the Unorganised Sector Workers federation, NAPM and the Lok Raj Sangathan — came together in November 2005 to conduct a state-wide campaign on the current political process and the necessity for people to take power in their own hands. These organizations have come together under the banner of the Ghadar Jari Hai Campaign.

In the last week of May, activists from Makkalatchi Iyakkam (Lok Raj Sangathan), Katada Thozhilar Panchayat Sangham, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Simpson General workers Union, Unorganized Workers Federation, All India Hand Embroidery Workers Union, Federation of Construction Workers Unions, Makkal Mandrum – Kanchipuram, Marxiya Meignana Koodam, Indian Republic Workers Union, and Domestic Workers Union conducted a planning meeting to work out the details of the campaign.
On June 17th, the Committee met again in Chennai and decided that massive district level campaigns will be held in the months of August-October throughout the length and breadth of the state. District-level campaign committees were set up and plans were made to prepare propaganda material for the campaign consisting of posters, leaflets, booklets, presentations, songs, etc.

Along with popularizing the struggles of people everywhere, and particularly Tamil Nadu, against the British colonialists, the Committee also decided to campaign on current issues facing the working people of Tamil Nadu. Workers belonging to the unorganized sector have been campaigning for a comprehensive legislation on social security ensuring their recognition as workers and protecting their rights such as security of work and livelihood. Workers, peasants and the residents of the area have been determinedly opposing this land grab and the plan to set up SEZ‘s in the state.

Several district planning meetings have been held. On June 30th a planning meeting was held in the NAPM office in Madurai to decide on dates and activities for the southern districts. On July 7-9, district level planning meetings were held in Tiruchi, Karaikudi and Tuticorin respectively. It was decided that on August 3rd a massive rally will be held in Sivagangai. In Kanyakumari district, a district-wide mass public campaign will be conducted between August 16-19.

Rally in Palashi, West Bengal
June 23, 2007, marked the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Plassey. On this day, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah’s forces were defeated by Robert Clive of the East India Company through the treachery of Siraj-ud-Daulah ‘s general, Mir Jaffer. It is an important day in the annals of Indian history. While the British drew inspiration from this battle, the patriotic Indians too have learnt their lessons, including the necessity to avenge this defeat.

Colourful banners and hoardings depicting the heroes of the anti colonial liberation struggle and their words, and announcing a rally to mark this anniversay, were on display along the highways leading up to Palassey.
There is a stone obelisk that has been placed at Palassey by the British colonialists. On the obelisk is inscribed – Battle of Plassey — June 23, 1757. Just outside the boundary of the monument, a bust of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah had been erected overnight for this function. Hoardings of anti-imperialist slogans were put up all around this monument.

On the afternoon of June 23, 2007, thousands of people assembled, braving pouring rain, near this spot in Palashi in Nadia District of West Bengal to participate in a rally to mark the occasion. The rally was organized by the Bangladesh-Bharat-Pakistan Peoples Forum (BBPPF). A 5 member delegation from Bangladesh participated actively in the rally.

The program began with the leaders of the BBPPF garlanding this bust. They then marched towards the maidan where the rally was being held, militantly shouting slogans against imperialism and hailing the unity of the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The rally was inaugurated by Shri Haripada Biswas, MLA from the All India Forward Bloc. Those who addressed the rally included Mahbub Alam, Chairman of the Bangladesh Krishak Shramik Awami League and leader of the Bangladesh delegation, Dhananjay Modak, MLA from Kaliganj Assembly Constituency of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Dr Muktoral Hussain, Minister in Charge of Disaster Management and Agricultural Marketing, and Prakash Rao, spokesperson of the Communist Ghadar Party of India.

Bharat Bangladesh Pakistan People’s Forum has also organised mass meetings on 1857 in the May-August period in several places like Kanpur, Bithoor, Jhansi and Lucknow.

Thane — Discussion on the Legacy of Eurocentrism
The Staff Academy of the Joshi Bedekar College, Thane, invited Lok Raj Sangathan to make a presentation on Legacy of Eurocentrism in the Indian Subcontinent in their monthly gathering on 20 July 2007. The meeting was presided over by the College Principal Dr. Shakuntala Singh, Chairperson of the Academy, Ms. Shailaja Nair and two members of Lok Raj Sangathan, Dr. Sanjeewani Jain and Dr. Bharat Seth. The meeting was attended by all the teachers and many non-teaching staff members.

Dr. Bharat Seth elaborated on the achievements of Indian science and technology in pre-colonial India. Through examples from the Indus valley civilization to the beginning of the British rule, he illustrated how the Indians had world-class achievements in the fields of civil engineering, metallurgy, architecture, medicine, mathematics and astronomy, languages, shipping and trade, philosophy and statecraft. He argued that such a high level of accomplishments was impossible without having a broad education system and an environment that encouraged innovation and experimentation. He then provided some statistics of the extent of education through traditional gurukuls, madarsas and pathshalas, as found out by Dharampal from British sources. It has been documented that these traditional schools existed in every village and it has been estimated that one-third of the population was literate in pre-colonial India. The speaker contrasted this with data for the early twentieth century when literacy figures had come down to less than one-tenth!

Dr. Bharat then proceeded to show how the British destroyed the Indian industry and scholarship due to their greed and because they wanted to impose a Eurocentric view on Indian society. The racist views of Macaulay and others clearly establish the British disregard for Indian knowledge and achievements. The implementation of British policy resulted in mass scale destruction of productive forces and destruction of the intellectual wealth of India. British education inculcated a sense of contempt for our history and culture, a self hatred, and produced flunkies who readily believed whatever the British wrote and had no courage to challenge what was patently false or incongruous. The speaker concluded by saying the challenge in front of the intellectuals was to free all scholarship concerning the developments in the subcontinent from the biased formulations and distortions of colonially influenced authors. He said that the task taken up by the numerous uprisings to overthrow the colonial regime, including the Great Ghadar of 1857, continues today in the form of the struggle to eliminate the influence of the Eurocentric colonial legacy. Ghadar Jari Hai …

A very lively discussion ensued after the presentation with the participants expressing their indignation and anger at the way British colonial influence continues to this day in the affairs of the state. There was also discussion about how the British colonial regime divided the Indian society and even encouraged backward practices such as sati. Dr. Sanjeewani highlighted the fact that continuation of the British institutions has left our people totally powerless in being able to influence what happens in our country. She informed the audience about the efforts made by Lok Raj Sangathan in advancing the cause of the empowerment of the people and by the Ghadar Jari Hai… Abhiyan to draw lessons from our past to build a bright future for our people. She invited all the participants to join in these efforts. Copies of the first issue of “Ghadar Jari Hai …” were eagerly bought by the participants.

Mumbai — Seminar on 1857
An academic seminar was organized in the Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya, Dadar on 29 July 2007 by the Lok Raj Sangathan. The seminar was divided into three sessions on the topics:

  1. India on the eve of British rule
  2. Revolts against British tyranny including the great Ghadar of 1857
  3. The legacy of colonialism

In each session there was a keynote address followed by interventions from the participants.
The first keynote presentation, delivered by Dr. Sanjeewani, talked of achievements of the Indian subcontinent and their total negation by the British colonialists, the imposition of Eurocentric ideas and annihilation of the progressive Indian thought material.

The second keynote was presented by Dr. Bharat who refuted the view prevalent in the Indian ruling class that the revolts against the British colonialists were those of feudals and reactionaries. He demonstrated that the ideas and views espoused by the leaders of the revolts were the most advanced of the times. He also refuted the myth that the revolt of 1857 was limited to only some princes and soldiers. He enumerated dozens of anti-colonial uprisings before and after the Ghadar of 1857 where people from all walks of life were involved. The mere fact that the British rulers had to kill one crore out of a total population of 15 crores in those days is a testimony of the popular nature of the revolt and the brutality of the colonial regime.

In the third keynote address, Girish Bhave elaborated on the meaning of colonial legacy. He went into the content of the "transfer of power" that was designed by the British colonialists in the aftermath of the great revolt of 1857. It was one of the greatest deceptions in the history of the world where in the name of granting freedom, the British colonialists ensured that the laws and the institutions they created in their interests remained intact. Thereby people could not free themselves from the shackles of exploitation and deprivation. He stressed that getting rid of the colonial legacy was the first step to achieving sovereignty and empowerment of the people.
Participants listened to the presentations with rapt attention. Several other papers were presented on topics such as the role of women in struggle against the British, the history and role of the Congress party, the great revolt of 1946 in the Royal Indian Navy, the contribution of the Hindustani Ghadar Party to the anti-colonial struggles, and on the targeting of Muslims by the Indian state.

A large number of youth participated in the Seminar. A number of organizations were represented in the participants, including the Ladhaku Garment Workers Union, SUCI, Prerana, Voltas Union, Kashipur Solidarity group, and others.

Sivagangai marks the Ghadar

Hundreds of workers gathered in front of the District Collector’s Office at Sivagangai on August 3, 2007,  in a massive demonstration of unity and resolve to fight for their rights. The rally was organized to commemorate the 150th year of the Ghadar of 1857 as well as to demand a comprehensive legislation for unorganized sector workers. The rally was organized under the banner of “Revolutionary Greetings to Velunachiyar, the liberator of Sivagangai from the British colonizers”.

The rally was organsied by a number of organizations including Lok Raj Sangathan, NAPM, Unorganized Workers Federation, Kattida Thozhilalar Panchayat Sangam, Pennurimai Iyakkam, and many other unions of construction workers, agricultural workers, tailors, dalits, sanitation workers, village industry workers, and others.

The demonstrators marched through the main bazaar of Sivagangai shouting slogans on issues related to the unorganized sector workers and local issues facing the residents of Sivagangai.

The speakers pointed out that on this occasion of the 150th anniversary of the great Ghadar of 1857, it is important to recall the heroic struggles of our martyrs such as Velunachiyar who liberated Sivagangai from the British colonisers. The struggle for freedom continues today. Lakhs of unorganized sector workers in the district are unemployed or underemployed. Gypsies (narikuravar) are being thrown into prison for hunting and are being deprived of their livelihood, while at the same time no measures are being taken to create an alternate avenue of livelihood for them.

The speakers highlighted problems faced by women, dalits, fishermen and various other sections of the people, and demanded immediate steps to find a solution to these problems. The rallyists also condemned the eviction of small producers and shopkeepers under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and demanded that the state should protect the livelihood and rights of these sections of the people.

Lucknow — Ghadar jari hai… abhiyan organising committee meets
The Ghadar jari hai… abhiyan organising committee held its 3rd meeting on Saturday August 4, 2007 in Lucknow.

The meeting discussed the progress report of the abhiyan in the past three months. It appreciated the newsletter Ghadar Jari Hai… being published regularly as a special insert in Hindi and English respectively by Mazdoor Ekta Lehar and People’s Voice. A member of the abhiyan took up the responsibility of publishing the mission statement of the abhiyan in Urdu immediately.

The meeting heard from the report on the response to the first issue of the magazine Ghadar jari hai…  There was great appreciation of the fact that in such a short time before the publication of the first issue, so many people from different parts of India and different fields of specialisation had offered to join in this endeavor and become editorial advisors. The decision to bring out the magazine as a quarterly was reaffirmed. There was animated discussion on how the network of writers and disseminators could be continuously expanded. The meeting also discussed proposals for financing the production and distribution of the magazine.

The meeting discussed proposals for popularising the work of the abhiyan including the newsletter and magazine. It affirmed the future programs in different parts of India.

The next meeting of the organising committee has been slated for December 1-2, 2007 in Lucknow.                                          

Compiled by Santosh Kumar

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