Resonances Volume 2, No.1

Meet to unite divided people of the subcontinent
Agra, a city known for its friendly atmosphere and ever hospitable people, was witness to another gesture and a serious attempt on part of the people of this subcontinent, now divided into three different countries, to come together to end the legacy of division and animosity fostered by the rulers of these countries.

Meet to unite divided people of the subcontinent
Agra, a city known for its friendly atmosphere and ever hospitable people, was witness to another gesture and a serious attempt on part of the people of this subcontinent, now divided into three different countries, to come together to end the legacy of division and animosity fostered by the rulers of these countries.

The Bangladesh-Bharat-Pakistan Peoples Forum (BBPPF) organised a public meeting on August 9 in which students, teachers, political activists, communists, intellectuals participated with the firm resolve to end the division.

Shri Brij Khandelwal coordinated the proceedings. He pointed out that many people from across the border, from Pakistan and Bangladesh, were to join this meeting, but were denied visa by the Government of India.
Shri Ramkishore, Convener of the BBPPF, narrated the initiative taken up by the forum in the context of facilitating building unity of people across the borders. In his speech he said that civilisation and imperialism cannot co-exist and imperialism has to end.

Speakers pointed out that this division should be seen against the backdrop of the great unity that was displayed by Indians across the entire sub-continent during the Great Ghadar of 1857 and the freedom struggle. Partition of this subcontinent is part of the colonial legacy and the strategy of the imperialists to keep the people of this subcontinent divided and at loggerheads with each other, so that they do not unitedly challenge the imperialists.

Leaders of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, Nationalist Congress Party and Jamaat-e-Ulema Hind addressed the meeting. Amongst others who spoke were Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council; Dr Mittal and C.P. Rao. Dr Tejeshwar Prasad, Former Director, Institute of Social Science, Agra, presided over the meeting.

Did 1947 fulfill the unfulfilled dreams of 1857?

“The transfer of power in 1947 was a betrayal of the aspirations of our people for sovereignty, for political power to shape our own destiny . . .”

This was the conclusion that emerged from the varied presentations by writers, teachers, social activists, lawyers, journalists, women activists, student and youth activists on August 12, 2007. They were participating in a discussion organized by Lok Raj Sangathan on the theme “Did 1947 fulfill the unfulfilled dreams of 1857?”
The convenor of Lok Raj Sangathan elaborated on how in the course of 1857 Ghadar, as well as in the numerous other struggles, the question of establishing people’s power has been posed. In August 1947, power did not get vested in the people of India.

The Constitution of India does not acknowledge the existence of nations and people and their rights. Instead it sanctions the use of military power against the people who want to affirm their national rights. It does not guarantee human rights including the right to conscience. The political system and process ensure that power does not vest in the people. People are not satisfied with a political process which does not allow them to decide their own destiny. The system of representative democracy, in which political parties rule in the name of the people and prevent people from coming to power, is not acceptable. People do not want trustees to rule on their behalf. They want to rule themselves. These were some of the substantive points that emerged in the presentations in the meeting.

Jasvir Singh of the CGPI called for replacing the present Indian Republic by a workers and peasants republic and a voluntary Indian Union. Dr Kamala Sankaran of the Indian Law Institute addressed the colonial legacy in the political institutions of our country, the theories of “representative government” and “responsible government”. She pointed out that laws such as the Arms Act, the Societies Registration Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Press Act which the British colonial rulers passed to crush the struggles of our people after 1857, still continue to be used against any form of popular dissent.

Vrinda Grover scathingly exposed the current ‘campaign for police reforms’ being promoted by the Home Ministry. Prof Nandini Sundar showed how the British colonisers had systematically deprived the tribals and other forest dwellers of their rights and the present Indian state continues to do the same. Noted advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out that the present day judiciary is in many ways a continuation of the colonial judiciary which was used to legitimize the rule of the British Crown. He called for taking the struggle for direct democracy forward.

Kenneth, co-convenor of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, dwelt on the struggles of the Naga people for independence from the British colonizers. He condemned the gross violation of human rights using the colonial AFSPA and other methods and declared that the struggle of the Naga people for their rights will continue. Malem called 1947 a deception and treachery. He highlighted the struggle of the Manipuri people against colonialism as well as the struggle today against the colonial legacy. Luntinsat Kingpen highlighted the struggle of the Kuki people in defence of their land and liberty, from colonial times till today.

Siddharth Varadarajan pointed out that whether it is a question of upholding the right to conscience, or the question of where power must vest, or the question of the unity of the Indian people irrespective of religious or caste differences, or the question of ownership of natural resources, the present Indian state is a continuation of the colonial state and not what the Ghadaris of 1857 envisioned. Prof Jagpal Singh put forward new thoughts on reforms in the electoral process in order to empower people.

Santosh Kumar of the Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha called on people to get rid of the Eurocentrist thinking that has been imposed on us by the colonisers. Lokesh Kumar of the Sanjay Colony Niwasi Sangharsh Samiti raised the urgent need for people to fight to secure the right to hold the legislators accountable and to recall them when they betray the people.

Young workers from the Honda Factory Workers’ Union in Gurgaon enthralled the audience with a stirring rendition of their experiences, in the form of a short play.

Amongst others who participated in the meeting were Prof Rizwan Kaiser, Jamia Milia Islamia, Ram Kishore of Bangladesh Bharat Pakistan Peoples Forum, writer Shivanand, Renu of the Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Dr K.S. Subramanian, Dr N.K. Afandi of the Jamaat Islami e Hind, Dr J.K. Jain, Com Thaneshwar of NCWR, B.B. Tiwari of UNI Joint Action Committee, Dr Rakesh Rafiq of Yuva Bharat, Narendra of Indian Federation of Trade Unions, Mohd Anwar of the Jamait Ulema e Hind. Sucharita and Bijju Nayak chaired the meeting.

Public meeting on “The Transfer of Power in 1947”
On August 15, 2007, a public meeting was organised in Mumbai to mark the 60th anniversary of formal independence and to discuss who gained and who lost in 1947. Lok Raj Sangathan and the Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh Smruti Samiti jointly organised the meeting.

Girish from Lok Raj Sangathan pointed out that innumerable rebellions in all parts of India had convinced the British that it was no longer possible to rule over India by force of arms alone. They handed over power to the classes who had prospered in the colonial regime and who were found to be worthy of British trust in safeguarding their interests. Thus, the transfer of power in 1947, accompanied by the partition and communal bloodbath, preserved the colonial institutions and structure built for exploitation of human and natural wealth of India. The experience of the past 60 years bears out this truth.

A teacher pointed out that the presentation establishes that the Indian people have a brilliant history of fighting against exploitation and oppression, that there have been two streams in Indian history, one which compromised with the colonialists and the other that uncompromisingly opposed the colonialists.

Activists of many organisations Aagaz, Kamgar Ekta Chalwal, Indian Airport Employees Union, Kashtakari Yuvak Sanghathana, Nakshatra, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Parivartan Sanskrutik Manch, Prerna Sanghathana, RADA, Samvaad, Vimantal Parisar Rahiwasi Ekta Sangh participated actively in the meeting.

The struggle against the colonial Legacy
On Saturday, August 25 2007, the Students’ Union of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai organised a seminar on the topic “Settling Scores with Eurocentrism”. On 26th August, a workshop was organised by Lok Raj Sangathan, Ulhasnagar on the same theme. Leaders of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Dr Sanjeewani and Dr Bharat were the main speakers on both occassions.

The presentations dealt with the situation that existed in pre-British India and highlighted the achievements of the people of this subcontinent. They convincingly brought out that India was a rich country, with a flourishing agriculture, technology and industry advanced for those times, as well as a developed health and education system. In every region of this vast subcontinent, progressive socio-cultural movements had taken root. From time immemorial it was accepted that the raja was duty bound to look after the well-being and security of the praja.

All this received a mortal blow during the British rule. The British not only ruined the native agriculture and industry but also committed genocide of whole people who challenged their oppressive rule. Among other things, they also carried out cultural genocide, destroying precisely those things from our past that are necessary for the well being and prosperity of our people.

The second presentation dealt with the issue of imposition of Eurocentrism. This outlook regards Europe and the Western world as the origin and source of everything worthwhile in human civilisation – be it philosophy, science, technology, culture or economic and political institutions and systems. This outlook was instilled and propagated by the British colonisers because it was essential for justifying their rule over our India and other colonies. If it could be established that people of this subcontinent were uncivilised, as if they had no achievements in the fields of science, philosophy or economic and political theory, then their rule could be justified as “white men’s burden”.

The colonisers imposed Eurocentrism to enslave the minds of the people. In 1947 they handed over power to a class that was imbued with Eurocentric ideas.

In the workshop in Ulhasnagar, there was an expose of the Indian National Congress by Prahlad. Using many quotations from Congress records, he showed how the Indian National Congress was set up by the British colonialists as a mechanism to defuse the anger of the masses and divert them from a revolutionary path. A paper on the Ghadar Party was presented by Subodh.

Why do the present day rulers continue the British tradition of hiding and distorting history? There was lively discussion on this question.

Meeting in Southall, London

On 30th September 2007, Indian Workers Association (Great Britain) organised a public meeting in London’s Southall Community Centre to commemorate the birth centenary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The Indian Workers Association was established by Shaheed Udham Singh during colonial times to organise Indian workers in Britain against racist and capitalist exploitation in Britian, as well as in support of the freedom struggle of Indian people.

Speakers pointed out that Shaheed Bhagat Singh became a role model for all people of all religions regardless of caste or creed to organise themselves and to take action to transform India. The meeting hailed him as “…a model for youth and working people all over South Asia…to take action and fulfil his vision”.

Dalwinder chaired the meeting. He spoke on the life and work of Bhagat Singh and his vision for an India which is ever relevant today. He elaborated on the necessity for workers, women and youth of South Asian origin in Britain to organise themselves for their rights, in unity with the British working class. He pointed out that the Indians who had made Britain their home have the responsibility to support the struggle of the working class and peasantry of India for the revolutionary transformation of Indian society so that all forms of exploitation are ended in India.

Raj, a young worker organisng the working class youth, pointed out that South Asian youth in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, have grown up in the richest countries of the world. The news tells us India is rapidly developing, but do we want an India which merely copies the US or UK only offering what we already have today? Or do we want something far greater as was envisaged by Bhagat Singh? The struggle is on in India to establish a system and society of which we Indians living abroad can be immensely proud. At this historic opportunity, the youth must adopt the vision of Bhagat Singh and take action today and become the role models of tomorrow as is Bhagat Singh the role model for youth today.

Prakash Rao of Communist Ghadar Party of India pointed out that in the whole of South Asia, there is tremendous unity in holding high the legacy represented by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. This was because these young men stood for the highest ideals of mankind. They drew inspiration from the revolutionaries of 1857, from the Ghadar revolutionaries, from the Great October Socialist Revolution, and all the positive achievements of the world’s people. Shaheed Bhagat Singh wanted to not only get rid of colonialism, but together with it, the very system of exploitation of persons by persons.

The capitalist system of plunder that colonialism imposed on India, as well as the representative democracy which was imposed by the same colonialists to legitimise this plunder must both be overthrown for India to progress.

Further on, Comrade Rao spoke of the widespread and organised nature of the 1857 Ghadar, and the massive genocide of those patriots by the British imperialists. He spoke of the cultural genocide carried out consciously by the colonialists, as a result of which Indians, especially amongst the intelligentsia, are ingrained with the thinking that all knowledge and wisdom, science and technology, emanates from the West. He emphasised the need to break the shackles of this colonisation of the mind. He called for developing a system by which the workers and peasants will have power in their own hands. It is when they have power in their hands that they will be able to solve all the problems confronting the society today.

Salvinder mentioned how British imperialists have tried to make us forget about our proud, patriotic history, languages and culture. He called upon the community to build worker’s organisations loyal to the cause of working people. The meeting was also addressed by a speaker from the Pakistani community, as well as a militant woman leader of the Gate Gourmet workers.

The audience enthusiastically appreciated the political speeches, messages of solidarity, plays, poetry, patriotic songs, Bhagat Singh Giddhas and Bhangra dances.

Meeting in Gravesend, United Kingdom
On October 7, 2007, the Kent Branch of Indian Workers Association (Great Britain) commemorated the centenary of the birth of the great patriot and martyr Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The meeting was held in the sports complex of the new Gurudwara that is being constructed by the community in Gravesend.

Amar Jagpalpuri, President of the IWA (Great Britain) Kent Branch, chaired the meeting, along with Professor Jagmohan and Prakash Rao. Dara Singh compered the meeting.

The hall was beautifully decorated with pictures of the martyrs. On the stage, the young activists of the IWA (GB) projected key messages of Bhagat Singh bringing out the essence of the struggle he and his comrades waged. By highlighting these statements of the Shaheed, the organisers of the meeting made sure that all the participants in the meeting, speakers as well as those listening, focused on the lessons that need to be drawn for carrying the struggle that the Indian people are waging today against capitalism and the colonial legacy to victory.

Shri Jagpalpuri rendered a patriotic poem in Punjabi. Dalwinder spoke on the struggle waged by Bhagat Singh and his comrades, particularly in jail and in the courts, to expose the system of colonial rule, to expose the compromisers, and to rouse the masses of Indian people in revolutionary struggle against the colonisers. He emphasised that the transfer of power in 1947 constituted a treachery and the Indian people remain an exploited and oppressed people, even as India is marching on the road to become a world class imperialist power. The Ghadar continues against this treachery, he declared.

Lekhraj spoke about the struggle of Bhagat Singh and its relevance.

Prof Jagmohan then delivered a stirring speech on the life and work of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. He recalled the role of women in the struggle, such as Durga bhabhi who used to risk her all for the cause of the revolution.
Prakash Rao pointed out that the Shaheed and his comrades in arms worked with the lofty vision of putting an end to all forms of exploitation of persons by persons. There was not an ounce of pettiness, narrow mindedness, in them, and the deep love for humanity was evident in the way they waged the struggle. They learnt from the positive experience of the Great Ghadar of 1857, and of the Ghadar revolutionaries of the early twentieth century and the fire of revolution burnt in their hearts. It is extremely important that we revolutionaries have the broad vision, that we concentrate the fire on the Indian big bourgeoisie and imperialism, and unite all the revolutionary forces in the struggle.

The meeting in Gravesend clearly showed how Indian workers and youth, living and working in UK, are actively thinking and working to bring about those changes in India which will finally put an end to the colonial legacy.  

Ghadari Mela 2007 in Toronto, Canada
On October 21, 2007, the Ghadar Heritage Foundation organised the Ghadari Mela 2007 in Toronto, Canada. Over 500 people participated in this event dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the 150th anniversary of the great Ghadar of 1857.

Iqbal spoke about the significance of the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Prof Wariam Sandhu paid his tribute to Shaheed Bhagat Singh and eloquently brought forth the point that the ideal for which the martyrs gave their lives remain unfulfilled. He denounced the present system for the problems people face today.
Gurdev spoke about the significance of the Ghadar of 1857 and the struggles of the Indian people for their liberation. He pointed out that the situation in India cannot be changed without the forcible overthrow of the existing conditions.

Comrade Amolak Singh, the representative of the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee, Jalandhar, expressed his happiness at being part of the celebration. To vigorous applause, he announced that 70,000 revolutionary youth of Punjab had gathered in the centenary celebrations organised in Barnala on September 28, 2007. On the other hand, the official function organised at Amritsar in which lakhs of rupees was spent, and the Akalis, Congress, as well as BJP participated, could not attract more than a few thousand people. He said that those who first hanged Bhagat Singh and then hanged his thinking are now ruling India. People cannot expect such rulers to create the kind of society Bhagat Singh stood for.

Patriotic songs and poems paying tribute to the martyrs of the Ghadar of 1857, and Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades, were sung by prominent singers from the community. Children from the Gurukul Academy acted out a choreographed drama showing how Mother India is crying in the hands of the thieve, the present day rulers. A play called “Hum Dekhenge” depicted the situation in Pakistan, showing who was responsible for the misery of the people and how the people should organise revolution to change that situation. Another play depicted the struggle Shaheed Mewa Singh and earlier generations of Indians had to wage in North America. The entire function was confirmation that the Ghadar continues in the hearts and minds of the South Asian community in Canada.

Ghadari Mela in Jalandhar
The 16th annual Ghadari Mela concluded in Jalandhar on an enthusiastic note on November 2, 2007. This annual mela, organised by Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee was started 15 years ago to commemorate the sacrifices of our great martyrs, and to inspire the youth of today to complete the unfinished task of liberating our people from all kinds of exploitation and oppression. Every year thousands of revolutionary and progressive workers, peasants, women and youth from Punjab and other parts of country participate in the annual gathering. In the past few years a number of progressives groups from Pakistan have also been participating in the mela. Like previous years, this year also many publishers of progressive literature set up their stalls which attracted youth in large numbers.

This year the mela coincided with the birth centenary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and 150th anniversary of the great Ghadar of 1857. To commemorate the sacrifice of great patriot Baba Vasakha Singh the venue was rechristened as Baba Vasakha Singh Nagar. The entire campus was dotted by flags of Hindoostani Ghadar Party and banners extolling the people of the country to overthrow the existing system which is based on exploitation and oppression of people and to establish the rule of workers and peasants.

On November 1st, the Mela reached a crescendo when the entire committee of trustees of the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee gathered on the stage and youth, workers, peasants and women gathered in thousands to participate in the ceremony of flag hoisting. Following the flag hoisting ceremony, comrade Mangat Ram Paasla addressed the gathering on behalf of the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee and called upon people to intensify their struggle against capitalism and imperialism. He declared that Ghadar Jari Hai, aur Jari Rahega ( the revolt against exploitation and oppression is continuing and will continue in the future as well) until the aspiration of our martyrs of 1857 and freedom struggle like Shaheed Bhagat Singh are fulfilled.

Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, the head of the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar trust, who turned 100 this year, called upon the youth to organise to overthrow the capitalist system. General Secretary of the trust Baba Gadharva Singh Kochar called upon all communist revolutionaries to unite and fight against the capitalist system.

There was a grand cultural programme, in which cultural troops from Punjab and various parts of the country participated and presented revolutionary and inspiring songs and plays. A team of artists from Pakistan staged a play on social harmony. The mela concluded on 2 November and the entire parisar was reverbarating with slogans of “Inquilaab Zindabad-Long live revolution”. “Samrajyavaad Murdabaad-Down with Imperialism”, “Ghadar Jari hai The revolt continues”.

Thousands of youth and children from various schools and colleges participated in various cultural and literary activities including drawing and painting, plays, songs, essay and writing competitions.

PC Joshi Birth Centenary in Almora
On November 3, 2007, intellectuals, political activists, journalists and artists of Kumaon gathered in Savoy Hotel of Almora to celebrate the birth centenary of P C Joshi and Shahid Bhagat Singh. The event was sponsored by Infinity Foundation, Bhritpalji and Pannalalji Nyas and Pahar.

The seminar started with a session on P C Joshi and his contribution to the people’s movement and particularly his contribution to Uttarakhand, his birth place. Prof Bhat welcomed the gathering and Prof Girija Pande of Kumaon University conducted the meeting.

The speakers included Aloknath Upreti of Indian People’s Theatre Association, Vishwambharnath Sah ‘Sakha” – a folk lore expert, Adv Chandrashekhar Joshi, Navin ‘Banjara’ Verma and Shamshersingh Bisht of Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini. They brought out different aspects of P C Joshi’s personality through different anecdotes and also elaborated on the history of the people’s struggle in the hill areas.

This session was followed by a presentation on the ideology of Shaheed Bhagat Singh by Prof Irfan S Habib of NISTADS. Prof Habib who has done extensive research on Bhagat Singh’s life and work spoke about various facets of Bhagat Singh’s life and work.

This was followed by a third session devoted to 1857. Shivanand presented an audio visual presentation prepared by Lok Awaz Publishers lasting over two hours. It covered in detail colonialism in India from 1700s leading to continuous revolts and resistance culminating in the Great Ghadar of 1857. The second part of the presentation dealt with the changes that came into being in British colonialism after 1857 and the third part with the transfer of power in 1947 and after. The detailed presentation was greatly appreciated by the audience and there was enthusiastic discussion and plans were made to have more such meetings in Kumaon on the subject of 1857 to educate youth and activists.
Ghadar caravan goes to Bengaluru
On November 29, students and faculty of the well known Christ College in Bengaluru, organised a meeting on the Great Ghadar of 1857. The main speaker was Shivanand, on behalf of Ghadar Jari Hai magazine. Over 150 students from the social science faculty keenly participated in the two hour long presentation prepared by Lok Awaz Publishers and asked penetrating questions.

“If Bahadur Shah Zafar said in 1857 that people of India would decide the future and in earlier anti-colonial struggles like the Shimoga peasant struggle (1830) and the Santhal struggle (1855) people had raised republican slogans like peasant raj and garibon ka raj, then India had a long tradition of democratic sentiment”, commented a student. There were similar perceptive remarks and questions from many others.

Shivanand gave a call to students at the end of the discussion to take up social sciences seriously and engage in hard empirical research that would unravel our own history and traditions. He lamented the fact that the colonialists not only left us the edifice of an anti-people state but also an outlook that is clouded by Euro-centrism. “Such a prejudiced view which looks down upon everything Indian and looks to Europe for all enlightenment has to be rejected. It is a pity that 60 years after independence we still have to rediscover India and glorious chapters in our history like the Ghadar of 1857 and Bhakti movement have not been researched enough”, he added. He said he was glad that in the midst of all the hype and attraction of IT in Bengaluru, so many students were serious about pursuing social sciences. The meeting was chaired by Prof P Krishnaswami, Dean of Social Sciences and the speaker was introduced by Dr Vageshwari, Head Department of History, Christ College.                     

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