Organising Committee of the 1857 Ghadar Jaari Hai … Abhiyan
Feb 4, 2007
Organising Committee of the 1857 Ghadar Jaari Hai … Abhiyan
Feb 4, 2007
This year — 2007 marks the 150 th anniversary of the Ghadar of 1857, an inspiring chapter in the revolutionary history of Indian people. We believe that it was a glorious uprising of the Indian people representing uncompromising struggle against all that is exploitative and slavish that was transplanted by the British colonial power on our land. It needs to be studied, its lessons popularized and its spirit celebrated throughout our land because of its relevance to the struggle of the Indian people today. We learn from it as we fight against the antisocial offensive of the bourgeoisie, against globalisation through liberalization and privatization for political empowerment of our people. Hence we call this campaign “Ghadar of 1857 continues…” We invite all those organizations and individuals in India and among Indians abroad who stand for enlightenment, for an end to exploitation and for finding solutions to the problems facing the masses of Indian people, to wholeheartedly join this campaign and take it forward.
The Indian government is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of 1857 with great pomp and is even planning to make it a sub-continental affair. However we find this belated recognition of this event by the Indian ruling circles not only ironical but also manipulative. It is ironical because the traitorous elements from Indian society, who collaborated with British colonialists in suppressing the 1857 uprising, are very much part of today’s ruling classes. It is also manipulative because they have their own agenda in doing so. There is deafening propaganda by Indian bourgeoisie and the world bourgeoisie that the 21 st century belongs to India and China and that India is becoming an example of a new, democratic super power, peacefully risen, in a short span from its colonial past. Anglo-American imperialism is holding it up as an example of a country that was a victim of globalisation under colonialism and which is now turning the tables and becoming an aggressive participant in globalisation of capital and trade, thanks to the superstructure of English education and organs of state, set up by the British colonialists after 1857.
Clearly, for the Indian ruling circles, 1857 was just a historical event that represented the reaction of old ruling classes of India to globalisation, lacking in vision, and hence it failed. They claim the new ruling classes of India have achieved, what the Ghadar of 1857 could not, “without firing a shot.” viz the rise of India as a new superpower.
This is a highly motivated and sinister campaign with a definite purpose of confusing the struggle of the Indian people today for enlightenment, for justice and for building a superstructure and economy that serves the workers, peasants, women, youth, intellectuals, professionals and a majority of the middle strata and not the interests of big Indian and foreign finance capital.
While there were many fissures and weaknesses in Indian society before the arrival of British colonialism, India enjoyed a superior economic status internationally, there were no famines and large-scale deaths and destruction of farmers. Indian artisans and craftsmen and even manufacture had gained worldwide renown for their quality. The achievements of Indian mathematics and astronomy, some of which were spread in Europe through Arab scholars area still being wondered at by scholars. Indian textiles, wootz steel, zinc metallurgy, bronze castings and other products were surprising the world with their superior technology. Indian sculpture, architecture and construction technology be it of anicuts and dams or temples and mausoleums, were being called the new wonders of the world by foreign travelers. Several centuries of revolt of Indian people against the oppressive caste system under the leadership of Bhakti-Sufi movement had shaken the Brahmanical system to its roots, it had led to flourishing literatures in Indian languages along with many new developments in music, dance and folk art forms. The development of various nationalities in India accelerated. The spiritual democracy of the Bhaktas and Sufis not only weakened the caste system but was leading to a new assertion of rights of people, for gender equality against the Brahmanical oppression of women and new political thought that was questioning the status quo in statecraft and the relationship between king, religion, treasury and the people. India was not known as a land of hunger and unemployment and mass migrations.
The old feudal and Brahmanical forces were fiercely resisting the new changes taking place and were in disarray. It was this transitional stage of disarray and decadence of the ruling classes and the absence of any new political power emerging from the new forces that was cleverly used by British adventurers and mercenaries of the East Indian Company to slowly establish their rule and suzerainty.
To achieve this conquest of India and consolidate it after the battle of Plassey in 1757, the British aligned themselves with the most decadent and traitorous elements from the ruling circles and one by one eliminated many patriotic kings. They then brought in a new land system of Zamindari, based on the European model and made millions of peasants landless, destroyed their livelihood and displaced them. They destroyed Indian manufacture through brutal use of force and not “free competition.”. They also disempowered all forest dwellers and adivasis appropriating for themselves absolute rights over mines, land and forests.
Colonialism acted as a reactionary brake on the progress of Indian society economically, politically, culturally and spiritually and instead imposed alien and backward systems of land relations, property relations, concepts of statecraft and united with the most backward and reactionary Brahmanical system leading to the enactment of the Gentoo code based on backward Dharmashastras as against the forward looking world view of Bhaktas and Sufis.
This led to hundreds of revolts by peasants, adivasis and patriotic kings and queens and spiritual leaders. The Ghadar of 1857 was a crowning event in this series of revolts encompassing vast tracts of land in the Gangetic basin involving millions of people from all strata, Indian sepoys working in the British Indian Army, peasants, artisans, patriotic ruling circles and so on. The Ghadar of 1857 was against this united front, consisting of a globalising corporation called East India Company backed by the British colonial state, traitorous Indian rulers, Zamindars and moneylenders and the most reactionary Brahmanical ideology.
The vision of the participants in the revolt is expressed by Bahadur Shah Zafar as “Hum hai iske maalik, Hindostaan hamara.” and that the “people of Hindostaan will decide the future.” This vision was in the democratic spirit of Bhaktas and Sufis that people are sovereign in spiritual or temporal matters.
Clearly, contrary to the propaganda that 1857 was a feudal reaction, it represented the revolt of the new against the decadent forces of India and as well as the foreign colonial globalisers. That is why we declare that the Ghadar of 1857 continues and is not just an event of the past to be celebrated and a few monuments dusted up or a few newly built.
After the suppression of the revolt with the help of traitorous elements in the Indian feudals, zamindars and moneylenders, the second phase of colonialism and stalling the progress of Indian society came into being. It consisted of Queen Victoria directly taking the reigns of India in her hands removing the dalaali of East India Company. In this phase different organs of a new state were built up: the land revenue department, the new Indian army, intelligence agencies and police, the new judicial system with personal laws and civil and criminal procedure codes, new laws encompassing forests, tribal areas, plantations, salt pans, mining, banking and money lending, new laws asserting the power of the government to acquire land, set tariffs and rules for internal and foreign trade and so on. It also set up a new colonial bureaucracy to manage the state.
The British colonialists paid special attention to establishing the English system of education and creating an intelligentsia that was rootless and disoriented, that viewed everything Indian and foreign from Euro-centric eyes. They propagated the belief that there was nothing progressive in Indian society, philosophy, culture and literature and that all sources of reason, science and progress originated from Europe and that the best way forward for the Indian society is to acquire this European modernism along with its capitalist system, its Westminster style parliamentary democracy and so on. The colonialists then helped create several institutions, chambers of commerce, Zamindars societies, Planters societies and political circles, one of which was the Indian National Congress, to articulate these views.
Seeing that the Bhakti and Sufi movements had shaken the stranglehold of the caste system, of conservative pundits and mullahs and had led to a united anti-colonial uprising of all castes and communities, the colonialists fanned the poisonous flames of communalism and casteism and revived disputes, which were settled earlier by the people, like the one in Ayodhya.
In opposition to this phase of colonialism after 1857, the Ghadar continued through hundreds of mass uprisings by the peasantry, adivasis and the newly arrived working class and democratic and patriotic and revolutionary youth and intellectuals like Bhagat Singh.
The independence from British rule in 1947 however led to the transfer of power from British colonialism to the Indian capitalists and landlords and not to the masses of Indian people as our martyrs had dreamt. The last sixty years of independence has led to the consolidation of the rule of the Indian big capitalists who have ambitions to become a super power and declared 2020 as a deadline for the same. They are devising new schemes to enrich themselves, make themselves militarily more powerful with atom bombs and missiles and enter the global game of finance capital and super powers in alliance and rivalry with Anglo-American and various imperialist forces.
Indian people are facing increased exploitation today as a result of these schemes to enrich Indian and foreign big capital, which involve globalisation through privatization and liberalization leading to the destruction of livelihood of millions of workers, peasants, adivasis, youth and women. Indian people are demanding empowerment and establishment of their own direct rule as against their marginalisation through the current parliamentary system. Various nationalities within India are looking at this Indian union that has only led exploitation and state terrorism as a prison house and are demanding the right of self-determination.
Thus while the colour of the skins of exploiters might have changed in the last 150 years, the aspiration that Indian people should decide their own destiny, should devise their own political and economic systems to solve their problems, that Indians should overthrow the yoke of Eurocentrism and find their own solutions based in the progressive thought and traditions of Indian people, is energizing a new movement among intellectuals. The injustice done to adivasis, working class, peasantry and nationalities etc under the colonial system, which continues today, has to be ended and a new just society be built. People of India want to build a society, where human beings should have rights by the dint of being human and the interests of the individual, the collective and the society are harmonized. In such a society, people themselves should rule directly without the need of dalaals of the parliamentary system who have marginalized the masses of Indian people today from the entire political process. Such a society should recognize that the individual is born to society and the society has an obligation to look after him or her and not the backward principle practiced today, that each is to himself.
That is why the Ghadar of 1857 continues!
We want to organize several activities using many media and forums to celebrate the 150 th anniversary of the glorious Ghadar in this spirit and invite all organizations and individuals supporting such a goal to join in and take it forward!
You can download the Report of the Meeting of the Organising Committee in PDF form from below