Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Twenty years ago, on March 23, 1995, when a student, Saswat Pattanayak had published his poem “Bhagat Singh” an excerpt of which I prefer to share with you. It reads:
Why, Bhagat Singh, did you die?
At a time when people were shy
To come out of their homes to fight
Against the British’s indomitable might
You had dreamt of freedom
For the future generations
Thus you sacrificed your life
For this mission of yours
You got yourself hanged; for the sake of the motherland
With a dream in your eyes; and a smile on your lips
Alas! Today’s country is not India of your dreams;
Your great sacrifice has gone in vain, it seems.
I believe, it would be difficult to disagree with what Saswat has cried in his poem.
Yet, Bhagat Singh is most relevant, because, our rulers have thrown us back to the time when he was alive and fighting for us.
Gandhiji had taken India’s fight for freedom to a level where the British were also feeling that their rule over India was rushing towards the end.
Indian bourgeoisie were sure of emergence of a free India and hence they were trying to keep India’s workers and peasants away from political leadership of the country in order to ensure that, when independence comes,only the Indian rich can control the market by capturing office as the leaders of independence struggle. In fact, on declaration of independence, the rich and elite took over from the British and banned the Communist Party of India as the first political action of the government, in order to deny due representation to the workers and farmers in the Constituent Assembly, as a result of which, such a constitution has been created, where, under the guise of fundamental rights on property, full scope has been given to the propertied class and the exploiters to amass as much wealth as they can as their private property.
In this design to keep peasants and workers out of leadership of the freedom struggle, nationalist bourgeoisie had contrived divisive methods on communal line so that, the people in the grassroots would be polarized with the elites that were in forefronts of religious communities and therefore, they were creating religious nationalism in place of Indian nationalism.
Communal riots were being fomented by the leaders like Lala and Malaviya, when essential was unity of the people. Sadly, Gandhiji was silent on this design, which ultimately led to India’s division on communal ground and also to his assassination in the hands of a Hindu religious fanatic.
Bhagat Singh was against this evil design of the rich when it was taking shape.
His words, published in Kiriti, June 1927 tells us how he was reacting to this sordid scenario.
“The condition of India has now become extremely grave. The followers of one religion have become suddenly sworn enemies of the followers of the other religion. So much so, that to belong to one particular religion is reason enough for becoming enemy of the other religion. Such a feeling has gained currency”.
“Leaders who seek well-being, happiness and prosperity of all people from their very heart are few and the tornado of communalism is so wild and fierce that these few, well-meaning and good-intentioned leaders are incapable of halting the process. ……It appears as if the Indian political leadership has gone completely bankrupt” (Communal Riots and the Remedy)
How was the time?
We can get glimpse of the time that had emerged to which Bhagat Singh had reacted as noted above, from a letter which Motilal Nehru had written to his son Jawaharlal on 27 February 1020. Absolutely in know of how Madan Mohan Malaviya was precipitating communal violence with tacit support from Gandhiji, he had said, “I have no right to quarrel with anybody for his political views much less with persons of the eminence of Gandhiji and Malaviya but I cannot shut my eyes to the manner in which the country is shaping up”.
Leaders of the Muslim community were trying to save the situation. We get it from a letter of Congress President Mr. M. Mohammad Ali to Jawaharlal Nehru, dated 15 June 1024, where he wrote, “I failed to impress him (Gandhiji)” on the character of his “worshipful brother” Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. “I had discussed the matter frankly with your father and he told me that he largely agreed with me that Malaviyaji was out to become the leader of the Hindus only, since he could not be the leader of Muslims as well as Hindus; and that, Hindu-Muslim unity was not his ideal”.
In spite of repeated endeavors of the progressive elements in leadership of the Congress, the Malaviyan Hindu fraction was active in furthering the communal divide. Motilal Nehru’s letter to his son Jawaharlal on 2 February 1926, gives us the picture.
Political scenario was vitiated by “Lalaji’s lies”, he wrote. Mentioning further of how “communal hatred and heavy bribing of the voters was the order of the day” Motilal wrote in this letter,
“The Malaviya-Lala gang aided by Birla’s money are making frantic efforts to capture the Congress. They will probably succeed as no counter effort is possible from our side. I will probably make a public declaration after the Congress and with it resign my seat in the Assembly though I am still acclaimed as the leader of the strongest party in the country. We can do no possible good in the Assembly or the Councils with our present numbers and the kind of men we have. I fear, there will soon be defections from our ranks, but apart from this, it is impossible to achieve anything. As for work in the country, I can see nothing which I can take up with any chance of success. My National Union for Hindu-Muslim Unity is of course there, but in the present state of communal tension my voice will be a cry in the wilderness”.
How was Jawaharlal Nehru reacting to such decadence of national unity of India under the communal activities of “Lala-Malaviya gang”?
We get a clear picture from what Gandhiji had written to Jawaharlal Nehru on 17 January 1928.
“Though I was beginning to detect some difference in viewpoint between you and me, I had no notion whatsoever of the terrible extent of these differences”.
“I see quite clearly that you must carry on open warfare against me and my views”.
“The difference between you and me appear to me to be so vast and radical that there seems to be no meeting ground between us”.
Bhagat Singh, in such a situation, as quoted, had said, “Leaders who seek well-being, happiness and prosperity of all people from their very heart are few and the tornado of communalism is so wild and fierce that these few, well-meaning and good-intentioned leaders are incapable of halting the process. ……It appears as if the Indian political leadership has gone completely bankrupt”.
India is now under the same situation
The Malaviayans in power, who have posthumously decorated him with Bharat Ratna, are ruining India on the notoriety of religious nationalism.
Before the youth of the country, the Malaviyans have projected two Indias: Hindu India and Non-Hindu India; two nationalism: Hindu nationalism and non-Hindu nationalism.
Malaviya was acting against India of the Indians to make it a Hindu India with the funds the richest trader of those days Birla was supplying him.The Malaviyans are acting against the India of Indian to convert it into a Hindu India with the funds the rich class of the country has been supplying them.
Two Indias, sadly
As the propertied class that had captured the Constituent Assembly with post-independence government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru banning the party of the workers and farmers – the Communist Party of India – thereby preempting participation of the working class in constitution making, the Constitution was so designed to help the rich become richer in free India , which conversely meant making the poor poorer.
Responding to whatever little voice of protest was there against this design from the very few members with a conscience, Dr. Ambedkar had said in his reply to the third reading of the draft constitution that, this syndrome shall make an India of contradictions and unless the elected Parliament does away with the mechanism of gap between the rich and the poor, which that the Constitution had provided for under the clause of fundamental rights on property,the victims of economic inequality would wake up to do away with the Republic so painstakingly was being created.
But the rich in power have not heeded to Ambedkar’s warning. On the other hand, they have subjugated India to blatant capitalism, helping the swindlers fill up their coffers with unlimited wealth that has made India the grazing ground of economic offenders, as compradors are ruling the roost by corrupting the system.
Only 2083 UHNW individuals have reportedly grabbed about 50% of the total wealth of India whereas 194.6 million of India’s population go hungry everyday; 15.2% Indians are undernourished, 30.7% children bellow 5 are underweight; 58% children below 2 are stunted; 25% children below 5 are malnourished; 3000 children below 5 die every day due to poor diet related illness; 30% of the newborn children are dying daily according to India Food Banking Network.
Where have the capitalist government landed India is discernible in writing off loan amount of Rs 1.14 lakh crores, which big industries and monopoly traders had taken from public sector Banks, but had not repaid. A former top brass of Reserve Bank of India has termed this writing off a big scam that has taken place with Mr. Modi as Prime Minister. With Mr. Modi as Prime Minister, Vijay Mallya whom plutocratic system had made a member of the Parliament has been helped by administration allegedly to escape the dragnet of law with a willful default of Rs.9000 croes.
Thus it is clear that plutocracy has broken India into two Indias, one of the less than 10 lakh population of the rich including the UHNW individuals and the other is the India of the 132 crores of Indians, out of whom 194.6 millions go hungry everyday and where 3000 children below five years breath their last daily due to poor diet related illness and whose wretched condition is depicted in the above quoted report of India Food Banking Network.
Capitalists in power whose continuous treachery against the people has dragged the country to this predicament, reaching the severest condition in Modi’s regime, have been trying to convince the 132 crore wretchedly poor Indians whom the IFBN report on Hunger has highlighted as above, that, their misfortune is a matter of their fate. And to convince them in this line, the capitalist government has been patronizing to religious revivalism. This has become so very urgent for the rich that their government in the center was seen recently pressing the Army in private service of a faith trader in the guise of security and the Prime Minister actively participating in this notorious extravaganza in sharp disregard to Yamuna’s eco-health and judicial views thereon.
These fellows in power are eager to divert the attention of 132 crores of poor Indians from their abject poverty to internecine quarrels over religious nationalism, exactly as the Malaviyans were doing as marked by Bhagat Singh. And, in total similarity with the conduct of rich media of those days, the present day media of India are conspicuous by their callousness to the real need of the nation.
About the role of newspapers, those days, Bhagat Singh had written:
“Those others, instrumental in fomenting communal riots, and playing the key-role in it, are newspapermen. The profession of journalism, considered to be esteemed once upon a time, has now been reduced to rubbish. They are blaring out against each other in screaming headlines, besides inciting people’s savage bigoted passions for unleashing the orgy of mutual killings”.
“Not confined to one or two places, but in a number of places communal conflagration broke out, simply because newspapers penned down explosive and highly provocative articles, while such writers who were able to keep their hearts and minds clean and were able to maintain a balanced poise in those turbulent times were barely few”.
“The real duty of the newspapers is to educate, to cleanse the minds of people, take them out of the rut of narrow sectarian grooves of thought and perception, and to wash and scrap out communal feelings in order to invest them with feelings of amity and communal harmony, for bridging the gap and building mutual trust, bringing about real rapprochement for advancing the cause of common nationalism”.
“But instead of it all, their main objective appears to have become spread of ignorance, proliferation and propagation of chauvinism and sectarianism—communalisation of people’s mind for engendering group clashes and skirmishes. In this way they are working for destruction of India’s common heritage and its composite culture—its common nationalism”. (Communal Riots and the Remedy)
Thus focusing on the two-nation-conflicts engineered by the Hindu chauvinists at the time of the freedom movement, Bhagat Singh had reached its reason.
Class consciousness needed
In order to stop the people from mutual fighting, class consciousness is needed, he had said.
The toiling poor, working classes and the peasantry should be made fully aware of the fact that their real enemies are capitalists; therefore they should desist from doing anything at their behest and remain ever-vigilant from falling prey to their vile machinations, being always on guard against becoming the tool of the capitalists (Ibid).
In ‘Outlines of a Revolutionary Programme: A Letter to Young Political Activists’, he had focused on why the movement led by Gandhiji will end up in a situation where the toiling population shall have no emancipation.
“What is the motive of Congress? I said that the present movement will end in some sort of compromise or total failure. I have said so because in my opinion the real revolutionary forces have not been invited to join the movement. This movement is being conducted only on the basis of a few middle class shopkeepers and a few capitalists. Both of these classes, specifically the capitalists, cannot venture to endanger their property. The real armies of the revolution are in villages and factories, the peasants and workers. But our bourgeois leaders don’t dare take them along, nor can they do so”.
But “these sleeping tigers” (peasants and workers), once waken up from their slumber, are not going to stop even after the accomplishment of the mission of our leaders”, he had thundered.
When Ambedkar had warned against the impact of the contradiction the Constitution was going to push India into with fundamental rights given to the rich class on limitless accumulation of wealth, he had, as per his confession therein, kept in mind the “sleeping tigers” of Bhagat Singh.
As such, in today’s India of very severe contradictions, Bhagat Singh is most relevant.
(This is what I had almost said in Oriya in a seminar on relevance of Bhagat Singh at Athgarh on March 23.)