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Review: CPI Leader D Raja’s new Book Tears Into India’s Right-wing Politics

The book ‘Defending Democracy’ is an indictment of the policies, decisions, and actions taken by the Modi-led BJP government while covering almost all the crucial areas.
D raja

D Raja, General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), has been a true soldier of the citadel of Indian democracy. Throughout his life, he has made popular interventions by writing in both mainstream and party newspapers – chiefly The Indian Express, The Hindu, The New Indian Express, National herald and the New Age. Now, the People’s Publishing House (PPH) has brought out his collection of articles under the title, Defending Democracy: Writings of D. Raja.

The collection has been edited and compiled by Vivek Sharma. The editor has done well in dividing the chapters into six sections thematically. The eight-page introduction by the editor lays out the plan of the book comprehensively. Excluding the introduction, the book is a short and informative read of 179 pages.

The compilation is a befitting reply to the right-wing propaganda trying to tear the delicate fabric of Indian democracy. It is an indictment of the policies, decisions, and actions taken by the Modi-led BJP government spanning almost all the crucial areas.

The first section, titled Foundations of our Republic, begins with a chapter on secularism. It is written in the backdrop of the Prime Minister inaugurating the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. The work takes a dig at the ruling government for invoking religious symbols in order to bolster public support. Raja writes that “the RSS and their obsession with uniformity has propelled them to devise monolithic interpretations of certain strands of Brahmanical texts which they wish to impose on this extremely diverse society”.

In the second section, Saffron Siege on Democracy, in the chapter titled Secularism and Justice in the aftermath of Ayodhya Verdict, D. Raja has rendered a sound socio-political and legal analysis of the verdict, its aftermath and discussed the possible implication of the verdict at length. In the same section, another chapter, titled December 6: Erasing Ambedkar, is a work of acuity. Since December 6 is the date of the demise of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the chapter elaborates on everything that the colossus of liberty, equality and fraternity in India stood for. Raja drives home the point that the Babri Mosque demolition was a cruel undoing of Dr Ambedkar’s political legacy.

In the subsequent sections and chapters, Raja holds a strong position in defending the idea of constitutionalism and liberties guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Enactments such as the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the farm laws were being used to alter the conscience of the people and deprive a huge section of basic economic entitlements. Raja’s sound analysis of the enactments had blown the cover and exposed the impertinence of such enactments. Throughout his work it is ostensibly clear that D Raja has strived to forge a bond of progressive forces in India to unite and resist the nefarious designs of the RSS-BJP combine.

In the fifth section of the book Justice, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: The Struggle is On, in the chapter titled Our Independence and India Today, D Raja cherished the revolutionary tradition of India and the embellishing role of the communists in the Indian national struggle. Starting with the coining of the phrase Inquilab Zindabad’ by Hasrat Mohani at the CPI’s first Party Congress in Kanpur to leading a demand for a Constituent Assembly and publishing the draft Constitution in 1944, i.e., Constitution of Free India, Raja covers a large and seemingly glorious history of the Indian communist struggle. Raja has proposed a more inclusive approach towards attaining true freedom that shall come from the grassroots to the Parliament and that the communists, along with other left-progressive forces, shall be its pioneer.

The last section of the book has been dedicated to biographical essays titled Guides to our Path. Here, D. Raja has discussed the legacy of great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Dr Ambedkar, V I Lenin and K R Narayanan. The mentions of progressive leaders and their contribution are recurrent in all the sections. A section is devoted explicitly to the giants of history whose contributions to India and the world must be nurtured to keep the ethos of Indian democracy.

The book has come right before the 24th CPI Party Congress in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Unfortunately, D Raja’s speeches are not compiled in the book. But in the 23rd Party Congress, which was convened in Kannur, Kerala, the communist leader had made a rallying speech referring to Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s media interview wherein he declared that communism is a dangerous ideology. D Raja slammed PM Modi’s comment and said that he agrees that communism is a dangerous ideology but it is only dangerous to the venomously communal ideology of the RSS-BJP.

Overall, the book serves as a fine compendium for those who are looking for an exposé of the current regime. As V I Lenin stated in his work ‘What has to be Done’ (Pg. no. 42), ‘‘A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organisation of comprehensive political exposure’’. The work of D Raja follows the same trajectory by providing an extensive and comprehensive analysis of contemporary politics through a communist lens. The book is a must-read for all the sympathisers of Left politics, academic researchers, and secular and socialist citizens of India.

Rishav Sharma is a legal practitioner based in New Delhi.

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