Kolkata: It was a meeting point for youth from all parts of the country to gather and share their experiences and they all went back with the resolve to fight for their dreams of a better society – this was the takeaway for most delegates to the 11th National Conference of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) held recently in Kolkata.
After the opens session of the conference, Nijil, 34, from Kochi in Kerala told NewsClick that the youth youth in his state had forged a strong connection with tribal, dalit and transgenders to build a better society. One transgender had also been made a member of the DYFI Kerala state committee, he added.
In Kerala, where a Left-led government is in power, “we have fostered youth organisations who are arranging regular job fairs, holding ideological campaigns along with developmental works,” he added.
Youth from Jammu and Kashmir, in complete contrast to those from Kerala, shared their experience of facing state repression. “In the name of law and order, the police and military are hurting the secular, democratic fabric of the country, as night searches, harassment of DYFI workers are quite common in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation is more alarming in Kashmir, MD Abbas, a DYFI delegate, told NewsClick.
Kulbinder Singh of Punjab spoke about the work DYFI did behind the scenes during the farmers’ movement at Delhi’s borders. While the farmers were sitting on dharna, their family matters were taken care of by their neighbours, and DYFI played a big role in that, he said.
Singh said age-old parties of Punjab have been wiped out in the recent Assembly elections and a new force (Aam Aadmi Party) has come to power. “If they do not perform, they too will be wiped out,” he said.
He said 339 DYFI comrades had been killed by militants in Punjab during the decade-long militancy and an attempt was made by religious fanatics to paint DYFI as an “anti-Sikh” organisation. But, all this propaganda has proved wrong and the role of DYFI in the farmers’ agitation and other movements has been hailed across the state.
Priyanka Murugeshan, 32, from Tamil Nadu pointed out that after the martyrdom of their comrade, Ashok, and after the suicide of a NEET aspirant, a strong protest movement took placed In the state, in which DYFI played a major role. A huge cycle rally was held in Tamil Nadu just before the conference, she said, adding that “we are in the forefront of movements and struggles on various local and national issues”.
Several youth delegates from Bharatiya Janata party-ruled states complained of saffronisation of education and spreading of communal venom.
“Everywhere there is a story of under-employment,” said Saptarshi Deb, a Red Volunteer and delegate from West Bengal.
“In BJP-ruled states, the government came to power promising jobs for all, and now they are saying that was a “jumla”, said Tripura DYFI leader Palash Bhowmik. He also spoke of repression by police and BJP “hooligans” on the organised youth movement in the Northeastern state.
Youth delegates from states with non-BJP government, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan, also spoke about their protests demanding jobs facing police lathicharge, as seen in West Bengal too.
Earlier, the delegate session of the conference was inaugurated by well-known journalist Shashi Kumar, who how democracy was under severe attack by the authoritarianism of BJP-RSS-led forces.
“Whenever democracy is under attack, secularism also stands a test. What is happening in the country is an undeclared emergency,” he said, pointed out that Articles 14, 19 and 21 of Constitution were under attack.
If these three Articles are not protected, then the Constitution of the country is not protected, Kumar said, adding that religious fanaticism and authoritarianism by the government had engulfed the country.
The festive spirit of the conference was evident in the Indian People’s Theatre Association or IPTA songs that were sung highlighting the rich tradition of people’s movements. The Red Volunteers also put up a stall highlighting their work during the Covid pandemic and lockdown. A book festival was held at the venue participated by multiple publishing houses. Artwork was done at the venue by well-known artists, which were given away as commemorative gifts to all states represented in the conference.