“Modi’s new India has created many milestones, as the new central vista is being constructed, the old parliament building is said to become a museum. Is it going to be a museum of our democracy too?” senior CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat questioned at the open session of the party’s 23rd state conference held in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 152nd birthday, several speakers from left parties such as CPI and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) remembered his unprecedented contribution to the Indian freedom movement and called for utilising his pro-people, effective ideals for today’s politics.
Karat also pointed to the high level of corporatism and neoliberal economic policies that have been proven to be harmful to the common people. “With the public sector sold, we have no economic sovereignty. And because of this, we cannot expect any political sovereignty,” he said.
Subhashini Ali, a CPI(M) politburo member and the president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), spoke about Gandhi’s key contributions to freedom politics. “We must remember that Mahatma Gandhi has been the leader who has made the freedom movement a mass movement. His method of Satyagraha was very effective to mobilise the common people against the British,” Ali said.
Skeptical of Gandhi’s belief in the varna system, Ali attributed to Gandhi the spirit and commitment towards fighting ‘asprishyata’ or untouchability. “No, I don’t agree with the fact that we can carry on with a society that runs on the varna system, but Gandhi did realise the need to remove untouchability and was committed to eradicating such discrimination. But today, we still have the same problems of chhu-achhut, caste atrocities, and sexual assault against dalit women.”
Pointing to a bleak picture of Uttar Pradesh today, Ali recounted the atrocities against dalit women in Hathras and Unnao as evidence of the current regime’s diabolical manuvaadi tendencies to preserve the varna order. “Dalit children in schools in places such as Mainpuri and Amethi have been asked to eat separately, we can see the varna vyavastha running and thriving in UP,” Ali said.
CPI representative Naseem Ansari said that we need to remember Ambedkar’s life-work to challenge such a system. “We also have to ask if the 100 years of communist party in our country have been effective and if we have evolved too. Only Marxism can help us move forward along with Left unity,” Ansari said.
Zubair from LJD talked about the violence that has been unleashed in our times against the people. “These people (RSS affiliates), even before independence, have been violent towards protesters and those who demanded freedom. Remember they killed Gandhi; they now do the same to the people who rise up against injustice,” Zubair said.
“This was the first time we have seen that vaccination has been turned into a business by a government in this country,” CPI(M)’s J.S. Majumdar noted at the session. “But if this was unprecedented, so is the mazdoor-kisan andolan raging in our country today,” he added.
Majumdar pointed out that the movement of farmers and labourers has called for a unity above caste -- the Hindu-Muslim unity. “Such ideals have also been part of Gandhi’s politics, who was always against the politician,” he said.
Ali asserted, “Neoliberalism, communalism, casteism, all three must be tackled simultaneously. We cannot question one and leave the other.”
“The BJP-RSS regime needs to be challenged and it has to be done through a combination of many struggles; that of farmers, labourers, dalit, adivasis, Muslims, etc,” Karat noted at the end of his speech. The state conference is to continue for the next two days, till October 4, as several delegates, including CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, will meet for a review of internal party membership and other matters.
The author is an independent writer.