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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 23, May 28, 2011

Fifty Years of Independence: Gains and Losses

Thursday 9 June 2011

TRIBUTE

He was described as the “last of the towering personalities in Bihar’s communist movement”. Veteran freedom fighter and one of the pioneers in setting up the Communist Party of India in Bihar, Jagannath Sarkar, 92, breathed his last at his Patna residence last month (April 8, 2011) after protracted illness. He is survived by his wife Nilima, sons Abhijit (a scientist) and Gautam (consultant for a company in Bangalore), and daughter Usashi (a medical practitioner married to economist and Director of the Asian Development Research Institute Dr Saibal Gupta).
Alongwith Indradeep Sinha, Yogendra Sharma, Chandrashekhar Singh and Sunil Mukherjee, Jagannath-da (as he was known to one and all) laid the foundation of the CPI in Bihar during British rule. Among his old comrades he was the last to depart, the others having left one by one much earlier.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar announced that he be cremated with full state honours. That happened on April 9 at the Bansghat electric crematorium. Nitish paid glowing tributes to Jagannath-da in his condolence message to underscore that his death “has caused irreparable loss not only to the communist movement but the nation as a whole”, thereby highlighting the deceased leader’s stature in Bihar and the country at large while simultaneously bringing out the allround admiration for him cutting across party lines and ideological barriers (something which can be said about only a handful of veteran Communists in today’s India). However, till his last breath Jagannath-da remained a staunch Communist with unflinching faith and loyalty to the essence of Marxism-Leninism but without even a trace of sectarianism (an attribute flowing from the basic principles of the Marxist ideology that the ‘Marxists’ of the CPM variety have forsaken). That is precisely why he became a legend among the tallest Communist figures in the State.
He was born in a renowned family of Patna on September 25, 1919. Jagannath-da was the nephew of the celebrated historian, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, and his father, Dr Akhilnath Sarkar, was a reputed doctor. Veteran journalist Chanchal Sarkar was his nephew and both he (Jagannath-da) and his wife attended Chanchal-da’s memorial meeting at New Delhi’s India International Centre following the latter’s demise a few years ago.

He plunged into the national movement for the country‘s emancipation from foreign yoke as a studnet and joined the Communist Party in 1939. From then on it was a life of hardship, privation and constant struggle both in underground and in prison. He also endured police torture before and after independence. With his colleagues he launched several mass movements and organised militant struggles (like the land stir) in the sixties and seventies. He became the CPI’s State Secretary in 1967, successfully organised the party’s Eighth Congress at Patna in 1968, and took extraordinary initiatives to build and expand the CPI’s base in the State. Bihar at one stage was the bastion of the Left, that is, the CPI—it had the distinction of having the strongest organisation of the party (or for that matter of any Left party) in the Hindi-speaking belt.

In 1972-77 during his stewardship of the party the CPI became the principal Opposition party in the State Assembly. After the Bhatinda Congress of the party in 1978 he joined the CPI’s Central Secretariat to work on the organisational front from the party headquarters in New Delhi’s Ajoy Bhawan; this was a recognition of his capabilities as an excellent party organiser. He was a member of the Bihar State Legislative Council from 1966 to 1972.

An exceptionally creative Marxist thinker, Jagannath-da wrote on manifold subjects in different newspapers and periodicals including Mainstream. One of the prominent themes on which he cogently expressed himself was the tribal issue. It was he who propagated the idea of carving out from Bihar a State with a tribal majority. Recently, his memoirs have been published and won wide acclaim.
Jagannath-da was quite close to N.C. and at different crucial junctures of the communist movement they worked in coordination in national interest.
One had the privilege of coming in contact with him during the CPI’s Patna Congress (1968) and closely interacting with him in Moscow where he had gone in 1976 to attend the CPSU’s 25th Congress as a fraternal delegate from the CPI. His infectious smile has been stored in one’s memory forever.

We belatedly offer our sincere homage to his abiding memory by reproducing his following article that appeared in Mainstream (February 22, 1997) as a token of our tribute to that unassuming revolutionary who contributed so much for the growth and nourishment of the communist and progressive movement in Bihar and the nation as a whole. S.C.


Fifty Years of Independence: Gains and Losses

JAGANNATH SARKAR

We achieved independene five decades ago. Our aim was to build up an united independent nation.

On the eve of independence, however, a male-violent idea burst out with great force—the two-nation theory, that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations, that religion is the distinguishing feature of a nation.

This idea gripped sections of our people with such force (the reasons for this need to be seriously examined) that the country was torn asunder. Partition was the result. Not only was the body of India severed. It mangled and lacerated the heart and soul of our people.

Pakistan was created on the basis of the principle that religion is the basis of a nation. It called itself the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Its Constitution declared in the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful that

Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by him in sacred trust…..

Whereas the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed….

All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah….

India (the Indian National Congress) accepted partition which was based on the two-nation theory, but decided to build a polity which was totally different from that of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

India did not accept religion as the main distinguishing feature of the nation.

Instead it resolved

To constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens

JUSTICE : social, economic and political.

LIBERTY : of thought, expression, belief, faiths and worship.

EQUALITY : of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all.

FRATERNITY: assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. What happened to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan during the last 50 years is a different story. That too needs to be studied in order to understand and evaluate the consequences of following the principles that Pakistan upheld.

We are concerned with the developments in India.

AFTER five decades of independence a party has emerged in India which stands opposed to the principles that the Indian people cherished before our independence, principles which are enshrined in our Constitution. This party asserts that the basis of Indian nationalism is Hindutva, that the integrity of the nation can be achieved only if every citizen accepts Hindutva and that this religion is the basis of the Indian nation.

This party unfortunately has emerged as the single largest party in Parliament (in the country) after five decades of our independence. It appears what we achieved fifty years ago and what is enshrined in our Constitution is about to be lost. This is a cause of grave concern.

There is, however, a silver-lining in the situation. Though the party pledged to the ideology of Hindutva has emerged as the single largest party in Parliament, it could not grab power because other parties generally did not support the Hindutva party. But in the present unsettled social and political situation in the country, when corruption and crime pervades the whole polity, when various political parties, groups and sub-groups are jockeying for positions, without the least hesitation in sacrificing any principle, one can hardly have any confidence that we can protect the noble aims that we achieved fifty years ago. Even today two or three minor parties have moved in support of the Hindutva party. The Left alone seems to be comparatively firm in upholding the noble aims. But the Left is pitifully weak and is often dragged by the forces of national disruption. It is necessary to ponder over the causes of this alarming situation in the country.

ANOTHER development has taken place in the country which is causing no less alarm.

Five decades age, our people upheld the principle that the Indian state shall not deny to any person equality before the law, or equal protection of law, that there should be equal opportunity for all, that no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for or discriminated against in respect of any employment to any office in the state.

While enunciating the aforesaid principle, it also provided for special provision to protect women and children and for the advancement of such communities and classes who have been victims of historical injustices, who are characterised as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who suffer from retarded development socially and educationally. It was expected that through such special measures the victims of arrested development will be enabled to over-come their backwardness and that the ideal of equality before law, equality of opportunity for develop-ment of all and fraternal amity among all will be realised. This was bound to strengthen the bonds of unity and integrity of the nation. Enunciation of these principles in our Constitution was a big gain for our nation. But unfortunately the developments of the last five decades have largely frustrated the realisation of these whole-some principles. It may be useful to briefly examine the causes of this unfortunate situation.

The property relations in our country facilitated the functioning of an exploitative system. During the last five decades there have been some changes in the property relations. But the exploitative system has grown very fast and has adopted newer forms. The democratic forces in general, and the Left (those committed to the principles of socialism) in particular, have been conscious of the importance of fighting against all forms of exploitation in order to build up a society based on social justice.

Despite the efforts of the democratic forces, the Left in particular, there has been enormous increase in the strength of the exploitative forces.

The exploitative forces have been using the Indian political system, the various organs of the state, the cultural, ideological institutions and infrastructures of our country to buttress their stranglehold on the society. They have not hesitated even to bend and distort the noble principles that our people value to serve their ignoble aims.

Some of these forces are propagating the worst forms of casteism in the name of “social justice”. Instead of building up a polity based on equality of status, equality before law and equality of opportunity to all, while adopting special measures to uplift the communities suffering from retarded development, they are engaged in whipping up caste hatred, sowing caste discord. They denounce the so-called upper castes as feudals and are engaged in hounding them out from positions in the administration as a fight against feudalism. They plead for having only a Muslim, or a Dalit, or a tribal, or an OBC as the future Prime Minister of the country and as Chief Ministers of the States. They plead for reservation of seats in the Legislatures on the basis of caste. They condone all acts of corruption, or crime or moral turpitude if they are perpetrated by castes which are supposed to be the champion of “social justice”. As a matter of fact, the term “social justice” is being prostituted in order to pursue all manner of injustices, exploitation and attacks on the democratic rights of the people. They oppose all struggles against exploitation and are engaged in disrupting the unity of the exploited masses on the basis of caste. They want to cling on to power to perpetuate the rule of exploiters by whipping up casteism and caste-hatred.

After five decades of independence, it is the forces of Hindutva communalism and “social justice” casteism that have emerged in a menacing fashion over large parts of the country. As a matter of fact, these two ugly forces appear to have come to occupy the central stage of the Indian society. They are not only threatening the integrity of the country as never before but to destroy the democratic polity that had emerged in India after independence. The Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India despite all its limitations allowed the various social forces to advance through democratic struggles. But now the polity itself is faced with destruction. If this trend is not halted and reversed the Indian state will be reduced to an obscurantist state and the people divided and disrupted into warring caste groups. And the path of advance of the Indian people will be largely blocked.

This alarming situation has arisen because of the failures of the forces of the Left, of the forces of socialism, together with other democratic forces to raise and organise the people to fight against all forms of exploitation and attacks on democracy. What has been done by the Left uptil now was not adequate for preventing the ugly disruptive forces from gathering their present strength. That is why the Left today continues to be pitifully weak and almost helpless in halting the disruptive forces. Unless the Left overcomes its lapses it will not be possible to contend with the dark political-ideological forces that threaten our society with destruction. What we achieved through our independence fifty years ago, the polity that we built up for ensuring the growth and development of our society cannot be defended and safeguarded unless the Left can get rid of its weaknesses and lapses.

(Mainstream, February 22, 1997)

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