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Can we forget that Bhagat Singh, before being put to gallows, had the courage to read Lenin?

By Adv Masood Peshimam*
The BJP recently established its electoral supremacy over Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. BJP’s win in Tripura is all the more astonishing, as it created a popular wave against the CPI(M), which was not that easy, as Tripura was ruled by CPI(M) without a break since 1993. The then political dispensation in the state meekly caved in despite the credible track record of the Manik Sarkar government in Tripura.
The Manik Sarkar government was free from all allegations of corruption. He is one of the most honest politicians in the country which is a rare commodity in contemporary Indian politics. Being an honest politician, he could not afford to wallow in abundant affluence and richness. It is said that he neither owned a house nor a car. He shunned all the glory and pomp of office. His wife went to the market in a rickshaw for purchases, many a time without the observance of official protocol and security. Sarkar is thus austerity exemplified, though there were certain law and order problems, which was a setback to the government to a certain extent.
Saeed Naqvi writing in "Asian Age" (March 16, 2018) quotes from BL Vohra's book “Tripura’s brave hearts”, “Manik Sarkar was definitely unlike any other chief minister whom I had seen, met, worked with and heard about... he was honest personally and that had percolated down to all echelons of the government ... again one cannot find many examples of his ilk in the country”.
Saeed Naqvi says, “this level of decency has been traded by the Tripura electorate who pulled down statues”.
In the contemporary Indian politics elections are not won or lost on the question of merit or track record of a politician. Politicians capitalize on the sway of emotions which govern their political fortune. Many a time electoral results and track record of politicians are two different stories.
In Tripura the crumbling citadel of the Communists emboldened the communal forces to raze Communist ideologue Lenin’s statue at Belonia with a JCB earth remover and subsequently there were reported attacks over the Communists. It’s not surprising to note that such unhappy incidents occur in our country under the very nose of the police, consequent to gross political interference.
How can police remain flawless when there is gross political interference? The way the situation developed in the country in the teeth of the escalating cases of mob lynching under different pretexts explains to what extent the police has become more accountable to politicians.
The statue demolition spree continued. A statue of EVR Ramaswamy, better known as Periyar, was damaged following a Facebook post by BJP’s Tamil Nadu leader V Raja, who called the Dravidian movement icon a “caste fanatic”. However, it is learnt that there was U turn by the BJP leader, who deleted his comment. Then there followed the desecration of the statues of Dr BR Ambedkar and Shyama Prasad Maukherjee elsewhere.
However, notwithstanding desecration of statues it is good to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the vandalism of statues. The Prime Minister’s strong condemnation is in contrast with the contention of Governor Tathagata Roy, who appeared to justify the toppling of the Lenin’s statue in Tripura.
Basically, the Governor’s post is not political and the Governor’s alleged soft peddling of the offenders destroying the statues leading to the law and order problem is not the right thing to do. It is equally significant to note that such stances on the part of the Governor is not in consonance with the requirements of the sanctimoniousness of the office of the Governor.
BJP MP Subramanium Swamy called Lenin a ‘terrorist’ and questioned the relevance of Lenin in Indian context. Lenin’s relevance can well be established in our country as he has considerable following. His followers are Communist parties, which are recognized by the Election Commission. Terrorism itself has become a subjective term. Terrorism cannot be justified in any set of circumstances but many a time the weak and meek are targeted in the name of combating terrorism. Remaining weak is the biggest crime in the contemporary civilized world.
Those questioning the relevance of Lenin should be kind enough to note that Lenin supported our freedom struggle. Can we forget that Bhagat Singh before being put to gallows had the courage and passion to read Lenin?
Lenin, despite his own flaws and foibles, continued to be treated as the champion of socialism and the working class. He was a Marxist. Karl Marx had predicted that with the emergence of communism, capitalism would die its natural death. Communism failed and Lenin’s statue was pulled down in his own country. The demolition of Lenin’s statue did not emanate from violent extremism. Whatever may be the reasons there can’t be any rational explanation of vandalizing the statue.
Some veteran Communist leader compared the demolition of Lenin’s statue with Taliban damaging the Lord Buddha statue in Afghanistan. He should have known that Mehmood Gaznavi who looted and plundered Somnath temple did not destroy Buddha statue in Afganisthan which was within his reach. Otherwise also Mehmood Gaznvi was a paradox. He was a passionate fan of pre-Islamic Iranian prophet Zoroaster. He was so enamourd by this prophet that he made poet Firdausi, a Persian poet, to versify the tumultuous events of Zoroaster history. Firdausi’s poetic creation is a marvelous feat of literary accomplishment. Parsis hugely revere Firdausi believing that his coffin was carried by the angels.
CPI national secretary D Raja, while strongly condemning the statue demolition in Tripura, said that this is not an ideological victory because ideas are fought with ideas. He added that one can destroy statues but one cannot destroy ideology. Extremists in our country cannot tolerate the presence of conflicting ideologies. Once it is understood that rival ideology cannot be silenced, aggressive and obstructive narratives are used to silence the rival ideology, sometimes its in the name of ultra nationalism and some times in the name of combating terrorism. Terrorists also kill people who do not practice their precepts.
Raja also said that India is a diverse country and this diversity is to be respected. He added that this composite culture must be acknowledged and the pluralist character of our democracy must be understood.
In the light of the words of the CPI veteran, democratic values can only be promoted in a pluralist environment. The display of one group or community thus subjugating others, evn as searching scapegoats, is not in consonance with the cardinal virtues of democracy.
Notwithstanding rightist forces not tolerating rival ideologies, particularly Left, what one observes is that, despite scornful hatred, Leftists have not lost their strength, as manifest by farmers’ march in Mumbai, organized under the banner of CPI(M)’s kisan wing. Most of the cultivators under the Communist banner who marched in the sweltering heat were Adivasis from Nashik while others had come in from Thane, Sholapur and Sangli. A majority of these Adivasis work on forest land and have not been granted ownership rights under the Forest Rights Act. The marchers asked for an unconditional loan waiver, transfer of forest land in the name of landless tribals under the Forest Rights Act and setting up of a committee for agriculture pricing and compensation for the pink bollworm attack which has affected farmers across the state, among other things.
The march was supported by BJP’s arch rival Shiv Sena, a partner in the Fadnavis Government. The MNS, NCP and Congress and some NGOs also joined hand. What is astonishing is, Shiv Sena supported the kisan march under the Leftist banner, as the Shiv Sena has never reconciled with Leftists. Shiv Sena was born thanks to the patronage of Congress to check the expanding influence of the Leftist labour movement. In the politics of opportunism anyone can share space with anyone and the hostility to conflicting ideology looks to be sometimes cosmetic. It’s the politics of opportunism which turns ugly into beautiful and beautiful into ugly.
The Fadnavis government also had no hesitation in talking to farmers under the Leftist leadership. The farmers also withdrew the stir after government promised to address demands in six months, especially ownership rights of forest patches cultivated by Adivasis. Talking to communists spearheading the farmers' march was not resented in any quarter in Mumbai as the farmers have shown their strength.

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