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Gunned down by Khalistani terrorists, Baldev Singh Mann also fought state repression

By Harsh Thakor*

September 26 was the 35th martyrdom anniversary of Baldev Singh Mann, who succumbed after waging a valiant battle against the Khalistani terrorism. On the night of that day, he fell to the bullets of the Khalistani Commando force. He was the Amritsar district secretary of the CPI(ML) Chandra Pulla Reddy group and editor of party magazine 'Hirawal Dasta’.
Till this very day his memories shimmer in the revolutionary camp like an extinguishable flame, being amongst the most popular youth leader of Punjab. He was simply the epitome of the all-round skill of a revolutionary.
Mann was part of the trend in the Communist revolutionary camp that uncompromisingly challenged Khalistani terrorism and state terrorism. Later those belonging to the same group were also martyred, like Jaimal Singh Padda and Sarabjit Singh.
From his very inception into the movement in his youth, he deployed every ounce of energy towards serving the people's revolutionary cause. He made an immense impact on shaping the minds of youth in his time and after his martyrdom. His powerful voice struck a chord in the broad masses, in the most challenging times.
Baldev Mann was born on July 9, 1952. He was the son of Inder Singh. He lived in the village Bagga Kalan Tehsil Ajnala, Amritsar. He completed his primary education at the village school. He matriculated from government high school at Raja Sansi. He then went to Khalsa College, Amritsar, when, during the Emergency, he had to face detention. He graduated in 1983.
While at Day College, he came in contact with the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) of Chandra Pulla Reddy-SN Singh. He organized young people in his village reviving the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, a left-wing Indian association that sought to instigate revolution against the British Raj by organising workers and peasant youths.
While at Amritsar he was held and tortured at Amritsar's interrogation centre, but released in 1975. Approximately two years before his death, Mann married Paramjit Kaur, with whom he had a daughter. She was one week old when he was murdered while on his way to his village, Chinna Bagga, in Amritsar.
During the Emergency, Mann was arrested, for his writing was considered seditious and conflicting with that of the government. Due to torture his eyesight suffered very badly. Following his interrogation in Amritsar he was released in 1975 and was cleared of all accusations. But he plunged into the struggle for justice led by CPI(ML) with great passion.
In 1980, Mann contested for the Punjab State Assembly, in which he won with a margin of 10,000 votes. During the communally vitiated atmosphere of 1985 he proved to be a strong contender for the Raja Saansi Assembly constituency. Again, in 1985, he contested for the MLA’s election. He won many a heart and was labelled a 'people’s man'.
From 1982 Mann joined the Kirti Kisan Union, a farmers’ organization. In 1983 Mann helped Punjabi farmers oppose increases in electricity tariffs, and led a large rally as the kisan union leader of Punjab from CPI(ML). Further rallies were organised on March 19, 1983 in Chandigarh and on April 9 a second big rally was held in Jalandhar which forced the government into action.
Mann played a vital role in the struggle of Punjab peasants against intolerable tariff raise for electricity in 1983, furthering his belief in his cause. In 1979, he helped the Punjab Police to further the process of amending the extant policies for the better functioning of the Police forces.
Sonia Mann
In 1983 when farmers of Punjab had been financially squeezed between excessive rates of power for their largely mechanized farms, a huge campaign was organized led by him as the Kisan Union leader of Punjab. He led a kisan rally in Chandigarh.
During the dark days of the Khalistan movement Mann led many a public rally and addressed many meetings, pledging for communal harmony. At many points he openly confronted or challenged Khalistani forces and played an instrumental role in building bastions of secular resistance in villages.
His powerful voice touched the very core of the soul of the Punjab farmers, taking secular spirit to a crescendo. Mann’s voice revealed the intensity of a thunderstorm, delivering a striking blow to the enemy at it’s hardest point. He was gunned down by Khalistani terrorists on September 26, 1986 in his native village Channa Bagha near Pakistan border.
A meeting staged in his commemoration had an attendance of around 20,000 people in October 1986 village Channa Bagga in Amritsar district, which remains even today an unforgettable event. A similar meeting in his memory was held in the same village in October 1989. These had representatives from all sections of the Communist and revolutionary democratic camp.
Mann was part of a contingent of Communist leaders who challenged Khalistani forces in their very hotbed as well as exposed state terrorism, fluttering the red flag of secular democracy. There was also a well attended meeting staged by Navnirmana Sanskritik Manch in Bombay in 1986. In the 1990 Anand Patwardhan and late Ashgar Ali Engineer under the banner of Ekta committee held a meeting in Mumbai to pay homage to him. The movie ‘In Memory of Friends' by Anand Patwardhan projected Mann’s martyrdom, as a part of its theme.
A letter he wrote to his daughter is one of the most inspiring ever in the Communist movement. It is heart touching that today his very daughter Sonia Mann, an actress, is resurrecting the very teachings or values of her slain father.
His letter expressed the duty he felt he had to perform in following his political and social beliefs. '"I am struggling for the birth of a social order in which the shackles that enslave human beings are broken to bits, where the oppressed can heave a sigh of relief", he wrote.
He ended his letter as follows: "My darling daughter, these few words are my message to you in this moment of your birth. I hope you will accept them and try to act according to them. These few words are the foundation of your life, to build your dreams on."
In spite of being an actress, she is devoting her utmost energy working in the Kirti Kisan Union to support the farmers’ movement. There could not have been as ripe a time for Sonia Mann intervening in the movement than today, with Hindutva fascism penetrating unparalleled proportions. Today, the need is felt for persons like like Baldev Singh Mann who could sharpen the sword to cut the growing tumour of saffron fascism.

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