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Punjab civil rights group campaigns to 'expose' 75th anniversary of Independence

By Harsh Thakor* 
Punjab's civil rights organisation, Lok Morcha, launching a campaign engulfing 14 districts of the state, has taken the stand that there is a need to "expose" the true nature of the 1947 Independence in the light of its 75th anniversary. The organisers particularly targeted the Congress, pointing out how the party digressed the path of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru by "diluting the cutting edge of class struggles of the working class and peasantry." 
The civil rights leaders sought to analyse the various junctures of the freedom movement -- be it the Quit India Movement, the Non-Cooperation Movement or the Civil Disobedience Movement -- where they said the Congress "nullified the militant resistance of the broad masses."
According to them, the Congress and the Muslim League "never waged a secular resistance" to combat partition, but instead danced to the tune of the "notorious divide and rule policy of the British". They added, there was clear dichotomy of the paths of Gandhiji and the Congress leaders vis-a-vis that of Bhagat Singh and the Ghadar Party.
The speakers touched upon how the base of feudalism, imperialism and capitalism was "not erased" and how foreign capital was allowed to penetrate in India. Examples were offered to point out how the "slavish policies" continued in factories, fields, educational institutions, transport and health centres. They said, land reforms initiated by the Congress were "superficial", even as noting that the right to strike to industrial workers was cosmetic.
Giving the examples of how the Telengana armed struggle and the Naxalbari movement were crushed, they claimed, the Congress rulers adopted diversionary tactics in order to subdue the revolutionary democratic student and youth movements of the 1970s as also the JP movement.
Pointing towards suppression of the rights during the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency, they insisted, the Congress "fostered Hindu communalism." At the same time, they condemned the "diversionary nature of the Akali Dal  and Sikh fundamentalism. In fact, they said, laws were introduced of the type that existed during the colonial era to "repress" democratic movements and activists.
They believed, liberalization and globalization from 1991 broke the backbone of the organized movement of the working class, leading to large scale retrenchment, entrapping of the peasantry with debts, leading to mass suicides, and destroying the livelihood of the tribal community, with the MNCs seizing their land. 
It was elaborated how the exploiter classes' monopoly reached an unprecedented level during the Congress rule, pointing out, agro-friendly or local industries were liquidated and farmers were unable to procure seeds at affordable prices.
Coming to what they termed Hindutva fascism, they said, the Narendra Modi era from 2014 was riddled with the fundamentalist ideology penetrating every sphere of society at a magnitude unscaled, reinforced with suppression of the democratic dissent. 
The manner in which democratic activists were being framed with false charges and Muslim minorities were stripped of their rights, they said, reminded one of the dark days of the Emergency in a more pernicious form. They particularly gave the example of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), currently being used to suppress dissent. 
Liberalization and globalization which began in 1991 broke the backbone of the organized movement of the working class
Economic disparitied have scaled new heights, they said, adding, industrialists and corporates were allowed to profiteer without any restrictions, strangulating the broad masses as never before. Price rise in recent years has caused havoc with the masses with no control over inflation.
The leaders asserted that real Independence could be won only with a genuine revolutionary movement where the class struggle of the people was sharpened and no stone should be unturned to challenge the exploitative base of the social order.
Gatherings took place in several districts, including Barnala, Bhatinda, Faridkot, Patiala, Moga, Sangrur, Muktsar, Ludhiana and Amritsar, with an average of around 400 persons assembling in each of the meetings. 
There was a token participation of the Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa) and Naujwan Bharat Sabha at these meetings. Cadres of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union also participated. Jagmel Singh and Shireen Kussa were prominent speakers.
Many of the leaders said, it can be debated whether the 1947 Independence was genuine or it was merely a transfer of power or whether leaders like Gandhiji made a positive contributions. However, none can deny the glorious contribution of comrades like Bhagat Singh ,Sukhdev and Rajguru, the Ghadar Party or the Kakori martyrs, and how Gandhiji and other leaders gave scant respect to people's revolutionary uprisings. 
There was a view wondering whether the Lok Morcha Punjab campaign can serve as a model for the other states of India in exposing the alleged bankruptcy of the current social order. It was, however, felt that the de-centralized method of undertaking the campaign was "impressive."
*Freelance journalist who has covered mass movements all over India, especially Punjab



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