Skip to main content

Punjab students' march revives memory of Moga firing incident half a century ago

By Harsh Thakor* 
On October 6 the memories of the police firing on students at Moga on October 5-7, 1972 were resurrected by the Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa). Even if not so large in numbers, it gave a qualitative effect in resonating the message of the martyred students. I was privileged to be part of the gathering and the march.
The firing at the Regal Cinema turned a spark into a prairie fire, being the cradle of the student and youth rebellion or precursor to the Moga Sangram rally of April 1974. It symbolized the wrath of the students community against the injustice of an autocratic society and garnered forces from all walks of life to confront the oppressive social order.
It coincided with the student movement in Paris, the anti-Vietnam war protests, the Naxalite upheaval and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Youths, seeking to liberate themselves from the oppressive shackles, valiantly waged the battle against corruption, unemployment, fee hikes, and lack of proper educational facilities.
Today the cinema hall is in tatters manifesting the dark days. But the event still flashes like an inextinguishable light. The Moga agitation arose from a clash between college students and the management of the Regal Cinema in Moga.They boldly raised their powerful voices against the black marketing of cinema tickets in the magistrate’s office. The management paid them deaf ear, as it was a threat to the vested interests of the private owners.
A protest match was organised on October 5. After the management displayed complete apathy, the students were infuriated, picked up sticks and lathis from shops, and attempted to set the hall on fire. The police burst tear gas shells, but were unable to quell the students, and resorted to firing. Four persons, including a college student, were killed. Prohibitory orders were enforced with imposition of Section 144.
On October 6 the spark turned into a prairie fire with the flame of struggle spreading to colleges of Jagraon, Ludhiana, Jalandhar etc. Residents of Moga formed a students' council. On October 7 members of the council set the cinema hall on fire. The police again counter retaliated by firing, resulting in killing of two more persons. This crystallized an uprising all over Punjab. The Punjab government ordered the closure of all colleges. In almost every city of Punjab, the student community burnt roadway buses and cinema houses defying the prohibitory orders.
Photos of martyrs Kewal, Harjit, Gurdev and Swarn were garlanded at the inauguration of the conference on October 6, 2022. The Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa) spokesman Amitoz Mann spoke of the history behind the Moga Cinema firing and its repercussions. In vivid detail he traced its historical genesis in soaring unemployment, corruption illiteracy, male chauvinism, casteism, religious communalism etc. In spite of the Green Revolution, feudal practices were still rampant in agriculture with absentee landlordism the order of the day.
Amitoz delved into the background of the movement of the stage managed encounters in the Naxalite movement, the Jayprakash Narayan movement and the imposition of the Emergency. Illustratively he summarised how the Moga firing crystallised a powerful revolutionary democratic system, hitting the ruling classes at their hardest point.
In Amitoz’s view, a genuine mass based movement was shaped in a most cohesive manner, which made inroads amongst the peasantry and landless labourers. He projected how the movement demarcated from the revisionist path of the All-India Students Federation, who backed out of the movement, when it was soaring at a height. In Moga, the AISF cadres had to flee to rescue themselves from the rage of the cadres of the Punjab Students Union.
On October 6, 1972 the spark turned into a prairie fire with the flame of struggle spreading to colleges of Jagraon, Ludhiana, Jalandhar
Amitoz highlighted how a revolutionary alternative was projected by the Punjab Students Union and the Naujwan Bharat Sabha recounting the Moga Sangram rally of 1974, the 1977 march for democratic rights of around 2,000 persons, the methods of struggles adopted to confront days of the Emergency, the murder of Prithipal Singh Randhawa, and subsequent protests, the protest against the bus fare hike in 1980, the revival of Sikh communal politics from 1982-85 etc. He narrated how it was the weakness of the Left and democratic movement that paved the way for the ascendancy of the Sikh communalism and the Khalistani movement.
Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa) secretary Hoshiyar Salemgarh spoke about how globalisation and privatisation had penetrated the education system, and given a crippling blow to any welfare of the student community .He reflected how today privatization had aggravated the economic crisis in education worse than the turmoil of the 1970s, making education almost unaffordable, selling it on the platter of the corporates.
Hoshiyar spoke about how students were driven to go abroad being lured into careerism. He delved on the social attacks waged by the government on deprived student sections, and how the policies were breaking the unity of the student community. He reflected on how the Punjab Students Union inculcated a scientific spirit, which is the very need of the hour today, with religious revivalism at a height.
Naujwan Bharat Sabha leader Ashwini Gudda spoke about the grave economic crisis in the country. He delved on the criminal attacks of the BJP government and the anti-people economic policies. He said, it was imperative to unite students, workers, peasants and labourers. The manner globalisation tore the fabric of any welfare for the poor, was touched upon. He also spoke about the dangers of the rekindling of Sikh religious fundamentalism.
BKU (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan reflected on how the Moga firing crystallised a new chapter. He a spoke about how the student community should play a vanguard role in challenging fascism. He demanded the construction of a library for students in the venue in the memory of the persons killed and heritage status for the venue.
---
*Freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India and frequently toured Punjab to report programmes

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w