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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 1, December 25, 2010 (Annual 2010)

Tribute To Surendra Mohan

Friday 31 December 2010


Socialist leader Surendra Mohan is no more. He passed away in the morning of September 17 at his residence in Sah Vikas in the Trans-Jamuna area of Delhi. He had health problems no doubt but was not ailing. He literally died in harness. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Only a few months ago one had met him at a meeting in the Capital and requested him for an article for Mainstream as it was necessary for someone like him to write from a Gandhian perspective. He smilingly replied: “Yes, I am Gandhian alright, but essentially I am a socialist. I will write from a socialist perspective.” He was indeed the most prominent and lucid socialist ideologue of the present period. One could find in him streaks of a Lohia or a Madhu Limaye on various occasions. His departure from the scene at this juncture is, in that sense, literally an irreparable loss.

What he wrote in the last Independence Day issue of this journal definitely bears repetition.

After the Cold War ended, the USA assumed the role of the gendarme of the whole world. But, elsewhere, significant changes were taking place… In Western Europe, which had taken a sigh of relief as the threat from the East had ended, Social Democratic parties were coming to power in country after country and the Reagan-Thatcher model was being given up. They were busy strengthening the European Economic Community. Eastern Europe also had got new opportunities of setting up democratic regimes. In such an emerging scenario, a confident country of subcontinental size and influence could have joined with these winds of change. Together, they could stop the USA in its steps. The challenge was an exciting one. There was an opportunity to bolster the prospects of peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, India became a client state of the sole superpower, adopted the Washington Consensus in the economy and joined the neo-liberal arrangement of the WTO. It did not even look at the changes..

He then pointed out:

India felt overwhelmed by its foreign exchange crisis. The crisis was not unmanageable, provided the leadership gave a call for a little austerity and initiated policy alternatives in that direction. It could have shown self-confidence and resilience. But, it decided otherwise. Till date it continues to drift.
These were an incisive observer’s extraordinary analyses.

But Surendra Mohan was not just an observer or a political columnist but an activist who had livewire contacts with all those at the grassroots. Whether in Narmada or in Beawar he was always on the move. The fragmentation of the socialist movement and the absence of a democratic socialist alternative did pain him of course, but he was not one to accept defeat, imbued as he was with boundless optimism. He knew he could draw inspiration from those working at every nook and corner of the country selflessly, without any fear or favour. That is because he too was one of them. He was a fullfledged practioner of Gandhian austerity that went well with his character which happened to be a brilliant manifestation of impeccable integrity, so rare in today’s deadent world of power and pelf. There was no gulf between his words and deeds just like the Gandhians, Socialists and Communists of yester-years.

He was an ardent advocate of Socialist-Communist unity even though some of the Communist hotheads with their “holier-than-thou” attitude and jaundiced vision spurned his overtures. But he was too decent a person to pay them back in the same coin. The following article, published in Mainstream Annual 2008, bears testimony to his approach. While remembering him on this occasion we are reproducing this article alongwith his recent piece on the Government of India’s Burma policy (Mainstream, August 7, 2010). The cause of Burmese democracy was extremely close to his heart.

An intimate friend of the Mainstream family having been closely associated with N.C. since the Janata days, Surendra Mohan used to regularly write for this journal. His last piece appeared on December 4, 2010. We thus feel orphaned by his demise. While mourning his passing we pledge to carry forward his legacy to the best of our ability. But we shall always miss his presence alongside his intellectual acumen, political foresight and dedication to the service of the teaming millions in the Gandhian mould. S.C.

Socialists-Communists: Need for a Continuing Dialogue

by Surendra Mohan

read the article at:

Burma: India’s Betrayal of the Democratic Struggle

by Surendra Mohan

read the article at:

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