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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 16, April 11, 2015

Tribute to Daya Varma

Sunday 12 April 2015

Dr Daya Varma, life-long communist, scientist, activist, dreamer, pharmacologist, professor emeritus at McGill University, Montreal, passed away on March 22, 2015 in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He was born on August 23, 1929. A former member of the undivided Communist Party of India, he was a founder of the Indian People’s Association in North America (IPANA) and International South Asia Forum, as well as a founding member of CERAS (Centre d’Étude et Ressources d’Asie Sud) and was on the board of Alternatives, a progressive think-tank in Canada. He also founded and edited the INSAF Bulletin. Many in India remember how when the 1984 Bhopal Union Carbide industrial disaster struck, where thousands died, Dr Varma spearheaded a study to monitor the effects of MIC on pregnant women whilst supporting their compensation claims.

Daya grew up in a small peasant family in a village called Narion in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

He did his initial medical education at the King George Medical College in Lucknow in the mid-1950s. It was in Lucknow that he got involved with the Commuinist Party, In 1955 he left the medical school for some time to join the famous 1955 general strike in Kanpur. This marked him in a big way and so did P.C. Joshi, the then General Secretary of the CPI. Joshi remained a hero for him for the rest of his life.

Daya was a very open-minded socialist who kept in touch with his old CPI comrades, and also with a wide number of dissidents of the official Left. He was supportive of and in contact with a number of former militants of the ML movement in the post-Naxalbari phase and later when efforts were made to forge the Indian People’s Front he provided a lot of encouragement to people from the CPI-ML (Liberation) to work for a broad Left Front. He donated money to a number of independent Left weeklies in India and kept in active contact with a range of individuals working in the autonomous Left circles.

Some of his recent writings available via the South Asia Citizens Web (Sacw) are: “The Disappearing Left in the ‘Emerging’ India” by Dr Daya Varma http://www.sacw.net/article7407.html; “India: CPM Should Learn from Late P.C. Joshi and Not from Mulayam Singh Yadav” by Dr Daya Varma, Vinod Mubayi, December 2, 2013 http://www.sacw.net/article6726.html; “In memory of Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009)” http://www.sacw.net/article920.html;

Noted among his other writings are: Book Review: “Scanning P.C. Joshi’s Biography” by Dr Daya Varma in: Mainstream, Vol 47, April 18, 2009; “From Witchcraft to Allopathy” by Daya R. Varma in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLI, No. 33, August 19, 2006.

His books include Medicine, Healthcare and the Raj: The Unacknowledged Legacy by Daya Varma (2015) www.threeessays.com/books/medicine-healthcare-and-the-raj/; Reason and Medicine: Art and Science of Healing from Antiquity to Modern Times by Daya Ram Varma (January 2013) http://www.threeessays.com/books/reason-and-medicine/

As a token of our respect for his abiding memory we reproduce here a brief piece he wrote for Insaf Bulletin with Vinod Mubayi, a nuclear engineer in the US and politically active within the South Asian diaspora there for a considerable length of time writing and actively taking up issues of political debate within South Asia. It was published in Mainstream (April 26, 2014). It is highly relevant in the present context. —Harsh Kapoor

Last Opportunity for Indian Communists

Daya Varma, Vinod Mubayi

The 2014 parliamentary elections are more critical for the future of India than any other in the past. A victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, would not only end the Congress domination of Indian politics, it would set in motion a new culture and reverse the secular foundations of India.

There are many factors for the decline of the influence of the Congress but none has played as big a role as its denunciation by the block of Communist Parties, mainly the Communist Party of India. At the present critical juncture this denunciation by the CPI has not only crossed the limits of decency but also of callousness towards the future of India.

The CPI declared that “Modi and Manmohan are two sides of the same coin” as it released its Election Manifesto. This is the lowest the CPI could reach in its political analysis.

P.C. Joshi, the first General Secretary of the CPI, argued for a strategic alliance with the Congress. The CPI came to the defence of the Congress when the Syndicate and US imperialists were out to oust Indira Gandhi. The Congress introduced the terms secular and socialist in the Indian Constitution and was an ally of the Soviet Union. None of this has been changed by Manmohan Singh except a shift from state control of the economy to liberalisation, which in a small way was also attempted by the last Left Front Government in West Bengal.

By itself, a dominance by big corporations does not automatically increase poverty as can be seen in the Scandinavian countries.

In any case, economic policies can be changed but the cultural hegemony of Hinduism, which is already quite pervasive, cannot be.

We think that the CPI and CPI-M should reassess their position. While maintaining their indepen-dence, they should support the Congress to keep Modi’s hordes from coming to power. There is a big dividend to such a policy.                   

(Courtesy: Insaf Bulletin)