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Mainstream, VOL LV No 48 New Delhi November 18, 2017

Russian Revolution and India - III: Training Up Indian Revolutionaries

Sunday 19 November 2017

by Shaukat Usmani

Indusky Kurs, the military academy for Indian revolutionaries set up at Tashkent, was a symbol of fraternal assistance that the new land of socialism extended to the fighters for Indian freedom against British imperialism.

But when one read anything about the Indusky Kurs from the pen of M.N. Roy, one cannot help feeling that he did a great disserice not only to the Muhajireens but also to the Russian efforts at helping Indians winning their country’s freedom.

Many accounts have appeared about the Indian Hijratees that they had left India simply to procure arms for the freedom of India. And they, failing with King Amanullah, had proceeded to the Soviet Union for the same purpose and aim.

And here in Tashkent when they arrived they found that there was an Indian gentleman appointed by the Communist International (COMINTERN) as the head of its Eastern Section. This man was domineering and very obtuse in his outlook. A Hindu Sabha leader or a Jan Sanghi would perhaps have behaved better in many respects if he had the good of Indian freedom at heart.

I am not relating here the heated exchanges several of us had with him because of his rude personal behaviour and his imperious claim that he was the sole accredited leader appointed by the Comintern to look after and guide the work of the Indian revolution.

He had denounced every Muhajir, and there is not one but many authorities who have stated that these Muhajirs had played a revolutionary role in fighting against their own co-religionists—the Amir of Bokhara and the Turkoman reactionaries in September-October 1920.

Every one of these Mahajireen, who had fought and taken up pen in later years in describing the events of the 1920s, has described faithfully as to why he and his comrades took up arms against the Amir of Bokhara and the counter-revolutionaries. This writer has also mentioned this in his first book about the trip, Peshawar to Moscow* that fighting for the freedom of Bokhara we had considered as fighting for our own freedom, and that it was a fight for the freedom-loving people all over the world. Our attitude was quite in conformity with our principles. We had set out from our homes for the freedom of India; was the freedom of Bokhara less dear? And this was the argument that we had used in confronting the remaining Muhajireens who had refused to join us.

Incidentally, it is only fair to mention here that while thrown into prison in Turkoman we were fed on the same kind of food that the Turkomans themselves used to take—and this was their treatment of the ‘slaves’! But compared to this when we entered the British prisons in India we longed to be the prisoners of the Turkomans rather than to be the captives of a ‘civilised government’ which treated the freedom fighters of India worse than Indians treated their cattle.

Let us now come to the Indusky Kurs. It was late in November 1920 that almost all the Indians then in Tashkent agreed to join the Indian Military School. Duties were assigned. This writer first, and then Rafiq Ahmed were deputed to Andijan to co-operate with the Kashgari revolutionaries living in exile in that place. Rafiq came almost about the time of the wriding up of the work in Andijan.

The Indian in charge of the work here was M.P.T. Acharaya whom this writer joined in late November. Here in Andijan there was a very brilliant Russian comrade by the name of Rashkolnikov. He was working as liaison between the Kashgaris, Indian Committee and the Turkestan Turkbureau. He was a well-read scholar of Marxism from whom this writer learnt much about the Russian Revolution and theory and practice of Marxism.

After the evacuation of the Muhajireen to the Indusky Kurs, the India House at Tashkent—the Indusky Doma—became virtually the property of Maulana Abdul Rab, M.P.T. Acharaya, Amin Siddique (Rab’s Secretary) and one Farooq—none of whom had seen the rigours of life as the Muhajireen had done.

And in the Bokhara House where resided M.N. Roy, his American wife Evelyn, Abani Mukerjee and Sheffique, the Secretary of the newly-formed Communist Party of India, and Shuelmann, regular meetings were held where Goldberg, Tambakov (later on known as Tampakov) used to come and discuss the history of the Russian Revolution. As a matter of fact Goldberg was the first Russian who had given to the Muhajireen a vivid picture of the October Revolution. He himself had played a conspicuous part in it.

And there was Tevil, who later on became a Secretary in Stalin’s Secretariat in Moscow and was in charge of Indian affairs in it.

M.N. Roy has been very uncharitable to almost all the Indians he came across in Tashkent and later on in Moscow. And in his various contributions to the Indian press there are grotesque mis-statements. We all respected him as an elderly Indian revolutionary (although he ended this career serving the Anglo-American cause during World War II).

Inaccuracies galore occur in Roy’s writings. Take, for instance, this piece from Radical Humanist April 25, 1954—“In 1919, the Indian Khilafat Committee, which made then common cause with the Indian National Congress to fight British Imperialism, issued a call to the Indian Muslim youth to leave the country and go to Turkey to join the army of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, which was fighting against British Imperialism in defence of the Khilafat.”

The Hijrat was decided upon in April 1920, to be precise, on April 18, 1920, at a Conference in Delhi on the Afghan King’s invitation in that year, and not in 1919 as Roy writes.

There is too much use of the capital alphabet, “I”, in Roy’s statements and writings. And he has denigrated each and every one. Take the case of Acharaya and Abdur Rab. Their main fault was that they demanded from Roy that he should not squander the money entrusted to him by Comintern but form a Committee through which to spend it. Acharaya has made many allegations against Roy in his writings And it was Acharaya and not the Muhajireen who had demanded the formation of the Communist Party of India in Tashkent.

It will serve no useful purpose to continue quoting from Roy’s writings to show he has belittled Acharaya, Bhupen Datta, Luhani and Virendra Chattopadhyaya. (All these names will occur again in this narrative later.)

Suffice it to say that as M.N. Roy was put in charge of the Indian work by the Communist International and was the virtual head of its Eastern section at Tashkent, all the Muhajireen accepted his leadership in the interest of advancing the cause of Indian freedom.

Honesty requires here that we should state that the Indian freedom would have been nearer by several years if there were no internecine quarrels between the Roy-Mukerjee-Sheffique group on one side and the Acharaya-Rab group on the other. And later on between the Berlin Group on one side and the Roy triumivrate on the other.

The Russians have to be exonerated on all accounts. The Comintern can be charged only with bungling but not with negligence.

The Russian comrades would bear out this writer that Roy was asked to go to Afghanistan and then from there descending into the tribesmen’s territory, to start propaganda work. He refused on the ground that the Pathans would kill him. And this was also a topic of talk amonst the Muhjireen tooo who wondered how such a leader as Roy could be afraid of anything.

When we assert that the common people all over the world looked to the new socialist country for guidance and help in achieving freedom then one should go back to the newspaper files of the period and read IMPRECOR (Internal Press Correspondence, published by the COMINTERN) and one would find how the Soviet Union was in earnest helping the downtrodden countries to win back their lost freedom.

Even the feudal regimes looked up to the Soviets at the time for succour. Here is the testimony of the first Ambassador of Afghanistan who saw Lenin on October 14, 1919 and addressed him in these words, “In extending my hand to you, I express the hope that you will help the entire East to free itself from the yoke of European Imperialism.” And the same desire was expressed by the Muhajireen exactly a year after, in Tashkent.

Moreover, no historian should forget the aid the Soviet Union was rendering at the time to Kemalist Turkey in its fight against the British-inspired Greek invasion, and also the Soviet Union driving away the British army from north of Iran after they had crushed the Deniken-British forces in the Caucasus in the 1919-20 period.

These were the things which would have inspired any freedom-loving man, and created a sense of expectation that the Soviet Union would also support those still fighting for their freedom.

In Tashkent there were truckloads of literature in Turkish, Persian and English. The Eastern Section of the COMINTERN had a room Stuffed with such literature and the youth of the place used to devour these like anything. The pamphlet of M. Barkat Ullah (a Minister in the famous Raja Mahendra Pratap’s Provisional Government) in Persian and Turkish with the caption Islam and Socialism was the Bible of the Persian-knowing Indians and Turkestanians.

Tremendous energy for building up and unprecedented enthusiasm to help India regaining her freedom was visible in the Russian and other nationalities of the area. Youth volunteered to fight for our cause. And this was what kept the Muhajireen bound to the Soviet ideals although they had not yet grasped the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism.

It was this policy of the Soviets that had made possible for the Indian revolutionaries to build up a link with the Kashgari freedom-fighters (at the time having their headquarters at Andijan) and to investigate new routes for a march on India after the Afghan Government had refused permission to the Red Army to pass through that country to help the Indian revolution. This is no figment of imagination. Some accounts of the period would bear the writer of these lines out.

And with these ambitions of marching on India the Muhajireen had joined the Indian Military School at Tashkent and elected some to go to Moscow and learn something about the science of Revolution.

(To be continued...)

* Unfortunately the author has not got this book now. It was published in the end of 1967 in a slipshod manner and heavily edited by the publishers. It was proscribed by the British Government in India.

Shaukat Usmani (Maulla Bux Usta) (1901-1978) was an early Indian Communist. A member of the émigré Communist Party of India, established in Tashkent in 1920, he was a founding member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) when it wss formed in Kanpur in 1925. He was also the only candidate to the British Parliament contesting elections, while he was residing in India—that too in a prison. He was sentenced to a total of 16 years in jail after being tried in the Kanpur (Cawnpore) Case of 1923 and later the Meerut Conspiracy Case of 1929.This article he wrote specially for Mainstream fifty years ago on the occasion of the October Revolution’s fiftieth anniversary. It was published in July-August 1967. This is the article’s second instalment. The first and second instalments appreared in Mainstream (November 4, 2017 and November 11, 2017). The other instalments will be reproduced in the next few issues.

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