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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 35

Best Tribute to Freedom Fighters


Tuesday 19 August 2008, by SC


As we approach our sixtysecond Independence Day, once again we cannot but remember our indomitable freedom fighters, drawn from all parts of this vast landmass characterised by unique diversity, who underwent superhuman sacrifices and shed their precious blood so that we, belonging to a different generation, live a better life unfettered by the ignominy of imperialist domination and colonial exploitation. The debt of gratitude that we owe to them cannot be repaid.

Today, on August 11, we observe the centenary of the martyrdom of Shaheed Khudiram Bose whose life was snuffed out even before he could complete 19 years of age; he kissed the gallows on August 11, 2008. And that incident of his execution electrified the whole country in general and Bengal in particular. Following his untimely death the song which moved our toiling people (almost like sarfaroshi ki tamanna) was:

“Ekbaar Biday de Maa, Ghure Aashi
- Hashi hashi porbo phansi
- Dekhbe Bharatbashi

(Allow me to bid farewell to you, Mother, let me go and return—
- The citizens of India will see with their own eyes
- How I march to the gallows smiling all the way)”

The lilting notes of that song touched the soul of every patriotic Indian and inspired many to plunge into the national movement.

There is a special reason why we must remember Khudiram Bose today on the centenary of his martyrdom. All young men engaged in swadeshi, striving to free the country from the iron grip of British imperialism in an India subjected to alien subjugation, were deliberately dubbed as “terrorists” in order to defame the noble ideals that spurred them into action. Khudiram and his friend Prafulla Chaki had thrown a bomb at a horse-driven carriage with the intention of killing the British Magistrate, Kingsford, who by his misdeeds and acts of oppression had earned infamy among the youth keen to emancipate India from the burden of foreign yoke. However, Kingsford was not in the carriage but two English ladies who could not survive the attack. In his deposition in court Khudiram expressed deep sorrow and sincere regret for the death of the innocent ladies while explaining why they had planned to liquidate Kingsford. This was the most lucid testimony to the staunch opposition of national revolutionaries like Khudiram to senseless killings (as is being resorted to by the religious fundamentalist militants in their operations in Ahmedabad or Bangalore and/or by the Maoists in their depredations in the countryside today) and hence the complete dissociation of those revolutionaries from the terrorist ideology even though they were purposely called ‘terrorists’. Not only Khudiram. Bhagat Singh, the icon of the Indian youth in those glorious days of the freedom struggle, had cogently spelt out his objective of a socialist India; it was of no mean significance that one of his close associates, who suffered incarceration with him in Lahore Jail, in due course became the General Secretary of the undivided CPI in the early fifties and steered the communist movement in one of the most critical periods of our post-independence history. (The birth centenary of that immortal revolutionary, Ajoy Ghosh, will be observed in six months time, on February 20 next year.) These were the best sons of India—and along with them one must not forget to mention the name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose for he belonged to the same category—but the British rulers and their henchmen intentionally branded them as ‘terrorists’ in their own vested interest.

This is also the solemn occasion to remember the most prominent of our freedom fighters, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, but for whose extraordinary exploits—equipped as he was with the twin weapons of truth and non-violence that guided his every action—we would not have been able to attain independence in 1947 within a historically brief time-span since his emergence on the Indian political scene. In fact he was the nation’s greatest revolutionary who moved millions while bringing them into the vortex of struggle on a scale unsurpassed before and in the subsequent period. But when freedom came on August 15 that year Gandhi was an unhappy man and he did not join in the celebrations and festivities. The vivisection of the nation had profoundly disturbed him and the fratricidal hatred and violence in its train filled him with immeasurable anguish and agony, if not a sense of despair. Far from the country’s Capital, he “opened his eyes in free India in a Muslim house in one of Calcutta’s poorest quarters” as his grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, has written in The Good Boatman: A Portrait of Gandhi. And he even declined to give any message on Independence Day 1947, the first after the end of British rule. But he had some words of advice for the West Bengal Ministers calling on him at Hydari Manzil where he was residing in the city. In short sentences, he conveyed the following:

Be humble. Be forbearing... Now you will be tested through and through. Beware of power; power corrupts… Do not let yourselves be entrapped by its pomp and pageantry. Remember, you are in office to serve the poor in India’s villages.
Don’t those words come from a world completely different from the one we inhabit at present? Do morality and service to the poor, the Daridranarayan, hold any significance in the globalised marketplace we have chosen to embrace discarding the idea of a welfare state, a socialistic pattern of society and a vibrant public sector geared to reach the commanding heights of the economy?

However, for persons like us, born a couple of years before freedom came and brought up in the early years of independence, the words resonate with greater meaning and substance in the wake of the recent happenings in the country, especially the incidents in the Lok Sabha on July 22, arguably the blackest day in the annals of our parliamentary democracy.

In the last 61 years India has traversed a long distance since the dawn of freedom and our achievements in different spheres of activity, from the nuclear field to IT in particular, cannot be overlooked. It is because of our technological strides that the world today has accepted this country as a major power and that recognition has come not only from the US, but the European Union, Russia and China as well. This is doubtless most noteworthy. Also striking is the rise of the Indian middle class at home and abroad. Indeed our scientific progress has been simply outstanding when juxtaposed against the problems and adversities we had to endure over the years, not to speak of the four wars we had to withstand for our own survival as a nation-state.

Yet for all our successes we cannot escape the fact that the “poor in India’s villages” are to this day in a state of neglect, misery and despondency even if some fruits of development have touched their daily lives. The persisting suicides by farmers in several States, including the relatively prosperous ones, are at once a stark reminder of the mounting problems faced by rural India and a reflection of the growing disparities between the haves and the have-nots in a neo-liberal environment wherein India has seceded from Bharat and the gulf between the two appear to be unbridgeable at this point in time.

Two years ago, on Independence Day 2006, it was written in these columns that the spurt in Maoist operations in the most backward regions of the country and the increasing incidence of terrorist actions in metropolitan India warrant a close introspection of our policies. It was also unequivocally stated that attempts to tackle both terror acts through strong-arm administrative measures without any political move to address and remove the causes of discontent that engender such acts of terror cannot in the least bring about a lasting solution to the problem which is intrinsically intertwined with alienation of large segments of our own citizens in the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder. (Emphasis added)

That alienation, far from being removed, has in fact become more pronounced to the detriment of national unity which is also under attack today from the hardline Hindu Right offensive in Jammu engendering a deep division between the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley. Unless checked in time through concerted joint moves this division would embolden fissiparous trends, both indigenous and extra-territorial, to damage the fabric of our national cohesion and composite culture beyond repair.

The forces of communalism, casteism, regionalism have neither been contained nor effectively fought during the last four years of UPA rule at the Centre. This must be acknowledged as our collective failure. Now the very existence of the UPA dispensation is at stake following the withdrawal of support of the Left parties which extended valuable outside backing to the Manmohan Singh Government in order to ward off the attempt by the Hindu communal forces to return to power. The mirage of unveiling a new kind of relationship with the present-day US Administration has brought about this Left-UPA break-up for which the Congress will have to come to grief sooner than later.

But immediately the danger to Indian stability comes from all the forces pledged to perpetuate the neo-liberal paradigm of development whether through the SEZs in different parts of the country (including Left-ruled West Bengal) or the manifold assaults on the aam aadmi’s life and livelihood as well as the neocolonial offensive aimed at subverting national sovereignty and jettisoning our independent foreign policy to subserve the interests of the hyper power flexing its muscles in different parts of the globe—Iraq, Afghanistan, erstwhile Yugoslavia—while using every devious means to imperill the existence of Iran and/or weaken the influence of Russia in the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is in this context that the anti-imperialist content of our struggle for national regeneration has taken a new dimension. And to blunt this struggle money power is being blatantly employed to carry out nefarious imperialist designs on Indian soil. The developments surrounding the confidence vote in the Lok Sabha have brought this out in bold relief. Regrettably, the media too has fallen prey to such machinations.

We need to effect a change in our approach to meet the stupdendous challenges before us. Allout anti-imperialist unity, as was witnessed in the last phase of our freedom struggle, was aimed at breaking the vice-like grip of vested interests—represented by Big Business, feudalism and the comprador class—stalling our advance. That kind of unity must be forged now against imperialism and its accomplices on the economic plane seeking to perpetuate the exploitative paradigm of development based on the neo-liberal ideology of the Washington Consensus. What is vital is to revive the socialist framework of advance upholding the legacy of the freedom struggle at this critical juncture of our post-independence history.

That indeed will be the best tribute to the abiding memory of our freedom fighters whom we remember with boundless gratitude on the auspicious day of our freedom from foreign political bondage 61 years ago.

August 11 S.C.

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