The octogenarian leader of CPI(ML), Comrade Mulkraj passed away at a hospital in Rohini Sector 6 in Delhi on 27 August 2016. He was 89 years old. His death marks the end of an era. The funeral procession began at his residence in Mangolpuri and ended at the Buddha Vihar Crematorium two kilometres away, where the last rites were performed. CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar bade him farewell with the red flag and flowers. A large number of party comrades and near and dear ones joined the funeral procession. Among those who paid last respects were Member of the Central Committee, Prabhat Choudhury and Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary Ravi Rai, National Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Purushottam Sharma, senior party leaders from Delhi such as Amar Nath Tiwari, Rooplal, Surendra Panchal, as well as members and associates of the Mangolpuri party committee. Hundreds of women and children also participated in the funeral procession that was carried out in full communist honours.
Com. Mulkraj was born in Multan (in present day Pakistan) in the nomadic Sansi community, a denotified tribe. This tribe had been classified as being one among the ‘Criminal Tribes’ by the British Colonial State. No member of this tribal community was allowed to change their domicile without permission from the police. Bearing witness to this discrimination lit the flame of dissent and of anger against British colonial rule in the mind of the young Mulkraj. Even after Independence, this tribal community had to struggle for many years till they were finally granted freedom from being classified as a criminal tribe and were declared as a Denotified Tribe (DNT) in 1952. Mulkraj played an important role in organising his community in that struggle. Till this day, the entire Sansi community celebrates August 31 1952 – not August 15 1947 – as their date of their independence.
Comrade Mulkraj’s family had come to India during the Partition. He was merely twenty years old then. Upon arrival in India, he drove rickshaws, and worked as a labourer to support his family. After having lived in various places in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, he finally reached Delhi, where he continued to drive a rickshaw. It was here in 1978-79 that he came into contact with the then underground CPI (ML). Before this, he had lived in Kaithal, Jagadhari, among other towns before he reached Modinagar in Uttar Pradesh. Here he began as a worker at the Modi Spinning mill, where he organised workers in a union bearing the red flag, and was sacked for organising this resistance. And since that left him with no means to earn a living, he came to Delhi.
He had come in contact with the CPI and the CPI (M) in Haryana. He was drawn to the stories and news about the Naxalbari movement and for a long time he had been looking for the underground CPI (ML). During the time he was organising workers under the red flag in Modinagar, the police and intelligence agencies had him on their watch list. Since the influence of the Naxalbari movement had been felt as far as Meerut, the police assumed that he too was a Naxalite. One day, the police brought him in for questioning on the whereabouts of Com. Charu Mazumdar. Comrade Mulkraj simply laughed and said, ‘Arre bhai, I too have been looking for him for years! Do let me know when you find him!’ The police finally let him go after a few hours of questioning.
After the special conference of the CPI (ML) in 1979 where it was decided to form mass fronts and bringing together a range of people’s movements, Comrade Mulkraj took on the responsibility of organising workers in Delhi. He had the first workers‘ union of the party registered as the General Kamgar Union in 1980, which is active even today as the All India General Kamgar Union. He formed a union of workers at the Britannia Industries in the same year. It was in the same year, when I was 19 years old, that I met Comrade Mulkraj through a worker comrade from Mangolpuri when I organised a strike in a cycle lock factory where there was no union. After a conversation with him, I became a member of the GKU. On the very first day of meeting him, he took me home and spoke to me about the oppression of workers by the capitalist class for nearly three hours, and gave me the story called The Spider and the Fly to read. These conversations left a big impact on my young mind.
Memories of the time that I worked with him are still vivid in my mind. The party was underground in those days and I had only recently become acquainted with its work. One day he gave me the party publication called Red Flag, with strict instructions that no one else be allowed to see it. He also added, ‘Purushottam, you do not yet know who we are. The day you find out, you will either join us for the rest of your life or will run away.’ Just shortly before this I had read a detective novel by Bikram, and I wondered if they may be international spies who were working against the country. And then I thought I absolutely must get to know them, so that I could have them all arrested and thus serve my country should they actually turn out to be spies. With these thoughts I continued to work with him and others. And this association that began with Com. Mulkraj brought me to a lifelong association with the party as a full timer.
We led a prolonged struggle among workers of Britannia Industries under his leadership in 1981. Along with trade union activities, he also helped organise many united protests and campaigns on various national questions together with other groups. Along with the campaigns for the release of Nelson Mandela and Nagbhushan Patnaik, he played an important role in the formation of the IPF in Delhi. He was at the forefront of building a network for the party not only in Delhi but also in Haryana. In fact, he was the founder member of the Haryana unit of the party. During 1986-87 in Golli village in Karnal district, two people had died and several had been injured after being fired upon my landlords over a case of land grab involving a math in the region. As a result, some enraged poor peasants had killed one landlord on the spot. Comrade Mulkraj led the struggle of the poor peasants there against resulting police brutalities on the peasants. I too went with him to Golli during that agitation. After that Comrade Rooplal and I worked with his help to organise the party’s work in Haryana.
Not only was Comrade Mulkraj adept at building close communication with and organizing new people, but he was also a fearless agitator. He carried so much anger in his heart against the capitalist class, that he would fight the same pitched battle against the employer of a handful of workers as he would against a big industrialist. During the crisis in the Delhi party organization in 1988, he who was the most affected stood like a rock to defend the party. Mangolpuri was also directly affected during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and Comrade Mulkraj saved the lives of many Sikhs by providing his home as a safe hiding place. In those days he had a licensed gun, and he guarded the area from the rooftops for as long as violence did not die down. He was also a member of a fact finding team formed by the IPF to look into these cases of violence.
Comrade Mulkraj’s entire life was dedicated to the struggles of the working masses and for the fruition of revolution in this country. After joining the Communist Party, he lived his entire life on communist principles. He was a compulsive reader of all Lokyudh and all other party publications. He was also very curious about the party’s work in the rest of the country and about communist struggles in the rest of the world. He always stood firm through trying times with new hope, and never let hopelessness or despair take over. His enthusiasm for people’s movements even after so many long years of activism will inspire us all. Comrade Mulkraj lived a full and happy life dedicated to people – so his passing away and his funeral were an occasion not so much for mourning as for joy and inspiration for all the younger comrades, some of whom could be seen celebrating his long life joyously in the funeral procession.