ROHITH Vemula was branded an “anti-national”, “extremist” and “casteist”. He was hounded to his death by a relentless ABVP-RSS-BJP campaign vilifying his ideas and his politics. Soon after, it was the turn of JNU students to bear the brunt of sedition charges, violence and vilification. However, much to the discomfiture of this hate campaign’s Sanghi stormtroopers, leaders from JNU have fanned the entire country in the past month, taking their message to people in villages, towns and cities.
AISA and RYA launched the ‘Utho Mere Desh’ campaign at a meeting organised at the Press Club in New Delhi on 22 March. The speakers at this meeting – CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, scientist and poet Gauhar Raza, Karamsheel Bharti, President Dalit Lekhak Sangh, journalist at Hardnews Amit Sengupta, social activist Vidyabhushan Rawat, Ram Karan Nirmal (Ex-Student of BBAU Lucknow, who protested against Modi during their convocation), and former JNUSU office bearers Ashutosh and Anant – talked about the need to take the legacy of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar to the people at a time when these legacies are facing unprecedented assaults of the Modi government and the ABVP-RSS-BJP combine.
Along with resisting the fascist assaults on university campuses, AISA and RYA built a creative counter-offensive to the Sanghi narrative. Between 23 March (Bhagat Singh’s Martyrdom Anniversary) to 14 April (Dr. Ambedkar’s Birth Anniversary), AISA and RYA activists organised and participated in several street meetings, conferences, protests and rallies to underline the Sanghi discomfort with both Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. The “Utho-Mere Desh: Naye Desh ke Waastey, Bhagat Singh Ambedkar ke Raastey” campaign pointed out the hollowness of the BJP’s false rhetoric of “nationalism” and “patriotism”, and countered this discourse with a fresh perspective of what it is to be truly “patriotic” in these times.
Below are reports and highlights from the ‘Arise My Country/Utho Mere Desh’ campaign, as well as from various meetings organised in March-April by several groups across the country, where AISA-RYA leaders and JNUSU officers were invited.
In Delhi, on 1 April, AISA held a public meeting to commemorate Comrade Chandrashekhar’s martyrdom, where CPI(ML) MLA from Tarari, Comrade Sudama Prasad and former JNUSU President and Allahabad University Professor Pranay Krishna spoke on the struggle to realise an India of Bhagat Singh’s and Ambedkar’s dreams. The Jamia Democratic Forum and AISA-RYA campaigned in the areas near the Jamia Millia Islamia campus and held a large gathering on 9 April.
In Deshbandhu College, AISA and Jan Natya Manch (JANAM) campaigned together, with JANAM performing their play - ‘The Last Letter’ in each class followed by AISA Activists discussing the ideas of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. The Deshbandhu Discussion Forum held a discussion on Ambedkar’s views on Caste and Social Justice that was addressed by Prof. Kavitendra Indu and Prof. Bajrang.
AISA activists campaigned intensively in DU colleges. On the eve of Ambedkar Jayanti, hundreds of students of Delhi University matched for Dignity, Equality, Justice and burned the ‘Manusmriti’. Towards the campaign, they distributed leaflets and placards addressing the notions like ‘I don’t think caste exists in cities’ with the response ‘But have you asked who cleans the man holes, the toilets’?’ The March demanded justice for Rohith and for Delta Meghwal (the Dalit girl raped and killed in a Rajasthan College).
In mid-March, JNUSU Vice President Shehla Rashid, AISA activist Mohit Pandey and former JNUSU President Akbar Chaudhary visited various college and University campuses in Bangalore and Hyderabad. On 11 March, they addressed a press conference in Bangalore, and later participated in meetings with students at the St. Joseph’s college in Bangalore organised with the help of Vyshakh Thaliyil, President of St. Joseph’s Student Council.
Shehla spoke extensively on the import of the #JusticeforRohithVemula and the #OccupyUGC movements, on the emerging organised resistance to entrenched casteism in educational institutions, on notions of “nationalism” and much else.
She responded calmly, with facts, to angry questions from two journalists who shouted that “the nation wanted to know right now” why it should support the JNU students who criticise the Army and oppose only the BJP, and not the Congress’ and Left’s state repression and corruption.
She talked of the student movement’s long legacy of resisting the AFSPA, the Singur-Nandigram land grab, and corruption and crony capitalism in the UPA regime, and demanding justice for the 1984 riots. Her responses to these questions at the Press conference were well-received and appreciated by the students present. Shehla said, “The next day, a young student from the Azim Premji University in Bangalore came up to me, and hugged me with tears in her eyes, saying, “My parents are RSS supporters, but I support JNU students, you people are not anti-national, the campaign against you makes no sense. You inspire a lot of confidence and hope.”
The Bangalore meetings provided the space for unique conversations between Ambedkarite and Left activists on the challenges before the student and youth movement. On 12 March, the Lankesh Patrike organised a meeting at St. Joseph’s college. Shehla, Mohith and Akbar participated in the meeting and discussions, along with Umamaheshwara Rao, leader of the HCU’s Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), representatives from AISF, SFI, Bahujan Vidyarthi Sangha, Karnataka Vidyarthi Sangha, and others. “RSS is obsessed with one language, one religion and one culture. They are against diversity. But I want to ask them one question: are you also against “diversity” of caste? Why don’t you support Ambedkar’s call for the annihilation of caste? The RSS idea of “nationalism” is the new form of communalism”, argued Shehla. At these meetings of students on 11-12 March, several issues were raised and addressed, including the question of Dalit leadership and inclusion in communist parties and the strategies required to address systematic caste discrimination in educational institutions.
At Hyderabad, Shehla, Akbar and Mohit addressed meetings which were organised in HCU and Osmania University. In HCU, AISA leader Vishal chaired a meeting at the Shopcom in the University. Meetings had initially been organised at the MANUU (Maulana Azad National Urdu University) and the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU). However, at the last minute, permission for these meetings was cancelled by the administrations. The EFLU meeting finally happened at the gates of EFLU.
On 26 March, AISA national President Sucheta De and Shehla addressed a seminar in Madurai on “Nationalism, Patriotism and Sedition”, along with Vice President of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations S. Vivekanandan, former Principal of the Madura college R. Murali and CPI(ML) Tamilnadu state secretary S Kumarasamy. “After systematically destroying school education by encouraging private players, the government is now attempting to replicate this destruction in higher education. There is also rampant saffronisation of knowledge, this is why students across the country are agitating. Patriotism does not mean a few symbols created by the government. It means the rights of human beings”, said Sucheta, adding “In universities, we are creating spaces where a Bengali woman like myself can truly become a comrade of a Kashmiri woman, where strong solidarities are being built with the poor, oppressed and the marginalised from different regions. This is the essence of our “patriotism”, and this is what scares the RSS so much.” The Madurai seminar demanded the repeal of the draconian sedition Act.
On 26-27 March, Shehla and Sucheta travelled to Kerala. On 26 March, they addressed a huge crowd at the Meppayur bus stand in Kozhikode, at a meeting organised by CPI(ML) Red Star. They were joined by Adayan (student leader from FTII), Dinu from Farook college who has been battling moral policing there, Shini from FTII, and RMP leader Smitha.
During their Kerala visit, Sucheta and Shehla also condemned the manner in which students belonging to SIO had been lathi charged and jailed by the Kerala police for protesting against the police crackdown on HCU students. These police had falsely claimed that the students’ slogans of ‘Hindutva Murdabad’ were slogans of ‘Hindustan Murdabad’!
Next day, Sucheta and Shehla addressed another huge meeting in Thrissur convened by 65 organisations under the ‘People against Fascism’ banner. Defying threats and intimidation from the local VHP, which complained against the presence of the “anti-nationals” Sucheta and Shehla in Thrissur, they marched along with hundreds of others from the Sahitya Academy in Thrissur to the Corporation Hall.
On 2-3 April, Shehla participated in several meetings in Chennai on the question of sedition, caste discrimination and competing notions of nationality and nationalism. A Press Conference was organised on 2 April, addressed by Shehla, President of Bharti College Seetha and others, demanding the scrapping of the Sedition Act that is being used to criminalise cultural activists and voices of resistance. The activists also demanded protection of inter caste couples, and enacting of a Rohith Act against caste discrimination in educational institutions.
Another meeting was held with the students of the Madras University Arts College, who said that they were not allowed to form a union. In the evening of the 2 April, the Centre for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) organised a meeting addressed by Manisha Sethi from the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, Shehla Rashid, G Kalyan Rao from the Revolutionry Writers’ Association and Lakshmanan Chinnaiyan. Shehla also met activists of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (who are still battling vilification and discrimination in the IIT Madras campus) and the Revolutionary Students’ and Youth Federation (RSYF), who spoke of the need for unity of progressive groups across the country. AIPF also organised a good meeting on 3 April to discuss the challenges and strategies in the era of communal fascism, where slogans and flags are being used to create a false and divisive notion of “nationalism”.
Shehla said, “Wherever we went, at meetings, seminars and even on the street, at railway platforms and airports, people who recognised us would come up and say – Keep fighting, the whole country is with you!’”
In Uttar Pradesh, the ‘Utho Mere Desh’ campaign took many forms across the length and breadth of the state: torchlight processions, street corner meetings, seminars in colleges and Universities in Chandauli, Ghazipur, Banaras, Lucknow, Sonebhadra, Allahabad, Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh and Balia.
On 22 March, a torchlight procession was organized in Chahaniya and Sahabpur blocks of Chandauli district. In Chandauli, the RYA took up this campaign as part of its preparations for its district committee conference, which was subsequently held on Comrade Chandrashekhar’s martyrdom day 31 March. On 31 March too, a march was organized on the streets of Chandauli, and slogans reclaiming and reasserting the legacy of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar resounded in the air. On 12 April, a seminar was organized in Mughalsarai. Comrade Anant, former JNUSU Vice President and one of the accused ‘seditious anti-nationals’ whose home is in Chandauli, addressed both these events, talking about HCU, JNU and the threats to the RSS-BJP from the discourse of social, political and economic equality and justice emerging from these campuses and spreading like fire across the country. Anant says: “The enthusiastic participation, the discussion and debate was heartening. The talk had a detailed Question and Answer round which witnessed fantastic intellectual and political brainstorming...It’s very challenging to face the audience who are your own people in your own city which is like a second home. It feels good to be able to address all the questions, apprehensions and queries of the same people satisfactorily!”
After Anant left to campaign in other parts of UP, RYA in Chandauli continued campaigning in the district. On 14 April, a rally and meeting was organized at the district headquarters. The Hindu Yuva Vahini, a highly communal outfit managed by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, had been running a campaign of vitriolic hate and division, using the excuse of the JNU incident to try and whip up a “nationalist” frenzy. RYA, in response, organized several initiatives, which also addressed the real issues facing people in the district. The question of forcible land grab for a freight corridor was raised, for instance, and on 3 April a protest meeting was organized at Cheeto village against the land grab, addressed by AIKM national general secretary Rajaram Singh. Protests were held against the water crisis in Naugarh block. The campaign specifically reached Dalit hamlets in the area, to listen to the concerns there and to talk about patriotism through the prism of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar’s legacies.
In Banaras, the campaign began after 25 March. It travelled through hamlets, villages and towns, government offices and banks. Pamphlets were distributed, several small street corner meetings were held, highlighting the sheer incompatibility of the RSS worldview and agenda with that of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. On 10 April, a people’s convention was organized in Banaras, which was addressed by CPI(ML) state secretary Ramji Rai, Jan Sanskriti Manch national general secretary Pranay Krishna, Dean of students( IIT-BHU) Prof. AK Mukherjee, Dalit scholar Prof.Promod Vagde of BHU, Professor Balraj Pandey and Anant from JNU.
For Anant, who studied from BHU before enrolling for an M.Phil in JNU, the Banaras campaign was particularly moving. Banaras and BHU, he remembers, were places where he encountered communist politics and the possibility of radical social and political transformation for the first time. He talked about how such transformative politics of the Left, how Ambedkar’s legacy, struck deadly blows on RSS’ communal fascist, anti-Dalit, anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-worker, anti-woman worldview. The Banaras meeting, which saw the participation of several Dalit students and workers, was also a space were several questions were raised, and discussions pursued, on the challenges and strategies ahead to counter the BJP-RSS particularly in UP. Some RSS members are observed to be roaming around in their Khaki shorts, but as Anant put it, their presence did not deter the campaign!
In Ghazipur, a series of programmes were organized as part the Utho Mere Desh campaign. Marches and seminars were held, protest demonstrations were organized at the Tehsil headquarters, and on 13 April thousands of people participated in a rally to the district headquarters. When the Utho Mere Desh’s convoy against fascism and authoritarianism reached the grave of Lord Cornwallis in Ghazipur, Habib Jalib’s words for the dictators and autocrats of his time seemed strangely appropriate even today: “Those who ruled before you, they too believed like you that they were God”. If Modi thinks that he will never be defeated, then he is grossly mistaken, declared the campaign!
In Lucknow, the campaign began with a torchlight procession on 22 March. On 3 April, a convention on “Nationalism, Bhagat Singh, and Ambedkar” was orgaised at the media centre in Gomti nagar. On 13 April, a rally from the Parivartan chowk to the Ambedkar statue at Hazratganj chowk was organized, in which intellectuals of the city, students, cultural activists, women, youth and workers participated.
In Allahabad, a torchlight procession was organized on 31 March, and on 12 April AIPF held a convention against repression and violence, addressed by well-known educationist Anil Sadgopal. In Sonebhadra, the campaign reached 30 villages in three tehsils. Meetings and conferences were held, and CPI(ML)’s district committee conference was also organized on 29-30 March as part of the campaign. On 12 April, a protest against the ongoing water crisis was organized, and on 14 April a rally from the Robersganj railway station to the main market. Speaking at the rally on Babasaheb’s anniversary, Anant said, “Mr. Modi, you have floundered desperately to pay homage to Babasaheb on his 125th birth anniversary. The real tribute to Baba Sahab could only be through ensuring justice for Rohith Vemula”. He talked about how the RSS would inevitably reveal its true character, even as it sought to opportunistically appropriate Ambedkar’s legacy: “The ABVP-DUSU has issued posters “commemorating” the 125th Ambedkar Jayanti, and their act of bigotry is so extreme that in these posters, they have actually encouraged and “honoured” Dalits who work as manual scavengers! Manual scavenging, for them, is an act of “sacrifice” for the country’s “purity” but for all democracy-loving people and for the true inheritors of Ambedkar’s legacy, this horrific and demeaning practice is a downright insult to dignity”, he said. The Sonebhadra rally also highlighted the growing corporate control over natural resources in the region, over mountains, rivers and trees.
In Sitapur, a march which culminated at the Bhagat Singh statue in the town was organized on 23 April. On 3 April, a massive rally was organized. Yet another rally was organized in Biswa on 5 April. On 11 and 13 April, demonstrations were organized at the district headquarters to protest against an incident of Dalit exploitation and discrimination in the Hargaon police thana, demanding a proper enquiry against the accused policemen. 14 April – Ambedkar Jayanti - was observed across the district as a day against Dalit atrocities, and pamphlets were distributed across the district.
The campaign reached three tehsil areas of Lakhimpur Kheri, reaching out to people through meetings. On 13 April, a march was held at the district headquarters, as well as a meeting at the Vilobi Maidan near the Ambedkar statue. In Balia, a convention was organized on 13 April in the district panchayat’s hall, where there was a vibrant discussion with large participation of the people of Balia. Slogans of Jai Bhim-Laal Salaam echoed from every corner. Rallies were also held in Devaria, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and elsewhere.
In Gorakhpur, several marches and meetings were organized, which were addressed by state secretary Ramji Rai and others. In Azamgarh, seminars and village meetings were organized – a seminar in Mau as well a padyatra and pamphlet distribution in several villages. In Faizabad, a seminar was organized in the Press Club, where the main speaker was RYA national secretary Om. Rallies and protest marches were organized in Ambedkar Nagar, Maharajganj and Kanpur and meetings were held in a Dalit hostel in Rai Bareili and in a workers’ colony in Sultanpur.
Throughout UP, the importance of the campaign was underlined time and again by the frenzied response of the RSS, and media houses such as Zee News which kept trying to reiterate that there is no connection between Jai Bhim and Lal Salaam! Anant responded to this campaign: “Why has BJP/RSS has become so desperate to spread erroneous or improbable stories about the life and lessons of Baba Sahab, his ideas and his ideology? Why (have) Mr. Modi and his Bhakts had to take refuge to blatant full-blown lies claiming Babasaheb has no relation to socialism? Why are foot-soldiers of the Sangh vandalizing multiple Ambedkar Jayanti and allied events, tearing posters, placards, rampaging public events under the garb of nationalism if they claim to be in coherence with Ambedkar’s ideology? Why are they so hell-bent on hiding Babasaheb’s strong opposition to a Hindu Rashtra, and his commitment to a constitution with democratic and secular values rather than the Manusmriti? This shows their fear of the emerging voices of resistance.”
On 23 March, programs were held across the country to commemorate the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and begin the National Campaign. Comrades in Patna, Bhojpur, Giridih, Guntur, Ahmedabad and other centres organized programs. In Punjab, left student and youth organizations from across the state gathered at Husseiniwala, where Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were cremated. Anant, former JNUSU Vice President, was at Husseiniwala, which is at the Indo-Pakistan border. Speaking there, he reminded how Bhagat Singh and his comrades are beloved as revolutionaries in Pakistan as well, where there is a campaign to posthumously acquit the three martyrs in a formal trial. The BJP and RSS define patriotism as hatred for Pakistan – but in fact, Bhagat Singh’s legacy calls upon the citizens of India and Pakistan to unite against the ‘brown British’ who rule us and against imperialism.
In Bihar as part of the National Campaign a joint AISA-RYA ‘Bhagat Singh-Ambedkar Sangharsh Yatra’ was launched. Between 23 March-14 April, the yatra (journey) reached out to the people of Bihar, especially to students and youth, to expose the Modi government’s attempts to dismantle the legacy of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and crush all voices of dissent.
The sangharsh yatra (journey of struggle), with its slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long Live Revolution) and ‘Educate, Agitate and Organize’, travelled to several villages, towns and cities. The response of the people has been tremendous. RYA Bihar President Com. Raju Yadav, AISA National Jt. Sec. Com. Ajit Kushwaha and AISA leader and former JNUSU General Secretary Com. Chintu have led several of these yatras.
In Patna, a student-youth Assembly was organized under the AISA-RYA campaign on 31 March, to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Com. Chandrashekhar. The chief speakers on the occasion were CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, JNUSU Vice President Com. Shehla Rashid, JSM General Secretary Com. Pranay Krishna, Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha, Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh and others. The programme was attended in large numbers by students, youth, activists, and intellectuals.
Addressing the assembly, Com. Dipankar said that the youth spring for which Chandrashekhar sacrificed himself is in bloom again. He said that the students and youth will not rest till they defeat the unholy fascist-communal forces, and this can be done only by following the road shown by Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. He pointed out that the slogans of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar are intermingling across the country and only on the basis of this unity can we defeat the pseudo-nationalism of the Sangh and bring in the true progressive nationalism of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. He stressed that we must take this struggle forward and takes it beyond campuses into every corner of the country.
JNUSU VP Shehla Rashid said that PM Modi has become afraid of students because they are asking pertinent questions about the promises he had made to the country. Having no answer, he has launched an attack on campuses across the country. The government was afraid of Rohith Vemula because he was talking not only for dalit interests but raising questions of democracy. She said that today when farmers are forced to commit suicide, dalits are oppressed and massacred, women are subjected to violence and rape, the government and Sangh are trying to whitewash all the issues by raising the ‘anti-national’ bogey and forcing the chanting of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. She pointed out that it is futile and hypocritical to chant this slogan when we cannot give justice to Rohith’s mother, Irom Sharmila, Soni Sori, and freedom to India’s women.
The Bhagat Singh-Ambedkar Sandesh yatra concluded in Ara on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar; Left and Ambedkarite students in Bhojpur marched together. A chattra-yuva sankalp sabha (Student-Youth Pledge Meeting) was addressed by Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Ashutosh, Com. Neeraj and Chintu.
In Jharkhand, the Utho Mere Desh campaign was launched with big rallies on 23 March in Topa and Ghutua of Ramgarh district in Jharkhand, organized by AISA, RYA, and CPI(ML) activists. Folders were distributed at the rallies and a seminar was held at Ghutua. Next, a convention was organised in Koderma on 27 March, which was addressed by AISA and RYA leaders. This convention resolved that the ‘Utho Mere Desh’ campaign would be taken to all the regions in the district. Former JNUSU President Ashutosh, Vice President Anant and AISA leader Niraj also participated in several public meetings. On 30 March, the UMF, SIO and APCR organised an interaction with college students in Ranchi, which was addressed by Ashutosh.
The campaign also reached Raj Dhanwar, Bagodar, Giridih, Godda, Dhanbad and Bokaro. It met coal miners, talked to students and teachers, took inspiration from Comrade Mahendra Singh’s and CPIML’s battles with feudal and communal forces.
In Jharkhand, the campaign had to face all sorts of hurdles: physical attack by Sanghi goons, vandalism and administrative harassment. Often, the BJP-led state administration cancelled permission at the very last minute, clearly at the behest of the local ABVP-RSS goons. In Godda, the campaign had planned a meeting at Siddho-Kano’s site of martyrdom. But the permission was cancelled at the last minute, and ABVP goons tore up all the posters for the programme. The programme was finally conducted in one corner of the village, and huge number of women, adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, students and youth enthusiastically turned up for the meeting, despite all the hassles created by the state administration.
In the first week of April, AISA and CPI(ML) activists leading the Utho Mere Desh campaign were attacked in Deogarh, by goons led by Saurav Pathak, ABVP President in Deoghar college. CPI (ML) MLA Com. Rajkumar Yadav and Com. Ashutosh were injured in the attack, and the campaign banner was publicly burnt by ABVP. The local police watched silently as ABVP goons threw stones and engaged in violence. In Dhanwar, ABVP goons, frustrated with the campaign, tore the posters that had been put up across the town. The campaign however refused to be cowed down, and on 2 April, protests were organized against this assault in several parts of Jharkhand including Ranchi, Deogarh and Koderma. As Ashutosh noted, “From Delhi to Hyderabad, Bihar to Jharkhand, every time Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s names are mentioned, the Sangh brigade gets agitated! They do not realise that they cannot kill ideas. We will rise from the ashes, each time they try to put us down. We will not let RSS goons and the police and state machinery implement the Manusmriti in this country. Killing Rohith and punishing JNU students is going to cost you.”
Comrades Rama Naga, another ‘sedition’ accused, and RYA national secretary Om, took the campaign to Odisha. On 23 March, they reached Bhubaneshwar, where a meeting had been organised at the CPI(ML) party office Nagbhushan Bhawan. The city’s intellectuals, students, journalists, and lawyers attended the meeting, where Rama talked of the ongoing struggles in JNU, HCU and elsewhere. Recalling Laxman Naik, the legendary adivasi anti-colonial freedom fighter from Koraput (where Rama too comes from), he said that even for the rulers today, the Laxman Naiks who battle for their rights are seditious ‘anti-nationals’!
Interacting with journalists and activists, Rama talked about his own journey from Koraput to JNU, where he finally found dignity, solidarity and respect in the student movement there. He talked about #OccupyUGC and #JusticeforRohithVemula, and said that the current crackdown on JNU and HCU is simply a punishment for these movements which challenge the RSS-BJP.
Comrades Om and Rama, along with the journalist Vishwadeepak, also went to Chandigarh to address a meeting and convention there. There again, the city’s intellectuals, lawyers, students and teachers came to listen to the voices from JNU and their ideas on ‘nationalism’. On 14 April, Babasaheb’s anniversary, Politburo member Kavita Krishnan and Comrade Rama went to Jalandhar to address an AISA-RYA meeting there. Comrade Bant Singh, whose limbs were cut off as ‘punishment’ for daring to ask for justice for the rape of his daughter, was also present. The meeting saluted his spirit to fight against casteist, feudal forces. “They cut off his limbs, but the fight is going on as they can’t cut off the thinking and ideologies which live in Bant Singh’s music”, said Rama.
The ABVP tried to prevent AISA from holding a public meeting on Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar’s legacy in HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Uttarakhand. ABVP complained to the University that such a public meeting would become a platform for ‘anti-national’ ideas. To the credit of the DSW and Chief Proctor of the University, they refused to be budged by such representations, and AISA held the meeting on 6 April. The ABVP which had been trying to get the meeting banned, attended the meeting instead. They were perhaps hoping to find some excuse to disrupt the meeting, but could not gather enough confidence to do so. The vigilant presence of the DWS and Chief Proctor also helped keep them in check.
The meeting began with AISA activist Ankit Uchholi reading from Bhagat Singh’s ‘Achhoot Samasya’ (Problem of Untouchability). Indresh Maikhuri, former President of the HNB Garhwal University and of AISA, was the main speaker at the meeting. AISA activist Subodh Dangwal read from Bhagat Singhg’s letter to young political workers. Atul Sati, member of AISA’s National Executive, and Vargish Bamola, former student representative from HNB Garhwal University and mathematics professor RC Dimri also spoke at the meeting. CPI(ML)’s Garhwal Secretary Atul Sati spoke of the relevance and urgency of Ambedkar’s call to annihilate caste and struggle for a thoroughgoing democracy in India.
On 2 April, CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan and DU professor Apoorvanand spoke at a public meeting on the meaning of patriotism and ‘anti-nationalism’, which was chaired by retired Justice Kolse-Patil.
On 3 April, Kavita Krishnan along with several other Left activists including leaders of CPI, CITU, and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha addressed a public meeting organised by CPI(ML) on the theme of the India of Bhagat Singh’s and Ambedkar’s dreams. Speaking at this meeting, Kavita Krishnan stressed Ambedkar’s writings against Hindu Nation, and on workers’ rights and citizens’ civil liberties as well as his call to annihilate caste; and Bhagat Singh’s writings against communalism and untouchability as well as his revolutionary ideology.
The ideas of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar are so sharp that the Sangh Parivar cuts itself when it seeks to handle or appropriate them. Undeterred by those in power who seek to silence, intimidate, imprison or even kill those who walk in the path of these visionaries, young people and all citizens today are boldly uniting with the slogans of Lal Salaam and Jai Bhim on their lips.