People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 45

November 09, 2003

 dyfi From Ludhiana To Amritsar

 Suneet Chopra


IT is now 23 years since the founding conference of the DYFI at Ludhiana from November 1 to 3, 1980. Much has changed over the years. And yet, that guiding light for youth, the Democratic Youth Federation of India not only persists but has grown tenfold. This reflects not only the correct perspective of the organisational approach but also correct organisational decisions that allowed this perspective to be implemented.




The DYFI emerged after three very important events in our country. The first was the historic railway strike that brought the country to a standstill in 1974 and the student movements of Bihar and Gujarat. Then there was the Allahabad High court judgment and the imposition of internal emergency. A massive movement emerged with the youth in the forefront, leading to the defeat of Indira Gandhi and the coming to power of the Janata Party.


The most significant thing in this process was that Jayapraksh Narayan insisted on keeping the youth and students, the force of his Tarun Kranti, separate from the movements of workers and peasants. So while they were able to change governments, issues of social transformation were given the back seat. And we are paying the price of the politics of young people capable of changing governments but unaware of the changes they need to bring about in their lives and themselves.


There were, however, state level organisations like the Kerala Socialist Youth Federation, the Punjab Naujawan Sabha, the West Bengal Democratic Youth Federation and similar organisations in other states. They resisted the emergency firmly but were unable to have the impact they could have had, because the only socially oriented youth organisation at the time, the AIYF, supported the Congress regime. So, despite the activity of correctly oriented youth and students organisations, their impact was not strong enough to provide an alternative.


History however, does not stand still. The Janata government came apart over the question of the dual membership of elements of the former Jana Sangh elements continuing their links with the communal and authoritarian RSS while remaining in the Janata Party.


This resulted in Indira Gandhi’s return to power. Clearly a broader all-India force of young people fighting to extend the political participation of youth in our sovereign, democratic and egalitarian institutions, as well as to fight obscurantism, casteism and communalism at large in our society was badly needed. The formation of Democratic Youth Federation of India out of number of state level organisations fulfilled this need admirably.




The reason why we chose Ludhiana as the venue of our first all-India conference was because Sarabha village from where the Ghadar movement’s martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha hailed, was located there. Sarabha was the inspiration for Bhagat Singh whose companions, like Shiv Verma and Pandit Kishori Lal, were among those who, like that veteran of the Telengana people’s struggle, M Basavapunnaiah and the first Left chief minister in India EMS Namboodiripad, helped us develop the perspective that gave us the broad-based socially oriented and anti-imperialist momentum our organisation attained from its very beginning. It has proved a strong weapon in the hands of generations of youth, as we can see from the development of the DYFI as India’s largest and the world’s second largest youth organisation.


The DYFI exhibited a powerful blend of sacrifice and responsibility from the start. In fact, our very first martyr, Arur Singh Gill, was murdered in Amritsar during the preparations for our Ludhiana conference. This was followed by a spate of martyrs all over the country, some 200 of whom were killed in the first two years of our existence. Among these our martyrs of Punjab, including all-India vice president Darbara Singh, state president Gurnam Singh Uppal, state secretary Sohan Singh Dhesi, state treasurer Surjeet Singh and some seventy others, have set a glorious record in the youth movement of our country. That is why our Punjab unit, with a membership of 60,000 or so, can still inspire young people enough to want to held the seventh all-India conference in Amritsar.


Where sacrifices inspire, so does the assumption of positions of responsibility by our founder members. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who followed Jyoti Basu as the chief minister of the record-breaking Left Front regime of West Bengal, is a former secretary of Bengal DYF and a founder Central Committee member of DYFI. Similarly, Manik Sarkar, chief minister of Tripura where the Left Front has been returned to power for three consecutive terms, is a former vice president of DYFI. M Vijayakumar, former all-India president of DYFI, was speaker of the Kerala assembly. Former DYFI general secretary Mohammed Salim, is a minister in West Bengal, while DYFI’s founder general secretary Hannan Mollah has been elected from the same constituency of the Lok Sabha eight times. The list can be expanded many times over, with the names of DYFI members in different states serving as ministers, members of parliament, MLAs and the like.


The DYFI has many victories to its name. Voting right at 18 was a DYFI demand that has now become part and parcel of our political life. The same goes for the institution of a ministry of youth affairs and the proper recognition by the Left Front governments and even lip service from the central government that a youth policy is a necessity. In the same way, the provision of unemployment benefit for youth and the question of jobs for all and education for all as a major political concern that needed to be addressed is thanks to the DYFI’s numerous campaigns over the years in all parts of the country. These changes have taken place only because the DYFI has grown to be the largest organisation of youth in the country. It is with this confidence that delegates from all over the country will come to Amritsar.




There is no room for complacency, however. Large sections of the youth who form 68 per cent of the population, are as yet unorganised. Others are members of casteist and communal organisations. Yet others are drowning in the mess of consumerism and degeneration imperialism and multinationals are projecting as a life style for the young. To fight such forces is not easy in a unipolar world. But, then, the history of the DYFI shows it has never shied away from difficult tasks. It has taken them head on at Ludhiana, it will no doubt confront them at Amritsar also and hammer out the best path for Indian youth for an assured future.


There will no doubt be important discussions on issues like unemployment, education, hunger, poverty, oppression and exploitation of youth. There will be concern expressed over issues of gender and caste, discussions regarding health and sport facilities, as well as discussion as to what constitutes a healthy and scientific culture of the future for the young. There will be discussions on the nature of globalisation and how to fight divisive, communal and terrorist forces who have only helped imperialism suppress democracy in the name of fighting these forces. All these issues will eventually form part of a comprehensive programme of action.    


Today, it has added tasks to complete as well. The DYFI is today the largest youth organisation that is a constituent of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY). As such, it has the enormous task of awakening youth to the threat world imperialism led by US imperialism today poses to the future of mankind. It must not only awaken the youth of the world to this threat, it must give the lead in organising the resistance of the young to the WTO and its anti-youth policies that pit one section of the young against another, the threat of war, the struggle for peace and for a life style fit for a more humane civilization of the future. The experience and perspective of the DYFI conference will no doubt make a mark on the anti-imperialist youth movement whose importance grows with every year of globalisation that passes. So from Ludhiana to Amritsar, we can assess a record of action and change a record that shows the DYFI as the largest, most sacrificing and responsible organisation of youth that India has seen since independence. This is something to be proud of and work harder for in the future.


(Suneet Chopra is a former vice president of the DYFI.)