People's Democracy

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


No. 14

April 03, 2005

On The Problems Of The Hindi Belt: A Seminar

  Nalini Taneja



AS part of the run up to the Eighteenth Party Congress to be held in Delhi, a seven-day Seminar was organised by the Party, focusing on the issues of concern in the specific context of the Hindi belt. This was for creating a dialogue with intellectuals who have been writing and thinking about this region and its problems. For some time the Party has been feeling, as Prakash Karat put it during his address to the closing session, that “our Party has consolidated itself in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura where it enjoys great popular support, but if we are to expand our influence in the country as a whole, then an expansion in North India is extremely important.” This is something that has been discussed for a number of years, he said, but no real advance has been made and no concrete steps taken that might improve the situation for the Left in this area. He said that the Party is keen that what has been discussed in our earlier Congresses should now be acted upon, and that a wider support base created for our interventions.


Karat talked at length on the disastrous effects of globalisation policies in this area, as everywhere else in the country. He was emphatic that talking about imperialism without protesting the caste structures or taking up issues of dalits and women would not get the Party far. A wider support for the Party can only come from challenging the structures of ruling class control in all their dimensions. More than 200 people participated in the seminar on each day for all the seven days.



The themes on which discussions took place included globalisation, social problems, culture, education, media, democracy, modernity, and religion. The issues of unemployment, privatisation, secularism and communalism, diversity and composite culture, popular culture and film, street theatre, casteism, the issues of women and dalits were all discussed in the context of globalisation and the growing communalisation, which the six years of BJP had fostered. It was universally agreed that the Congress is not demarcating itself sufficiently from the policies of the BJP: on matters of economic policy, there is little to choose between them, and on communalism the Congress has not been adopting a secular position as resolutely as it should. In this context, most participants were of the view that it is only the Left which can provide any real alternative. There is a need, therefore, to have a dialogue with all sections of society who are disgruntled with the existing policies of compromise with imperialism and communalism, and to reach out particularly to those who are oppressed and whom these policies have hit the hardest. It was also stated by most speakers that, as things stand, the Left is weak in the Hindi belt. Towards changing this situation it was felt that the Party must bring out some publications, form a network of organisations of all kinds, reach out to dalits especially, and oppose communalism through creative cultural forms. There was no aspect of life that did not get discussed.




Among the participants were Nityanand Tiwari, Habib Tanveer, Anil Sadgopal, Prabhat Patnaik, Vikas Raval, SK Thorat, DR Goyal, Praveen Jha, Anand Prakash, Jagmati, Suraj Bhan, Pradeep Saxena, Shambhunath, Prabhash Joshi, Rajesh Joshi, Mangalesh Dabral, Sudeesh Pachauri, Ibbar Rabbi, Vinod Raina, Asghar Wajahat, Ramesh Upadhyaya, Vijendra Sharma, Asad Zaidi, Jagdishwar Chaturvedi, Mujeeb Rizvi, Kumaresh Chakravarty, Ajay Tiwari, Vishwanath Tripathi, Vishnu Nagar, Manmohan and many others.


Vikas Raval argued that globalisation policies can only worsen the situation with regard to unemployment, and showed the links between sectarian politics and effects of economic policies. The BJP’s divisive politics and use of religion for political purposes came in for a lot of criticism.  Prabhat Patnaik spoke very forcefully on the linkages between imperialism and loss of intellectual self reliance, if the World Bank prescriptions are followed with regard to education policy. Vijendra Sharma outlined the ways in which these prescriptions were being put into effect in the country. Anil Sadgopal argued that the whole ‘right to education’ Bill is flawed.


Sudheesh Pachauri spoke on the representation of the Hindi belt on television, and a number of participants, including Prabhash Joshi, outlined how people’s concerns were not getting reflected in media today. Anand Pradhan linked this to the pattern of media ownership. 1857 and its role in giving shape to the cultural personality of this region was also touched upon, as were the long tradition of literary production in Hindi and other different forms of cultural expression emanating from this region. There were discussions on the composite cultural heritage and diversity of the Hindi belt, with some speakers emphasising its diversity, and expressing the view that the idea of Hindi jan and Hindi belt were terms which narrowed the perception of this region, whose cultural personality has been created as much by Urdu and the powerful dialects which are still very much the vehicles of popular cultural expression.


Dr Goyal drew upon his knowledge of the RSS to show its fascistic character. Jagmati, from AIDWA, talked of the honour killings (of women) in Haryana and its linkages with the prevailing political and social co-relation of forces. The need to counter obscurantism and superstitions was also stressed, as was the need for science movements to expand their activities. The active promotion of a rational attitude and scientific temper were seen as absolutely necessary. It was felt that the democratic movement can advance in this region only on the basis of a widespread struggle on the many fronts and issues discussed.


The seminar ended with a sum up by Nityanand Tiwari, and Jogendra Sharma’s closing remarks, in which he thanked all participants for making the seminar a success, pointing out that an attendance and involvement of over 200 people over seven continuous days is not merely an achievement, but also a very encouraging sign.