People's Democracy

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


No. 12

March 23, 2003


  Comrade R B More: A Red Star In Blue Sky --- II

  Satyendra More

Subodh More

EVEN after joining the Communist Party, the mutual respect and regard that R B More and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had for each other continued without a break. More had a high opinion of the struggle that Dr Ambedkar was waging for social justice, and felt that it complemented the work of the Communist Party. Thus, in 1930, when Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was about to leave for the Round Table Conference, it was More who first organised a public felicitation of Dr Ambedkar in Mumbai on behalf of Mahar Samaj Seva Sangh. Later, in 1933, under the banner of the Friends Union, a cultural group of youth that was formed by More in Mumbai, the first public birthday celebration of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was organised. In the year 1932 to express solidarity with the Kala Ram temple entry satyagraha at Nashik, More held several meetings in the working class areas of Mumbai, collected funds and led a batch of communists to take part in the satyagraha.

In the elections of 1937 and 1946, Dr Ambedkar personally offered to put up More as a candidate from his party, but, a staunch communist that he was, More politely declined the offer. In many of the journals started by Dr Ambedkar, like Bahishkrut Bharat, Samata and Janata, More used to write regularly. In Janata he was taken on the editorial board even though he was a known communist. This showed the remarkable trust that Dr Ambedkar had in him. More welcomed Dr Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, saying that it had increased the strength of the forces propounding the materialist philosophy and had, consequently, reduced the strength of the enemies of the people. More was deeply affected after Dr Ambedkar’s demise, and rushed to Bombay to be one of those who were present at the Bombay Airport to receive Dr Ambedkar’s remains.


As a consequence of the several peasant struggles that he had led, R B More was among the handful of comrades in Maharashtra who attended the foundation conference of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at Lucknow in 1936. In 1938, when Shamrao Parulekar organised a massive demonstration of the peasantry of the Konkan region, against the ‘Khoti’ system, on the Bombay assembly under the banner of Dr Ambedkar’s Independent Labour Party (Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar joined the Communist Party a year later in 1939), it was R B More who took the initiative to involve leaders of the Communist Party in this demonstration.

In 1938, again, when the Congress ministry introduced a black bill in the Bombay assembly against the working class, R B More played an important role in bringing the Communist Party and the Independent Labour Party together to oppose it unitedly. This led to the first-ever joint working class strike against the black bill, organised by the CPI and the ILP on November 7, 1938 – significantly, on the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia.

More was also active in the movement of railway workers. He was for a time the secretary of the G I P  Railway Workers Union in Central Railway, the union which is now called the National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU). In the period from 1942 to 1946, he took the lead in organising ‘safai mazdoors’ and other Class IV employees in Mumbai, and built their union. He used to be regularly invited as the chief guest to attend conferences of these employees in places like Nagpur, Jhansi and Bijapur, where struggle calls used to be given to fight against the caste discrimination faced by them and against the scourge of untouchability.

In 1945, R B More, along with veteran trade union leader N M Joshi, attended the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference at Paris. It was Dr Ambedkar, then labour minister in the central government, who made special efforts to see that More was sent to this meet. In this conference, More dwelt upon the miserable conditions of the working class in India in general and the plight of untouchable workers in particular. He gave specific examples of how, Dalit workers were forbidden to work in certain departments of textile mills; and of the unjust and animal-like treatment meted out to Dalit workers in some other industries.

He then raised the demand that a certain proportion of jobs be reserved for Dalits (this was five years before the concept of reservations was adopted in the constitution of India) and that the government take steps to stop all kinds of discrimination against Dalit workers. Thus More effectively raised the questions of untouchability and social oppression of Dalits for the first time in an ILO forum. His speech created a big impact and it was given wide publicity by international press. For this speech, More was publicly felicitated on his return to India --- both by the Communist Party and by the Scheduled Castes Federation of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who also personally congratulated More.


R B More was not the only member of his family working in the Communist Party. His wife Sitabai was also an active party member. His son Satyendra and daughter Kamal were active in the then AISF and occasionally used to travel with the cultural squad led by the legendary communist trio of Shahir Amar Shaikh, Shahir Annabhau Sathe and Shahir D N Gavhankar. R B More was one of the first wholetimers of the Communist Party drawing regular party wage. Apart from jail life, More also spent nine years of his life underground. His sacrifice and selflessness were taken note of by the first party congress of the CPI held at Mumbai in 1943, which felicitated the More family as a “communist family.”

In the forums of the Communist Party, More always raised the question of caste oppression. Before the third party congress in 1953, he had sent a special note to the party leadership on the question of untouchability and the caste system. The then Polit Bureau had taken this note seriously and had circulated it to all the party state committees, asking them to provide relevant information and comments. He sent a revised version of this note in 1957 and 1964, stressing the need to take up issues of caste and social oppression as an integral part of the class struggle and making a balanced assessment of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s positive contributions to the struggle for social justice. On this issue, he also had discussion and corresponded with top Communist leaders like E M S Namboodiripad, B T Ranadive, M Basavapunnaiah and Ajoy Ghosh.

His interest in theory was matched to the last by his rigour in practice. In the massive statewide satyagrahas of the landless that were led by renowned RPI leader Karmaveer Dadasaheb Gaikwad in 1959 and 1964, leaders of the Communist Party like Shamrao Parulekar, Godavari Parulekar, Krantisimha Nana Patil, R B More and thousands of peasants and agricultural workers took active part and courted arrest. For the first time in several years, the red flags of the Communist Party and the blue flags of the Republican Party came together in struggle. The overwhelming majority of landless peasants and agricultural labourers who filled the jails of Maharashtra at the time were Dalits and Adivasis. Yet another instance, amongst many, that proved that the oppressed castes in India are, to a great extent, synonymous with the exploited classes.   

It was due to his honest, sacrificing and selfless nature that R B More was loved and respected by party comrades and the people alike. His live contact with the oppressed and his ideological conviction drew several Dalit activists from all over Maharashtra to the Communist Party. Among them were leading Dalit figures like K M Salvi, one of the main organisers of the Nashik temple entry satyagraha; S B Jadhav, secretary of the Mumbai unit of the Scheduled Castes Federation; Captain Sasalekar of the Samata Sainik Dal; and many others. All of them remained with the Communist Party till the end. This was in sharp contrast to many other followers of Dr Ambedkar, who deserted the RPI and joined the Congress soon after his demise. R B More and K M Salvi also attracted several creative cultural and literary figures to the party, Marxism and Left movement. The most prominent amongst them was Shahir Annabhau Sathe, founder of Dalit Sahitya Baburao Bagul, progressive famous poet Shankar Shailndra, Shayar Majnoo Indori, Shahir Rasool Kadam etc.  

With the split in the CPI in 1964, R B More was among those who joined the CPI(M) without the slightest hesitation, and he was elected to its state committee. In 1965, with most of the state leadership of the newly-formed CPI(M) having been detained by the Congress central government, R B More started the weekly Jeevanmarg on April 14, 1965, on Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. The journal became, and continues to remain, the weekly organ of the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee.



The three most glowing tributes to R B More were those paid by renowned Marxist thinker and writer Rahul Sanskrityayan, progressive writer Ramesh Chandra Sinha and by Dr Ambedkar himself. Rahul Sanskrityayan, in his book Naye Bharat ke Naye Neta (New Leaders of New India) that was written in 1945, penned inspiring profiles of leading communists like Muzaffar Ahmed, P Sundarayya, E M S Namboodiripad, P C Joshi, Ajoy Ghosh, Kalpana Dutt and others. The book also included a beautifully written profile of R B More! About R B More. Ramesh Chandra Sinha wrote in his essay that he was a dedicated captain of the Indian proletariat. In that Hindi essay he wrote about comarade Kalyansundaram and Comrade Fazal Ilahi Qurban also. This was published in 1945.

The tribute paid to R B More by Dr Ambedkar has been recorded in a book called Atmashodh by Datta Kelkar. The passage in the book relates how, many years after joining the Communist Party, More was standing on the footpath as part of a crowd at a public meeting in Mumbai that was being addressed by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was then a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, the same status as of today’s union minister. When Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar saw More, he immediately asked him to come to the stage. When More declined, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar ordered his activists to physically bring More on to the stage, leaving him with no choice. When More reached the stage, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar introduced him to the meeting thus, “This is R B More. A very great man. Among the few people whose efforts led me to enter political life, one is R B More!”

After a remarkable life of struggle, R B More passed away in Mumbai on May 11, 1972. B T Ranadive, in his funeral oration, paid moving tributes to his life and work. A massive condolence meeting was presided over by Dr Ambedkar’s son and RPI leader, Bhayyasaheb Ambedkar.

A book in Marathi on the life and times of R B More, titled Comrade R B More: A Powerful Link Between the Dalit and the Communist Movement, written by Satyendra More, with an introduction by CPI(M) state secretary and Central Committee member Prabhakar Sanzgiri, is being published soon, to coincide with his birth centenary year.