People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 07, 2007
Strengthen Struggles Against Imperialism, Communalism
THE first week of January has a special tryst with India’s history. This significance would be as valid in any year, but it assumes an added import in 2007. It was 250 years ago, on January 2, 1757, when Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Nawab of Bengal, Sirajuddaulah. The earlier developments in 1756, when the Nawab captured the East India Company’s Fort William in Calcutta, and the return recapture by the British led to the decisive battle of Plassey in June 1757, which firmly established the beginning of British colonial rule in India. The circumstances in which the British overpowered the Nawab, with the betrayal by the Nawab’s army general Mir Jaffer, is now part of our historical folklore. Many years later, Jawaharlal Nehru had to comment that the British won their way to establishing an empire “by promoting treason and forgery.”
A century later, following the British triumph in quelling India’s first war of independence in 1857, the trial of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar began on January 7, 1858, on charges of leading the rebellion, which, according to the colonial power’s laws of justice (!), constituted treason against the British crown. If the British had established their presence in 1757 through treason and forgery, they consolidated their empire in 1857 through a ruthless butchery of those who rose in revolt against their rule. Prior to this, the British had beheaded the emperor’s sons in broad daylight. The emperor himself was then incarcerated in the Mandaley Jail in Rangoon, from where he came out only four year later --- after his death in 1862.
Now, 150 years later, it is impossible not to digress to note that the barbarity of the imperial empire has not changed much. The mock trial of Saddam Hussein and his outrageous execution was preceded by the murder of both his sons. Like the British sought to consolidate its empire in 1857 through deceit, brutal repression, death and mayhem, US imperialism today seeks to foist its hegemony over the world precisely through such means. To meet these ends there is no human law that it would not trample upon and there are no scruples that it would observe.
Incarcerated as he was in the Rangoon Jail, Bahadur Shah Zafar used to scribble his poems on the prison walls by using charcoal pieces. In a famous couplet, he bemoaned that he was so unfortunate that he could not even get two square yards of land in his homeland --- for his burial.
It is impossible once again not to digress to contemporary Indian political realities. While Zafar yearned in vain for a burial in his homeland, the RSS/BJP characterise him and his ancestors as “Babur ki Aulad” (Babur’s descendants). The consequent whipping of hatred against the Muslims is based on the spread of communal poison, claiming that the Mughal empire was established by usurping the so-called Hindu lands. Such historical realities as of Babur defeating Ibrahim Lodi, another Muslim emperor, in the first battle of Panipat to establish the Mughal empire does not bother the conscience (if they have one) of the communal forces.
The fact remains that, learning from the 1857 experience, the British came to the conclusion that if they were to permit ever again the unity of various religious, linguistic, ethnic and other identities in India in a struggle against the alien rule, they would have no chance of survival. Thus emerged the infamous policy of divide and rule. This also found “native” (as the British would call) expressions. The Muslim League on the one hand and the RSS on the other very ably assisted the British in perpetuating their colonial rule. The demand for an Islamic state after independence from the British, eventually led to the partition of the country --- with horrendous consequences that continue to haunt and affect us to date. The RSS, on the other hand, seeks the establishment of its rabidly intolerant fascistic version of a Hindu rashtra. Having been born with such a vision as was is in complete antagonism with the aspirations of India’s freedom struggle that sought to establish a secular democratic modern republic, the RSS has never reconciled to these modern realities. Having created the circumstances that claimed the life of the Mahatma and lakhs of other innocent lives through communal holocausts, the RSS and its current political arm --- the BJP --- continue to reaffirm that the raison d’etre of their political existence can only be based on the sharpening of communal polarisation.
This is the precise message conveyed by the BJP’s recent national executive meeting as noted in these columns last week. A 150 years ago the British learnt that the unity in India’s vast diversity, among its people, is the surest guarantee for its freedom and prosperity, and hence assiduously worked to prevent this from happening in order to continue and consolidate their rule. In today’s India, such a unity of the rich diversity amongst our people, so crucial for our advance and prosperity, is once again being prevented from being fully realised by the communal forces in pursuit of their political objective of establishing their Hindu rashtra. Victory over such communal machinations is thus imperative if India has to march forward as a modern nation, aiming to be an economic powerhouse and a knowledge society in the 21st century.
Ironically, therefore, the current battles being waged by us are in a sense essentially against such very forces that either enslaved India in the past or are seeking to subjugate India in various ways today, and against those who are preventing the Indian people in their advance for consolidating their freedom and prosperity. The struggles to steadfastly safeguard our political and economic sovereignty from imperialism and the struggles against the communal forces that seek to destroy the modern Indian republic’s very unity and integrity must therefore once again engage the attention of all of us in this year.
Now, 250 years since the battle of Plassey, 150 years since our first war of independence and 60 years since our freedom from the British colonial yoke, this is high time to recollect these episodes and draw proper lessons in order to strengthen our struggles in 2007. With this in mind, People’s Democracy, as part of its bounden duty to contribute to the strengthening of such struggles, is happy to announce that beginning with the coming Republic Day, January 26, 2007, down to our Independence Day on August 15, 2007, we shall be commemorating various aspects of this history in order to draw the necessary inspiration to rouse our country and its people in the current battles for consolidating the Indian republic.