People's Democracy

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


No. 19

May 13, 2007



Advance The Struggle


THIS special issue of People’s Democracy, marking the 150th anniversary of 1857, is dedicated to the memory of tens of thousands of people who lost their lives and lakhs of others who were brutally injured, maimed and displaced following the 1857 first war of India’s independence.


As announced earlier, the People’s Democracy will continue to commemorate 1857 through special articles discussing its various aspects and implications. This series which began with our Republic Day issue, 2007, will culminate with the Independence Day issue marking the 60th anniversary of our independence.


These observations have already thrown up many new insights of the 1857 uprising, which were not entirely unknown but were definitely not articulated as they are now being done. One fact has been established that 1857 represented both in its spread and intensity the largest popular uprising against colonialism anywhere in the world in the 19th century. Equally, the scale of its suppression was unprecedented in the 19th century.


Though the British succeeded to a large extent in obliterating the historical records of the sweep of the revolt and the sacrifices of the people, new information is now coming to light which gives a more accurate perception and account of what happened during this period.


The distinguished contributors to this special issue have highlighted many of these new insights. Of these, the two most important features of 1857 remain: a) the compelling popular urge to rid our people from the yoke of foreign rule and b) the exemplary unity in struggle of peoples with diverse religions, languages, cultures and castes.


It is, therefore, not surprising that the RSS/BJP have decided to participate only in the official parliamentary functions of these observations. They have decided to observe the 150th anniversary separately on May 13. This is only natural, for, the secular unity displayed by the Indian people during 1857 is an anathema to them given their venomous communal agenda. In fact, as we had argued in these columns in the past, an important element in the consolidation of the British raj post 1857 was the institutionalised divide and rule policy that the colonialists vigorously pursued. In this, they were admirably aided by the domestic communal forces of all hues. The RSS/BJP whose mainstream political slogan centres around the need to rid India of “Babar ke aulad” would, naturally, find it obnoxious to hail the valiant queen of Jhansi, the devout Hindu Laxmi Bai proclaiming Bahadur Shah Zafar (in RSS/BJP terminology, Babar ke aulad) as independent India’s sovereign. Having stayed away from the freedom struggle, the RSS, obviously, cannot be part in any observations and celebrations of that glorious history of Indian people’s struggle.


The vast majority of the Indian people, however, celebrate this 150th anniversary with the view to draw proper lessons from this mighty popular upsurge. 1857, in that sense, sowed the seeds of the beginnings of the emergence of Indian nationalism. More importantly, this was nationalism with a distinct secular identity. An evolution that finally culminated in the declaration of the modern secular democratic republic of India in 1947.


It is clear, therefore, the important task to be learnt from 1857 onwards in our freedom struggle is the need to fiercely safeguard our political independence and economic sovereignty. In today’s world, given the display of merciless hegemonism by US imperialism and the relentless attacks on our economic sovereignty through globalisation, this is an important lesson for us to zealously resolve to protect our independence and sovereignty.


The other, equally important task to be learnt is to unwaveringly protect the secular unity of our people and, thus, the unity and integrity of our country. This means to squarely reject the agenda of the communal forces who seek to reap political profit by sharpening communal polarisation at the expense of both the people and the country.


This special issue is our contribution to strengthening our resolve on both these counts. Indeed, the future of India crucially depends on the success we, the Indian people, achieve on these scores.