People's Democracy

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


No. 40

October 12, 2008


Kerala Education Minister Launches Book of Antonio Guerrero’s Poems in Hindi

Suneet Chopra

IT was a special occasion for the National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba on October 6, 2008. They had hosted a two-member delegation consisting of Rosa Aurora Freijanes, the wife of one of the five Cuban heroes who have suffered illegal imprisonment for over a decade in the USA as a result of Kangaroo courts, mass hysteria and shameless violation of human rights, and their lawyer, Nuris Pinero Sierra. This was an education for us. The reason why the five were in prison was because they determinedly exposed terrorists like Cariles and Bosch, who were responsible for blowing up planes, killing people and running drug rackets. And they boasted about these detestable actions of theirs. Instead of handing them over to countries like Venezuela where they ought to be tried for their crimes, they were let into the USA by Presidents Bush, both senior and junior, and are even today free to live out their lives in peace while those who sought to bring them to justice suffer in the most disgraceful manner in jail. It opened our eyes to the falsehood of the US war against terrorism and its concern with human rights.

Of course, while presenting the selection of poems in Hindi from a large volume written by Antonio Guerrero, which have been translated by noted Hindi writers and poets like Chandra Bali Singh, the founder general secretary of the Democratic Writers Association (JLS), Manglesh Dabral, Vishnu Nagar, Asghar Wajahat, Pankaj Singh, Savita Singh, Kusum Chaturvedi, Kailash Vajpeyi, Mukta, Asad Zaidi and Chanchal Chauhan, the present general secretary of JLS among them, I could not help but note our special role as writers from countries ravaged by imperialism. With the memory of the long imprisonment of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sajjad Zaheer in neighbouring Pakistan, or Nazim Hikmet in Turkey or Nagarjun at home, close to our hearts, we are duty bound to be part of each other’s struggles, fight fearlessly and carry on till such injustice is reversed.

As M A Baby, the Kerala education minister pointed out while launching this collection of poems in Hindi on the last day of the Cuban delegation’s visit to Delhi, imperialists would never be able crush the call to end oppression and restore humanity within us. In Antonio Guerrero he saw the same determination that characterised other outstanding fighters for justice like Atonio Gramsci, Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela. The forces of peace, humanity and socialism stood by them till they were released and saw many of them as heads of state. But imperialism does not learn lessons easily. They have to be taught them through mass mobilisation on a global scale today as their greed poses a global threat to all of us.

How blind the US administration is in defending the criminals they exposed and ignoring the damage they are daily doing to the image of US democracy became evident when their lawyer related the violations of legal norms, their being placed in different prisons in isolation, with Antonio often being denied a pencil even, and the completely senseless position it is taking by carrying on in this way. Obviously the only recourse was to resist such actions with mass pressure to change their attitude. And the solidarity campaign was getting enormous support the world over.

It is amazing how no norms of humanity are being observed by the US government which allows terrorists to roam free but imprisons those who try to expose them, refuses to allow their wives and families to visit them, or even consult their lawyers properly. The pain of those ten years of separation could not but touch one every time one heard Rosa Aurora Freijanes speak.

At the same time, one cannot help but admire how even in this adversity the human spirit soars above prison, harassment and torture to declare its right to Justice, Each one of us who translated Antonio’s works was touched by the truth, love and will to struggle for a positive alternative to the system that continued to oppress him. If the idea was to break him and his companions, the US government has failed. Indeed, it moved us deeply when Rosa said she would hand a copy of the poems in Hindi to the mother of Antonio. All of us can meet those we love whenever we wish to, but those in the gut of the monster need our voices, our love and our will to fill the gap. It is not enough to just do our duty. We must involve ourselves fully in fighting such injustice till it is undone.

I have a sense that what I am hoping will happen, not only because the book has been launched by one who as DYFI president had also worked under the guidance of CPI(M) Party general secretary, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, break the US embargo and send a ship-load of wheat to Cuba when it needed grain, but also because I saw people from all walks of life, poets and writers, artists, gallery owners, leaders of CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, and AIDWA, all coming together in a struggle the like of which we have fought before and will win again. In fact, the closing address of our chief guest, Miguel Angel Ramirez Ramos, the ambassador of Cuba in India, reflecting his perceptions of the visit with the meetings in Delhi, the rally of SFI’s all India conference at Kolkata, meetings in Hyderabad and Kerala, gives us hope that we will drive one more nail into the coffin of imperialism by ensuring the release of the five patriots as we earlier succeeded in getting Nelson Mandela to be released by the Apartheid regime of South Africa.

There has been one change that I feel must be corrected. I remember how in the past, parties like the Congress were active participants in issues of solidarity with Cuba. The Congress regime in Punjab helped to transport the wheat to Cuba. Now they are bending over backwards to please the USA. This time, a day before we launched the book, Condoleeza Rice was the guest of the government of India. But the fact that she had to go back without the government signing on the dotted line should remind us that our anti-imperialist culture that emerged over the 150 years of our struggle for independence will not allow forces subservient to imperialism to defraud the people and take us over to it. Let it be clear that the Congress is part of a coalition and in a minority. The majority are against George Bush, like in the USA. The sense of insecurity in the Congress today should not allow it to scurry over to any support they find. Indeed, Bush’s future is far more insecure than that of Cuba. The Indian people know it. The government would do better to learn from their past consistent support to the heroic people of Cuba as a powerful component of the Non-Aligned Movement. It must follow the policy it has towards it from the time Che Guevara came here to meet Jawaharlal Nehru and Fidel Castro handed over the Presidency of NAM to Indira Gandhi with a hug. That warmth is still alive and well among the people of both our countries. The government would do well to understand it, while the verses of Antonio Guererro in Hindi have just forged a new link in this long chain of friendship, solidarity and support.