People's Democracy

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


No. 36

September 04, 2011


Condolence Meeting Pays Rich Tributes to Comrade Pandhe


ON August 29, the CPI(M) organised a condolence meeting in memory of Comrade M K Pandhe, in Muktadhara auditorium of Bang Sanskriti Bhawan in Gole Market area. As we know, Comrade Pandhe breathed his last on August 20.


A large number of trade union and party workers attended the condolence meeting. These included youth and students, women, cultural activists and the departed leader’s kith and kin.


S Ramachandran Pillai presided over. On the dais were seated the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat as well as Central Committee members Sukomal Sen, Hari Singh Kang, Nurul Huda, Basudeb Acharia, Tapan Sen and Sudha Sundararaman. Comrade Pandhe’s wife and women’s movement leader, Pramila Pandhe, too was seated on the dais.


In his introductory address, S R Pillai informed about the comrade’s ailment and sudden demise. Though Comrade Pandhe was suffering from cancer, he remained active till the end of his life, except for a brief period of illness. He scored a victory over his cancer and resumed his activities with full vigour in regard to party and trade union work. Only a day before his demise had he returned from Chandigarh and was to go to Mumbai the next day. During the three weeks preceding his demise, he had been to Kolkata, Mumbai and a host of other cities for the party’s and the CITU’s work. The departure of such a highly active comrade is, Pillai said, a big loss to the party as well as the trade union movement.


Prakash Karat recalled how Comrade Pandhe was engaged in work even on the day he departed. For some time past he was seriously suffering from cancer and we all wanted that his workload needed to be lessened, but he posed it was no problem to him. He used to say that he wanted to discharge the party and CITU responsibilities to the extent he could and that he found satisfaction in it. Recalling his association with Comrade Pandhe, Karat said he came in contact with the latter during the 1970s when he started working as assistant to Comrade A K Gopalan. Comrade Pandhe was then in charge of the party centre and many comrades used to come to him for consultation.    


Prakash Karat emphatically said it would be wrong to view Comrade Pandhe as just a trade union leader. He was in fact a leader of the working class. He accepted the revolutionary role of the working class, organised it, inspired it and guided it. From the day he began working in a trade union in Solapur till the last day of his life, organisation and forward movement of the working class remained the aim of his life. As a Marxist, he wished that the working class must be politically educated, and he tried for it, so that this class could be mobilised for a war on all kinds of exploitation. According to Prakash Karat, if the working class is politically conscious today, a good part of the credit goes to Comrade Pandhe. When he joined the Communist Party, he well knew that he would have to face a lot of problems, and he did face severe difficulties. He had had to go underground during 1948 and later. But he remained firm, and never retreated when there was an attack on the party or the trade union movement. The reason was that he was deeply imbued in Marxism-Leninism, and had had firm faith in it.


A sterling quality of Comrade Pandhe was that he always remained in the field. His constant endeavour was to be in the midst of the working class and its struggles. Any ordinary worker could approach him anytime. His simplicity was the simplicity of a true communist. He had had vast knowledge of working class affairs, and all the activists and leaders wanted to have him in the forefront of negotiations. The main reason was that he never reached an agreement with employers at the cost of the working class interests.


Prakash Karat here read out a letter from Billimoria, former chairman of the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), in which he highly appreciated Comrade Pandhe’s vast knowledge, wisdom, patience and perseverance. The letter said negotiating with Comrade Pandhe was always a difficult proposition as it required that the negotiators too must have a matching store of knowledge and vast study. Billimoria said he leant many things from Comrade Pandhe. It was due to his inspiration that Billimoria founded an institute where Comrade Pandhe was invited twice a year to speak on industrial disputes.   


Prakash Karat stressed that Comrade Pandhe was an internationalist for the reason that he was a Marxist, and always strove for strengthening the international working class movement. It was a coincidence that he was elected the CITU’s general secretary in 1991, and the same year our ruling classes began to implement the LPG policies in the country. He knew that these policies would lead to an intensification of exploitation of the working people. There have been 13 all-India strikes in the country during the last 20 years, and Comrade Pandhe played a leading role in all of these. He made a seminal contribution to forging the unity of the trade unions. If the trade union organisations have come to a single platform in opposition to these policies, a large art of the credit goes to Comrade Pandhe. We have no substitute for him, and we all have to learn from his life. Conveying his condolences to Mrs Pramila Pandhe, Karat said taking the communist and the Left movement ahead would be the real tribute to Comrade Pandhe.


A B Bardhan grew highly emotional while addressing the condolence meeting. He said Comrade Pandhe was only four months older than him. Though they belonged to two different parties, they had had very intimate relations over a very long period of time. Comrade Pandhe was a source of inspiration for trade unions and the working class. He was a milestone in the trade union movement. Bardhan told how Comrade Pandhe strove hard to unite the trade unions in order to unite the Indian working class. It was because of his endeavour that we see the trade union movement united today. He paid Comrade Pandhe homage on behalf the CPI, AITUC and on his own behalf.


CITU general secretary Tapan Sen too got emotion while speaking. He said Comrade Pandhe had left us in a very difficult period of our movement. He was a leader who never thought anything but about the trade union and party work. He was thinking of the working class issues even when he was fighting for his life in a hospital. Sen recalled several episodes to this effect.


The meeting concluded with singing of the Internationale in chorus and slogans of “Long Live Comrade Pandhe.”