Remembering the forgotten Communists of Punjab
What is now a forgotten story in the Indian history is the glorious role which the Communists of Punjab played in defence of national unity and against the state repression. The decade of 80s had pushed Punjab into a bloody path that took the lives of thousands of people, lead to the murder of Indian prime minister, subsequent carnage against the Sikhs and the cycle of violence just kept on rolling. The seeds of the competitive Sikh and Hindu fundamentalism were sown by Congress Party when it roped in Bhindrawale to create a wedge between the Akali Dal and the Janta Party both of whom had formed the government in the state after the 1977 elections. The subsequent years saw brutal repression and denial of basic democratic aspirations of the masses of Punjab by the central government of the Congress Party. The aggressive religious fundamentalism reaped in the discontent created by the situation and at every turn the state’s denial mode aggravated the situation further.
Communists maintained a principled position against both the state repression as well the religious fundamentalism of all shades and they had to pay a bloody price for this. Hundreds of leaders & activists of Communist Parties- CPI, CPI (M) to the various naxalite parties- along with poets & intellectuals opposing the fundamentalism were killed. Among those who were killed included Darshan Singh Canadian, the former state secretary of CPI, who just a week before his murder told in an interview: “People are our best protection. Death cannot deter us.” And just a day before his murder, Canadian had told large gatherings in Tarn Taran and Raiya: “We shall never run away. We shall fight these cowards who love neither Sikhism nor India.”
The religious fundamentalists were aware of the danger that the red flag posed to their designs. Bhindrawale always referred to communists as the “arch enemies of the panth”. This disdain was because of the fact that every communist party in Punjab had organized intensive campaigns against the fundamentalists and also the state repression. Satyapal Dang, a veteran trade union leader in Amritsar summed up the defiance of the red flag in those days, when he said: “We cannot be cowed down by the bullets of these cowards and must live and struggle among the people”
Khalistanis took away the life of poets like Pash and poet-organzier like Jaimal Singh Padda too. Jaimal was a poet and an activist of the naxalite group ‘Revolutionary Unity Centre’. His song (in his own voice) has been used in the Anand Patwardhan documentary ‘Una Mitra Di Yaad Pyaari”.
We are ending with a portion of this poem of Pash which sums up the meaning of ‘national unity’ for which hundreds of communists gave away their lives.
“Whenever someone speaks
of ‘national unity’
I feel like
Sending his cap tossing in the air
That the spirit of Bharat
Resides … in the fields
Where peasants grow food
And robbers break in.”