INDEPENDENT India is a young country, which is 70 years old. Demographically too, ours is a young country, boasting of an average age of just 28 years. The youth of our country have many dreams about their future. Today, the generation that had fought for our independence is slowly disappearing. As a result, many among the youth do not have the direct experience of interacting with those who had fought against the British colonial rulers. With BJP government’s efforts to distort history, there is every chance that they might be forced to be ignorant of facts. 70 years is sufficient enough time to review whether the dreams of that generation of freedom fighters are realised. It is also time to strategise what the present day youth need to do to realise those dreams.
Bhagat Singh was one of the finest fighters for our independence, who had willingly given away his life at the age of 23. He unambiguously stated that what he desired was a 'socialist revolution', for which the preliminary requisite was a 'political revolution'. Political revolution for him, “does not mean the transfer of State (or more crudely, the power) from the hands of the British to the Indians”. It is because of this reason that he questions, “What difference does it make to them (the workers and peasants) whether Lord Reading is the head of the Indian government or Sir Purshotamdas Thakordas? What difference for a peasant if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru replaces Lord Irwin”!
The ideas expressed by Bhagat Singh are shared by many of the young people of his generation. They dreamt of a country, where they would not only have the power to elect their government, but also have a say in the economic policies. Subhas Chandra Bose, presiding over the meeting of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha (an organisation formed by Bhagat Singh and his colleagues) held at Karachi on the sidelines of the Congress sessions, declared that the “real goal was a Socialist Republic in which government was shared by peasants and workers”.
There is another major stream in our freedom struggle led by the Indian National Congress. Influenced by the radical atmosphere of the times, the Congress in its Karachi Session, 1931 adopted an important Resolution on, ‘Fundamental Rights and the National Economic Programme’. This resolution declared that ‘in order to end the exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions’. More than 60 per cent of the delegates attending the Karachi Congress session were youth.
Explaining its modus operandi of achieving both ‘political freedom’ and ‘real economic freedom’ the resolution states that independent India should guarantee ‘basic civil rights of free speech, free press, free assembly and freedom of association; equality before the law, irrespective of caste, creed or sex; neutrality of the State in regard to all religions’. Delving on the economic aspects, the resolution promised, ‘substantial reduction in rent and revenue, exemption from rent in case of uneconomic holdings, relief of agricultural indebtedness and control of usury; better conditions for workers including a living wage, limited hours of work and protection of women workers; the right to organise and form unions to workers and peasants; and State ownership or control of key industries, mines and means of transport’.
These were the dreams of our freedom fighters for an independent India. The Constituent Assembly which was elected to draft the Constitution of independent India, sought to reflect these dreams and aspirations of the freedom fighters. The Karachi Resolution was often stated as one of the important guiding principles in the drafting of our Constitution. Belying all their expectations, the reality is, most of their dreams have remained unrealised.
All the successive governments that have been elected to rule the country have failed in their duty. The Congress party, which claims the entire legacy of freedom struggle, conveniently ignored all the promises it had made to the people of the country before independence. The economic policies that they had adopted from the day independence was won to the last day they were in power, including the introduction of neo-liberal policies, have been to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie and the landlords, whom they represent.
The BJP and its ideological mentor RSS, had played no role in the entire freedom struggle. Historical records show that many of their founders had cooperated with the British and accepted all their conditions imposed to escape persecution. This is in sharp contrast to the sacrifices of youngsters like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Cut off from the mainstream Indian society during the glorious days of freedom struggle, they have no right to claim that legacy. But, in order to legitimise their politics, they are now into appropriation of historical idols, even those like Bhagat Singh. The prime minister of our country, who takes pride in claiming his RSS lineage, shamelessly is leading this pack. He thinks by repeating a lie thousands of times, he can convert it into a truth. All the media machinery is put into service to sanctify these lies. The BJP and RSS are thinking that the young of this country can be easily deceived through a distortion of historical facts. These attempts can be defeated by exposing the class character of their policies and the interests they serve.
The BJP is not in any way different to the Congress, when it comes to the questions of economy and class interests. Both of them are eager in the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies as they consider them to be beneficial to the ruling landlord-bourgeoisie classes. It is the rabid and overtly communal policies pursued by the BJP that differentiates it from the Congress. History has demonstrated that those economic policies that benefit the ruling classes, do not benefit the working class, agricultural workers or the peasantry, who constitute the majority of our population. As long as they do not benefit the toiling classes in our society, they will not lead to the ‘economic independence’ that our freedom fighters dreamt, leave alone the establishment of a ‘socialist society’.
Babasaheb Ambedkar in his concluding address to the Constituent Assembly stated: “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy….It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many”. He concludes by warning that if social and economic equality are denied to the citizens for long, the structures of political democracy will be blown away, putting at risk the hard won independence.
Bhagat Singh writing about the way forward to achieve economic independence stated: “Class consciousness is required to ensure that people do not fight among themselves. It has to be made very clear to the poor, working class and peasants that their real enemy is capitalism….The rights of all the poor – be they of any caste, colour, religion or region – are the same. Your wellbeing is in overcoming all these differences and remaining united, and strive to take the reigns of power into your hands. With these efforts, you will lose nothing; with these efforts, one day your chains will get cut and you will have economic independence”.
About parties like BJP, Ambedkar warns: “if parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever” and wants us to “be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood”.
Indian youth are today increasingly concerned about unemployment and rising inequalities and are keenly following politics. They are worried about their future and that of the country. They are searching for a proper direction to overcome their predicament. The glorious history of our freedom struggle and the role of youth will help them in finding the path for a better future. BJP’s role of cowardliness and compromises with the British, when contrasted with the heroic role played by Bhagat Singh and his associates, who at later stages of their lives embraced communism, will bring in further clarity. The manner in which religious and caste barriers were transcended by the yesteryear youth in their struggle for independence, will inspire youth even today.
The threats to Indian independence emanating from the economic and communal policies pursued by the BJP can be countered by building a united front of all the toiling classes, led by the working class. Youth have a great role to play in this task.