17th Conference of Great Britain’s Association of Indian Communists Held
THE 17th conference of the Association of Indian Communists (AIC), Great Britain was held in Southall West, London on March 29. The conference was preceded by a public meeting on March 28 evening, which was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M A and documentary filmmaker Leslee Udwin among others. The meeting was jointly organised by AIC and the Indian Workers' Association (IWA) and commemorated the martyrdom of 'Shaheed-e-Azam' Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The meeting, which was attended by scores of progressive people of Pakistan, India and Britain, discussed the issue of 'Dignity, Respect with Equal Rights for Women'. Sardar Mazhir Khan, a former MP of the Peoples Party of Pakistan, Meena Patel from the women's rights organisation Southall Black Sisters, and Joginder Kaur, national general secretary of IWA of Great Britain, attended the programme among others. The Mayor of the local municipality, Tej Ram Bagha, welcomed all the guests and shared his experience about lives of women, especially those from the poorer sections of the working class and peasantry, that he witnessed during his recent visit to his native state of Punjab. The Mayor expressed his concern over the social damage being inflicted on the youth of the state through abuse of drugs and alcohol. Harsev Bains, while introducing Leslee Udwin, the maker of documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ on the December 16 Delhi gang rape, reminded the participant of the role of the AIC and IWA in upholding democracy and freedom of expression. He expressed his opposition to the current authoritarian decision to ban the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’. The latest action by the Indian Government was unprecedented as those seeking and endorsing the ban did so without even seeing the documentary, he said. In her speech, Udwin described the series of events that led her to making the documentary. She narrated the emotional and financial sacrifices that she, her husband Kim, who was in the audience, and her children had to make over two years to complete the documentary. This was intended as a gift to the people of India's men and women who came out in spontaneous solidarity with Nirbhaya, the victim of the brutal Delhi gang rape of December 2012. "While sitting in my home in Copenhagen, I saw this extraordinary, inspiring, courageous, amazing men and women of India, fighting for my rights in a way that was exceptional and momentous, and facing a government crackdown on protests. There were these protests. And what are protests – they are the healthiest way of a civil society expressing itself saying this is what we need, this is what we will not put up with any more, and this is what we must change. These protests were peaceful on Gandhian lines and the government cracked down on these protesters out of fear and they almost pushed them into riots. For one month and more these extraordinary human beings of all genders were on the streets fighting for women to be respected, for them to have autonomy and for them to have safety. That is what moved me to give two years of my life in making this film," she recalled. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M A Baby endorsed the call to lift the ban on the documentary. Speaking about women suffrage, Comrade Baby praised the role of the Soviet Union and said the epoch making October Revolution of 1917 had led the way in women's rights to vote and stand for electoral office. The US passed a legislation for this right after the USSR on June 4, 1919 and this was ratified by the senate in 1920. In the UK, this right was granted under the Representation of the People Act, 1928, which extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, while other countries followed suit soon after the World War II. Giving a call to women and men, young and old, to rise under the Red banner, Comrade Baby concluded his speech with a quote by eminent historian Erich Hobsbawm -- "Let us not disarm even in unsatisfactory times, social injustice still needs to be denounced and fought. The world will not get better on its own." Joginder Kaur and Meena Patel shared their experiences of the campaigns being led by their organisations and called for withdrawal of the undemocratic ban on 'India's Daughter'. On March 29 morning, 44 delegates and two observers representing all 21 units of the AIC across Britain and Ireland assembled in Comrade Gurmel Singh Nagar in Southall West. Nazar Basran, the chairman of the Reception Committee, welcomed the delegates and the guests to the conference. A presidium consisting of Avtar sadiq, Nazar Basran, Sandeep Panicker and Preethy EC and a steering group comprising Dyal Bagri and Harsev Bains were formed to conduct the conference. Twelve delegates took part in a structured debate to amend and enrich the report presented by Harsev Bains on behalf of the AIC Executive Committee. Comrade Baby commended the delegates on their disciplined participation to review and reflect, exchange views to come to a common understanding. He acknowledged the self-criticism by the Executive Committee for the late distribution of the draft report, the inability to organise a Party school on Marxism-Leninism, and lack in engagement with youths, students and women. "The intellectual contribution even in a modern society like Britain and Ireland is not reflected in our organisation. The lack of proper participation by women in the debate and discussion is unfortunate and unacceptable. One of the first tasks for the new Executive Committee will be to rectify this gender imbalance," Baby said. The issues related to advancement of the work of the AIC, expansion of the base of the mass organisation Indian Workers’ Association, and building broad based cultural front to engage with all genders and generations were taken up by Harsev Bains in the response to the discussion on the report. The conference passed resolutions on women's rights, solidarity with Palestine and Cuba, against the discriminatory aspects of immigration legislation and the clandestine introduction of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement between EU and the US. The 17th Conference elected the following comrades to the Executive Committee: Avtar Sadiq, Dyal Bagri, Avtar Singh, Joginder Kaur, Rajinder Bains, Manjit Bola, Harsev Bains, Carmel Miranda, Aby Abraham, Sree Kumar, S Pillai, Balwant Herian, Tirath Ram, Paramjit Basi, Harbhajan Dulay, Vinod Kumar, Janesh Nair, Baiju Thittala, Sugathan Thekkeppurayil, Sandeep Panikkar, Santhosh Chandran, VS Shyam, Preethy EC, Santokh S Santokh, Mohinder Singh and invitee Sarwan Singh with four vacancies for Birmingham, Dublin, Norwich and Northampton. The EC re-elected Harsev Bains as secretary. Harsev Bains and Rajinder Bains were elected as delegates to the 21st Party Congress of the CPI(M) to be held in Vishakhapatnam from April 14-19.