Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) held its 10th all India conference in Kochi, Kerala from February 1-5, 2017 resolving to build widest possible unity of progressive youth in the country and fight for employment, secularism and democracy. 680 delegates representing one crore 15 lakh members assembled for the conference. Six delegates representing fraternal foreign youth organisations also participated.
The conference was preceded by three jathas. One jatha carrying the torch to be lit at the conference venue started from martyrs’ memorial at Koothuparamba in Kannur district. Another jatha carrying the flag post for conference venue started from Aruvippuram in Thiruvananthapuram district, a historic site in the social transformation movement led by Sree Narayana Guru.The third jatha carrying the flag to be hoisted at conference venue started from Mahatma Gandhi memorial in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. At the behest of the BJP, police tried to obstruct this jatha but they were no match for hundreds of militant DYFI activists led by jatha captain Mohammad Riyas. The three jathas converged at Ernakulam on February 1 hoisting DYFI flag at Marine drive, venue of youth rally named as ‘Fidel Castro Nagar’ and lighting the torch at Kaloor stadium, venue of delegates’ session named as ‘Rohith Vemula Nagar’.
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Gopala Gowda formally inaugurated the conference on February 2 morning. In his inaugural address Justice Gowda expressed serious concern at the growing unemployment in the country, social unrest resulting from it and the efforts by communal forces to polarise society along religious lines. He exhorted the youth movement to step up democratic struggles on these vital issues. Well-known scientist Dr PM Bhargava, who had returned Padma Bhushan award in protest against reactionary take-over of educational apparatuses and official patronage to violent communal forces, sent his greetings to the DYFI conference through a video message which was screened during the inaugural session. Magsaysay Award winner Bezwada Wilson, well known for his work for eradication of manual scavenging, Dr Hamid Dabholkar, son of Dr Narendra Dabholkar and himself a leader of anti-superstition movement, Prof Megha Pansare, daughter-in law of Comrade Govind Pansare and herself a leader of women’s movement, FTII Students Association chairman Harishankar Nachimuthu, JNU Students Union vice president PP Amal and Hyderabad Central University Students Union president Kuldeep Singh greeted the delegates. P Rajeev, chairman of the reception committee welcomed the delegates and guests. The session was chaired by DYFI national president MB Rajesh. Apart from the illustrious row of speakers, several writers, artists and eminent citizens attended the session reminding that, in these trying times, the best minds of our society have pinned much of their hope on the democratic youth movement.
Reports and resolution
The delegates’ session was presided over by a six member presidium consisting of MB Rajesh (all India president), Sayandip Mitra (West Bengal), Rajendra Reang (Tripura), Sanjay Paswan (Jharkhand), Deepa (Tamil Nadu) and Arshad Ali Baba (Jammu and Kashmir).
General Secretary Avoy Mukherjee placed the report of activities. He outlined the adverse circumstances which the country is facing as well as increasing imperialist intervention in various parts of the world. The report pointed out the obstacles placed by these circumstances in the work of democratic forces but also the heroic resistance developing against the rightwing authoritarian regime. DYFI has been in the thick of this resistance, mobilising the youth on questions of employment and education on the one hand and building unity among various streams of secular forces on the other, the report pointed out. A special resolution on organisation was placed by MB Rajesh. 78 delegates from 22 states participated in the discussion on these two documents for a total of 12 hours. They narrated actual experiences of fighting communalism, social backwardness and struggles on livelihood issues. The large range of activities organised by the DYFI cadre braving hostile environment created by reactionary forces, mafia elements and police repression unfolded in their presentations. The delegates offered frank criticism about organisational weaknesses at all levels and emphasised the need to overcome them for giving fillip to all regional efforts and combining them into a vibrant national youth movement. Avoy Mukherjee and MB Rajesh responded to the discussions and the reports were adopted unanimously.
In all, the conference adopted 32 resolutions addressing key issues in front of the youth of our country including invasive presence of imperialism, climate change, unemployment, commodification of education, communalism, caste discrimination, discrimination in campuses (demand for a ‘Rohith Act’), atrocities on women, impact of agrarian crisis on rural youth, tribal youth rights, crisis in Kashmir, compensation to families and jobs to youth who lost eye sight in pellet firing, commercialisation of sports, pseudo-nationalism, terming of DYFI as anti-national organisation in Tamil Nadu, attack on democratic rights in West Bengal, deterioration of public health, moral policing, targeting of minority youth, West Asian crisis, drugs abuse, menace of dowry, special legislation against ‘honour killing’, LGBT rights, scrapping of Article 377 of IPC which criminalises homosexuality, special budgetary provisions for education of the transgender community and job reservations to them, special status to Andhra Pradesh, impact of Budget 2017 on youth, job reservation in private sector and urban employment guarantee act.
The reports and resolutions outlined the vision of DYFI emerging as the broadest platform of the youth providing space to all progressive currents of our times. The 10th all India conference felt that expanding the DYFI platform to a greater breadth of issues and activities would not only strengthen DYFI but it would also reinforce diverse struggles for justice taking place in numerous different domains.
In this context, the conference noted the immensely disruptive role of ‘post modernist’ and ‘post structuralist’ arguments which debunk anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism as ‘totalising narratives’. This is nothing but disguised defence of imperialism. Combating such intellectual corruption intended to disorient radical youth is an important task before the DYFI.
The conference noted that a democratic youth movement informed by uncompromising anti-imperialism, one that considers imperialist globalisation as the overarching obstacle to true universalist fraternity of human race in our times, alone can provide a platform of unity to struggles against diverse structures of discrimination and marginalisation.
Greetings from friends and comrades
Fraternal delegates from Cuba, Portugal, Greece, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh attended the conference. Dr Sajedul Rubel from the Bangladesh Youth Union wished the DYFI will outsize communal organisations like the RSS and Jamaat-e-islami. Sabbaha Ali Colince, general secretary, Youth Unity of Bangladesh, Rangana Devapriya, national organiser, Socialist Students Union, Sri Lanka, Athanasios Sgouros, member of Central Council of Communist Youth of Greece, Duarte Alves, member of secretariat of the National Leadership of Portuguese Communist Youth and Mariledys Morales, deputy head of Cuban Mission greeted the conference. The Cuban delegate reiterated the strong bonds between DYFI and Cuban people. Email messages from fraternal organisations in Spain, South Africa, and Pakistan were read out in the session by MB Rajesh. The central government had denied visa to delegates from Pakistan and South Africa. The conference condemned this arbitrary and narrow-minded act by the Indian government.
Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohith Vemula addressed the conference at a highly emotional session. Her speech was translated by Rohith’s brother, Raja Vemula. In her address, Radhika Vemula called for united action of all forces opposed to discrimination and exploitation.
AIYF general secretary Thirumalai Raman, AIYL representative Josy George, AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale, M Saibabu of CITU, S Thirunavakkarassu of AIAWU, Vijoo Krishnan of AIKS and SFI general secretary Vikram Singh addressed the conference on various occasions. Former leaders of DYFI, MA Baby, P Sreeramakrishnan and KN Balagopal also addressed the meeting. EP Jayarajan, first national president, sent a message of greetings which was read out in the conference by MB Rajesh.
Farewell to leaders and new leadership
A new central executive committee of 83 members was elected by the conference which in turn elected PA Mohammad Riyas as president and Avoy Mukherjee as general secretary. Sanjay Paswan, Sayandip Mitra, AN Shamseer, Pankaj Ghosh and Deepa were elected as vice-presidents. Preethy Sekhar, M Swaraj, Jamir Mollah, Amal Chakraborty and S Bala were elected as joint secretaries. Balbir Parasar was elected as treasurer.
In a ceremony filled with emotions, the conference gave affectionate farewell to MB Rajesh, Puran Chand, Dinesh Siwach, TV Rajesh, Ramratan Bagadia, K Bhaskar, Nayan Bhuyan and other comrades who got relieved from the DYFI leadership.
The conference passed an amendment to DYFI constitution mandating that committees at every level shall have at least 20 percent women and two women at least in the secretariat. Another amendment was passed facilitating admission of honorary members to various DYFI committees from among young personalities of eminence in fields such as art, culture, knowledge and sports.
Youth rally and public meeting
The conference concluded with a massive youth rally. Due to space constraints of the city, it was decided that only Ernakulum district’s youth would participate. Yet, the number of young men and women who participated exceeded a lakh! On behalf of the reception committee, Satish N welcomed that ocean of youth to the public meeting. Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary, inaugurated the public meeting which was addressed by Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, MB Rajesh, Avoy Mukherjee and M Swaraj. Yechury called attention to the immense hardships which Modi government is bringing to the people of the country and exhorted the youth to fight for restoration of democratic society and polity. The treatment accorded to the mortal remains of former minister E Ahmed by the central government upon his tragic death shows the despicable levels to which political culture has been lowered by the ruling party, he said. Vijayan dwelt upon the threat of communalism in contemporary India. When Jnanpith award winner UR Ananthamurthy was in his death bed, Hindutva organisations chose to send him airplane tickets to Pakistan. Such is the cruelty which Sangh Parivar has in its stock, he said. He exhorted the youth to go on an all-out campaign to win over the people to the camp of secularism and democracy.The meeting was presided over by Mohammad Riyas and DYFI Ernakulam district president Princy Kuriakose proposed vote of thanks.
Path breaking work by reception committee
Reception committee with P Rajeev as chairman and M Swaraj as convener organised the conference in a novel manner. The conference was held in accordance with ‘Green protocol’ prohibiting use of plastic material. Food materials for the five day meet were prepared using organic farming techniques. Periyar river was cleaned by DYFI activists as part of the conference preparations. DYFI took up responsibility for building 13 houses for the homeless in the district and 92 economically and socially backward meritorious students were given scholarships. An anti-drugs campaign was undertaken; a book exhibition, a history exhibition and two seminars were organised. Kerala’s finance minister Dr Thomas Issac inaugurated the seminar on ‘budget and youth’. Prof Prabhat Patnaik and Dr Ramakumar participated. Seminar on "Challenges of pseudo nationalism and communalism" was inaugurated by Prakash Karat and was attended by Prof MK Sanu, Malayalam film maker Kamal and Swami Sandeepanandagiri.
All delegates who participated in the conference took a pledge to donate organs at a function which attracted widespread attention and appreciation. Fund collection from among the delegates fetched nearly one and half lakh rupees towards treatment of cancer patients. The amount was handed over to Ernakulum Medical College.
A confidence building conferance
The 10th national conference turned out to be an occasion for youth leaders from numerous corners of India to share experiences of organising spirited struggles in difficult terrains. The conference reaffirmed old solidarities, forged new links and expanded horizons identifying multiple domains and issues for DYFI to be the focal point of uniting diverse forces. It set the main agenda for the entire organisation. The Kochi conference proclaimed democratic youth movement’s determination to build a modern secular nation defeating the forces of majoritarian communalism which, counting on support from big capital and State power, is underestimating the resilience of India.