January 02, 2022

AIKS flagbearer Com Ratan Budhar passes away

Ashok Dhawale

COMRADE Ratan Budhar, 72, a senior member of the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee and vice-president of the AIKS Maharashtra state council has passed away on December 19 due to a lung ailment. He was also a member of the Party’s Thane-Palghar district secretariat and president of the AIKS Thane-Palghar district council. He will be remembered as an extraordinary comrade who devoted over 50 years of his life to the Red Flag. 

Born in a poor peasant adivasi family in the remote village of Vavar in Jawhar tehsil of Palghar district, Comrade Ratan in his youth came in touch with Comrade Manglya Bhogade, one of the most remarkable adivasi party leaders of the first generation who had been groomed by Comrades Shamrao and Comrade Godavari Parulekar themselves. From the early 1970s, Ratan along with his mentor Manglya covered almost all villages on foot in the remote and hilly Jawhar tehsil, building the Party and the Kisan Sabha, brick by brick.

Several militant struggles were organized in the area, in one which Comrades Janya Budhar and Tuka Ozare were killed in police firing at Ozarkhed in January 1986. They were among the 61 martyrs of the red flag in Thane-Palghar districts ever since the glorious and historic Warli Adivasi Revolt of 1945. In 1992, Ratan led a big movement of the Party against the mounting deaths of children due to starvation in Jawhar and the adjoining Mokhada tehsil. This movement forced the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Sudhakarrao Naik to visit the area and declare several schemes to tackle malnutrition in the tribal areas. Later, Com Ratan took the lead in forging struggles for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and MNREGA.

Despite his indifferent health (he had to undergo a heart bypass surgery a few years ago), Ratan took part in the iconic AIKS-led Kisan Long March from Nashik to Mumbai in March 2018. He was also among the nearly 1,000 peasants from Maharashtra who came by vehicles to the Shahajahanpur border near Delhi in December 2020 in solidarity with the farmers’ struggle.

Comrade Ratan was for many years elected the sarpanch of his village Vavar, where the Party’s panel has been elected unopposed for the last several decades. Later he was elected several times on the zila parishad and panchayat samiti. He was for a few years a member of the Palghar zila parishad standing committee. In 2009 and 2014, he was the MLA candidate of the Party from the Vikramgad seat in the state assembly elections. He was the pillar of the Party, the AIKS and all other mass fronts in Jawhar tehsil.

The beauty of it all was that Comrade Ratan achieved all this in spite of being illiterate. He could only just about sign his own name. But he had an extraordinarily sharp intellect and he was a militant fighter in the cause of the people and the red flag, to which his dedication was unswerving. In the bitter inner-Party struggle in the district from 2006 to 2009, it was he, along with thousands of other loyal comrades, who fought to save the Party against disruption and then expand it.

In the loss of Comrade Ratan, the Party and AIKS have indeed lost a rare gem (his name Ratan itself meant a gem). For his last rites performed at Vavar on December 20, the entire district Party leadership was present. The whole of Jawhar town remained closed that day as a mark of respect to his memory. A condolence meeting will be held on December 31, which will be addressed by AIKS president Ashok Dhawale, AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale, AIKS former state president J P Gavit, ex-MLA (all three central committee members of the CPI-M), AIKS state president Kisan Gujar, CPI(M) state secretariat member and district secretary Barkya Mangat, CPI(M) state committee member and MLA Vinod Nikole, and several others.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

The CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee and the AIKS Maharashtra state council pay respectful homage to the memory of this indomitable Adivasi fighter and extend their deepest condolences to his wife Parvati, herself an AIDWA leader, his family, all of which is in the Party, and to all his comrades.