August 14, 2022

Safeguard the Secular Democratic Republic: Intensify Struggles and Resistance

Sitaram Yechury

75TH anniversary of India’s independence, christened by the Modi government as Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, is being mounted as a big campaign focusing on the hoisting of the national flag in every home in the country. For this, the Flag Code of India was amended in December 2021 to permit flags from material other than natural cloth like khadi, cotton and silk to include polyester. Everyone knows who is the biggest polyester producer in the country. This provides opportunities for mega profits to chosen cronies. 

Till Atal Behari Vajpayee became prime minister, the RSS BJP never hoisted the national flag, their loyalty remains with the saffron flag. The RSS was never a part of the Indian freedom struggle. A fact recorded even by the most sympathetic Hindutva historians and corroborated by British intelligence reports.


In contrast, all nine founding Polit Bureau members of the CPI(M) were arrested by the British and  had to spend long years in jail during the freedom struggle. Most of the names that are engraved in marble at the Cellular jail (Kalapani) in the Andamans were associated with revolutionary communist movement. Comrade A K Gopalan hoisted the national flag when he was still a prisoner in the Cannanore jail on August 15, 1947. A 16 year old Harkishan Singh Surjeet was arrested by the British when he pulled down the Union Jack at the Hoshiyarpur collectorate and hoisted the tri-colour in 1932. For the Communists and the CPI(M), patriotism and the spirit of sacrifice is integral to the revolutionary vision of the socialist transformation of India.

Right from its formation in 1920, the Communist Party began influencing the agenda of the national movement. At the Ahmedabad session of the All India Congress Committee, 1921, Moulana Hasrat Mohani and Swami Kumarananda, on behalf of the CPI, moved a resolution, which was not accepted then by Gandhiji, (Poorna Swaraj call was given only in 1929) demanding complete independence from British rule.  At the next AICC, Gaya, 1922, CPI circulated a charter of objectives for the national movement. This continued in subsequent AICC sessions.

The Communists made a major contribution influencing the agenda of the freedom movement. Land Question: The struggles on the land question unleashed by the Communists in various parts of the country in the 1940s particularly – Punnapara Vayalar in Kerala, the Tehbagha movement in Bengal, the Surma Valley struggle in Assam, the Warli uprising in Maharashtra etc – the highlight of these being the armed struggle in Telangana – brought the issue of land reforms and abolition of zamindari to centre stage.

The Communists championed the linguistic diversity of India and integrating various linguistic nationalites with the freedom struggle eventually led to the linguistic re-organisation of states in independent India.

Communists’ steadfast commitment to secularism played a major role in upholding peace and harmony during the communal riots that erupted during the freedom struggle. The Communists remain the most consistent upholder of secularism today. 

The drawing in of the exploited majority of rural India; the drawing in of the socially oppressed people, especially those who continue to be subjected to obnoxious caste-based oppression and atrocities; the drawing in of the numerous linguistic nationalities; and the drawing in of the multi-religious Indian population, above all, the drawing in of all Indians in an inclusive path of economic and social justice, constitute the core of the Communist contribution to the freedom struggle.


For the RSS/BJP, these observations provide an opportunity to rewrite history by smuggling themselves as a part of the freedom movement. A shrill government sponsored campaign has been unleashed where Hindutva and RSS leaders are being portrayed as freedom fighters. V D Savarkar finds a leading mention in this campaign. It was Savarkar, who, in 1923 coined the term Hinduva, defining it as a political project which had nothing to do with the practise of Hindu religion. He was arrested as the mastermind behind the conspiracy of Gandhiji’s assassination. He was eventually exonerated for lack of evidence to corroborate the testimony of the approver, a technical point of criminal law. Sardar Patel, a fine criminal lawyer himself, was personally convinced about Savarkar’s guilt and put him up for trial.

Savarkar was also the first to advance the two-nation theory two years before Mohammed Ali Jinnah led the struggle for a separate Muslim state leading to the unfortunate tragic partition of the country admirably aided and abetted by the British. As an inmate of the Cellular jail, Savarkar sent mercy petitions to the British pleading for release, assuring compliance as recorded by Hindutva sympathetic historians. In his petition, Savarkar assures the British: ‘Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906–1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore, if the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress.’ (R C Majumdar, ‘Penal Settlement in Andamans’, pp. 211–213)

For the major portion of his life after making peace with the British, his politics was oppositional to the Congress and the Left-led movements rather than the British. As the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, he made sure that movements like the Quit India movement of 1942 passed without any participation from members of the Hindu Mahasabha or the Sanghathanists (RSS).

‘I issue this definite instruction that all Hindu Sanghathanists, in general, holding any post or position of vantage in the government services should stick to them and continue to perform their regular duties’ (Quoted in Noorani, Frontline, December 1, 1995).

In fact, the Bombay home department, during the 1942 Quit India movement, observed, ‘The Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law and in particular has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942’.

In order to conceal this reality, they spread canards against the Communists. When the country was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Quit India movement, the then president of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, addressing the midnight session of the parliament on August 9/10, 1992, said: After large scale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a despatch from Delhi dated 5 September 1942, to the secretary of state, in London, reported about the Communist Party of India: “the behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries”.

Such is Savarkar’s inglorious record.

In sharp contrast, leave aside the Communists, even Jawaharlal Nehru finds no or little mention in these government campaigns. This is not surprising as Nehru was the fiercest champion of a secular democratic India piloting major debates and resolutions that led to the creation of the Indian Constitution and its adoption shaping the character of independent India as a modern secular democratic republic. This was in direct opposition to the vision of India as a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindtuva Rashtra’ espoused by Savarkar and the RSS. The BJP as the political arm of the RSS, is today feverishly furthering the realisation of this fascistic Hindutva Rashtra.


Clearly, for this fascistic project to succeed the secular democratic character of the Indian republic as established by the constitution needs to be assaulted, undermined and eventually destroyed. As the CPI(M) 23rd Party Congress noted, especially since the return of the Modi government in 2019, the four foundational pillars of our constitution – secular democracy, federalism, social justice, economic sovereignty – are being severely assaulted.

This assault on the constitution has to necessarily be accompanied by undermining and rendering ineffective all independent constitutional institutions and authorities that are designed to function as instruments of checks and balances to preserve the functionality of the constitution and to ensure the delivery of the constitutional guarantees to the people.

The foremost of these, the parliament is being severely undermined with all established procedures, methods of committee functioning and deliberations being jettisoned. Laws are enacted by a brute majority without any discussion or consideration. In the current session, an unprecedented 27 MPs have been suspended for the ‘crime’ of demanding a substantial discussion on burning problems of the people like runaway inflation and galloping unemployment. A dysfunctional parliament is dangerous in the sense that the centrality of the Indian Constitution – sovereignty of the people – exercised by the MPs being accountable to the people and the government being accountable to the parliament. This is how ‘We the People’ exercise our sovereignty. Undermining the parliament means that people’s sovereignty is nullified and the government escapes accountability and answerability moving menacingly towards an authoritarian dictatorship employing fascistic methods.

For nearly three years the challenges to Article 370 and 35 A abrogation; CAA; electoral bonds that legalise political corruption etc as being violative of our constitution, remain unheard by the Supreme Court. When the impartiality and independence of the judiciary is severely compromised, judicial oversight over the implementation of the constitutional provisions and the guarantees for democratic rights and civil liberties simply ceases to exist.

Likewise the independence and impartially of the Election Commission is the corner stone to ensure a free and fair election with a level playing field so essential in a healthy democracy. When this is compromised then governments no longer reflect the democratic opinion and mandate of the people.

The whole country is witnessing the manner in which the central agencies like CBI and ED have become the instruments for implementing the political agenda of the Modi government. The targeting of opposition leaders, destabilising democratically elected governments, forcing defections to ensure that even after losing elections the BJP can still form governments is making a mockery of democracy and destroying it.


Such large scale destruction of our constitutional order is accompanied by the vicious campaigns of communal polarisation based on the spread of poisonous hate and terror to destroy the secular democratic character of the Indian republic. Large scale deployment of ‘bulldozer politics’; targeting the minority community leading to violence in several states and the performing of Hindu religious rituals while unveiling the national emblem on top of the new parliament building are the identification of the Indian state and government with Hindutva and not with the constitution of India.


Such menacing rise of communal polarisation is accompanied by an unprecedented assault on democratic rights and civil liberties of the people. As seen in the manner of arrest and detention of Teesta Setalvad, Bhima Koregaon detainees continue to languish in jail as do several journalists and others in custody under draconian laws. Every expression of dissent is treated as ‘anti-national’ monitored by the ‘evil eye’ of a surveillance state.


For this Hindutva narrative to succeed, it is essential to rewrite Indian history to dovetail it to sustain the ideological content of this fascistic project. The education system is, hence, being revamped, promoting irrationality in thinking and practise replacing rationality; promoting blind faith/obscurantism/ mythology negating scientific temper; syncretic evolution of Indian culture is sought to be replaced by imposing a monocultural uniform narrative. This destroys India’s rich diversity and plurality by replacing history with Hindu mythology and philosophy with Hindu theology.


Such an erection of an overarching Hindutva identity amongst people is utilised to push into the background the miserable living conditions of our people subjected to daily assaults on the livelihoods. The safeguarding and strengthening of India’s secular democratic constitution will have to be undertaken by mounting large scale people’s resistance and struggles on their day-to-day issues like price rise, unemployment, hunger, malnutrition etc, and for the defence of democracy, democratic rights, civil liberties and secularism through intensified struggles.

Beefing up the independent strength of CPI(M) through mounting mightier peoples struggles; consolidating the unity of Left forces; rallying the Left and democratic forces and forging the broadest mobilisation of secular forces against Hindutva communalism is the manner in which this 75th anniversary of India’s independence must be observed to safeguard our constitutional secular democratic republic. The realisation of this objective is the pride of patriotism with which the CPI(M) will hoist the national flag at all Party offices and take a pledge on the preamble of our constitution on August 15, the 75th anniversary of our freedom from British rule.

Let us together strengthen the struggle, now, for freedom from these frenzied efforts to impose a fascistic Hindutva rashtra destroying our secular democratic republic.