August 21, 2022

134th Birth Anniversary of Kakababu: New Present Has to Be Built in the Light of Past Traditions

Mohammad Salim

SINCE 1963, we have been observing the birth anniversary of Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad, popularly known to one and all as ‘Kakababu’. We observe his birthday not merely for the sake of remembrance. Our aim is to learn from his efforts in building a movement and forging a struggle, from his giant endeavour to build an organisation from scratch under adverse circumstances with the goals and objectives to build the Communist Party in this country. He gathered workers, farmers, ordinary people, intellectuals, doctors, writers, poets and others, and inspired them in the struggle for the freedom of our country as well as in defence of their interests. He spent long prison days in ill health but the long punishment did not deter him from his course of action. To ensure the participation of working people in the freedom movement, he along with his comrades gathered everyone from darwan (gatekeeper) to garwan (coachman), sweepers, railway workers, port workers, farmers and so on.

After the foundation of the Communist Party in 1920, the character of the Indian independence movement changed. New revolutionary elements were added to it. From a small enlightened class movement, it became a mass movement. When the non-violent non-cooperation movement and the Khilafat movement proved to be a disappointment, there was a revival of the armed revolutionary movement.  Side by side, the Communists started mobilising the disaffected people to draw them to the arena of the struggle of the working masses.

Innovation was seen not only in the organisational methods but also in the new demands that arose. Kakababu has not only tirelessly written and spoken on the lives of the toilers of India and the political and economic demands, but has also envisioned an egalitarian democratic post-independent India. Outlining the


‘Future of India’ in the ‘Ganabani’ of September 1926 he wrote that the demands were universal suffrage, abolition of zamindari (landlordism), revision of wage rates and working hours of workers, end of social evils, compulsory primary education, freedom of press and speech, equal rights of women and men, socialisation of ownership of all systems of common benefit, etc. This summarised the position of the communists at that time about how independent India should be. Looking back, we feel these demands are still relevant. All of them are under attack now. But democracy cannot be established without them.

The country is celebrating 75 years of independence. The BJP government has launched with much fanfare the 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' initiative to commemorate the occasion. But those who have read the Puranic episode of “Samudra Manthan” (‘the churning of the celestial ocean’) will surely remember that the narrative also mentions that as the churning continued for the ‘Amrit’ or Nectar and just before the elixir came out, deadly poison flowed out of it. Today, while the super-rich and powerful are swimming in the elixir of life to the brim, common workers, farmers, and hardworking people who are churning out the nectar, are themselves being forced to take in the poison.  It is the job of the Communist Party to deal with this situation. Here is the relevance of the party founded by Kakababu.

In this context,   this year marks the 100th anniversary of   Kazi Nazrul Islam's poem Bidrohi (“The Rebel”) recognised as a landmark because of its radically transformative, inspiring content. At a time when Nazrul Islam's poetry was barely being recognised, he composed this poem one night in the last week of December 1921 while wandering around the attic of the house at 3 / 4C Taltala Lane in Central Kolkata.  As soon as his roommate and close friend Kakababu woke up, Nazrul read it out to him. It was a   poem written in a kind of fervent language.  There Nazrul had written, “... I'm the Rebel Bhrigu; I'll stamp my footprints on the chest of god…”  If he had written this poem today, can you imagine what kind of commotion would have been made about it? Can you imagine what Nupur Sharma's team would do to him if he wrote,” I'll stamp my footprints on the chest of god…”, how many cases of sedition would he be given, and how many times would he be in jail? This is the stark reality today.


BJP is chanting 'Mera Desh Badal Raha Hai'. Here the Trinamool also says ‘Badla Noy Badal Chai (not revenge, we want change)'. Their words are similar. But we find such changes useless because change, in itself,   is a neutral, vague, aimless word, which does not indicate direction. It is important not to confuse change and progress, which implies positive and inexorable advancement. So, we do not need mere change, we need progress, to move forward.

What changes have they brought for this state, or for that matter, for the country? The people of the whole country, the people of this state, are bearing the brunt of these changes. When employment and the economy are experiencing a rapid downslide, the challenges of hunger and food insecurity crisis are increasing, the number of hungry people is increasing, and the central and state governments are imposing GST on food and essential products! Now Niti Aayog is meeting in Delhi to discuss durniti (corruption). They dismantled the Planning Commission, a brainchild of Jawaharlal Nehru and the descendant of the National Planning Committee that Subhas Chandra Bose had set up at the suggestion of Meghnad Saha when he was the Congress President in 1938.  Niti Aayog stands for National Institution for Transforming India. They keep tom-tomming change with no progress in sight.

The city hall in which we celebrate Kakababu's birthday is named Mahajati Sadan.  Its foundation was laid by Rabindranath Tagore, who named it Mahajati Sadan (House of the Nation).  Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had requested him to lay the foundation stone. The hall is dedicated not to any nationality, but to the nation as a whole as people belonging to different races, speaking different languages, wearing different clothes, all fought together against colonial rule. And those who did not participate in that fight are now teaching us patriotism.

Amartya Sen's book, which won the Muzaffar Ahmed Memorial Award this year, says that Muzaffar Ahmed came to know Amartya Sen's uncle (father’s cousin) Shidhu, or Jyotirmoy Sengupta in prison in British India and the latter became sympathetic to the Communist Party. In those days, Amartya Sen writes, the British Indian jail was a good place to meet intellectuals.  Now, however, the place of ‘paid intellectuals’ is the stage of government events and the government committees.


This is why we are proud of the Communist Party. Those who came in contact with Kakababu sympathised with the party and helped its cause. Those who came out of Andaman cellular jail strengthened the freedom movement and also nourished the communist movement. In the same way, our challenge today to stop fascism is to bring the people who have been by our side in the past.  If they have moved away because of our weakness, arrogance or anything else then we need to bring them all back together, to make the circle bigger.

Communists all over the world fight for the rights of people. The rightists want the people to forget their rights and think in terms of entitlement.  This is what is happening in West Bengal. If you give money, you will get a job as a teacher.   Disbursement of allowance for housing, widow allowance, hostel allowance, scholarship allowance -- all depends on the ruler’s wishes and not on any rules. As a result, corruption has become institutionalised in this state over the past decade. From the village level to the topmost layer the same is happening. So, the loot obtained from coal smuggling, cow smuggling, illegal coal mining, and sand mining is not to be considered filthy wealth here. Whatever heap of money has been unearthed from the arrested Bengal minister is just the tip of the corruption iceberg.


While Didi’s rule allows uncontrolled loot of public money in Bengal, Modi’s rule enables loot throughout the whole country. There they are selling railway stations; here her government is selling tram depots. They are trying to sell Durgapur Steel Factory, while her government has sold portions of Durgapur Projects Limited.

In Bengal people were cheated when the ruling party put up cut-outs and billboards depicting their supremo as a 'symbol of honesty’; now the countrymen are being cheated by the 'symbol of a ferocious lion's roar'. Media is being bought, journalists are being jailed, and their voices are being gagged. People’s protests are being ruthlessly suppressed 

The British had also tried the same. Kakababu was jailed in Peshawar, Kanpur and Meerut conspiracy cases. He and his comrades, in turn,   used the judicial system to propagate what the communists wanted. The British couldn't shut them up, nor can today’s rulers. The reactionary forces want to  turn the clock back. We want to learn from history to strengthen the current struggle, to fight steadfastly and uncompromisingly with ideals that have been put forward by people like Kakababu.

The hopes and aspirations of the people in the freedom movement are reflected in our constitution. The fundamentals of the Constitution are under serious threat today. The rulers are not obeying its basic tenets. The first sentence of the Constitution begins with “We the People…” The Constitution of India places people above even citizenship. Today are the rights of the people being recognised?   People's rights are being attacked by talking about CAA.

During the Shaheen Bagh movement, BJP leaders chanted 'Goli Maro Saalon ko'. But people cannot be kept in submission by the false pretensions of the ruler's power, greed and intimidation, as the working people's representative, Shubhra Ghorui has proved by throwing her chappal at Partha Chatterjee, the 'scam-tainted' minister. Had Partha Chatterjee been taken to a high-end private healthcare unit, no one would have dared to throw his shoe at him. But the ED took him to the Workers’ Hospital (ESI), where a mother from a working-class family expressed her outrage. This is the signature courage of the workers.


We have to talk about people's misery and helplessness. That is what communists are for.   But now the situation is more complicated than during the independence movement. Attempts have been made to isolate the communists during the struggle against imperialism. But Kakababu was always aware that we should not keep ourselves isolated in the national liberation movement. Kakababu also worked from within the Congress and played a role in building an uncompromising spirit within the Congress, strengthening socialist ideas. At that time, the communists of this country also tried to unite everyone against fascism. Even today we must stand undaunted to stop the fascist forces, we must not remain isolated.

This Hindutva communal force is breaking the constitution of the country today. The constitution specifically states what our national emblem will be. But Modi is now putting on display a roaring lion to show his prowess. They want to scare people by showing royal and imperial power.   Independent India has gained prestige in the world with its soft power, by virtue of its learning, literature, culture, philosophy, etc.  Modi is apparently posing to transform India from a soft State to a hard State.   BJP is also using religion for this. Instead of the family man’s tender image of Rama- Lakshmana- Sita that we are familiar with, they are putting forward the image of the warrior-like belligerent Rama. The goal is the same, to show dominance. The chief minister of our state has also studied at the same school. She also threatens to throw ‘tar’ at dissenters, threatens to tear off people’s tongues thereby indulging in rowdy - slang.


But recent happenings have proved that the people of Bengal are not going to keep their mouths shut. In Deucha, Farakka, Tilabani people’s movements are spreading. Communists have to unite and strengthen all these movements. We need to expand. We need to reach out to all sections of affected people even if they are not leftists. It is not a matter of electoral tactics; we have to reach the people, talk about the dangers ahead, and the need to fight against them.

 The country’s state of affairs is in shambles. Instead of investments, we are experiencing a flight of capital. What will the bulk of our population do if we cannot employ the youth in services, industry and agriculture? They are the biggest power in the country. In our state, the Left Front government tried to create employment by setting up industries. We were ahead of other states on various indicators including per capita income. But in the last decade, we have gone backwards. Instead, efforts are being made to bind the people of our state in controversies regarding Goddess Kali, Rama, Prophet Muhammad, Nupur Sharma and so on.

Thus, both Modi and Didi are trying to force everyone into submission by showing power. But communists are not born to surrender.  We have not accepted the dominance of imperialism; neither will we accept the dominance of the Sangh Parivar or the dominance of the plundering Trinamool. This is our oath at a time when India is completing 75 years of Independence that CPI (M) shall develop itself as a site of hope for the people.  Our movements shall be strengthened to this end. Apart from the CPI (M), the unity of the Left Front must be strengthened; the Leftists outside the Left Front must also be brought into the fold of the united movement. Furthermore, all those people who have not surrendered to the Didi-led regime or bowed down to the Sangh Parivar should be taken along. Our challenge today is to mobilise the anger of all working people. If we could defeat imperialism, if we could defeat fascism, then even today we communists can surely defeat these plunderers at the centre and the state.