October 09, 2022

Comrade Kumar Shiralkar

COMRADE Kumar Shiralkar, former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and national joint secretary, AIAWU breathed his last on Sunday, October 2 at Nashik. He was undergoing treatment for cancer for the last three years.

Kumar Shiralkar began his life of revolutionary struggle during the seventies when he left his cushy job as an engineer to be one with the tribals of North Maharashtra, who were facing inhuman treatment at the hands of rich farmers.

He, along with a band of idealist educated young activists, founded Shramik Sanghatana, a fighting organisation of adivasis. He was jailed during the Emergency and returned to his adivasi brothers and sisters after his release. A Marxist, Kumar could not have confined his involvement with revolutionary politics within the bounds of a provincial organisation. He, therefore, joined the CPI(M) in 1982 and took up the responsibility of building the AIAWU in the state. He travelled far and wide, night and day all over the state, sleeping on newspaper for a bed at public transport bus stations many a night.

Kumar hailed from a Brahmin middle class family in a small town steeped in orthodox brahmanism. However, his inquiring rational mind saved him from falling prey to the ideology of the RSS. His family had a brush with a soft radicalism. His maternal grandfather N H Apte was a progressive writer on whose one of the short stories, V Shantaram made his celebrated film Kunku, perhaps the first Indian feminist film.

Simply known as Kumar to many, he was a militant activist in the struggle against caste discrimination and the oppression of women. He wrote several articles and books – ranging from his youthful bestselling pamphlet exhorting the young to rise against oppression and exploitation to thoroughgoing analyses of caste-class struggle and globalisation.

With failing health, he decided to settle in a remote adivasi hamlet but continued his work among the people for whose rights he sacrificed his entire life. In recent past he focused his energies on the education of the adivasi children, experimenting with innovative farming practices and the issues of sustainable development.

Kumar has left a legacy of immense sacrifice, intense dedication to the revolutionary movement and inculcation of the Left enlightenment that synthesised the traditions of revolutionary political activism and social reform.