By Harsh Thakor
I am writing this tribute to Jailed Professor G.N.Saibaba, commemorating the third anniversary of the attack on the Urban intellectuals in Mumbai. Professor G.N.Saibaba is in my view today the best son of our land today. It is hard to visualize a physically impaired person face and resist the iron feet of oppression with the same magnitude.
Professor G.N.Saibaba is the voice of the very opressed people of India be it,tribals ,peasants, workers, intellectuals ,students or minorities. I can never forget times I have spent with him; however short.Saibaba was a figure who crystallised genuine revolutionary democratic resistance, like no one else. Rarely can one meet a person or activist of such a demeanor.Saibaba in and out of jail walls has illuminated the spirit of a revolutionary at it’s most superlative height .Arguably no voice in the nation, made the rulers in the Centre shake or tremor as much as Sai’s.The inner spirit that shimmers within him and radiates is the manifestation of the energy which makes a revolutionary a truly spiritual person. Arguably he is India’s boldest crusader ever against proto-fascism.
His captivity within jail walls is the most defining point of penetration of proto-fascism at unprecedented levels.Saibaba is without doubt one of the nation’s most brilliant intellectuals, having great mastery on Indian economics and crystallization and consolidation of Neo-fascism worldwide.
What I am curious about is why the state today wishes to entrap Professor Saibaba within prison walls.Afterall he is not a leader of a Maoist guerilla squad or a militant of the JKLF .No doubt he was part of an affiliate that extended sympathies or solidarity towards the Maoist movement, but that in now way entails charges of sedition. Probaby Saibaba confronted or embarrassed the pro-fascist BJP at its very core or doorstep more than any one. His arrest in May 2014 possibly defines a new era in Indian proto-fascism with the spark turning into a prairie fire with the incarceration of urban intellectuals three years ago. I ask myself are democratic revolutionary activists more of a threat to the repressive social order than those waging a war in the forests of Bastar.In the history of India considering he is handicapped on a wheel chair. no democratic activist has been framed or fabricated to such a degree, similar to the British treating Bhagat Singh as seditious and a criminal. A new turn has taken place in the tilt towards fascism with even civil rights or non maoist activists framed like Anand Teltumde, Father Stan Swamy and Gautam Navlakha .
I admired his deep understanding on why India was still a semi-feudal society and not turned capitalist. He defended the essence of the formulation of 1947 Independence by Suniti Kumar Ghosh as fake in ‘India and the Raj.:
At the very root he confronted dogmatism and welcomed intellectuals who wished to integrate caste question and movements with the Communist movement and Marxist ideology.
Saibaba could connect the Communist movement or link it in many spheres whether on nationality question, fascist attacks, on minorities,on movements of workers and peasants and attacks on it, on imperialist hegemony or expansionist ambitions etc.Few activists ever confronted the large scale repression on the masses of Kashmir and their right to self -determination with the magnitude of Sai,who would bang every nail in a wall towards its cause. Few comrades ever were better masters in rekindling revolutionary democratic spirit, from the depths of despair.
In confronting Operation Greenhunt he invested every ounce of his energy, exposing the fascist designs of the state through patronising penetration of Corporates to loot the tribals.He took up the cudgels of the minorities like few crusaders travelling all around the country to project their turmoil and organising conventions. In Adivasi protests like in Niyamagiri Saibaba raised his bold voice in support.
In 1997 his role played a very important part in the success of the convention of the All India people’s resistance forum on the fake nature of Indian Independence after 50 years, in Mumbai. To me it was landmark event in the history of the revolutionary movement with diversity at it’s largest scale, touching on every front. No Seminar in India better illustrated that 1947 independence was merely a transfer of power and in such depth portrayed the agrarian revolutionary movements in Bihar,Dandkaranya and Andhra Pradesh or the nationality struggles in Assam and Kashmir.
In 2004 in Mumbai Resistance Saibaba played an important role in shaping the convention. No doubt it was landmark event, being the 1st of its kind.
Saibaba was the major pivot in the success of the nation wide All India Peoples Resistance forum campaign exposing barbaric state repression in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar,in 1999, which was the 1st ever event of it’s kind. Rallies and hall meetings were organised in Hyderabad, West Godavri , Vishakapatnam, Bellamkonda Guntur in Andhra Pradesh ; district Sangrur, Gurdaspur,Jalandhar, Rampura Phool, Faridkot in Punjab ,Patna ,Aurangabad, Buxar and Bhagalpur, in Bihar; Delhi, Assam ,West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It concluded with a grand event at Guntur, with thousands of people thronging on the city. In sum 50 solidarity programmes were staged in this campaign as declared in the report by Saibaba.I can’t forget the manner and degree in which it aroused the feelings of people in sympathy with the opressed.No All-India programme perhaps before ignited the spark against state sponsored repression, engulfing such a wide area or penetrating such depth in the masses. Though deputy secretary and not formal secretary it was Saibaba who morally led the Revolutionary Democratic Front. Or controlled it’s operations.
In the gravest of situations with repression in highest magnitude of intensity Saibaba steered the ship, enabling the All India People’s Resistance forum and later the Revolutionary Democratic Front to shimmer the torch of liberation. What was most commendable was inspite of facing fascistic repression a series of state level conferences were held of the revolutionary Democratic front in Uttarakhand,Punjab and Jharkhand. From 2011-12, in preparation for the central conference in Hyderabad. It was also commendable that where inactive or suppressed the Revolutionary Democratic Front created solidarity fronts of other organisations to keep the fire of revolution burning. He had a great role to play in the success of the 2nd conference of the All India People’s resistance forum in Sangrur in 2000 and the 1st conference of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in Hyderabad in April 2012.I was greatly impressed that inspite of grave restrictions and massive effort by the rulers to block participants the event took place, with delegates from Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttarkhand.To me it was one of the most memorable events in India’s revolutionary history.
His moral support and guidance played a great role in the Democratic Students Union in Delhi, flourishing .Saibaba’s great balance and composure combined with organisational capabilities played a major role in RDF able to steer it’s boat in the stormiest of seas. It was Saibaba who lit the spark for may a revolutionary democratic programme in Delhi of the Commitee for release of political prisoners like in April 2013 protesting the hanging of Islamic political prisoners, like Fazal Guru and Mohammad Kasab.
Saibaba had deep conviction that India had turned into a fascist state in the same light as China did under Chiang Kai Shek.He asserted that fascism would take a different kind of form in third world countries and quoted late Comrade Zhou En Lai.Unlike many in the Maoist camp Saibabba correctly made no distinction between what was earlier Mao Zedong thought and now called Maoism. He staunchly expressed the fact that they were one and the same which I appreciated.
Saibaba was great admirer of the C.P.I.(Maoist) but would also express admiration towards other groups like the C.P.RC.I.(M.L) and later the C.P.I.(M.L)New Democracy. He held professor Anand Teltumbde in great esteem ,as well as the journal ‘Aspects’ of RUPE.I can’t forget his admiration for late Comrade Arvind,inspite of his adhering to path of Socialist revolution, and not new democratic,.
Sai gave maximum moral support to the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi as well as the Civil Liberties commitee of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh.
He showed great open mindedness when he praised the books on History of Indian Communist movement by the Tarimela Nagi Reddy Memorial Trust.
Under his tutelage, journal Jan Pratirodh was regularly published that portrayed the fascist repression and people’s struggles. It was one of the finest and most illustrative magazines within the revolutionary democratic camp.
Inspite of earlier belonging to the stream or trend of the C.P.I.(M.L) Peoples War Group ,Saibaba praised the contribution of the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre in equal esteem, claiming that at one stage it was stronger than the erstwhile Party Unity Group and PWG together. He even took me to meet hospitalised late Sushil Roy,who was one of the founders of MCC.
Saibaba expressed great admiration for late Comrade Harbhajan Sohi in so tenaciously defending Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tung thought till the very end, and greatly admired the work of the CPRCI (ML) in confronting Operation Green hunt. He was also a great admirer of the work of the Malakangiri Zilla Adivasi Sangh in Orissa praising its mass line perspective and being armed to confront class enemies.
With unflinching determination he condemned and waged a moral war against the barbaric arrest of democratic activist as a well as treatment within prison walls. No activist in hall meeting was more impactful in exposing how colonial form of oppression still exists. I cant forget his most touching speech at the CDRO All-India contention in Delhi in 2016 in September, where he touched upon the ascendancy of fascism, at the very backbone. He even congratulated the bravery of the Civil Liberties Commitee in Telengana for exposing the horrors and fake nature of the staged encounter
I was amazed to read the report of activities of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in the 2012 conference in the secretary’s report. A huge number of programmes were successfully staged braving fascist forces and repression. like the RDF conference itself. The most significant aspects were highlighting the saffron communal terror and barbaric repression in Kashmir.I hope all democrats read the report of the RDF programmes. Today the organisation is unofficially banned everywhere apart from Punjab.
After his arrest a series of campaigns and conventions were stage all over the nation, particularly in Delhi, Punjab and Telengana.What was heartening and positive that sections participated from many different revolutionary streams as well as the effort of Civil liberties groups like PUDR,Delhi and CLC, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.
However Professor Saibaba in my view did have his flaws. He could hardly demarcate from the erroneous categorization of Comrades Nagi-Reddy and DV Rao as advocates of stage theory or economist line. I also feel he could not gauge the weaknesses in the theory and practice of the C.P.I.(Maoist) and it’s early constituents in terms of military line or practice within mass organisations. No doubt one must support his defence of the contribution of the Maoists as the leading revolutionary force.Saibaba to me, was not able to completely grasp or practice the building of a genuine revolutionary democratic organisation or front .mobilising the working class, peasantry, agricultural labourers and other sections. He could not effectively confront the sectarian trends within the revolutionary democratic front that advocated boycott of parliamentary elections or converting it into a forum to support the revolutionary armed struggle in India.Saibaba could hardly see the positive side of Gautam Navlakha as a writer and activist, and was very critical of his stand on Lalgarh and overall work.
He also to an extent did not grasp the weakness in terms of proletarian content of nationality movements. It is my strong view that after the formation of the Revolutionary Democratic Front in 2005, the democratic tradition or broad base of the All India People’s resistance was lost .The criticism in Journal ‘Peoples Resistance’ which is the organ of the AIPRF in April 1996 of why comrades like late Khagen Das left it is a must read in asessing sectarian dynamics and massline.AIPRF stood up for defending mass movements and not giving slogans for armed struggle and election boycott. Comrades like Khagen Das wished to convert it into a virtual party outfit or forum. The revolutionary Democratic Front revealed weakness on the urban front. This very weakness of building such broad based movement to sprout that has paved the path for proto-fascist arrest of urban intellectuals like Saibaba himself.
It is debatable whether he was correct about the practice of the Rahul foundation belonging to the Communist League of India stream ,which he analysed as promoting Ngoisation of Marxism .Saibaba also felt that on the agrarian front the C.P.RC.I,(M.L) was practicing economism.He praised the CPRCI(ML) theoretically ,but differed on question of practice. In sum Saibaba could not completely grasp the proletarianary revolutionary development within the Communist Revolutionary camp of being splintered, and over estimated the role of the C.P.I.(Maoist).To me he reflected weakness on grasp of mass line and evaluating the C.P.I.(Maoist) as the re-organised party ,rather than a component of a revolutionary stream. He did grasp the essence of the massline of the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist), particularly in regard to integrating with mass movements of workers and peasants.
Still I suggest all cadres to read all of Professor Saibaba’s interviews where he has projected the neo-or proto fascist nature of the pro-Hindutva state to the very core. Most illustratively he explains the predominance of semi-feudalism and why it is the principal contradiction.Saibaba also analytically highlights the importance of understanding the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in light of the revolutionary movements today. His defence of the Maoist party is analytical. I hope all democrats read the journal ‘Jan Pratirodh’ and read earlier issues of English magazine ‘People’s Resistance.’
One of the most touching occurrences in modern times has been the presence and voice of his wife Vasantha Kumari in public meetings. Rarely have women displayed more courage or displayed spirit of coal burning in a furnace as Vasantha, how most courageously relegated the personal aspect and put the confrontation with proto-fascism in the forefront. A life story of how she met and grew up with Sai as a partner is heart-touching.
Within jail walls the letters or poem he has written portraying the soul of a revolutionary are comparable to the greatest revolutionaries imprisoned. In some ways Saibaba was greater crusader against the iron feet of oppression within jail walls. The stories of his jail experiences from his wife .family and personal accounts touch the core of the soul of any humane person. I have no doubt that he has carved a permanent niche amongst the great revolutionary leaders or activists who have stepped on this globe. Even at this juncture he deserves a biography written on his life. Arguably no one today confined within jail walls worldwide defines the crusade against oppression in the degree of Professor Saibaba who is beacon against the tyranny of neo-fascism.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab. Written on Mass movements, Mass line, Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontier weekly. An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com