The Mass Revolutionary Line During the Khalistani Movement in Punjab

By Harsh Thakor[1]

The Pre-Khalistani Phase

Since 1947 the Congress Party rulers that snatched power from the British attempted to play the communal card. Punjab had a rich tradition of secular democratic struggles like the Khoka peasant movement of the 40’s, Bhagat Singh’s Naujavan Bharat Sabha, the Ghadr Party and the Communist Party led peasant insurrections. The Congress Party led by Nehru and Gandhi that seized power in 1947 attempted to suppress all those struggles. It was significant that the same Congress that captured power, indirectly conspired in the hanging of the anti-communal martyr Bhagat Singh in 1931.

From the late 60’s the Akali Dal won power in the State. The Ruling Akali Dal was responsible for the false encounters of Communist Revolutionary activists of the Naxalite movement activists in the early 70’s.

The Formation of the Punjab Students Union in 1966 is of great relevance to the mass revolutionary line. It was formed under anti-revisionist influence in the era of demarcation from revisionism world wide. Comrade Darshan Singh Bagi played an instrumental role in it’s founding. The shooting of Comrade Jagtar Singh when the organization was protesting the corruption of a cinema owner was of historical importance and it sowed the seeds of futher student uprisings.

However the Punjab Students Union was disbanded due to Charu Mazumdar’s left adventurist line that propogated the abandoning of mass organizations.

In the 70’s there was a strong secular democratic movement led in Punjab by the revolutionary democratic forces represented by groups of Communist Revolutionaries. The Communist Revolutionaries in Punjab were divided into different trends. There was the Charu Mazumdar Trend (upheld by Jagjit Singh Johal), the trend following Chandra Pulla Reddy and Satya Narayan Singh (referred to as the Punjab Himachal Committee) and the proletarian revolutionary trend following Nagi Reddy.

The movement of the Punjab Students Union and Naujavan Bharat Sabha had a strong revolutionary democratic character. It was led by the Punjab Co-ordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries which was earlier a part of the Punjab CPI (ML) led by Jagjit Singh Johal which upheld the Charu Mazumdar left adventurist line. However the Ferozepur Bhatinda Committee went out of the Punjab CPI (ML) affiliated to Charu Mazumdar’s all India Group. They brought out a document stating that the Charu Mazumdar line was in contradiction to Mao’s thesis of People’s protracted war. (Please refer to article on The Proletarian Mass Line for details.)

On June 20th, 1969 a meeting of Communist revolutionaries was held to discuss the issue of the formation of the party. The 2 questions to be discussed were whether it was justified to form it, and were appropriate methods used? The meeting concluded that the present circumstances were wrong. The party organisation was to be formed from the leadership that emerged from the struggles.

The Punjab co-ordination committee issued this press statement "Due to political differences we break our relationship with C.PI.M.L. In Punjab their activities are left adventurist. They oppose the process of people’s protracted war. We do not want to be arrested in self-destructive tendencies."

In 1974 the Punjab Co-ordination Committee published a document why they demarcated themselves from Charu Mazumdar’s CPI (ML):

1. Since the socio-economic conditions differ and political consciousness varies from place to place, the revolutionary movements have to pass through various stages, and different tactics would have to be used at various places.

2. To ignore open and legal struggles is left adventurism. These will contribute to the development of armed struggle.

3. Annihilation of class enemies leads to the emergence of feelings of hero worship and retards revolutionary initiative.

4. To ignore partial and economic struggles is dogmatism. The working class will have to pass through various phases of struggle.

5. Mass organisations will have to be formed such as peasant, worker and student organisations.

6. Although the rural areas are the main areas of struggle the movement cannot exclude the mass organisations in urban areas.

7. Individual annihilations do not comprise people’s war. The CPI (ML) is too simplistic about it.

8. The CPI (ML) ignores the fact that the People’s democratic revolution will occur under the leadership of the proletariat, particularly the industrial working class.

In 1974 this trend not only re-organised the Punjab Students Union but revived the Naujavan Bharat Sabha, a revolutionary organization founded in the days of anti-colonial martyr Bhagat Singh.

In 1974 the famous Moga Sangram (Struggle) rally was led and in 1979 a massive 10,000 strong rally was led state-wide against the murder of Punjab Students Union leader Prithipal Sing Randhawa.

The weakening of the Secular democratic movement led to the emergence of Sikh communal politics.

The Punjab Co-ordination Committee only joined Nagi Reddy’s Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India in 1976. The Punjab Student’s Union was then led in the post-1975 phase by the UCCRI (Nagi Reddy Group). The State committee of the Nagi Reddy Group brought out a historic document on mass organizations and the party in the late 70’s. It explained the importance of mass organizations and the importance of the revolutionary party to have a correct relationship with them.

The Khalistani Movement-Introduction

The Khalistani movement marked a historic epic in the history of post-Independent India. This reactionary communal fascist movement advocated the liberation of Sikhs and a separate state to be carved out for the Sikh people. Khalistani ideology advocated a separate theocratic state based on all the tenets of Sikhism.

Jagjit Singh Chauhan was the founder of this movement in the late 60’s abroad. Natively from Punjab he had settled abroad, and in Britain formed Sikh religious groups advocating a new state for the Sikhs.

The Khalistani dictates included a ban on cigarettes, a ban on eating meat, a ban on drinking liquor, a ban on beauty parlours, prohibition against shaving and compulsion of women to wear Salwar Kameez. The people had to observe the Khalistani code in all ways of life.

In Punjab the Akali Dal represented the religious Sikh politics through the Akali movement which had its origin in the Singh Sabha movement of the late 1920’s which tried to communalise a secular anti-imperialist movement. To divert it, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak committee was formed with the blessings of the British.

The Akali movement professed the Anandpur Sahib resolution that converted several democratic issues into Sikh demands. Democratic demands of the people like the arrest of the Jodhpur detenues, the sharing of river waters with Haryana, the transfer of the capital from Chandigarh to Amritsar, and the punishing of criminals during the Delhi riots were taken up as religious issues.

However the fundamental difference of the Akali Dal from the Khalistanis was that they wanted to gain power within the Indian State through electoral means, while the Khalistanis advocated a total religious liberation struggle to de-throne the Indian State. There were forces within the Akali Dal which openly supported the Khalistani armed actions and election boycott, like the United Akali Dal faction led by Baba Joginder Singh. In the mid 80’ Sant Longowal, the Akali Dal president was assassinated by the Khalistanis for collaborating on a settlement with the ruling Congress.

From the early 80’s to the early part of the 90's the state of Punjab was ravaged by Khalistani terrorism. Communal fascists were a great threat to the people’s democratic movement. The Akali Dal represented the Sikh communalists while the Congress represented the Hindu communalism. Both parties used the communal terrorists against each other.

Indira Gandhi created Bhindranwale, a Sikh communal fanatic, to electorally defeat the Akali Dal. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale belonged to a Sikh fundamentalist sect which opposed the electoral Akali Dal politics. In the earlier phases the Akali Dal patronized the Sikh fundamentalist forces, harbouring several terrorists in religious temples. However when the contradiction between the Khalistani liberation and Akali Dal ideology became acute, the Congress won Bhindranwale to their side to de-stabilise the Akali Dal, the ruling party.

The Khalistani movement was an agent of the Indian state. Heavy state terrorism took place in Punjab against the common people in the name of combating the communal terrorists. Often a truckload of weaponry sent for arming the Khalistani terrorist forces was allowed by the Police. The situation was reminiscent of the Vietnam war and in no post-partition period was such communal terror experienced. The rays of darkness had extinguished the light from the land of Punjab.

The Khalistanis were armed to the core. Innocent Hindus were shot in buses by bullets from AK-47 machine guns. Women were raped who disobeyed the Khalistani dictates, houses razed to the ground. Villagers were forced to bow to Khalistani dictates at the butt of the gun. Jounnalist Lala Jagat Narain, of the Hindu Samachar was assassinated when he condemned Bhindranwale.

In 1984 in June the Indian Army carried out Operation Bluestar to suppress the Forces of Khalistani terrorists that had taken refuge in the Golden Temple (a Sikh religious temple). It was one of the most repressive anti-democratic acts that took place in the history of post-Independence India. 100 innocent Sikhs were shot with their hands tied down behind their backs. Various religious shrines were destroyed. Bhindranwale was killed.

At that time in Jodhpur in anxiety Sikhs belonging to the Army in sheer desperation left Jodhpur to ensure their families were safe in the chaos that was created. They were frightened that their families could be attacked. These soldiers were arrested in the name of treason! In retaliation in October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assasinated by 2 Sikh fanatics. One of the people charged, Kehar Singh who was awarded the death sentence, was innocent.

After Indira Gandh’s assassination the worst massace ever in post-independence India took place. 5000 Sikhs, were massacred by communal forces led by Jagdish Tytler and L.K Bhagat. Innocent Sikhs were chopped or burnt alive. Several Hindu families came to the rescue of Sikhs by sheltering them and saving them from being trampled by the iron feet of oppression. To this day the perpetrators of the massacre have not been imprisoned.

In the later phase, through military combing operations in Operation Woodrose, the police tortured several innocent families, under the pretext that they had been harbouring terrorists. In villages in Punjab several innocent Sikh people, mainly youth were killed in staged encounters. The police falsely claimed that they were communal terrorists killed in encounters.

Several Black laws were also proclaimed which were used as a tool to suppress the secular democratic activity like workers strikes, etc. The situation in Punjab was the equivalent of a ship trying to survive in a storm. In 1985 an accord was made by Rajiv Gandhi representing the Centre and Sant Longowal, the Sikh Akali leader, who wished for a non-violent solution and a compromise with the Centre. (He represented Sikh communal politics but through negotiation in contrast to the Khalistani militants.) This was opposed by the United Akali Dal led by Baba Joginder Singh along with the All India Sikh Students federation and the Damdami Taksal of Bhindranwale. Shortly later Longowal was assassinated by Khalistani rerrorists with the blessings of the organizations just mentioned.

In 1987 the ruling Rajiv Gandhi goverment brought in President’s Rule, introducing the Terrorist and Disruptive Area Act to curb the Khalistani terrorists. However, in contrast to what it meant to be doing, the same government started dealing with Khalistani gangs. On February 20th 1987 a head Sikh priest offered to act as a mediator between the Centre and the Sikh militant organizations. Within minutes of this announcement, the Khalistani liberation force accepted the Akal Takhts Directives and accepted a ceasefire.

Soon after a hindu religious priest visited the Golden Temple on May 6-8 to hold talks with the Sikh militant priest Darshan Singh Ragi. The State police chief Ribiero visited Amritsar on May 6th, and the Ceentral Reserve Police Force surrounding the Temple were withdrawn for 3 days. Well-known underground communal terrorists, such as Avatar Singh Brahma visited the temple for negotiations. The Hindu priest explained that he was acting for the Central Government. The withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force for the first time since 1984 lent credibility to this. The Priest even claimed that he had documents showing that all 5 Jathedars and Khalistani gangs including the All India Sikh Students Federation factions and the Khalistani Commando force had given their approval for, and participated in tape recorded negotiations. The priest stated that Darshan Singh Ragi was equally anxious to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in Punjab. On May 9th 1987 the priest flew back to Delhi to inform the Prime Minister of his talks.

On May 21st the Punjab Government announced the release of 100 out of 800 militants arrested on the pretext of good behaviour. This amply proved the point that the Centre was simply playing games. The Government had no intention of combating communal terrorism; instead it was biding for the appropriate time to strike a deal with one or the other terrorist faction. Ultimately what was at stake was only the question of allocation and sharing of power. [Last few paragraphs taken from the democratic rights journal, ‘In Defence of Democratic Rights’.

General Summary of the Democratic Resistance

The Communist revolutionaries launched a protracted war against both forms of terrorism when the political parties acted as apologists for the communalists. The left parties CPI and CPM never organized mass resistance, but some of their activists were heroically martyred who organized resistance against the communalists. The mass organisations and activists of the left parties, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India Marxist, heroically resisted the Khalistani elements. Activists such as Arjun Singh Mastana, Darshan Singh, Canadian Deepak Dhawan and Sumeet Preetlari laid down their lives.

The Chandra Pulla Reddy group of the CPI (ML), through the Kirti Kisan Union and Naujavan Bharat Sabha guarded the lives of villagers from the communal terrorists. Through the Kirti Kisan Union, in the dark nights when the people in the villages faced the wrath of the communal terrorists, their activists gave protection to the villagers, guarding their houses from the menace of the terrorists. The organization also led several protests against police encounter killers of innocent Sikh villagers in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Jalandhar. Several of their activists laid down their lives. Their leaders like Baldev Singh Mann, Jaimal Singh Padda, and Sarabjeet Singh dipped their blood with death defying courage against the Khalistani bullets. The Kirti Kisan Union led several democratic agitations against repayment of debts and for remunerative prices for products. The Chandra Pulla Reddy Group formed the Inquilabi Kendra which led a historic march between March 23rd and April 8th through various districts of Punjab in memory of Bhagat Singh to combat the communal fascist ideology of the Khalistani terrorists. It had a tremendous response from the masses.

Through Shaheed Bhagat Singh brigades revolutionary groups avenged the deaths of several comrades at the hands of the terrorists. Comrade Nidhan Singh, of the Central Team of the CPI (ML) laid down his life after launching a protracted struggle against the communal fascists. He had been a prominent leader of the Punjab Kisan Union and was hanged by the Khalistani fascists for not giving the secrets of the Central Team, the revolutionary group which he belonged to. Comrade Nidhan was one of the founding members of the Revolutionary Paper, Surkh Rekha. He was also formerly the President of the Punjab Kisan Union and was at that time working as a leader of the "Kisan Sangharsh Committee in Ropar District." He had rock-like tenacity. He had earlier played a major role in the anti-revisionist movement of the 1960’s, refuting revisionism with an iron sword.

The Central Team Group’s most significant role was to bring out the revolutionary mass paper Surkh Rekha,which launched a vociferous campaign against the Khalistani terrorists. It also worked within the Punjab Kisan Union. One of the activists of the Punjab Kisan Union, Paramjeet Pamma, was a sympathizer of the Central Team of the CPI (ML). Paash, a famous revolutionary cultural poet combated communal terrorism through the anti-47 Front in Canada. Paash fought till the last breadth against the terrorists, till he fell to their bullets in Jalandhar in 1988.

Punjab's leading civil liberties organisation, the Association for Democratic Rights, played a prominent role through consistent factfinding reports, seminars and cultural programmes. It consistently refuted both the state terror and the ideology of Khalistan. Reports were brought out on the State terror during Operation Bluestar and Woodrose. The A.F.D.R. brought out several reports of police encounters of innocent Sikhs in villages. The organisation gave strong support to the revolutionary democratic struggles. Its units were prominent in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana Jalandhar and Bhatinda.

The Punjab Students Union factions also played a useful role. On the University campuses they refuted the A.I.S.S.F. Communal propaganda. They also led a joint struggle with the S.F.I and the A.I.S.S.F. in thwarting Khalistani student elements. The Shaheed Prithipal Singh Randhawa Punjab Students Union, The Punjab Students Union led by Dhaliwal Singh, the Punjan Students Union led by Jagtar and the Punjab Students Union led by Bisakha played a prominent role. However one group led by Malwinder Singh Mali supported the Khalistani movement.

In 1990 there was a major massacre during a college festival in Ludhian by the Khalistani militants. Here a joint action by the Punjab Students Union with other democratic organizations had revolutionary democratic relevance. Similarly Gursharan Singh's Amritsar Natak Kela Kendra amd the Punjab Loksabhakarichya Manch had several plays and cultural programmes promoting communal harmony. Trade unions, especially those of Electricity workers, fought Khalistani forces through staging several rallies. They led several protests jointly with other Unions like the Brick Kiln Workers Union, Mould and Steel Workers, etc.

Revolutionary democratic Journals such as Hiraval Dasta, Parcham, Disha, Inquilabi Jantak Leh and Surkh Rekha combated the communal fascist ideology, explaining the masses how ruling class forces used communalism to divide the common people. Intellectuals combating the Khalistani ideology with the pen, like Ravinder Singh Ravi and Sumeet Preetlari of the Communist Party of India as well as Sukhraj Khaddar of the CPI (ML) fell to the Khalistani bullets.

The Mass Revolutionary Line against the Khalistani Movement

The group that represented the right deviationist trend was,the Chandra Pulla Reddy Group in the communist revolutionary camp. This theoretically opposed the state and Khalistani terror but accepted armed licences for its leaders and activists from the Indian State. It was capitulationism to accept armed licences from the State. True, the use of arms was necessary, but they could have been procured by revolutionary means.

They also could not differentiate from the role of the party and mass organisation and formed the Revolutionary Unity Centre, an open forum that propagated party politics. The Revolutionary Centre led a famous march in 1987 commemorating Shaheed Bhagat Singh which went through several villages of Punjab like Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Jalandhar.

The excuse the Chanda Pulla Reddy group gave was that mass organizations were needed only to fight for economic, sectional or partial demands. This was totally contrary to Leninism. Leninism always stressed the importance of mass political revolutionary platforms. The Chandra Pulla Reddy Group advocated that issues with higher political content should be taken up at the party plane. It thus disallowed it’s mass organizations to take up issues having political content and joined mass platforms only at the party level. They opposed the formation of a mass political front to combat the twin terror of State Repression and Khalistani terror. (However it must be mentioned that this group played a major role in the democratic movement in that period through it’s mass fronts like the Punjab Students Union, Kirti Kisan Union, and the Naujavan Bhrat Sabha.) The Nagi Reddy Group refuted this by stating that such mass platforms facilitated the building of the revolutionary movement as a whole and broadened the scope of revolutionary activity.

In the Nagi Reddy Group’s view, in the situation prevalent in that time the polemical differences among communist revolutionaries were so sharp that it was virtually impossible to work in a single body at the plane of the mass organizations. One must not doubt the sincerity of the Chandra Pulla Reddy Group comrades who often in the dark nights of Khalisatani terrorism fought like tigers and went out of the way to thwart the Khalistani terrorists and also held several campaigns against State Terror. They showed exemplary courage combating the dual oppression. On the practical plane several of their comrades dipped blood (mentioned in the Introduction). However their defective political understanding was a major obstacle in the revolutionary movement.

There was also a left deviationist trend that advocated retaliatory armed squad actions without mass support. These groups felt that such actions would demoralize the communal terrorist groups and inspire the people. These groups disregarded the Maoist principle that such actions have to be based on and supplement the people’s movement rather than substitute it.

Several groups in Punjab also soft-pedaled Khalistani terrorism saying it was a lesser evil. There was a tendency to support the Akali movement from certain communist revolutionary sections. There communist revolutionaries supported the Anandpur Sahib resolution where secular demands of the Punjabi people were converted into ‘Sikh’ demands. These demands included the release of Jodhpur dtenues, sharing of river waters between Punjab and Haryana, transfer of the capital from Chandigarh to Amritsar and punishment of the criminals involved in the Delhi Riots. Such sections in the revolutionary camp upheld the movement as a Sikh nationality struggle. This was wrong as the Sikhs were not an oppressed minority like the Kashmiri or Assamese people. The Sikhs were never discriminated against in the Armed Forces. One major revolutionary group went to the extent of terming the Khalistani movements as a Peoples Liberation movement!

The formation of the anti-repression and anti-communal front in Punjab was an answer to this. The front was formed in 1986 to give mass revolutionary resistance to the state and Khalistani terror. Masses had also to be encouraged to organize their own self-defence. All the possible resources had be mobilised to combat the twin terror in Punjab. Several middle sections could be reached through this. A special revolutionary mass resistance programme had to be made. No political groups could use the image of the front to project their political image or be permitted to use the front as a forum for polemical debate.

The main architect of this front was the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India (Nagi Reddy Group) and the Surkh Rekha Group. At the beginning 7 groups joined the front. However in the end only the 2 groups remained. The principal protagonist of the Proletarian Revolutionary Trend remained in the front, namely the Nagi Reddy Group (later merged with R.C.P. led by Takra) and later the ‘Surkh Rekha’ group. (In 1994 the latter merged into a single organization with the Nagi Reddy Group.) On some points like formation of the CPI (ML), the question of Charu Mazumdar, the question of elections and situation for armed struggle, it differed from the Nagi Reddy line but in the course of joint struggle resolved the differences. In that light the Nagi Reddy Group had sounder theoretical clarity. (Please refer to article on The Proletarian Mass Line which explains this issue better.)

The most significant aspect of Surkh Rekha Group was their revolutionary publication ‘Surkh Rekha’, Punjab’s most well read revolutionary journal, sold on the stands. It exposed the secrets of the Khalistani movement and it’s political content had a more militant and revolutionary democratic character than any revolutionary journal. The words of the journals lit a red flame in the hearts of the masses in the dark days of Khalistani terrorism.

Revolutionary organisations, with defective trends politically behaved with each other as if they were working with revisionist forces. Although theoretically they acknowledged each other as revolutionaries, on the practical plane they behaved with each other as if they were dealing with revisionists. They wished to use the front as a forum to project their party policies and thus not give the front its due respect as a mass combat force which could draw in all sections of people, irrespective of political ideology into a 2 pronged struggle against the State and Khalistani terror. This caused their departure from the front. There was also a tendency of those groups to want to use the front for their class sectional demands as well as use the front to do joint programmes with political groups. There was also a deviationist tendency in the revolutionary movement to attach mass organizations as front organizations through joint programmes.

Groups with the erroneous tendencies formed the Revolutionary Unity Centre, which had no clear cut programme against the dual forms of terrorism. It was proposed as a communist revolutionary centre. This forum failed to demarcate between a centre formed for the unity of communist revolutionaries and a revolutionary united front. Another deviationist tendency of Groups was their softpedalling of Khalistani terrorism.

Groups of young volunteers were created by the front who were ready to bear any risk in the struggle combating the communal terrorists. At several places where the Khalistani terrorists had banned rallies and demonstrations against them, there the front units based on their strength defiantly challenged the ban and held public conferences where they fought against Khalistani terrorism. The front helped families organize their own self-defence against the fascists.

During Operation Blue Star, the revolutionary activists centre combated Khalistani fundamentalists who tried to grab the land belonging to Hindu families in the name of religious ideology to convert it into a Sikh temple. A demonstration was organized to protest against the fundamentalist elements which the Khalistani elements tried to block. The volunteer squad accompanying the demonsration thwarted the fundamentalist elements.

During the Blue Star period the Front organized a public kitchen for the masses, especially for those who were unemployed during the curfew. Just before Blue Star, comrades of revolutionary mass line addressed a funeral gathering of 2 Hindu shopkeepers to instill courage in the masses. Handwritten propaganda was also delivered from rooftops.

Khalistani gangs at that time had called for death sentences for people who disobeyed their commands over diet, dress, cultural customs, etc. The social reform campaign of the communal fanatics was in full swing and the Khalistanis threatened to ban any protest against them and offenders would be awarded a death sentence.

In March in 1987 the ringleaders of the United Akali Dal and the A.I.S.S.F, in the course of a conference at village Chaina, near Bhagtuana, threatened to assassinate front leader Megh Raj Baghtuana, who was holding meetings against them. Despite these threats Megh Raj, a front organiser, refuted the fascist ideology of the communal terrorist's programme. The masses in Bhagtuana responded heroically, organising a demonstration armed with traditional weapons, surrounding the supporters of the Khalistani ideology. Those supporters had to beg mercy from the people.

Semi-secret mass meetings were organised and a score of volunteers armed with conventional weapons and under-cover illegal firearms toured the villages to raise funds and to propagate anti-Khalistani material. Nine units of the front in Goniana, Rampura, Malout, Lambi, Lehra, Kotkapura, Nihalsinghwala, Moga and Jaitu organised a massive armed conference in Jaitu on April 10th. Thousands of people assembled in the conference shouting slogans "Na Hindu Raaj na Khalistan, Raaj Kare Mazdoor, Kisan. (Neither Hindu rule or Khalistani rule, we want the rule of workers and peasants.) They were armed with traditional weapons like lathis, swords, and spears. The village of Jaitu seemed to be staging a festival of the masses.

From various towns and villages people approached leaders of the front to hold such programmes at their places. In Bishnandi and Bazakhana, terrorists destroying tombs of the dead were beaten mercilessly by the masses. At Jaitu, an Amrithdari Sikh who tried to forcibly close a cigarette shop was beaten up by the villagers. Similar incidents took place in Kotli, Chaina, Matta, and Sedh SinghWala villages, with people armed with traditional weapons showing mass defiance. Such mass resistance reminded people of the heroic resistance and courage of ranks formed from common people during the Great Patriotic War against the Nazi fascists.

On April 14th a truckload of terrorists armed with naked swords and firearms came to attack the house of front leader Megh Raj. They were met with a shower of brickbats and stones from the housetops. The front workers armed with traditional weapons forced the terrorists to retreat. Five Khalistanis were literally beaten by the villagers. In the end the police raided the office of the front in Rampura Phul showing whose side they were on.

In spite of repeated threat of the communal terrorists the front held several demonstrations with numbers varying between 4,000 to 8,000 people. In another part of same the village the terrorists who felt insulted organised an area conference in the village and called Baba Joginder Singh, a sikh fanatic leader to stage it. On the day of a fundamentalist conference a gang of young fanatics beat up a shopkeeper on the pretext he sold beedies. The village people retaliated, thrashing the gang. This was the first time the communal fanatics faced such a beating in the State. This news spread like wildfire to other parts and greatly inspired the people. The Communal gangs counter-attacked but now the rage of the common people flowed like a torrent and they repulsed the communal elements. The villagers organized self-defence played a great role in this.

In the same town followers of the Front organised a march with conventional weapons. This inspired 2 Hindu shopkeepers to beat up the communal terrorists who threatened them. The police tried to ban the demonstration to protect law and order! They showed whose side they were on.

In Moga in Faridkot district on July 10th district an 8,000 strong conference was held by the Front. People converged from all over the State like a tornado, raising anti-Khalistani and anti-state slogans. The speakers at the rally explained the root causes of the Punjab Problem, the politics of the Front and the role the revolutionary masses had to play in defeating the enemy forces. This conference had historical significance as it was the first state-wide mass resistance in Punjab against the communal fanatics. Here the creative and revolutionary potential of the masses was revealed when they demonstrated their strength in rising up against the fascist opressors. What was remarkable was that it was held in the darkest abyss of the Khalistani terrorism and despite the difficulties of Sate terrorism and the scarcity of resources.

On April 9th 1991 Megh Raj Jagpal Singh, Karam Singh, Pappy, Gurjant Singh and 9 other Front activists were massacred in Sewevala in Faridkot district. To commemorate their death a statewide protest took place which culminated in a 10,000 strong rally in Sewewala where people assembling from allover the state, armed with traditional weapons as well as raising anti-Khalistan and anti-State slogans were mobilised. A self-defence barricade was made against the Khalistani terrorists and police protection was opposed. Echoes of the revolutionary spirit reverberated in the hearts of the people assembled like a light radiating over them. It appeared like a huge red flame had lit the Sewewala village. The martyrdom of the Sewewala Martyrs wrote a new chapter in the history of the Indian Communist Movement. All the martyrs were members or followers of the Nagi Reddy Group.

Two years later a commemoration programme was launched which depicted a classic example of mass line. After a considerable study of the political situation it was decided to launch a commemoration programme for the Sewevala martyrs. The Harijan basti region was where the programme would be launched.

After reaching a general consent of villagers and the residents of the Harijan Basti a secret meeting of 7-8 pro-party militants was held. The local mass militants were bitterly critical of the inadequate security arrangements at the time of the massacre, 2 years previously and felt humiliated, but they shared their intense hatred for the Khalistani terrorists. The political activist of the revolutionary group made a self-critical appraisal of their earlier approach which reduced their anger and brought them closer to the revolutionary group. He pledged that now the masses would be organised to enable them to receive much stronger self-defence, and Front leaders would be far more vigilant of enemies. A list of potential allies and enemies was drawn out. A calculated action programme was chalked out to win over the maximum support of the Harijan Basti.

The survey of the village revealed that Khalistani terror broadly existed over both the landed and landless peasantry. Only a small section of the landed peasantry sympathised with the Front and even these sections would not openly identify with the Front Programme. The rest of the peasant households remained neutral. The Harijans (backward or scheduled caste-India has a history of the Caste System and this Harijan Sect was the most degraded section known as the ‘Untouchables’. In the villages they were the principal landless or poor peasantry and were the majority of the agricultural labour force) were unwilling to take the risk again. However, as a result of their social class the Harijans were easy to win over. It was now decided to deploy a plan of work whereby the advanced elements of the youth would be won over followed by the middle and backward layer. This plan proved most fruitful, as a great section of revolutionary youth were won over.

However the Harijan elders were reluctant to join. The Front organised family meetings to combat this obstacle as well as promised greater security plans for them at meetings. Weapons were displayed in the basti for this purpose. The Front, giving concrete examples, explained what revolutionary resistance to the 2 pronged Khalistani and State terror was about giving vivid examples of their experience. The class hatred of such families was strengthened by this method. It was explained to the Harijans how they would be liberated from the tyranny of the rich Sikh Landowners and pro-Khalistani sections.

During these meetings each participant was alloted a particular duty after being assessed. Male members were given duties involving preparations, while women and children were allotted the task of obtaining information about the enemies. In less than 2 weeks, almost the entire Harijan Basti supported the Front. However a self-styled leader of the basti as well as pro-Khalistani elements opposed the programme stating that they would lathi charge the programme. An enraged section of the youth retaliated trying to give those reactionary elements a sound thrashing but the Front curbed them, explaining them they needed to adopt a correct approach.

Khalistani elements mainly belonging to the Jat peasantry continued to threaten this programme through terror methods over villagers. They carried out a campaign of deliberate lies against the Harijans inciting class hatred against the Dalits. The landed peasantry were told by these elements that the Harijans would snatch their lands. They also spread rumours that an attack similar to the one at Sewevala would take place and hundreds would be killed.

Now the Front organisers concentrated on winning over sections of the Jat peasantry. Unfortunately when a group of Harijan youth went on a propoganda campaign the communalised sections of the Jat Peasantry misbehaved and tore up their pamphlets and posters. However the youth kept calm and thus foiled the attempt of these reactionary forces in creating a clash btween the Jat peasants and the Harijans. After this incident 2 contrasting events took place. One section of Harijans was depressed by the aggressive behaviour of the Jats. They wanted to postpone the programme. However another section were outraged and were impatient in holding the programme. This attitude was predominant in the youth who stated that there was no need to win over the Jat peasantry to hold the programme.

Now all efforts were concentrated on the mobilisation of the Harijan basti. A huge range of family meetings took place. There was now even a great response from women.

After this state-wide preparations were made for the programme-the State Committee of the revolutionary organization representing the mass line issuing a leaflet explaining the history of the Punjabi masses in combating the communal terror and the State terror. On March 21st a mass meeting of activists was held to pay homage to the Sewewala Martyrs and chalk out plans for the conference on April 9th. A 10 member preparation committee was elected which facilitated this propaganda in labour colonies. A shaheedi (martyrs) conference was held on April 4th to pay homage to the heroes where 800 people participated. The families of 2 martyrs of the Sewewala massacre were presented with momentoes.

A massive security programme was launched by the Front. The Harijan masses of the basti played a major role in gathering information about the role of the enemies. The women and children played a major role in this. They made a thorough study of the enemy's moves, motives and movements. The deployment of adequate and proper weapons was given emphasis. However the emphasis was given on the broad masses asserting their right to self-defence. Trained volunteers were also to play an instrumental role. Two dozen youth of the basti associated themselves as guards, couriers and vigilance keepers as well as by spying on the enemy.

A day before the programme security was installed on the roofs of the exterior of the basti. Trained volunteers manned them. Barricades were installed in the lanes and by-lanes to prohibit the entry of suspicious elements. The Barricades were provided cover by armed volunteers positioned on rooftops. All security posts were covered with a special signal system. A network of couriers was organised which raced from one spot to the other exchanging information. All posts had their own commanders and an operational zone operating under a unifying higher command.

On the day of the programme, entry was entitled only by identity passes. A Harijan Dharamshala staged the programme. Slogans such as "Down with Khalistani and State terrorism" and "Long Live the Sewewala Martyrs" were painted on the boudary walls of the building. The ground was decorated with red flags and a bed of red sand. Amidst flower petals name plates of martyrs were placed. A community kitchen served cooked and sweet packed rice to the participants. From the home village of martyred comrade Megh Raj Baghtuana, a contingent of 70 men, women and children carrying red flags and escorted by girl volunteers reached Sewewala. The women participants numbered more than 150 in the conference. By 12 o'clock, 3,000 people had arrived, more than 2/3 from the agricultural labourers, industrial labourers, electricity workers and other working sections. Leaders Amolak Singh and Jaspal Jassi adressed the gathering. At 12.30 the family members of the martyrs came on stage. Amolak explained to people the anti-people nature of the Khalistani terrorists and the State. He explained how the Jat peasantry (middle Sections of the peasantry) had fallen victim to the Khalistani poisonous propaganda.

2.05 was the exact time of the attack on the Sewewala Martyrs 2 years previously. At that time there was perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the history of the Communist movement in India.

The winning over of the Harijan peasantry was a great achievement but the inability to influence the Jat Peasantry was a major setback. The Front issued an ordinary appeal to the Jat Peasantry. The Front projected it's pro-people policies and explained that the Khalistani elements were only trying to poison their minds with lies and false propaganda regarding the Front. It was explained that such elements were trying to wedge the gap between the Jat peasantry and the Harijan labourers. However as these programmes took place, reports took place about the movements of suspected terrorists. This became a major threat and security was strengthened. The Front persuaded supporters to contribute a day's labour in donation. While the harvesting was taking place a bunch of suspected elements were tracked. A red alert was issued. At night such elements were observed near a Harijan basti. An attack was anticipated and the volunteers resorted to firing to thwart the suspected elements. Again there was a totally contrasting reaction between the Jats and the Harijans. The landed Jat peasantry took it as an attack on the Harijans against them as a provocation while the Harijan peasantry defended the firing of weapons by the volunteers. The latter were now more confident of repulsing attacks by class enemies.

The great achievement of the martyrs conference was that a most unfavourable situation was turned into a favourable situation reminiscent of the Viet Cong who heroically defeated the American forces in the Vietnam war. The campaign also effectively answered the question of the mass revolutionary line over the line of squad actions. An earlier supporter of squad actions stated "What we achieved here can not be achieved by a squad action." Another student leader stated "Mass revolutionary line is invincible and armed squad action cannot substitute for it". A volunteer student group stated "We have gained a valuable experience in the mass revolutionary line.

The polemics the Communist Revolutionary Organisations of the Nagi Reddy Trend applied in the building up and holding of the conference was comparable in correctness to the polemics of Comrade Mao before the Chinese revolution. In this respect the concept of the Revolutionary United Front in the Chinese Revolutionary period has significance. The policy of learning from the masses and then educating them and learning correct ideas from the masses was meticulously applied. The Front could organize the people at various places in great numbers confronting the Khalistani and State terror and built several centers of revolutionary mass resistance against the dual terror of Khalistani and State terrorism.

The predominant features of the Revolutionary trend were:

1. Mantaining the correct relationship between Party politics and mass organisation politics. The organisation never imposed party policies on the people. Irrespective of political ideology people would be moblilised against the twin onslaught of Khalistan and State terror. The Front never attached class sectional mass organizations to the Front or used it to project party politics.

2. Mantaining a clear-cut programme to resist the Khalistani fascist attacks as well as state terror on the masses to enable the masses to form self-defence combat forces. A programme was chalked out studying the strength of the Khalistani fascists and the capability of the Front in resisting them. Similar programmes were taken against police terror.

3. Making the people involved and the center of all activity through organizing self-defence and never substituting for the role of the masses. Some groups launched armed squad actions. The front answered this with democratic mass revolutionary resistance. Mass preparation was made for all programmes. In fact through their involvement the people learned a lesson in fighting the enemy and their own capacity in self-defence against reactionary forces. Planning and political preparation was emphasized.

4. No form of soft-pedalling with the Khalistani forces like some groups, and giving equal emphasis to opposing state terror. The Front leaders refused to accept the armed licences of the Indian State.

This lesson of the struggle of the Front is a lesson in the correct method of struggle. The struggles of the front were reminiscent of a swimmer swimming against a turbulent current in a river. Their major leaders and activists were like a surgeon in a war performing an operation with the highest methodology but with the utmost delicacy and grace. What was later of historic importance was the merger of the Surkh Rekha Group (Refer to article on The Proletarian Mass Line) and the group adhering to the Nagi Reddy line (Originally the U.C.C.R.I.M.L) into a single organization at a national level. The Punjab experience had a major bearing on this event. Through mutual exchange and co-operation through joint work in the practical movement the 2 groups came to an understanding and resolved their differences.

[July 18, 2003]


[1] Written with reference to the following publications:
  1. The Comrade Revolutionary journal
  2. In Defence of Democratic Rights
  3. Bleeding Punjab Report to the nation by Surkh Rekha and Inquilabi Jantak Leh
  4. Surkh Rekha and Inquilabi Jantak Leh
  5. Naxalite Movement in Punjab, by Paramjit Judge
  6. Plus various revolutionary activists.

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