Kolkata: Claiming that the ‘Idea of India’ is under threat, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has announced a year-long programme to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.
The national flag will also be hoisted across its offices on 15 August this year, for the first time since the party’s formation in 1964. While there is no rule against hoisting the flag within the party, CPI(M) leaders and members have rarely been seen doing so.
A communique issued by the party’s central committee Monday asked its members to begin the year-long campaign to “revive real history of the freedom struggle” and to highlight the role of communists in the freedom struggle.
“The Central Committee decided that the Party will observe this anniversary highlighting the role of the Communists in the freedom struggle; Communist Party’s contributions to the building of modern India and consolidating the ‘Idea of India’; the complete absence and at times collaboration of the RSS with the British during the freedom struggle; and the vicious undermining of the Constitutional secular democratic Republic of India today,” read the communique.
“This year, we will be formally launching a comprehensive and intensive campaign to deliberate on the real issues related to India’s freedom struggle, because, this is the first time in the past 75 years, we are feeling that the ‘Idea of India’ is under threat,” said Nilotpal Basu, a politburo member of the CPI(M).
This programme is significant because the CPI(M) will celebrate Independence Day for the first time since the party’s formation in 1964, after its split from the Communist Party of India.
After Independence, in 1948, the undivided CPI had rallied the slogan “Yeh Azaadi Jhooti Hai (This independence is false)” to emphasise that ‘real independence’ could not be achieved through a non-violent struggle. The slogan was coined by then CPI chief B.T. Randive, who had purportedly argued for an armed revolution in India. Since then, no official or formal programmes have been organised by the communist party to celebrate 15 August.
However, Basu pointed out that after the split from CPI, the CPI(M) subsequently corrected the “erroneous understanding about independence” and “abandoned the political positioning”.
‘Idea of Communism is dead’
Meanwhile, ideologues from the Right have said that the CPI(M) is trying to save its political existence by putting up a “nationalistic face”.
“The idea of Communism is dead. This is why they are trying to put up a nationalist face, and making correction after correction to their own policies and ideologies,” Kanchan Gupta, a veteran columnist and senior advisor in the information ministry, told ThePrint.
“Which Idea of India are they talking about? The phrase was coined by Rabindranath Tagore. It was pro-European liberal ideas. The Idea of India can have been on several levels, including political, social and economic. They never believed in Tagore and called him bourgeois-poet.”
According to BJP leaders, the recent announcement seems to be symptomatic of the CPI(M)’s existential crisis in light of its performance in the assembly elections this year. The party, which had ruled West Bengal for 34 years, was decimated at the assembly polls, getting merely 5 per cent of the vote share and no seat in the legislative assembly.
“This is the first time since their formation, Communist Party of India is trying to be Indian. It is good to see that Modi made CPI(M) hoist the tricolour and observe a year-long campaign for the freedom struggle, that they also refused to believe in. It is their existential crisis,” said Dilip Ghosh, MP and president of BJP’s West Bengal unit.
Kunal Ghosh, Trinamool Congress’ state general secretary, also called this decision a late realisation.
“They realised the significance of the tricolour when they became zero in Bengal. They never respected any of the Bengali icons, and now suddenly realisation dawned at them. We welcome their move. They can sing internationale (a Left anthem) all the time, but they must also respect the national anthem at some point of time,” said the Trinamool leader.
Veteran Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya further noted that the CPI(M) was changing its “dogmatic positions”. “They have now started feeling that their blind political thoughts have detached them from people.”
However, Basu noted that the party was never fundamentally opposed to the national flag. “Unlike RSS, we were never fundamentally opposed to the tricolour. A section in the media and political parties are trying to give the decision an unnecessary spin to malign the image of our party saying we never hoisted the flag,” he said.
Congress MP and West Bengal PCC chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, meanwhile, welcomed the move, noting that the party is evolving and the decision will help it “connect to people more”.
‘RSS had no contribution to freedom struggle’
According to Mohammad Salim, former MP and politburo member of CPI(M), the year-long campaign was necessary to revive the history and contribution of the Communists to the freedom struggle.
“It is documented that the RSS was against the freedom struggle and aided the British to rule. They wanted militarisation of Hindus. They did not have any contribution,” said Salim.
“But the Communists brought changes, it spearheaded land movement, class struggle, and spoke for the classless society. Unfortunately, the same anti-freedom force, RSS, is now ruling the country,”
Salim further noted that as part of the campaign, the CPI(M) will publish literature, organise debates, deliberations and conferences, and initiate conversations on India’s freedom struggle and the history behind it. The programmes will take place across India, he said.
(Edited by Rachel John)