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The Left's destiny is intertwined with India's, says Yechury

By George Joseph
April 04, 2010 14:01 IST
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The future of India depends on the future the Left and its ideology, Sitaram Yechury, politburo member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.

Speaking at Columbia University on 'Neo-Liberalism, Secularism, and the Future of the Left in India', Yechury said the destiny of both India and the the Left are intertwined and it was the left which realized the idea of India correctly.

"Though the Left faced reverses in the last election, it is not something that is permanent, nor has the party lost its relevance. We should not forget that in 2004, no central government could be formed without the support of the left," Yechury said.

He pointed out the differences and contradictions existing in the country such as the 1,618 languages, 6,400 castes, six major religions and the six anthropological groups. "Such a vast diversity cannot be united on the basis of a single idea. Strengthening of commonalities only can bring unity. Uniformity cannot be imposed especially based on religion," Said the Left ideologue.

It was the Left which had championed the cause of the land reforms after independence. It was not a redistribution of assets alone but it brought the downtrodden to the mainstream. The Left will continue its opposition to neo-liberalism and it will continue the fight to uphold secularism. If the left did not oppose, more of the liberalism agenda would have been implemented. We are the main obstacle in this," he noted.

He also noted the growing disparity in the country. "We see two Indias, the shining India of a few and the suffering India of the others. More than 2,00,000 peasants committed suicide in the last few years. 47 percent of children face malnutrition. A huge number survives on less than 20 rupees a day and 78 percent of the pregnant women are anaemic. At the same time a few billionaires doubled their wealth and it amounts to one fourth of the GDP. These two Indias cannot go on like this for long."

Yechury said he would be arrested next week for participating in an agitation against price rise, which was part of the fight against liberalism.

"Millions of people will join the agitation. Yet when an election comes all of them may not vote for the Left. They keep one consciousness for the economic fight and another for the policies causes. Their support for the causes which the Left fights for could not be transformed into votes always. Yet, until a red flag flies in front of a factory, the workers will not feel confident. It is the same with the people who cannot take water from a well. A red flag there brings confidence to them," Yechury said.

"The party has realized that land alone cannot sustain prosperity for long. It added industrialization in its program in the last election in West Bengal. The people gave a big margin to the party. With this background, the government tried to acquire a 1000 acres of land in Singur for the Tatas. 12,000 people applied for compensation. It meant that 12 people were dependent on one acre of land. What followed was a political mobilization against industrialization and the government. In Nandigram, no land was taken, yet it became a political battle. The central government identified three places for chemical hub and Nandigram was one. But rumours and politics created a situation there. It too became a cause for a huge fight against the Left."

"Anyway we made a mistake there. We have learned our lessons and we are wiser now. Anyone who acts make mistakes too," he reasoned.

Speaking about the India, Yechury said,"Secularism and democracy cannot be separated. Secularism is a very integral part of the evolution of the idea of India. Three visions of India emerged in the 1920s. The Congress's vision was based on secularism and democracy. The Left's vision added economic independence to it. The third idea was that of a Hindu rashtra and a Islamic state. Mahatma Gandhi was even assassinated for his vision."

Yechury quoted Golwalker's treatise on the nation defined which wanted a Hindu country. "The battle of these visions continues and the Left has an important role to play as the right wing grows. Hindutva is not Hinduism and it was made clear by Savarkar who coined term. It is a political term only. The left is committed to its fight against imperialism and communalism. The economic policies should not dictate politics," He said.

"The party cannot support the methods of the Naxalites. More than 200 CPM members died in attacks by the Naxals. Though reformers like Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule and Periyar fought for social equality, the impact could not be sustained. Social change will not occur by a change of heart alone, it needs economic empowerment. The left's vision is one of inclusiveness and it will continue to fight for it," Yechury said.

Image:  CPI-M Politburo member Sitaram Yechury at Columbia University.

Photagraph: Jay Mandal

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George Joseph in New York