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Lok Morcha – A Chapter in revolutionary democracy

17. March 2003

by Harsh Thakor

On March 10th 1996 a historic event took place in Selbrah village of Bhatinda district in Punjab. It was the founding day of the Lok Morcha, a revolutionary democratic front formed as a mass revolutionary platform to build the revolutionary movement. This front had it´s origin in the Front against repression and communalism, which was formed to combat the Khalistani terrorism and the State terrorism in the days of the Khalistani movement. The main purpose of founding the Morcha was to project a democratic revolutionary alternative in the present rotten set up. The Morcha vowed to discredit the anti-people ruling class parties. In India the people fed up with the autocratic ruling class parties who failed to answer their burning questions like unemployment, price rise, food shortages Etc.were fed up and were seeking an alternative. Punjab had a rich history of democratic revolutionary struggles opposing the nefarious ruling class parties. These included the movement of the Punjab Students Union and the Naujavan Bharat Sabha in the late 70´s and the programmes of the anti-communal and anti-repression front in the mid- 80´s and early 90´s. Such struggles were in direct contrast to the electoral politics in the of the Ruling Congress and Akali Dal politics which attempted to divide people on religious lines to divert the people from their burning problems.
Leaders like Nehru and Gandhi were at the forefront of suppressing militant Struggles against the British Empire. In 1931 Gandhi conspired with the British in Bhagat Singh´s hanging. Bhagat Singh was leading a militant anti-colonial movement against the British. With comradesSukhdev and Rajguru he flung a bomb in the British assembly hall in Delhi. The bomb was intended to kill no one but just thrown as a symbolic protest opposing a bill passed in parliament. Gandhi pretended to plead for Bhagat Singh but actually persuaded the British to sentence him, as he was a major danger to the British regime. In 1938 in Garwhal, in U.P State. Hindu Soldiers laid down their arms and refused to fire on Muslims. Gandhi opposed this action stating that it is a soldier´s duty to oppose the oath he has taken. Similarly in 1946 the Congress opposed a naval Mutiny where the navy revolted and refused to obey the British. The Congress supported the British in suppressing the Struggle. After 1947 the Nehru led Congress captured power from the British they brutally suppressed the Communist led Telengana Peasant Struggle using the Indian Army! Since 1947 the Indian Ruling political parties continued to follow the path of the British Colonialists and was subservient to Imperialism. Struggles of the peasants for land opposing landlordism and the Working class for democratic Rights have been put down. Majority of Peasants have remained landless and been unable to repay their loans and workers have often been denied minimum wages and been retrenched as a result of closure of factories or substitution of machinery. Using communalism, like the Babri Masjid (Mosque which the Communal Bharatiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad targeted and destroyed in 1992 causing major riots) and Hindutva (movement for Hindu Revivalism) issue the ruling parties succeeded in diverting the masses from their genuine problems.
In it´s manifesto the Morcha vowed to wage an undaunted struggle to achieve real Independence (It was a transfer of power), which the Congress leaders who captured power in 1947 did not achieve. It would wage a protracted war against the foreign Imperialists. A relentless Struggle would be waged against the Imperialist Forces as well as against pro-Imperialist and anti-National People Forces. The Lok Morcha would also bitterly combat autocratic forces opposed to democracy to achieve democratization in all fields of life. It would strive to fight the landlords who enslaved the Peasantry and the Comprador Industrialists who enslaved the Working Class. To achieve their objective the Morcha would educate and organize the masses and attempt to build broad democratic people´s revolutionary movement representing the People´s demands. Finally the Morcha would also give solidarity and morale support to other struggling democratic organizations and help them build their struggles.
On 31st March 1996 in Selbrah Village of Bhatinda district a Conference 12,000 people assembled from the peasants, rural labour, Industrial Workers, employees, Youth, Women Etc.took place commemorating the true martyrs opposing Indian Colonialism.The majority of people assembled came from the poor peasantry and rural labour. The agricultural labourers and landless peasants from the Harijan (Backward class people who have been discriminated for Centuries) community represented the majority of them.
The father of martyr Jagpal Singh, a prominent leader of the Front against Repression and Communalism released the manifesto. That Front had waged a heroic mass Struggle against the Khalistani and State terrorism. It taught the Punjabi masses their ability to carry out mass revolutionary resistance and Self defence against the twin terror of the Khalistani terrorism and the State. The Khalistani movement had been a fascist Sikh liberation communal movement (Refer to Article on Burning Punjab). They had a fascistic religious fundamentalist code and forced people to surrender to their programme under the butt of machine guns. He described programmes of the Front like the Moga rally in 1987 where the people launched heroic resistance Under the initiative of the Front the masses heroically resisted the fascist programme of the Khalistani forces and in several villages and towns beat up such forces. The villagers organized their own self-defence against the tyrants.
Amolak Singh, Lok Morcha Secretary made the most significant speech. He described the sacrifices of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.Amolak described Bhagat Singh´s aspirations of a society liberated from the shackles of Imperialism. That society would be liberated from the yoke of casteism, communalism, landlordism, and Capitalism. He explained how the State suppressed the people´s movements and told the people that ballots could never change the lives of the people. Imperialism, Feudalism and the big bourgeoise had to be overthrown. Only a people´s revolution would bring about the change. Amolak´s voice reverberated in the revolutionary masses like a red flame glowing in their hearts.
The Lok Morcha Punjab has launched significant struggles to launch a democratic revolutionary Alternative in Punjab. After the Innaugural Conference it launched several programmes on the real face of Indian Independence. In 1997, they launched 2 programmes of particular significance in Kapurthala district and Ludhiana.In Kapurthala, the Morcha passed through 8 villages spreading the message “Recognize the real face of Indian Independence. The masses were so overwhelmed by the slogans of the Morcha that welcomed the marchers with tea and snacks. In one village about 700-8000 people including women and children participated. Of particular relevance is an incident in village Duleta where a dead body of a young man was to reach the village from abroad on the same day. That man had gone abroad for a job. Inspite of this the villagers insisted that the programme of the Morcha should go on. They said to the Morcha leaders “Why are you canceling the Programme.You have not come here for merry making. You will also talk about unemployment and other problems, because of which our boys have to go abroad. Your function will reduce the burden of grief on the villagers.” Subsequently a successful march and rally was held.
In Ludhiana City impressive rallies were organized in which hundreds of people carried banners raising slogans´ Down with Fake Independence!” Similar rallies were held in Bhatinda, Faridkot at and Jalandhar.(Nakodar town)
In July 1996 the Lok Morcha Unit in Bhatinda city took up programmes against Price Rise of petroleum products. The Morcha activists approached government employees, taxi-owners and drivers and the City´s poor. A similar programme was taken up in Ludhiana.In Faridkot a leaflet was issued against Price Rise of petroleum products. Later the Bhatinda Morcha Committee took out an intensive campaign against the sharp rise in prices of wheat flour.
The Lok Morcha held activities against atrocities on women. A 7-year-old Nepali girl of a labouring family was raped by a Punjabi tubewell operator. The girl was bleeding unconscious and factory workers struck work for hours. The Parents reported the matter to the police but the police failed to act. After 2 days when the girl regained consciousness, she identified the culprit in the presence of the police but the supporters of the Culprit attempted to save the culprit. A Morcha leader offered help but the girl´s parents could not believe that a Punjabi could go against a Punjabi. Ultimately the Morcha activist won the Parent´s confidence. The Involvement of the Morcha enabled the culprit to be arrested. However the police refused to file a case. The supporters of the Culprit threatened the parents of the girl to compromise. As a result of continuous mobilizations by the Morcha to file a case against the Culprit the police officers were forced to register a case.
However The Lok Morcha has made it´s most significant impact in democratic Revolutionary Politics in the Election Campaigns. In 3 campaigns they most effectively carried out the revolutionary message to the masses. In all these campaigns the nefarious anti-people policies of the Ruling Akali Dal Party (Party representing Sikh people) and the Congress were exposed. In February 1997 during the State Assembly elections they carried out a famous rally exposing the ruling class politics in Moga.In February 1998 they staged a most significant campaign in the light of projecting revolutionary politics to the masses. They explained the masses that for 50 years the various political parties that seized the chair failed to satisfy the democratic aspirations of the working people. From the Congress to the Janata Party and Janata Dal to the Bharatiya Janata party all the vote -seeking parties had been stooges of imperialism and instrumental in suppressing or diverting the the mass democratic Struggles of the masses. With the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (Agricultural Workers Union) the Morcha launched an “Inquilab Zindabad Campaign”(Long Live the Revolution Campaign) Through this campaign the organizers attacked the parliamentary system and the organs that virtually represented the upper classes. The Imperialist exploitation of cheap Indian labour, unprecedented corruption, great number of families living below the poverty line, the retrenchment of labour and the rise of unemployment as a result of globalisation, rising prices of essential commodities was all connected to the imperialist onslaught on the nation. The Ruling class policies fattened imperialist Capital, comprador capital and the powers of the landlords and the Industrialists. Activists of the Morcha explained that only by confiscating the land of the landlords without any compensation and distributing it among the landless and poor peasants, by total confiscation of foreign capital, taking over all comprador capital, and by canceelling all foreign debt can a democratic society exist. The organizers explained the need for a broad agrarian revolutionary movement to achieve a democratic society and stressed the importance of the masses organizing themselves in revolutionary democratic Struggles. The Lok Morcha adopted a most democratic method of functioning. A democratic process of decision and discussion was adopted giving lower units of the Morcha an opportunity to participate in the decision process. The form and duration of the campaign, areas and sections of people to be covered, location of the main gatherings, preparation and publication of propaganda material, were all decided by lower units. The Inquilab Zindabad campaign culminated in various areas in huge are level gatherings. Political conferences were held in 6areas.. About 18 to 20,000 people participated in these conferences.The Lok Morcha style of democratic functioning was in complete contrast to the most undemocratic functioning of ruling class parties.
Some of the most prominent features of the campaign was the mass defiance to ruling class elements. In the village where the Punjab Chief Minister resided his son attempted to thwart the revolutionary activists from joining the Morcha.The chief minister Prakash Singh Badal got a gathering of 36 loyalists to protest at the house of a prominent Morcha activist. They offered threats and offered loans and jobs to the villagers. Showing relentless courage the Morcha activist boarded his vehicle and set out to join the revolutionary rally. Inspired by the heroism of the Morcha activist 80 men and women followed him to the conference. In another village an Akali leader threatened the labourers that their labour would be boycotted if they attended the Conference but showing nerves of steel the villagers retaliated and the Leader had to apologize to the villagers. Similarly in another area a leader´s attempt to thwart the Morcha supporters from participating in the Conference was thwarted. Amongst the peasantry, a strong class hatred and alienation from ruling class parties emerged. The Lok Morcha campaign also succeeded in reducing casteist and communal prejudices amongst the peasants, like that between the Dalits(Untouchable landless backward classes ) and the Jats.(High Caste)
In the 1999 election campaign the Lok Morcha with the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the Revolutionary workers front wrote a chapter in the history of the Revolutionary democratic movement of the Indian people. This time the Lok Morcha did not organize any state level political conference The Morcha decided that various forms of propoganda and mobilization would be adopted in accordance with the given situation in areas. The campaign was organized in 13 centres in various districts of the state. In most of these centres apart from pasting posters and distributing handbills, mass mobilizations educating masses were launched as well as group meetings and flag marches. Are conferences were organized at 5 centres. The mass campaign was launched by a flag march for 2 days.100 members and supporters of the´Morcha participated. On the August 14th Marchthe city´s poor localities were covered adressing 250 people The next day 300 people were addressed. After that a series of mass meetings were launched which covered 1,350 people.74% of the basic classes participated and what was notable was the participation of girl students. On August 29th, a group of about 87 members and supporters of the Morcha, riding tractor trollies decorated with banners and flags og the Morcha, organized a flag march. On September 1st 1999, a Lok Morcha conference was staged in a locality of city poor and factory workers. A significant fact here was the participation of migratory labour. This section admired the seriousness of the campaign.
The success of the campaign can be judged by some important events.In one village when a team of Morcha activists entered the village they were gheraoed by villagers. After the activists explained their stand, the people´s attitude changed and they welcomed the Morcha leaders. The villagers went on to state that what was written in the Morcha handbill was 100%correct. In another mass gathering when a Morcha leader effectively communicated the stand the masses stated “Brother, all of your points are worth lakhs of Rupees each, they are worth safe-guarding by encasing them in a box. But tell us the door to which now we should bow our heads. “Thus the masses were seeking a pro-people party. In another district the villagers gheraoed an Akali Dal candidate and his supporters under the leadership of the Bharatiya Kisan Union,preventing them from holding their election campaign. The B.K.U.leader was arrested.100 people stormed the police station to demand his release Ultimately he was released. Only with a contingent of policeman could the Akali Dal party hold their election meeting. In some places the masses asked Morcha activists to stand for elections. The Morcha activists explained that the parliamentary system was bankrupt and participating in such elections was undemocratic. Finally one most noteworthy progressive instance was the refutation of an Akali Dal woman leader (Ruling Class Politician)by a landless labour woman. She went and sat on the cot besides the Akali Dal candidate. The Policeman shouted at her for sitting besides such an upper class woman. The woman labourer replied “If we people may not sit beside you, then how are we equal to you, as you claim and how are you entitled to get our votes?”A similar instance took place in Ludhiana district with a woman labourer pushing away a woman leader attempting to embrace her.
The Lok Morcha has faced problems but is an excellent example of carrying out revolutionary democratic Struggle. The most significant result of the Morcha has been it´s ability to show the masses their inherent ability to build there revolutionary Struggles and also form their own democratic Institutions. The Morcha has been a precursor to a strong anti- feudal and anti- Imperialist movement.The Consciousness of the masses has been enhanced and their participation has been encouraged in decisions and discussions. The Morcha has also supported genuine democratic organizations like the Bharatiya Kisan Union, The Punjab Agricultural workers Union and so on. The most significant Contribution of the Morcha has been to show the masses how anti-people the so-called parliamentary democratic set up is and that a revolutionary people´s democratic government is possible.
On March 23rd is Martyr Bhagat Singh´s martyrdom day. That day with Sukhdev and Rajguru he went to the gallows carrying the sprit of revolution. Lok Morcha Punjab carries the torch of Bhagat Singh forward.
Long Live The Struggle of The Lok Morcha!
Let us remember Bhagat Singh´s martyrdom forever!