Friday, September 12, 2008
Anuradha Gandhi: A Marxist Theoretician, an Exemplary Communist & Great Leader of the Indian Revolutionary Movement
On April 12 2008 Anuradha (alias Narmada, Varsha, Janaki, Rama) passed away after an attack of falciperum malaria. With this the Indian working class lost one of its ablest and topmost woman leader who with sheer hard work, deep ideological and political study, and revolutionary dedication rose from the ranks to become a member of the Central Committee of the C.P.I (Maoist); the oppressed women of India lost one of the greatest champions of their cause, one who, for more than three and a half decades, relentlessly organised them, led them into struggles against oppression and exploitation; the Nagpur dalit masses and workers of the unorganised sector lost a leader who stayed among them, awakening and organising them; and the adivasi masses of Bastar, especially those
of South Bastar, worst affected by the genocidal Salwa Judum, lost their beloved didi, who worked among them for years sharing their weal and woe; and the students and intellectuals lost a revolutionary role model, who gave up the comforts of a middle class life in order to integrate with
the oppressed masses. She is the first Mahilla Central Commmittee Member to be martyred in the history of the Maoist movement in the country. She was just 54 at the time of her martyrdom. She had just returned after spending a week in Jharkhand taking classes amongst the tribals on the question of women’s oppression. After getting high fever on April 6th she was not able to get proper medical attention due to the difficulties of underground life. The local pathologist said there was no malarial infection in the blood and so she was treated for stomach upset by a local doctor. It was only on 11th after another blood test that she realised that she had falciperum malaria. Though even on that morning she appeared fine, inside, the falciperum bacteria had already affected her lungs, heart and
kidney which had already been weakened by systemic scerlosis. Though she was admitted in a hospital immediately, barely within an hour her systems began failing. Though she was put on oxygen and later life support systems, the end came the next morning. While on oxygen she was conscious and her eyes wide open. The same soft eyes with her depth of expression, though in acute pain with probable knowledge that she was sinking. The degeneration was catalyzed by the fact that she had an incurable disease, systemic sclerosis. This auto-immune disease first affected her hands and slowly attacked the inner organs. Detected two years ago and probably in existence since the last 5 years, it had already affected her lungs and heart beat. Yet, with her commitment to the masses and revolution she worked with the same ardour as earlier. She rarely spoke of the disease and took on even the most strenuous tasks. Her commitment to the cause of revolution was unshakable no matter what the ups and downs. Being with the incipient revolutionary movement right from her college days in the early 1970s in Mumbai, she gave up a career as a brilliant lecturer, and dedicated her entire life to the revolution to become a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). At the 9th Congress-Unity Congress she was the single Mahilla comrade to be elected to its Central Committee. In this span of about 35 years work with the Indian revolutionary movement she has contributed much to the building of the revolutionary movement in the country, not only organisationally, but also politically and ideologically. She was one of the founders of the CPI (ML) Party in Maharashtra. Though her prime focus was in Maharashtra (both the Western and the Vidharbha region) her work also contributed to the building of the all-India organisation and even of the Dandakaranya movement. Even at a late age of over 40, and after serving as a senior professor teaching sociology to post-graduate students at Nagpur University, she moved to live with the tribals of Bastar staying with the armed squads for three years. She was there at the peak of the 1997
famine when her own health had deteriorated under those hard conditions of life. She started her political life at Elphinstine College Mumbai in 1972 which became the hub od radical left-wing activities in the 1970s, primarily due to her initiation. Earlier she had visited the Bangladesh refugee camps and had gone to the famine hit people with a group of students during the horrible famine in Maharashtra of 1972. Deeply moved by what she saw there, and being a very sensitive person, she began taking part in college activities and social work with the poor. While active amongst students
she came in touch with the student organisation PROYOM (Progressive Youth Movement), which was connected to the then Naxalite movement. She soon became its active member, and later one of its leaders. She also worked in the slums through which she developed her first interaction
with dalits, the dalit movement and the horrors of untouchability. She was a participant in the radical Dalit Panther movement of 1974; and in the 3-month long Worli clashes with the Shiv Sena. Her sensitive nature drew her to the agony of dalit oppression and led her to seek answers to it.
She read voraciously and gained a deep knowledge of Marxism. Later, in the post-Emergency period she became one the leading figures in the country in the civil liberties movement and was one of the initiators of the CPDR (Committee of Protection of Democratic Rights). In 1982 she moved from Mumbai to Nagpur and while teaching at Nagpur University she actively participated in, and played a leading role in the trade union and dalit movements in the region. In the process she went a number of times to jail. With State repression increasing she was forced to go underground. Later, at the call of the Party she went to Bastar to work among the tribals, and on returning she took up the responsibility once again of building the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra. Since the last 15 years she has been working in the underground building the Party and Maharashtra as well as leading the women’s wing of the Party, until her sudden and untimely demise.
Anuradha Shanbag, fondly called Anu throughout her legal days, was born on March 28 1954. She was born and brought up in an atmosphere of rational and progressive thinking as her parents were one time CPI members who had themselves got married in the undivided CPI office in Mumbai in the 1940s. She was the elder of two children, with her brother growing to become a noted stage artist and script writer from Mumbai. Her father was, in the 1950s, in the Defence Committee taking up the
legal cases of the communists arrested in the Telangana struggle and later became a well known progressive lawyer of Mumbai; the mother is an active social worker who, even at this late age, is active with a women’s group. Her father later became a well known lawyer in the Bombay High
Court. With the father a Kannadiga and mother a Gujarati and with all the aunts (from the mother’s side) at one time in the CPI (an uncle from Aurangabad was till his death a top leader of the CPI) she was brought up in a non-religious, liberal atmosphere from childhood itself. An atmosphere of serious reading, intellectual creativity, and rational thinking, and a pro-poor attitude, was very much part of her entire upbringing. In this atmosphere she excelled academically in both school and college.
With a very sharp mind and a quick grasping ability, she topped in studies with ease. Being a very lively person she would mix very easily with one and all. Though she chose a different path from most of her school mates, they still hold fond memories of her. She went to the J.B.Petit School not
too far from her parent’s house. She was a topper throughout her school days. She was also involved in many extra-curricular activities. Particularly she had a keen interest in Indian classical dancing, which she had picked up during her school days. She joined Elphinstone College in 1971 and though she soon became active in student work she continued her meritorious run in college. She was a popular mass leader and able to attract many students to the movement. It was these students organised by her that later went on to build the powerful student organisation in the post-emergency period, the VPS (Vidhyarthi Pragati Sanghatna). She went on to do her MA in sociology and later M.Phil. Later she began lecturing, first in Wilson College (Chowpatti) and then at the Jhunjhunwalla College (Ghatkopar). Just as she was a good student she was also a very popular and effective lecturer. She was a favourite amongst her students. That was her nature, whatever task she took up she did with a lot of fervour and diligently. In this post-emergency period she plunged into the nationwide civil liberties movement for the release of political prisoners and was one of the founder members of the CPDR (Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights) in Mumbai. She became a public figure and a renowned civil liberty’s activist throughout the country. In Nov.1977 she married a fellow comrade at a small function involving only the families on both sides. She became a popular Maoist
speaker within the countrywide civil liberties movement, which was a broad front of Maoists and all others who had been falsely incarcerated during the Emergency. It was her sensitive nature and intellectual interests that attracted her towards the worldwide communist upsurge of that time, during her college days. The anti-US movement in support of the Vietnam revolution and the huge impact of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had a major impact on the youth throughout the world. In India the additional attraction of the youth of that time was the Naxalbari uprising when thousands of students gave up their careers and education and selflessly went to the countryside. All this had a big impact on the young Anu who was already much moved by the famine stricken people she had visited
in 1971. Reading the accounts of the Chinese revolution and the GPCR by western authors inspired Anu and many of that generation. The purity of the self-sacrificing nature of the first generation naxalites, many of whom were killed in the prime of their youth, further acted as inspiration.
Drawn into the revolutionary student movement of that period Anu soon became a committed revolutionary. Since then there has been no looking back. Being a brilliant student she sacrificed a very promising career; though she later married, she sacrificed the desire to have children, so that she would not get distracted from her revolutionary responsibilities. She studied Marxism deeply to equip herself with the tools that could keep her on the revolutionary track in the face of all alien ideas propping up. She always took on the most ardous tasks without any complaint. She never gave a thought for herself, whether health, family or any other personal matter. She was deeply affected by the injustice all around, and realising that only revolution could solve it, she gave her entire life for the
poverty stricken masses of our country. Neither acute hardships, dangers from the police and government, not poor health, shook her determination to the cause she had taken up. Even on the very morning of the day she collapsed, inspite of high fever, she was completing some urgent task
she had taken up before going to the hospital. Ofcourse, that morning there was no indication whatsoever that she would never return. But, within hours her internal organs began failing and then she was no more.
Growth as a Renowned Revolutionary Mass Leader
During the late 1970s Anuradha was in the forefront of the countrywide civil liberties movement. In the early 1980s, with the formation of the CPI(ML)(People’s War), and the spread of the revolutionary movement to Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, there was talk of the need to spread the revolutionary activities from Mumbai to Vidharbha. Here too she was one of the pioneers, giving up her job in the
Mumbai College and her high profile public life and shifting to Nagpur; a place totally unknown to her. With her record as a good lecturer, she soon landed a job of teaching sociology to post-graduate students in Nagpur University. Her focus of activities in Vidharbha was primarily trade union work and amongst dalits. In the trade unions she worked primarily amongst construction workers and led many a militant struggle. Most notable was the lengthy strike at the Khaparkheda (30 kms from Nagpur) thermal power plant being constructed, of about 5,000 workers. This ended in police firing
and curfew being declared in the region. She was also involved in organising the ‘molkarins’ (house servants) of Nagpur, workers in the MIDC companies at Hingna (Nagpur), railway workers, bidi workers in Bhandara, powerloom workers at Kamptee (15 kms from Nagpur), and other unorganised sector workers, and later shifted to Chandrapur to help organise the coal-mine and construction workers there. Most of these unorganised sector workers had defacto no basic trade union rights
and were totally ignored by the traditional unions. She also developed links for joint activities with other progressive trade union leaders of the region from not only Nagpur, but also from Chandrapur, Amravati Jabalpur, Yeotmal, etc. In these struggles she was arrested a few times, and had spent a number of days in Nagpur jail. Inspite of her job, she became a renowned revolutionary trade union leader of the region. Besides this, she was even more active within the dalit community organising and awakening them against caste oppression and for their liberation from this oppressive system. She was infact one of the pioneers amongst the revolutionary Marxists to have addressed the issue of dalit
oppression and caste discrimination at a very early stage itself. She had read extensively Ambedkar and other sociological writings on the caste question. Unlike the traditional Marxists she fully identified with dalits and infact moved her Nagpur residence to one of the largest dalit bastis
of Mahrashtra, Indora. Though this was a stronghold of most of the dalit leaders and a hotbed of dalit politics, large sections of the youth soon began getting attracted to the Naxalites. Particularly the cultural troupes she helped organise had enormous impact. She grew to become the open face of the Maoists in the dalit movement; and became one of the major public speakers at most dalit meetings in Vidarbha. Though vehemently opposed by the dalit leaders, with her deep study of Ambedkar,
dalit issues and caste oppression, she could stand her ground, with widespread support from the youth.
She wrote profusely on the topic in both English and Marathi presenting a class view-point to the issue and countering not only the numerous post-modernist trends on this issue but the wrong Marxist
interpretations of the dalit and caste questions. The most elaborate article on the issue was a 25-page piece in Marathi that appeared in Satyashodhak Marxvad (the organ of Sharad Patil from Dhule) explaining a Marxist stand on the dalit question and linking dalit liberation with the task of the
new democratic revolution in the country. Till today this article is quoted by many. Many years later it was she who prepared the original draft on the basis of which the erstwhile CPI (ML)(PW) prepared the first ever caste policy paper within the Marxist movement in India. In this draft she outlined that in India the democratisation of society is inconceivable without smashing the elitist caste system and fighting all forms of caste oppressions, most particularly its crudest form against dalits in the form
of untouchability. Much of the views expressed by her then in the mid- 1990s, have now been adopted by the CPI (Maoist) in its recent Congress. Besides, all this, she was also instrumental in building the
revolutionary women’s movement in Nagpur. She stood out as a shining example for all progressive women who actively overcame all the patriarchal constraints of society around to play a leading role on varied fronts and in the Party. She inspired a large number of women to not only the women’s organisation but also the Party. Besides these two fields of work there were many notable events
that occurred in which she played a pioneering role while in Nagpur. Particularly we mention two such examples; which had an indelible revolutionary impact on the consciousness of the people of Vidharbha. The first was the Kamlapur Conference of 1984; the second was the proposed JNM Cultural programme led by Gaddar, in 1992. the Kamplapur Conference was organised deep in the forests of Gadchirolli by the incipient Naxalite movement in the region. A massive campaign, led by
Anuradha, was carried out all over Vidarbha, while the armed squads did a hug mobilisation within the forests. Though the conference was ruthlessly crushed by the police, hundreds and thousands of people began flocking towards Kamplapur — a small village deep in the forests. The revolutionary message from Kamlapur reverberated throughout the region for months. The proposed Gaddar programme in Nagpur, which too was crushed by ruthless police action, had an even greater impact. People still recollect the diminutive Anuradha climbing onto a motor cycle to address the large crowd gathered on the streets outside the college hall which had been sealed by the police, inspite of a High Court order allowing the programme. Though thousands of police had surrounded the hall and
occupied all approach roads to it, the big gathering included a large number of journalists, lecturers, writers, lawyers, and even senior faculty members. All were lathi-chared as soon as Gaddar was produced. Though the programme did not take place this was head-line news for nearly two
months. Both these events had a major impact on spreading revolutionary views widely all over Vidharbha and it was she who was the main architect of both these programmes. Inspite all these activities she was a very popular teacher amongst her students showing a high level of responsibility towards them, not missing a single lecture. Like any task she took up, she would be thorough
and conscientious about it. So, she was much loved by her students, and respected by her professor colleagues. But later, due to intense police pressure the Party felt her affectivity would be more from the underground. And so, since about 1994 she has functioned continuously from the underground; braving all the difficulties of underground life. During her one-and-a-half decade in the Vidharbha region she had an enormous impact on the region in bringing revolutionary politics to the area. Not only did she, together with others, build a revolutionary working class movement, and powerful revolutionary movement among dalits, but she also helped build the revolutionary student movement and attracting a vast cross-section of intellectuals, including senior professors, journalists, noted playwrights and top advocates of the region. Soon after coming to Nagpur, after the death of revolutionary writer of AP, Cherabandaraju, she got his poems translated into Marathi and an anthology containing those poems was released at a function by the most renowned Marathi
poet of the region. The Marathi translation of the poems sold extensively in all Maharashtra, creating a major impact. Among the many fields she worked, her most effective impact was taking revolutionary politics amongst the dalits and arousing them to a revolutionary consciousness.She was one of the most prominent leaders f the civil liberties movement in the post Emergency period and played a prominent role in the famous Civil Liberties Conference held in 1977 at Delhi, demanding the release of political prisoners. The conference included such leading lights as V.M.Tarkunde, Govinda Mukhoty, Subba Rao, Sudesh Vaid and even some ruling class elements as George Fernandez and Arun Shourie. She continued this role through the 1980s inspite of all her other activities. She also played a role in the formation of the AILRC (All India League of Revolutionary Culture) formed in 1983. She was one of the main speakers at the Sindri (near Dhanbad) Conference of the AILRC in 1985, together with KVR, Gaddar, VV and others, and till today she is much remembered by the comrades of Bihar and Jharkhand (many in the leadership today) who were attracted to the revolutionary movement by the impact of that Conference and the cultural performances. Many in the region remember her fondly from those days.
Call of Bastar
Having carried the revolutionary message of the Dandakaranya movement to the rest of Vidharbha, she, without flinching, responded to the call of the Party to shift base to Bastar. In the second half of the 1990s she spent three years living with the squads amongst the Bastar tribals. Carrying a rifle and in military fatigue she spent the next three years of her revolutionary life amongst the tribals of DK. She went out of her way to gather many a PHD study on the Gond tribals to the Party leaders of DK. She always maintained that these three years were one of the most fulfilling in her life where she learned about the lives and struggles of the Gond tribals of Bastar. She keenly studied their lives and how the movement was built. She particularly focused on the lives of the women, their organisation, the KAMS (Krantikari Adivasi Mahilla Sanghathna) and the women in the squads. She too learned how to wield the gun and as part of the squad she carried one for her self-defence. In fact, on one
occasion she had a very narrow escape when the police came within feet of where they were resting. Their firing missed her and the retaliation by her squad allowed them to retreat without any loss of life.
She spent most of her time in the Byramgadh area which, recently, has been in the limelight for facing the brunt of the Salwa Judum attacks.Though she contracted malaria a number of times while she was there it was never the dangerous falciperum kind; besides she was in the good care of the local Party that showed much concern for her. Her tenacity in staying with the squads astounded and impressed even the local tribals who would time and again mention how at this late age she had managed to come and stay there. During this period she also spent much time in taking classes, mainly for the growing leadership amongst tribal women. She took classes on women’s health issues, women’s oppression and the new democratic revolution, on imparting general knowledge, on giving the rudiments of Marxism, etc. She helped draft handbills and wrote numerous articles in the local Party magazine. Towards the last part of her stay she was given independent charge of the West Bastar area covering what is known as the National Park region. This too is a region which is affected by the recent Salwa Judum onslaught. While she was there she guided and developed the movement
in the area. She was there during the peak of the 1997 famine in which hundreds had died of starvation in other areas. Here, with the Party seizing grains from the hoarders and distributing grain the damage was much controlled. During this period, attacks of malaria, the terrible dry heat of summer, coupled with the famine conditions took a toll on her health, when she lost about 10 Kgs of weight. It was only her enormous commitment to the cause of the people, and tremendous will-power that kept her going under even these worst conditions. Besides, her nature was such that she never showed any of her own sufferings. She always bore pain, whether physical or mental, without complaining, or others coming to know. After returning from Bastar she took up Party responsibilities in Mahaashtra while continuing an underground existence. For the last decade she has contributed to building the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra, besides playing the major role in running the Mahilla subcommittee of the Party since 2001.
Anu’s commitment to the oppressed masses was unflinching. It was this concern for the well-being of the poverty stricken masses that drew her to revolutionary politics. Unable to tolerate the poverty and humiliation that the poor faced, she sought answers. The terrible humiliation that dalits faced due to untouchability and other forms of inhuman discrimination drew her to study the caste question in India and Ambedkar’s writings and own the cause of the dalits from a very early period. At that time dalit issues were not the fashion as it now is, and was anathema in most Marxist circles. Even as a student she joined in the Marxist study circles run by the then incipient Party. She was one of the chief architects of the building the revolutionary movement in Mumbai in the 1970s. She played a premier role in the revolutionary student movement and building up the Party core within it. She was a founder member of the CPI (ML) Party in Maharashtra. Popularity and fame never went to her head and she easily switched to a new low profile role as per the needs of the Party. When the need grew to develop a political movement in Vidarbha after the initiation of the Gadchiroli armed movement, she willingly volunteered to shift from her home base in Mumbai and move to a place where she did not know even a single person. There, she soon managed a part-time teaching job with post-graduate students in Nagpur University and thereby gained social acceptability locally. She was an ordinary member of the Party when the CPI(ML)(People’s War) was formed in 1980 and after she moved to Nagpur she played a leading role in building the Party and revolutionary movement there. Later, she became a member of the Vidharbha Regional Committee of the Party. As a VRC member she played an important role in building the Party in the region. After coming back from Bastar she was elected to the Maharashtra State Committee of the Party. Later she was also given additional responsibility as part of the Central Mahilla Sub-committee, ever since it was established. She attended as a delegate to both the 2001 Congress held by the erstwhile CPI(ML)(PW) and the Unity Congress-ninth Congress of the CPI(Maoist) . She was the only delegate that was elected to the Presidium of both the Congresses, which conducted its proceedings. At the 2001 Congress she was elected as an Alternate Member of the Central Committee. At the time of her martyrdom she was a member of the highest body of the CPI (Maoist), it’s Central Committee, with independent charge of the Central Mahilla Sub-Committee and also a part of the CC’s South Western Regional Bureau. As part of her role in
this Sub-Committee she played an important role of drafting the Women’s Perspective of the Party. At the time of her death she was working on studying the problems women comrades were facing in the Party, the varied forms of patriarchy they face, and devising a rectification plan that would help the growth of women comrades, so that they can grow to take greater leadership responsibilities. In fact her very last task was taking a class of the leading women activists from Jharkhand, mostly from tribal background, to explain the Women’s Perspective of the Party. Her untimely and premature death will have a serious impact on the revolutionary movement in the country and particularly on the development of women’s work in the Party as also the development of work in Maharashtra.
Anu, an Exemplary Communist
Almost child-like, her face was a mirror of expression of her emotions/feelings; pretence, falsehood, intrigue, ego, etc, were unimaginable for her. And this nature never changed through all the traumatic decades of revolutionary life. It was her extremely high level of honesty towards herself and others that attracted all genuine people towards her; even those who disagreed with her views. She had a natural ability of mixing and integrating into any environment … whether it is of tribals, dalits, and construction workers or of top academics, intellectuals of the country. Her simplicity and child-like innocence, together with her enormous liveliness made her a most likable person. She was totally selfless, uncaring about her own comforts and even health, with a lot of concern for others. She was exceedingly hardworking, with a very strong sense of discipline. She was the type of person that if
she took up any task all could be rest assured it would get done. She had a strong sense of responsibility towards people and any task what-soever, however trivial it may be. This was reflected in her teaching work, political work, or anything she took up. It was reflected in her attitude
towards her students, colleagues, comrades, or, in fact, any person she was associated with. And one of her best and most lovable qualities was her high sense of principles. She was an extremely principled person standing up for what she believed in and not a person to adjust her beliefs
according to the views of others, however senior, or for the sake of some petty gains. So, people could trust her implicitly. Yet, she had the modesty to be a willing learner.While being creative and not stereotype in her thinking, she was always firm on the Party line and Marxist ideology and never compromised with views she felt incorrect, no matter who was presenting them. It was this steadfastness that allowed her to stay with true revolutionary forces till her very last, through all the ups and downs in her over 3½ decade long revolutionary life. Yet, she had the positive approach of seeing the positives in others, even with those she differed with, and showing respect to all, no matter what her differences. Though impatient at times she never bore grudges against others. In that way she acted as a solid and steadfast anchor for the Party, through all its ups and downs, particularly in Maharashtra. She never knew fear and even in the face of death, during the last moments of consciousness her eyes had the same softness and tenderness as was in the normal days. She took up the most arduous and dangerous tasks at very critical changes in her political life — this was reflected in her ability to give up her high profile public life when she was in Mumbai and overnight shift to Nagpur where not a sole knew her; then again she could give up her University job and image of
one of the most popular leaders of Nagpur and go underground and join the squads in Bastar; even in her very last days when the bulk of the Party leadership was arrested in Maharashtra it was she who held the Party together though it was high risk with the police specifically hunting for her.
And all these qualities shone through her personality even as a woman activist in this highly patriarchal and feudal atmosphere in the country. As a person she had all the qualities of what a real human-being and comrade should be like. All these excellent qualities enabled her to become
a true and genuine communist. Her loss is an enormous loss for the revolutionary and democratic movement of the country; and more particularly for its progressive and revolutionary women.
Anuradha Gandhi as the leader, theoretician and teacher of the Revolutionary Women’s Movement of India
It was the year 2001. Delegates from about 16 states celebrated March 8th with great gusto in the camp organized for conducting the 9th Congress of the erstwhile CPI (ML) (People’s War). Martyr comrades
Padma and Lalitha from North Telangana planned the whole programme with great enthusiasm along with other women delegates and the comrades in the camp. There were many speakers. One comrade from the CC also spoke and after a very educative speech straight away went for a public self criticism on their part (meaning leadership in the areas where they held responsibilities) about not organizing women on a large scale into the movement and not being able to sustain them due to problems of
patriarchy also along with other problems. He said how inspired he was with impressive participation of women in many armed struggle areas like DK, NT and AP and vowed to correct the mistakes and ensure large participation of women in the party and army. His speech reflected the serious introspection of the party about how to involve more women into the party, army and the UF in areas where it is poor and how to bring women into leadership even where their participation is large. But on a private note it could be also the result of the discussions women delegates were having in their spare time with the delegates from various areas about the participation of women in the movement. One of them was Anuradha Gandhi, then known as Com. Janaki. The Congress discussed about this question seriously so much so that the hall passed a resolution that a central level women’s sub committee should be formed which would strive to increase the participation of women in the revolution and solve the problems related to their development. The new CC elected in that 2001 Congress promptly formed a women’s sub committee at the Central level and Com. Janaki, as the
senior most woman comrade and as a comrade with vast experience in building up various mass organizations and her in depth understanding of MLM, was chosen to lead it. We all know that in a communist party there is no need that a Women’s Commission or a sub committee should be headed by a woman only. So we should understand she was chosen for her exemplary abilities and experience and theoretical knowledge for this important and challenging task as a party leader. She was elected as an alternative member to the CC in the same Congress, the first woman in the history of the erstwhile CPI (ML) (PW) to be elected so. In fact she was the first woman comrade to be elected to a state committee in the party too (Com. Padma was elected as an alternate member to the state committee in North Telangana in the same period and almost immediately after the Congress was co opted as
a full member). Com. Janaki was the first woman comrade to be in the presidium in the Congress in the party. Once again she was in the presidium in the 9th Congress – Unity Congress of the CPI (Maoist), a testimony to her skills in presiding over the highest forum in the party. At the 2001
Congress she took on the additional task of translating from the stage and did it with equal ease from English to Hindi and vice versa with amazing precision and speed in the sessions both times. One of the first tasks of the new sub committee (CMSC now onwards for Central Mahila Sub Committee) was to enrich the party document ‘Our Approach towards woman question’ which was first released by the party in 1996. Com. Janaki’s theoretical depth very much contributed in its enrichment. (We feel proud to announce here that Com. Saketh, martyr Comrade of Karnataka had done a lot of contribution for this). Once again she was to take up the task of revising it along with some CC comrades after the formation of CPI (Maoist). She had taken classes on this document too in various movement areas of India like Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. She had a flair for languages and could take classes in English, Hindi, Marathi and probably in Gondi too which she picked up
fast while in DK. She was a very patient teacher and explained the concepts as many times as is required till the students understood. She always encouraged students to ask questions and get their doubts cleared.She used very simple language when she had to take classes to the adivasi
or peasant comrades but never left any complex concepts unexplained. This is something all party teachers should emulate. Her experience as a lecturer may have been an asset in taking classes but the main motive force within was her undying zeal as a communist teacher to educate the future cadres of the revolution so that they become good leaders with a thorough understanding of MLM. Even in private discussions whenever anybody asked any doubt she always explained with enthusiasm till their
doubt is cleared. Because of her theoretical clarity and command over language she could do it with exceptional ease. In Jharkhand where she took her last class a few days before her death, the students were so overwhelmed by their beloved teacher that they found it very difficult to part from her and accompanied her till a long distance to give her a moving farewell. Some of them continued in spite of her requests to go back and almost went till the last step of her journey to outside the forests;
and parted with her asking her to come again and again for taking such classes and educating them. What would those poor peasant, adivasi girls and women comrades, students who in turn inspired their teacher, have felt when they heard the news of her sad demise? One can only try to imagine Another of the tasks the CMSC took up was to prepare notes for the of preparing the most theoretical of them ‘Marxism and Feminism’ ‘naturally’ fell to her. She had prepared the notes and also took classes
on them. She was to revise it further in May and finalize it. It is our great loss that we lost her before she finished this task but the notes which have been completed give a glimpse of her analytical capabilities and in depth understanding of MLM. She did not believe in anything in a dogmatic way and tried to analyze using the later day experiences women were gaining both in India and the world. She had studied a lot for preparing these notes in spite of her busy schedules and age and health
problems. She never said no to responsibilities and tried to fit in these kinds of writing works by managing her time in a better way. She felt most comfortable in writing in English (she had mentioned this) but could write well in Marathi and Hindi also. Her drafting was excellent in English; she could explain very complex concepts in fewer words but in a lucid manner. She was the best woman theoretician of the party who could explain, debate and write on ideological questions in the party. She had voluntarily taken up the task of studying and writing notes on the Russian and Chinese experiences in building up the women’s movement but due to the developments in Maharashtra (arrests of senior comrades) she had to take up more responsibilities and so could not get started on this task yet. Now we can only grieve over how many more theoretical contributions she would have made to the party on many issues and especially the women’s issue on which she was concentrating of late.She had contributed many articles to People’s March on the women’s issues and drafted March 8 calls of the party as CMSC member since 2001. Her articles have been translated into Telugu and Hindi and printed in women’s magazines of the states. In the beginning of 2004 she led the two member team of CMSC which held discussions with a women leader of the Philippines’ women’s
movement and the secretary of New Zealand party (who happened to be a woman comrade) for exchanging information and experiences regarding women’s movement and about women in the party and army. She had prepared the note on the discussion with the New Zealand comrade for the understanding of the leadership. The CMSC had been organizing field trips to various struggle areas
and Com. Janaki led the two member team for the first of such field trips to Bihar and Jharkhand in 2002. She had taken classes on the women’s perspective and the team also had in depth discussions on the problems of women comrades and obstacles in their recruitment and retaining them in the party and army with the leadership. The team had written a report on the trip with their observations and suggestions for the CC.The CMSC’s field reports were for the CC to look into these matters.
This report not only appraised the CC of the problems there but also helped the CMSC to prepare some guidelines while going on such field trips as this was the first of the kind. She and another comrade had gone to the Balaghat – Gondia area to take classes and they also held a workshop
there with the women comrades to understand and help the party in solving them. Her observations were sharp and her deep understanding of socialist man-woman relations and the role of patriarchy in obstructing women’s development helped the party leadership in understanding the problems of women comrades. She never minced words and was forthright in putting forward her opinions to correct the mistakes in the party be it on women issues or others.She was assisting and guiding another comrade since 2001 in looking after the All India women’s work and since 2004 she was given the full responsibility of it. She fulfilled this task facing many odds amidst increasing state repression and at great risk. Undauntedly she tried to use every resource at her disposal to guide this work. Since 2006 she was actively guiding the work of consolidating the women’s work at all India
level. The classes and workshop held in Jharkhand in March, 2008 (where she caught the deadly falciperum malaria) were part of this consolidation work. She was to completely concentrate on this task now and it is an irretrievable loss to the All India Revolutionary Women’s Movement to
have lost such an indefatigable leader at this crucial juncture. After the formation of the CPI (Maoist) the CMSC was reconstituted and another comrade was heading the CMSC but after the arrest of that
comrade com. Janaki had once again taken up the responsibility as the in-charge of the CMSC. In the 9th Congress – Unity Congress of the CPI (Maoist) she was elected to the CC, only the second woman to be elected to the highest body and the only one at present since the other woman comrade was in jail. Since 2001 Com. Janaki was the leading person in the CMSC in the erstwhile PW and since 2005 in the CPI (Maoist) and left her indelible mark on all the tasks taken up by it till now.She had sclerosis since 5 years but it was diagnosed properly only 2 years back. In spite of this and other health problems she never complained and more importantly never felt prey to self pity and “just took it in herstride” (to quote her) and tried to make the best of it. This unbending spirit of hers is to be imbibed by every comrade and especially women comrades who tend to self pity when faced with such problems (due to the patriarchal concepts put in their heads by this society). It was really astounding how she got herself to climb steps and mountains with such serious problem and also hold the pen to write in such beautiful handwriting with her visibly misshapen fingers! Though those close to
her complained that she is not taking enough care of herself she smiled and tried to fit in time for her health. But obviously neither those who complained nor she herself even in their wildest imagination would have thought that such an illustrious life would end in this manner.Her experience both in urban and rural areas (three years in DK and also her various trips to the rural areas as part of her work), her aptitude to understand the problems of women in both kinds of work and in the party, army and the UF, her competence to tackle them at both ideological and practical levels was indeed a rare combination, and that too in a woman comrade given the various constraints women faced in this
patriarchal society. She unsparingly gave the best of these abilities to solve the problems of women inside the party. She was to lead the CMSC in studying the problems of development of women comrades in the party, army and UF, which the CMSC had taken up recently. It is not just a great loss not to have her guidance in fulfilling the task but all the more painful because she was one of the shining examples of what women could achieve in spite of the patriarchal barriers and was serving as a live model to the women comrades. Bur her life will continue to be a beacon light for generations of youngsters and especially the women joining the revolutionary movement.
Anuradha’s Untiring Struggle Against Caste Discrimination & Untouchability
Anuradha was just a fresh recruit to the revolutionary movement and beginning to understand Marxism-Leninism-Maoism when the Dalit Panther movement burst over Mumbai. Modelled along the Black Panther movement of the US, it burst out as a reaction against caste oppression
and untouchability on a scale never seen before. It particularly targeted the upper caste Hindu fascists, particularly the Shiv Sena and exposed the servile dalit/RPI (Republican Party of India) leadership. It was initiated and led by dalit cultural youth who brought out radical poetry and stories; all of whom were from the slums of Mumbai. They believed in physical retaliation against any form of oppression or atrocities against them, and also resorted to it. They Panther rage spread like wild fire throughout
Maharashtra and even to the neighbouring states. The rejected Hinduism and all the feudal muck that goes with it. The ruling classes became panicky and pressed into service their faithful tool, the newly formed fascist Shiv Sena. Sena goons and the police launched a massive physical onslaught on the Panthers and by end 1974 the Worli area of Mumbai turned into a battlefield with the police quarters situated at the BDD Chawls acting as the centre for Sena operations and the neighbouring slums the
centre for dalit retaliation.It was one such slum that Anuradha was already working. Mayanagar
was a fully dalit slum and was soon to become the strongest fortress withstanding the Sena/Police physical attacks. Many of the leading youth of the slum also became a part of the second layer of leadership of the Dalit Panthers. The pitched battles continued for three months without any let-up. The Sena used police weapons, swords, tube-lights, acid, etc; the Panthers used stones, tube-lights, knives and in Mayanagar the youth were taught the use of Molotov Cocktails. The Sena and police
could capture most other slums but were regularly beaten back at Mayanagar. Many of the dalit activists from neighbouring slums took refuge in Mayanagar to escape police/Sena attacks. It was during this time there was an election for the Parliament in this area, which the Panthers actively boycotted, leading to the defeat of the RPI leader B.C.Kamble. Anuradha played a role in building up this resistance. The then M-L group in Mumbai (later to become Janashakti) first condemned
the Panther movement and later, when it began collapsing and the leaders getting co-opted, began tailing it. In the short span of its existence the Dalit Panther movement brought a radical change in the thinking amongst the SCs of the State and introduced the term Dalits for SCs rather than the hinduised ‘Harijan’ of M,K,Gandhi. It also introduced a radical cultural trend in Marathi literature. Dalit literature, though later co-opted by the state and ruling classes continues to sprout radical views in the bastis and mohallas as also many a rural ghetto in the state. Then, there was not yet any deep understanding on the Dalit question but Anuradha played an active role standing with the dalit masses and against the Shiv Sena and other reactionaries. This was her first involvement on the issue.
It is then that she began studying the dalit issue in earnest. Being a lecturer in sociology, she studied many sociological writings on the issue, the writings of Ambedkar, etc and while being involved with the dalit masses sought to understand the problem from a class/Marxist viewpoint.The Panther movement and its aftermath pushed the dalit question on to the agenda of the oppressed masses, in a way it had never done earlier. Soon all progressives, leftists, Marxists had to define their position
vis-à-vis caste oppression and the horrors of untouchability. In Maharashtra two trends developed within the progressive circles: the first was a sort of post-modernist approach, led primarily by the likes of Gail Omvedt; the other was a negation of the very issue itself by the traditional Marxists. There was yet another approach in the left circles that sought to combine Marxism and Ambedkar’s writings, the leading protaganist of whom was Sharad Patil. It was Anuradha who began polemics with all these trends and in the process evolving a class/Marxist view-point to the dalit question in India. The culmination of this process was the lengthy article in Satyashodak Marxvad (organ of Sharad Patil) which appeared in Marathi around the late 1980s. This was further refined, together with an analysis of Ambedkar which developed into the rough draft written in about 1994, on the basis of which the CPI(ML)(PW) brought out the caste policy document; the first of its kind ever.Meanwhile Anuradha had shifted to Nagpur; and after a few years shifted her residence to the main dalit basti of the city, which was also the heart of dalit politics in Maharashtra. Here she lived a full decade working amongst the dalits, living amongst them, and organising them. This brought her into close contact with the dalit movement and the issues they faced. This gave her a living understanding of the problem,
which, combined with her theoretical study helped evolve an indepth knowledge of the issue. The Indora basti had a vibrant political atmosphere and as the bulk of the population were from very poor background they easily took to the radical understanding of the caste question. Through the 1980s and 1990s the waves of radical revolts at an all Maharashtra level created the fertile ground in Indora which helped Anuradha radicalize the youth of the over one-lakh basti. First it was the wave of struggles against the banning of Ambedkar’s book ‘Riddles in Hinduism’, then the continuous mass militant outbursts for the renaming of Marathwada University as Ambedkar University; then there was the 4-day paralysis of entire Maharashtra after the firing by police and killing of 11 innocent
dalits at the Rama Bai Ambedkar Nagar in Mumbai after Ambedkar’s statue had been garlanded by chappals by some miscreants; and recently too there was the outburst against the brutal murder of dalits at Khairlanji, Bhandara district. Anuradha was there amidst all these revolts playing
some role organising, writing, analysing and getting deeply involved in the struggles of the dalits of Maharashtra. This ferment amongst dalits was evident in Indora and the songs by Vilas Gogre on all these issues captured the imagination of the youth of Indora. Anuradha was at the forefront tirelessly working for the awakening of dalits, inspiring them to a life of self-respect, dignity and new selfconfidence.They began to not only stand up against upper-caste humiliation and class oppression but also publicly challenge the top dalit leaders for their reformist politics. She brought out the positive aspects of Ambedkar, while being critical of his constitutional approach. When the politics of revolution began to grip the masses of Indora the rulers got panicky and unleashed repression in the entire basti and on all activist.All cultural programmes were defacto banned; meetings were prevented;
all activists were hounded and many arrested. Through all this Anuradha became one of the most sought after speakers at any dalit function. The repression had a dampening effect on the activities, yet the populace was awakened to a new alternative path for change. And with each speech more and more dalit forces got attracted to the politics of Naxalbari and the Marxist radical approach to the caste question in India. But, with the growing repression and the State forces particularly beginning to target her, she gave up her university job and went underground. After a stint of three years with the Bastar tribals her last three to four years of her life was again amongst a completely new batch of Ambedkari forces once again winning them over to the politics of Naxalbari.
Ideological and Political Contributions
Anuradha played many roles in the long span of her revolutionary life from being a mass leader to an underground Party organiser. She was associated with the formation of VPS (Vidyarthi Pragati Sangathan), CPDR, AILRC, NBS (Naujavan Bharat Sabha), Stree Chetna, AMKU (Akhil Mahrashtra Kamgar Union) and numerous other mass organisations, primarily in Maharashtra. But whatever her role she was a consistent and prolific writer. She was closely associated with the
revolutionary student magazine, KALAM, which achieved a countrywide image. This magazine was brought out in both English and Marathi. She was the main person behind the revolutionary Hindi magazine, Jan Sangram, brought out from Nagpur. She contributed regular articles, under various pseudonyms, to the revolutionary magazines, like Vanguard, People’s March, etc. She wrote for the local Marathi Party magazine Jahirnama and for a period was in charge of its publication. She also
wrote many theoretical and ideological pieces particularly associated with the dalit and women’s question. Besides, she conducted many a polemic on this question with both, those taking a dalit/post-modernist view on the question and with Marxists who took a hostile view. This she wrote in both English and Marathi. As already mentioned it was she who wrote the original draft for the policy paper on the caste question in India by the erstwhile CPI (ML)(PW). This was the first such policy paper by a revolutionary communist party. More recently she wrote a polemical/ analytical piece on bourgeois feminism, bringing out its various manifestations. She was also instrumental in the preparation of the Women’s Perspective of the CPI (Maoist) adopted recently by the Party.
It was she who drafted many a March 8th statement of the Party. Her major ideological contributions have been the enrichment of the Marxist understanding on the caste question and dalit oppression and
also various facets of the women’s movement, particularly a detailed analysis of bourgeois feminism. She was also instrumental in playing a major role in framing the Women’s Perspective of the Maoist Party. The uniqueness of Anuradha was that she was not merely a theoretician but combined theory with extensive practical experience. This was particularly noticeable on both the dalit and women’s questions.There was not even a short time when she was not writing something linked with the movement. She was a regular contributor to many magazines in English, Hindi and Marathi. Many of her articles and writings have also been translated into other languages. She also spoke a number
of languages being fluent in English, Hindi and Marathi, with a good knowledge of Gujarati and even understood Telugu, Kannada and Gondi.
Anuradha’s contributions to the Indian revolutionary movement, and particularly the movement in Maharashtra, have been substantial. She had the rare qualities of being not only an effective leader in the field, but combining it with significant ideological and political contributions. And as her long-standing comrade Vijay said, she had that uniqueness in being able to connect with a vast spectrum of people and thereby bridge so many social groups with the revolution. Most important she had many of
the qualities any genuine communist should inculcate — extreme straightforwardness,modesty, selflessness, disciplined and hardworking, and unwavering commitment to the revolution. Finally, her liveliness and childlike simplicity made her a most lovable person, leaving an indelible impact
on anyone she met, even once. To grow to such heights in this deeply patriarchal society, is a source
for enormous inspiration to all women comrades and activists. Her life and work will remain as an important chapter in India’s revolutionary movement and will continue to inspire people to the cause of revolution.Though her untimely death extinguished a glowing star, the rays will linger on to illumine the path towards a just and equitable new order.Anuradha will continue to live on in hearts
By AP TIME 9:29 AM