Darshan Singh Khatkar

Just a few days ago legendary Naxalite leader and C.P.I.(M.L) New Democracy Punjab state secretary Comrade Darshan Singh Khatkar turned 75.I don’t have an adjective to do justice to both his personal qualities and contribution towards the Communist Movement. Without a doubt one of the greatest ever comrades to have joined the contingent of the Communist revolutionary camp.

Few comrades ever in the history of Punjab surpassed the sheer death defying courage when confronting the fascist wave of terror in the suppression of the Naxalite movement.Khatkar was reminiscent of the very soul of the Naxalite movement in Punjab with other leaders like Daya Singh, Baba Bhuja Singh, Harbhajan Soh i etc.It was leaders like Khatkar who not only sowed the seeds by igniting a spark but went on to convert it into a prairie fire. No comrade surviving in Punjab today played such an integral role in the Naxalbari uprising in Punjab. Few comrades in India today still defend Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tung thought with such unflinching determination as Khatkar.

Whatever our differences we must have the utmost admiration for such people to have not shaken from the revolutionary path. I can’t name the numbers of comrades who have made a departure from the revolutionary camp and integrated into the revisionist quagmire. There are very few leaders in India who give ideology of Naxalbari such a cutting edge as Khatkar.Few Comrades today are as reflective of the ground realities of the Naxalite movement today in Punjab and India.

He is the perfect example that it is the Marxist revolutionary who is morally the most spiritual. Rarely does one find such a down to earth or transparent person within the revolutionary ranks, who forever transcended the essential quality of a revolutionary that is love. I doubt anyone could give a deeper insight into the penetration, setbacks and stagnation of the naxalite movement in Punjab. When I have met him I have simply adored his humility and transparency, displaying no shades of arrogance.

He forfeited a lucrative career in engineering as a student in Jalandhar and played a pivotal role in the formation of the Punjab Himachal Commitee in 1970.He was one of the earliest members of the original C.P.I. (M.L.) in Punjab led by Daya Singh and very close to martyr Baba Bhuja Singh.. Most methodically he steered comrades towards the path that rejected the left adventurist line and fostered the building of mass organisations.Khatkar played a most prominent role in the creation of the Kirti Kisan Sabha in the early 1970’s.He gave major guidance to the Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha in blossoming in the regions of Jalandhar,Amritsar and Patiala.On the cultural front he played an important role as a poet. Few poets rekindled flame of revolution, penetrating the hearts of the masses as Khatkar,who literally lit the core of their souls. In the manner of Pablo Neruda his language was very simple, in perfect consonance with the idioms of the people .His poetry was the perfect bridge of the common people with their day to day struggles. With Lal Sigh Dill and Paash he comprised one of the three bets ever revolutionary poets of Punjab.

I can’t forget his mental resilience when subjugated to prolonged torture in jail in the 1970’s. as though an inner spirit was reverberating within him. I n many ways his jail experiences shaped his remarkable life, as related in his autobiography.

He was arrested during emergency but on coming out was all the more determined to shimmer the spark of naxalbari and revolution. He galvanised forces to form the Kirti Kisan Union by the early 1980’s which organised landed farmers and landless peasants. It waged many a struggle for remunerative prices of farmers and minimum wages and for reduction in electricity rates. It also organised many rallies confronting Khalistani and state terrorism .Struggles were led in capacity of thousands in regions like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur and Kapurthala. Khatkar’s meticulous efforts also paid dividends with the resurrection of the Punjab Students Union and the Nuajwan Bharat Sabha in the 1980’s.

Few Comrades ever launched a crusade against the wrath of Khalistani fundamentalism or terrorism as Khatkar, who led his party the C.P.I. (M.L) Chandra Pulla Reddy group to challenge the enemy in the very hotbed spots. Noone can forget his powerful voice in commemoration meetings or martyrs like Baldev Singh Mann in 1986 or Jaimal Singh Padda. Khatkar revealed mental resilience in sublime proportions, never yielding to the dictates of the Khalistani pr pro-Ajali Dal forces in the darkest days. His voice and practice was not only a thorn in the flesh to the Sikh fundamentalists, but also embarrassed both the Congress and Akali Dal parties at the core. One literally got the sensation of a military commander in the Great patriotic war against the Nazi fascists.Khatkar inspired many armed retaliatory action son the Khalistani murderers. He was also the most vocal exponent in condemning state terrorism, leaving no stone unturned in challenging falsely staged encounters of Sikh youth. In Gurdaspur his party organised one of the most impactful rallies condemning state terror.Khatkar inspired many a Sikh family to protest Hindus when Khalistani terror was at it’s pitch. He played major role in communal harmony still prevailing inspite of Hindu and Sikh communalist banging every nail in the wall to rule and divide the people. I can never forget his heart rendering speech in the 15 day rally of the Inquilabi Kendra in March 1987,which gave deafening or mortal blow to the Khalistani fascists.During Operation Bluestar he held the fort with great skill to combat both khalistani and state terror.It is notable when many comrades fell over to the Khalistani camp Sikh or Akali  ideology ,with unflinching relentnesness Khatkar stood against it. In India certain Maoist groups gave tacit support to the Sikh fundamentalist like Peoples War Group and its front the All India League for Revolutionary culture, which makes Khatkar’s defiance all the more praiseworthy.Quoting Khatkar “We will never rest till the Khalistani terrorists are paid back in our own coin. We cannot let our comrades be mowed down like this.”Notable that the C,P.I.(M.L) group led by Darshan Khatkar had double as any martyrs who laid down their lives against Khalistani terrorism, than any group. The memorial conferences of martyrs undertaken by the group led by Khatkar were reminiscent of a festival of the masses, with around 20000 people participating.

In the post-Khalistani period he invested his energy in reinvigorating the sacred energy of the naxalite movement by placing states son mass famers movements against globalisation,W.T.O. and I.M.F.He continued to be critical of the left adventurist errors of the Charu Mazumdar era and at the very core defended mass movements. He parted ways with the C.P.I (M.L) Janashakti led by K Ramchandran in 1997 and went on to join the C.P.I.(M.L)New Democracy.

He was vocal opponent of tactics of Boycott of elections and supported parliamentary participation as at tactic.Khatkar also wished to synthesis the dalit or caste question with the revolutionary movement or class struggle,He asserted that its was integral to link caste questin with Marxism.His leadership precipitated the fprmation of the Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Commite in 2014,which pioneered the path of emancipation of dalit farming community in Punjab.

In recent years no comrade has ignited the revolutionary spark in hall meetings or conferences as Khatkar.During the celebrations of Russian revolutionary centenary at Moga in November 2017 , most illustriously he defended the Russian Revolution and the very essence of Marxism Leninism. He projected the great achievements made by late Soviet Union from 1917-1956 and vividly described why it was the greatest turning point for mankind. In his view the Western media was leaving no stone unturned in discrediting the achievements of former Socialist Russia. Hearing Khatkar that day, was like reading a biography of the Russian Revolution. The passion with which he defended Comrade Stlain reminded me of a tornado. I can’t describe the effect it had on the 5000 strong contingent, as though a new spirit was engulfing their souls. Above all his words had great simplicity.

When brutal massacres were initiated on the Maoist guerrilla sand Adivasis in Gadricholi as a speaker n three mass protests it was Khatkar’s voice that crystallised the crusade against injustice more than any speaker. In his speeches he summarised how in day to day lives the Adivasis were enslaved by the economic policies which patronised corporates.With examples he illustrated how semi-feudalsim was still an integral part of Indian rural areas and how any capitalist development was only superficial in Adivasi areas like Chattisgarh ,Jharkhnad and Orissa.Khatkar complemented the Maoist forces for their grassroots work and underlined the importance in rallying each and every democratic force to confront Operation Green hunt at it’s hardest point.I can’t forget the volumeso f his intensity in the hall meeting at Moga in June in 2018No political leader contributed so much to organising protests against state repression in Kashmir and scrapping of Articles 370 and 35 a.

It was his persistence which shaped organised hall protests and street rallies against neo fascism in Kashmir.The conference in Jala ndahr in Babri Ghard hall. are a testimony to this .In Delhi in February 2019 Khatkar made one of the most illustrative and poignant speeches on how the threat of fascism of the Hindu variety loomed in India ,threatening the vey base of even the farcical semi-colonial democracy. He made comparisons of the similarities and distinctive aspects with the fascism in Germany and Italy in the 1930’s.At he very chord he struck how this fascism had a base in the very Congress to which power was transferred in 1947.His role was instrumental in the success of that seminar

I also admired his emotional speeches in homage meetings to comrades like Satnam or in the 50th anniversary memorial of Baba Bhuja Singh. No party comrade has rekindled the fervour of the Naxalite movement with the intensity of Khatkar,who resembled Coal burning in a furnace. In Kolkata in a meeting commemorating 50th anniversary of the formation of the C.P.I.(M.L) Khatkar most dialectically defended the party formation and highlighted how it shimmered the very essence of Naxalbari.In simple language he narrated how fascism was taking shape in India and the link between Naxalbari politics with struggle to confront proto-fascism. Today no leader even within the formal Maoist ranks expresses equal revolutionary intensity or grasp of social reality as Khatkar.No comrade infused more fuel in making the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari meeting in Moga , such a success .Khatkar penetrated the very region of Naxalbari politics at a depth of no other speaker and vividly narrated its political impact in Punjab .In the meetings condemning arrest of urban intellectuals who were framed as Maoists, few Comrades were as forceful as Darshan Singh.When hearing his speech one literally got the sensation of the naxalbari uprising taking place before one’s eyes.

Earlier he made the most defining speeches projecting revolutionary alternative in the all India rally of C.P.I.(M.L)Chandra Pulla Reddy group in 1989 and 1990,representing Punjab state. Simply effect of thunder and lightning in his voice.

Very sadly he lost his son in a motor car accident in 2013 and a few years later lost his wife. Still he has reflected no signs of imbalance, which is most commendable.

Khatkar is the virtual pivot or striking element in the flourishing of the C.P.I.(M.L) New Democracy in recent years ,which leads the strongest revolutionary youth and student movement and most qualitative resistance against oppression o f landless dalits I cant forget the over one thousand strong rallies of student and youth fronts on issues like protest of fee hike, rights for scholarship to dalit students, high handed behaviour of students or even protesting repression in Kashmir. Most commendably the party led by Khatkar as to the last straw condemned Khalistani ideology and prevented it from infiltrating any democratic sphere. Khatkar ‘s followers have launched an ideological tirade against Khalistani elements, in the January protest at Red Fort in Delhi. I have seen few comrades with better theoretical clarity on threat of fascism in India, which is revealed in his writing sin journal, ‘new Democracy.”Khatkar sowed the seeds for new comrades to bloom like Kirti Kisan Unin leader  Rajendra ,Zameen Prapt Sangarahh committee president Mukesh Malaudh nad Naujwan Bhrat Sabha secretary Rupinder Singh Chaunda.Earlier he played a major role in nurturing great martys against Khalistan like Baldev Mann,Jaimal Padda,Sarabjeet Singh and Gian Singh.

Late Comrade Harbhajan Sohi admired Khatkar for his deep humility, inspite of strong ideological differences.

Khatkar however even if he is one of the greatest revolutionaries, is not blemishless.I disagree with his persistence of tactic of participation in parliamentary election s and supporting open functioning of a revolutionary party. Today C.P.I.(M.L) New Democracy only flutters it s banner in rallies and hall meetings. To me it is Khatkar’s weakness that he does not distinguish between mass and party platform, which was apparent even in the days of Khalistani terrorism. In those days the party he led exhibited adventurist and vanguardist tendencies, negating important aspects of massline.It is pertinent that today C.P.I.(M.L)New Democracy has formed no mass political platform like Inquilabi Kendra, Lok Morcha or Lok Sangram Manch.Still I feel some of his criticisms of lack of importance to caste question or making dalits an integral part of the revolutionary movement are relevant. His criticisms are also pertinent in economist tendencies pervading the movement overall, with weakness in mass political agrarian movement,

Khatkar to this day is a firm adherent of the Chandra Pulla Reddy-SN Singh line that even backed the JP movement in 1974.He was unable to guage the eclectic nature of the movement of Jayaprarakash Narayan.Although he differs with tactical line,he admires the sacrifices and contribution of Maoist forces in Bastar.In his view the movement has glaring weakness on the urban front. With strong conviction he maintains that the line of ‘Resistance Struggle’  advocated by Chandra Pula Reddy is most correct till today. It is sad that he could not gasp the massline theory and practice of comrades like late Harbhajan Sohi ,late T.Nagi Reddy or organisations like the Communist Party Re-Organisation Cente of India(Marxist-Leninist).I regret that the comrade could not demarcate from the right deviationist trend of Chandra Pull a Reddy-SN singh that called for a united front with the opposition Janata party after emergency

I admire his openness to give interviews to journals like Frontline be it in 1989 or later in 2004.It was a striking contrast to the trend that exhibited complete secretism of party. Most self –critically he portays the economism and political weaknesses prevailing in Punjab today.  I also wish to mention his heart touching spec titled ‘Hail the Revolution’ in the inaugural conference of the All India League for Revolutionary Culture in 1983.

His poetry resonates till this day in Punjab like an inextinguishable flame. I hope his autobiography is translated into English to inspire new lotuses to blossom. Above all his life is a living example of the spiritual essence of a revolutionary r how movement creates anew man. I wish a video recording was taken of his speech in the conference paying homage to martyr Baldev Singh Mann. I recommend all readers to see his speeches on youtube with translations. His autobiography would brilliantly navigate the path of inner transformation within a person to convert him into a revolutionary .

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com

Email-thakor.harsh5@gmail.com


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