Very sadly our beloved comrade Vira Sathidar left us recently at the age of 61 on April 13th due to covid illness.Ironically he expired on the very date of the historic Jallianawalla Bagh massacre. I can’t express how bereaved it made so many around feel or my personal affection for him. One of the liveliest and most positive comrades within the democratic camp who would light the core of your soul. His loss was a major blow the revolutionary camp, reminiscent of a soul leaving a body. Without doubt one of the great crusaders for the emancipation of the opressed, of our times.
Few comrades in Maharashtra contributed as skilfully towards the integration of the dalit community or Movement with class struggles or fuse Ambedkarism with Marxism-Leninism. No doubt there are strong ideological flaws in Ambedkarites or non -Marxist trends but we must cherish the importance of integrating caste factor in the revolutionary movement. He played a virtual vanguard role in extricating dogmatic tendencies within the dalit movement.
Sathidar was every now and then scrutinized or even hounded by the administration, being one of the boldest voices against the neo-fascist arrest of urban intellectuals. Few Comrades in our era ressurected the spirit of naxalbari as Vir. or made as much pursuit of integrating radical dalit politics with it. Few Comrades in our time so bravely withstood the persecution of neo-fascists state repression as Sathidar,who was constantly a victim of police interrogation.
As an actor in his portrayal in ‘Court’ portraying character of ‘Narayan Kamble ‘he revealed shades or touches of genius. He immersed so much in the thick of the skin of the role, that he looked the very real person.
I can’t forget his speech in the seminar of Virasam on 50 years of Naxalbari in September 2017 in Hyderabad, which was one of the most insightful, inspiring ever or heart evoking .At the deepest core he touched upon how the dalit movement had to integrate with the Naxalbari or Naxalite one. In his introduction he touched upon the importance of developing or updating Naxalbari politics, in respect of the dynamic changes that have occurred in recent times.
Sathidar with great conviction expressed that the torch of Naxlbari shimmered today only because of the sacrifices of thousands of comrades to ressurect it.
He reflected the hardships of his working life when herding cows, and how he rebelled against the conventional values imposed by his father.Sathidar spoke about how he received no formal education and infact even negated its moral value, quoting Chairman Mao ho w real education was not from books.
It was heart touching to hear the manner people and events shaped his life creating a metamorphosis from within or inculcating a spiritual change. His father underwent great poverty and was pressed to the last tooth in the battle for survival. Sathidar recounted how he was such a voracious reader, be it of Marx, Lenin, Mao,Bhagat Singh ,Gorky or Ambedkar. Vir only studied upto class XI in Nagpur and in a night school itself took up the cudgels of workers issues and integrated with strikes. Earlier he had failed class X and his father compelled him to leave school and rear cattle instead .He dropped out of formal school education in Class 12 spent most of his life organising people in the south Nagpur bastis like Jogi Nagar, Bhim nagar, Kausalya Nagar, Chandramani Nagar – all considered to be hubs of the anti-caste movement in Nagpur. He later worked in a mill but later left it due to an injury. He took up the job of a journalist in Dainik Mahasagar newspaper.
Vira Sathidar spoke about the fact that was only 19 when he founded and led a workers’ union in a factory in Nagpur. This registered union, Nagpur Magnet Wires Limited Employees Association, Vira Sathidar had in one of the many conversations told me, was not based on any clear ideology but “was born out of his deep desire to work for his community”. “One of the oldest unions CITU (Centre of Trade Unions) had failed the workers. We were neither getting our pay nor compensation on meeting with an accident. We knew an alternative is a need of an hour. So, I created one,” he said.
In his day he first received political baptism from the C.P.I. (M.L) Liberation, in which he became a member. However he also received guidance from the C.P.I (M.L.) Peoples War,Chandra Pulla Reddy and CRC groups who were active at that time in Nagpur. He emphasized how today the torch of Naxalbari shimmered only because of the sacrifice of the people.
Mot illustratively he touched upon how a dialectical link was forged between the Marxist groups and the Dalit Panther party.
Vira touched upon how in 2004 in Mumbai at the Mumbai Resistance -2004 the revolutionary spirit of the people reflected much more vigour ,venom or enthusiasm ,than in 1985.To him this was proof that the movement was on an ascendancy.Vir expressed that what ignited the flame if Naxalbari was the power in the soul of the people. He felt it was ironic that the naxalbari movement expanded and sparkled higher and higher inspite of facing greater repression while the Dalit Panther movement subsided ,facing much lesser attacks from the state.
Sathidar summarised how the spirit in Telengana and Tebhaga crystallised at unprecedented magnitude only because of respecting opression of caste and how he considered himself in his earlier days as much a member of the Dalit Panther as the Liberation party. He summed up how the correct path of the Telenagana struggle of 1946-51 influenced the course of the political movement in Maharashtra.
Most significantly Sathidar narrated how the very naxalbari movement shaped the Constitution of the Dalit Panther party on not just leaders like Namdeo Dhasal.In detail he highlighted how it was Naxalbari that gave the dalit panther movement it’s cutting edge or charted out path for it.
Comrade Sathidar elaborated as what he aspired for was a radical B.R.Ambedkar and not the Ambedkar who is worshipped through idols. or worship. He summarized the goal of Dr Ambedkar to eradicate equality in every sphere. and not only preach philosophy. Satisfying hunger was not the only goal but ‘prerna.’ or inspiration. He narrated how conventional Ambedkar in Society is a manifestation or mascot of Brahmanical capitalism.
The Comrade idolized Kobad and Anuradha Ghandy,and called them his chief political mentors.
Vir spoke about the economist and compromising political nature of the Republican Party of India which even forged alliances with the Congress. Most self -critically he illustrated who so many Dalit youth were weaned away from the Dalit Panther party.
In Sathidar’s view Bhagat Singh was not only a martyr, but a political ideologue who paved a path or a set of guidelines in terms of formation of secret organization, work methods to mobilize all sections etc.He gave vivid examples of the course steered by Bhagat Singh and its relevance today.
It was adressed how today Dalit youth are the principal victims of repression and the urgency to impart political education to them.Vir illustrated that there was no need for dalit youth to plunge into the forests, but consolidate work in their very stationed places.
Sathidar spoke about how every organised movement created friends and enemies and the uniqueness of Naxalbari in breeding many more heroes than fallen comrades or enemies.
Sathidar illustrated that what crystallized the fire of the movement was the literature from the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Sathidar with delight touched upon how leadership was created at so many layers that the elimination of one set of leaders would be followed by a new set sprouting up to replace them.
Sathidar reflected the dialectical methods through which the Communist party learnt from the masses and ho win turn the people received lessons from the party.
Sathidar elaborated that in essence the manifesto of the Dalit Panther was a revolutionary one, which in modern times was being developed in accordance to the changed situation. He narrated the historical evolution of the constitution of the Dalit Panthers by the leaders. The manner the youth in villages were entangled within the dalit panther party framework was highlighted. Examples were given of how the party programme won the very hearts of the village youth, who were besieged with problems like unemployment. He reflected on the glaring gap of the dalit youth at large with revolutionary political consciousness.
He explained how revolutionary dynamics had to be created to give birth to a new kind of youth, instilled with revolutionary ideology, and placing them on the path of liberation.Sathidar felt it was not necessary for people or youth to run to villages but more important to sharpen the cutting edge of naxalbari in our colleges, offices, factories, courts or homes. Wherever we worked he wished people shimmer the torch of naxalbari politics. He stressed on youth being educated about the political path of liberation and on ho what was imperative for organisations to be built in the cities or colleges.
Sathidar was greatly impressed with the extent to which even youth in villages or forests were so updated with world events, economics and films of today giving concrete examples.
In short he illustrated how the spark created by Naxalbari now is shimmered like a prairie fire. at the Virasam seminar in 2017.
I can’t forget the lucidity in his speeches and his enthusiasm for studying Marxist Leninist literature like the 2 Volumes of the Tarimela Nagi Redddy Memorial Trust on History of the Indian Communist Movement..I also wished that in his lifetime Comrade Sathidar more deeply grasped the ideological flaws within Ambedkarite and dalit activists in failing to establish link with Marxism-Leninism.
Few Comrades so intensively confronted the tyranny of the Operation Green Hunt and Hindutva fascsim within the Republican Panther fold as Comrade Vira.Few comrades commanded so much confidence of activists around which I remember in a meeting at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. in 2013 on caste massacres in Bihar. He also made a great impact in a public meeting in Delhi of ‘Mathidar ‘in September 2016 which addressed state repression in the Country. Few comrades stopped so much to the ground to wedge the gap between dalit and class or Marxist led movements.
I wish a proper dialogue was initiated of Vira Sathidar with comrades of the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist Leninist) or T.Nagi Reddy trend to wedge the gap of mass line theory and practice in integrating the class and caste movements.
Rarely did I meet a comrade so artistic and creative with such an insightful perception into the ground reality. He possessed that mystical or magical spirit of a revolutionary who could traverse surreal regions of creativity or energy.Above all the humblest of persons.Vira Sathidar’s life was a testimony or illustration of how a man can shape his own life, even facing the gravest of circumstances and how turmoil only hardens 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