Today is the 42nd martyrdom day of Student leader Prithipal Singh Randhawa .No Student leader in the history of India ever galvanized forces or crystallised or set guidelines of the mass line practice in student movement, in the magnitude of Prithipal.Exactly 42 years ago he was murdered by goons of the Akali Dal party. Few mass leaders ever better grasped the essence of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought or dialectically practiced it. Today no martyred mass revolutionary leader is held in such awe, in Punjab. No student leader ever in India displayed such innate mastery in weaving forces together.
In the 1970’s Shaheed Randhawa was the architect of the mass movement of the Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha ,devising forms of struggle that confronted the neo-fascist repression ,like no student leader .He shaped the student and youth organizations to sharpen the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggles. It was Randhawa’s painstaking efforts that gave the Punjab Students Union a cutting edge, and distinguish from revisionism and left adventurist politics. In his time the student and youth organizations integrated into the very skin of the peasants and workers. Never before in India and rarely in world history had a student and youth movement traversed such realms in challenging imperialism, feudalism and proto- fascism.
EVENTS OF THE ERA OF SHAHEED RANDHAWA
The turning point in Randhawa’s life came in the police shooting of Comrade s Harjeet and Swaran in 1972 in Regal cinema at Moga.The cold blooded assassination shook his heart and he came into the very forefront of getting the killers to the book.Prithipal galvanised all possible sections into mass movement to ultimately get the culprits amongst police officers convicted.
In the 1970’s era Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha resurrected the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal fervour of the days of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
The Moga Sangram rally on October 26th 1974 was an event that could be preserved in a museum, giving a mass movement, the cutting edge in revolutionary character. It was remarkable that the Punjab Students Union was the 1st organization to organise a protest challenging US Imperialism in Vietnam.
A major state-wide struggle was also launched against fee-hikes, for school and college students. It also inducted membership of women comrades at scale not reached before. In 1974 most valiantly the PSU launched a struggle to support the striking policemen. Solidarity was also given to movement of unemployed teachers.
Prithipal Randhawa raised the popular slogan of ‘Jage raho or Zinda raho which means ‘Stay awake and stay alive.”Pro-Akali forces thronged to the Gurudawaras promoting the Sikh communal politics of Akali Dal. The organization also published a booklet on the teachings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
In 1977 a huge march was held by the Punjab Students Union and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha for democratic rights, exposing the pseudo-democracy of the Janata party. It ranked amongst the most intense and qualitative student protests ever for democratic rights in history.
The mass protest against the assassination of Randhawa in 1979 scaled a magnitude unprecedented, to bring political murderers to justice. Ultimately the culprits were brought to the book. This event will also be a permanent part of the Museum of revolution. Active campaigns were also undertaken exposing eve-teasing of women, democratisation of education, .identifying with oppressed sections like dalits, combating communalism etc.
EVALUTION OF SHAHEED RANDHAWA AND MOVEMENT LED BY HIM
No student and youth movement in the history if India rose to such heights in challenging autocracy or farcical democracy, as that of Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha in the 1970’s.It illustrated mass revolutionary democratic character, in unparalleled proportions .It was Prithipal’s most dialectical practice that could weave the struggles of different oppressed masses together be it workers, peasants, agricultural workers, govt,employees or unemployed teachers.
No student leader challenged proto-fascism at it’s core like Randhawa,who mastered the art of organizing struggles for democratic rights. Most effectively Randhawa counterposed and rebuked the slogans and collaborationist or bourgeois methods of the opposition parties that projected no genuine democratic revolutionary alternative. and endorsed the very politics of the semi-feudal social order.. Very rarely in world history after the Chinese Revolution had students and youth come to such a forefront in leading peasants and workers or wedging links with the oppressed sections, as in the era of the late 1970’s in Punjab.
With great mastery he knit the thread of combat forces to work secretly during emergency, when the Punjab Students Union faced a ban. After being arrested in emergency, within jail walls Prithipal most heroically combated the fascist dictates of India Gandhi, with the introduction of MISA law.
The teachings of Shaheed Bhagat Singh penetrated every sphere of society at an unprecedented scale since 1947.Arguably never had such a spiritual renaissance taken place in India after 1947,in term sof imbibing of revolutionary democratic ,secular or anti-imperialist culture.
The practice of Prithipal Singh Randhawa challenged the right opportunism of leaders in the revolutionary camp who supported the Jayaprakash Narayan student movement in 1974 that supported bourgeois opposition parties ,the left sectarian trend that negated mass struggles ,as well as comrades who wished to use the platform of student organizations to propagate Mao thought.Inspite of towering achievements unscaled in Indian history, the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union had Mao thought as an essential part of it’s manifesto, which was erroneous.Punjab Students Union under Randhawa also exposed the misleading slogans of the JP movement that diverted the class movements. Randhawa twice also attended conferences of the Democratic Students Organization of Andhra Pradesh in 1974 and 1978 .Few mass leaders had such a grasp of the essence of the massline of Tarimela Nagi Reddy as Randhawa .Randhawa was also an architect of correct practice of the civil liberties and democratic rights movement and was one of the founders of the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab. Very rarely in world history after the Chinese Revolution had students and youth come to such a forefront in leading peasants and workers or wedging links with the oppressed sections, as in the era of the late 1970’s in Punjab.
Inspite of being an outstanding mass leader,Randhawa never became arrogant ,and remained a most disciplined party member of the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India(Marxist-Leninist)
POST-SHAHEED RANDHAWA PERIOD
It is sad that after his murder by the goons of the Akali Dal in 1979 the Punjab Students Union and Naujwan Bharat Sabha became splintered and by the 1980’s many of it’s cadre joined the ranks of the Sikh seperatist Akali or Khalistani movements. It is significant that some of the leading cadre in challenging the Neo-fascist Khalistani movement emerged from the Randhawa led Punjab Students Union and NBS like martyrs Jagpal Singh and Megh Raj Baghtuana,who were executed by Khalistani terrorists in April 1991.Today there is an infection in Punjab that supports Sikh separatist ideology, even professing unity with Akali Dal groups.It is worth mentioning that major leaders of the BKU(Ugrahan) like Jhanda singh Jethuke and Joginder Singh Ugrahan have their roots in the movements led by the PSU and NBS. So too has current Surkh Leeh editor,Jaspal Jassi,who was a colleague of Shaheed Randhawa.
Today in another form we need to resurrect such an organization with proto-fascism at a helm and Imperialism penetrating every s here at an unprecedented magnitude. We need to imbibe lessons of the method of leadership of Randhawa which made the demarcation of mass organization from that of party, and linked the student movement to that of the workers and peasants.
Today I am overjoyed that Prithipal Singh Randhawa’s spirit is not dead and buried and still shimmering in the towns and villages of Punjab. The Punjab Students Union(Shaheed Randhawa) in a qualitative manner has led solidarity campaigns on political issues like opposing scrapping of article 370 and supporting self-determination of the Kashmiri people, challenging the NRC-NPR by exposing its Neo-fascist roots ,organising solidarity to the farmers movement protesting agricultural bills in Delhi by sending supportive contingents and organizing meetings, organized protests against fee hikes in colleges and against scrapping of scholarships for scheduled castes, launched many a protest against the framing of the Bhima-Koregaon intellectuals etc..Although quantitatively small it is positive that it is trying to bind or knit the scattered forces into a cohesive force. Most significant how its cadre integrates with the mass struggles of the Bharatiya Kisan Union(Ugrahan) and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, thus forging unity with the landed peasantry and the dalit agricultural labourers. A reading library has also been formed of the teachings of Shaheed Randhawa in Ludhiana and efforts are being undertaken to build such libraries all over Punjab. Last year it even staged a state level memorial meeting at Regal Cinema in Moga, where it underlined the importance of the great martyr’s teachings. It has also undertaken joint campaigns with other factions of revolutionary students organisations like Punjab Radical Students Organisation, Punjab Students Union (Lalkar) and Punjab Students Union.
I really hope a Hindi and English translation is made of the contribution and writings of Prithipal Singh Randhawa from Punjabi. It would be part of treasurehouse for cadres today. I can’t express how much there is such glaring gap in the movement today in not having leader of the calibre of Randhawa,particularly in confronting proto-fascism, like the democrats framed in the Bhima-Koregoan case.
Yesterday memorial meetings were staged in University College in Jaitu in Faridkot district, in Guddha,in Bahaduprpur in Mansa, and in Monak in Sangrur .Student activists narrated the life of Shaheed Prithipal Singh Randhawa and his significance today. They linked his work and teachings with the correct methodology of how to combat the Neo-fascism prevalent today. They highlighted how it is the absence of an organised movement like Shaheed Randhawa created that led to such economic disparity, exploitation as well as casteist and communal polarisation. In Jaitu Ravinder Sewewala presided over the meeting. He stated that today’s young generation should take guidance from Shaheed Randhawa and stand against anti-student and anti-education policies. He narrated the anti student posture of a 10 % fee hike for Scheduled caste students and how students should at the very core challenge the GST and opposition towards collecting of PTA funds. Punjabi University Patiala invites 10 % fees hike, SC students to create struggle on demands of PTA funds, education and GST etc. Hardeep took over the stage action on this occasion. Student activist Hemant presented a revolutionary song. On this occasion, the activists of the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union also participated. Students of Gurwinder, Anmol, Jagdeep, Balwinder, Arsh, Khushi, Sajan, Sanam, Laxman, Iswar, Lavdeep, Satnam, Nipi, Gurmel participated.
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