On September 26th, we commemorated the 35th martyrdom anniversary of Comrade Baldev Singh Mann, who succumbed after waging a valiant battle against the Khalistani terrorism. On the night of 26th September he fell to the bullets of the Khalistani Commando force. He was the Amritsar district secretary of the C.P.I. (M.L) Chandra Pulla Reddy group. and editor of party magazine ‘Hirawal Dasta.” His memorial meeting in his ancestral village is an annual event. Till this very day his memories shimmer in the revolutionary camp like an inextinguishable flame, being amongst the most popular youth leaders ever in Punjab. The Comrade was simply the epitome of the all-round skill of a revolutionary.
In those days the state of Punjab was battered on communal lines. Mann was part of the trend in the Communist revolutionary camp that uncompromisingly challenged Khalistani terrorism and state terrorism. Tooth and nail they challenged the divisive politics the Congress and Akali Dal.Later comrades belonging to the same group were martyred like Jaimal Singh Padda and Sarabjit Singh and Sangha.In that time a trend existed within the Communist camp that soft pedalled with Khalistani terrorism or Sikh Fundamentalism. I recommend all to read the 1987 report on the Punjab of the All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights., which analyses how the ruling class parties used the Khalistani terrorists against each other, as an agent of the state. Several leaders even from the Communist party of India were martyred confronting the agenda of Khalistan like Darshan Singh Canadian and Arjun Singh Mastana .Inspite of belonging to revisionist circles, in democratic circles they were upheld as champions of communal harmony.
From his very inception into the movement in his youth, he deployed every ounce of energy towards serving the people’s revolutionary cause. He made an immense impact on shaping the minds of youth in his time and after his martyrdom. His powerful voice struck a chord in the broad masses, in the most challenging times, elevating spiritual depth of a revolutionary to regions rarely transcended in Punjab.
Baldev Mann was born on 9 July 1952. He was the son of Inder Singh. He lived in the village Bagga Kalan Tehsil Ajnala, Amritsar. He completed his primary education at the village school he matriculated from government high school at Raja Sansi. He then went to Khalsa College, Amritsar, where he had to face detention from the college during the time of ‘the Emergency’, and graduated in 1983
While at Day College, he came in contact with the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) of Chandra Pulla Reddy -SN Singh. He organized young people in his village under the banner of ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’, a left-wing Indian association that sought to instigate revolution against the British Raj by gathering together workers and peasant youths. He galvanised it into a district-wide youth moment in Amritsar. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha crystallized into a district wide youth moment that encompassed districts of Amritsar ,Jalandhar and Kapurthala.His work was also notable in constructing units of the Punjab Students Union. Mann displayed great skill in knitting together scattered seeds to make the movement flourish.
While at Amritsar he was held and tortured at Amritsar’s interrogation center, but released in 1975.
Approximately two years before his death, Mann married Paramjit Kaur, with whom he had a daughter. She was one week old when he was murdered while on his way to his village, Chinna Bagga, in Amritsar.
Baldev Singh Mann led the drama troupe and waged a constant battle against the reactionary ideologies in the cultural sphere. The state was subjected too. He never shied away from confronting the brutality of the police head on, and voiced his dissent over the framing of innocent youths.
During the Emergency Mann was arrested for his writing was considered seditious and conflicting with that of the government. Due to torture his eyesight suffered very badly. Following his interrogation in Amritsar he was released in 1975 and cleared of all accusations, but he then plunged into the struggle for justice led by CPIML with great passion.
In 1980, comrade Mann contested for the Punjab State Assembly where he won with a resounding margin of 10,000 votes, a feat never witnessed before by the general masses. Again, during the communally vitiated atmosphere of 1985 he proved to be a strong contender for the Raja Saansi Assembly constituency. Again, in 1985, he contested for the MLA elections. He won many a heart and was labelled the ‘People’s Man’.
From 1982 Mann joined the Kirti Kisan Union,a farmers organization. In 1983 Mann helped Punjabi farmers oppose increases in electricity tariffs, and led a large rally as the Kisan union leader of Punjab from CPIML. Further rallies were organised on 19 March 1983 in Chandigarh and on 9 April a second big rally was held in Jalandhar which forced the government into action. Comrade Mann played a vital role in the struggle of Punjab peasants against intolerable tariff raise for electricity in 1983, furthering his belief in his cause. In 1979, he helped Punjab Police to further the process of amending the extant policies for the better functioning of the Police forces.
In 1983 when farmers of Punjab had been financially squeezed between excessive rates of power (electricity) for their largely mechanized farms and un-remunerated for their produce, a huge campaign was organized, led by him as the Kisan Union Leader of Punjab. From March 1983 the campaign had started to spread to Chandigarh and Jalandhar and was epitomized as Punjab Kisan Lehar. Till today his contribution is not forgotten in the Chandigarh Kisan rally.
During the dark days of the Khalistan movement Mann led many a public rally or adressed many meetings, pledging for Communal Harmony. At many points he openly confronted or challenged Khalistani forces and played an instrumental role in building bastions of secular resistance in villages. Most consistently he also exposed the false encounter killings of innocent Sikh youth and state repression. His powerful voice touched the very core of the soul of the Punjab farmers, taking secular spirit to a crescendo. Mann’s voice revealed the intensity of a thunderstorm, delivering a striking blow to the enemy at it’s hardest point. He became editor of party Organ, ‘Hirawal Dasta,’ and directed plays to expose the communal and divisive treachery of the government and the anti-people economic policies. Plays were a strong medium of communicating with the masses and Baldev Singh made sure that his voice was heard over all the raucous the government was creating. He staged such thought provoking plays not only in the city but in villages too.
Baldev singh Mann was gunned down by Khalistani terrorists on September 26, 1986 in his native village Channa Bagha near Pakistan border after being mowed down by 32 bullets. The intensity of his voice on verge of martyrdom resembled lightning and thunder, in the view of witnesses. Subsequently a Shaheed Bhagat Singh Brigade avenged his death by assassinating the members of the Khalistani commando force.
The meeting staged in his commemoration had an attendance of around 20000 people in October 1986 and October 1989.The memorial meeting of 1986 in his village Channa Bagga in Amritsar was most unforgettable, with a representative from every section of the Communist and revolutionary democratic camp. Mann was part of a contingent of Communist leaders who challenged Khalistani forces in their very hotbed as well as exposed state terrorism, fluttering the red flag of secular democracy. Most notable messages from party leader Darshan Singh Khatkar,Inquilabi Jantak Leh editor Jaspal Jassi,Cultural activist Gursharan Singh,Association for Democratic Rights secretary Jagmohan Singh etc.There was also a well attended meeting staged by Navnirman Sanskritik Manch in Bombay in 1986.Movie ‘In Memory of Friend’s by Anand Patwardhan projected Comrade Mann’s martyrdom-,as a part of it’s theme. Pertinent that one of the speakers portrayed in rally of revolutionary centre of Punjab,Sardara Singh Mahal, is today one of the major leaders of the C.P.I.(ML) New Democracy.
A letter he wrote to his daughter is one of the most inspiring ever in the Communist movement. It is heart touching that today his very daughter Sonia Mann, an actress is resurrecting the very teaching s or values of her slain father.Inspite of being an actress, she is devoting her utmost energy working in the Kirti Kisan Union, to support the farmers movement. It gives vibrations of her taking over just where her father left off. There could not have been as ripe a time for Sonia Mann intervening in the movement than today, with Hindutva fascism penetrating unparalleled proportions. Most consistently she has played part in the Mahapanachayats.It is notable today that organisations like Kirti Kisan Union are playing a vanguard role in the Samyukt Kisan Morcha aat Tikri border and played major role in stitching the maha panchayats.Sonia Mann’s letter to her father written some years ago is a must read, a virtual manifestation of a champion for secularism and liberation of Indian people.
I had the privilege of conversing with Comrade Darshan Singh Khatkar,who is now secretary of the C.P.I(M.L)New democracy ,and then the secretary of the Punjab State Committee of the C.P.I.M.Chandra Pulla Reddy Group. He narrated the specific facts that wove around Mann’s life and his role in the movement.Khatkar revealed to me that even today his group seeks no compromise and wages a bitter battle Sikh fundamentalist politics, whose infection is still prominent in his view. Today this trend is predominant amongst Maoist forces in Punjab.
It was the meticulous work of comrades like Baldev Singh Mann, which sowed the seeds for revolutionary roses to bloom in later years, like in Punjab today. The cadres of the Kirti Kiasn Union owe their origin to people like Mann, or new recruits of the Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Punjab Students Union. All these mass organizations adhere to the trend of the C.P.I. (M.L) New Democracy. On my visits to Punjab I have interacted with Rajinder,Singh Deep Singh Walla , President of the Kirti Kisan Union, Mukesh Mulaudh ,president of the Zameen Prapt Sangarsh Commitee and Rupinder Chaunda of the Naujwan Bharat Sabha or even Tarsem Peter of the Pendu Mazdooor Union. All can trace their origin s as mass leaders to comrades like Baldev Singh Mann. It is notable today that organisations like Kirti Kisan Union are playing a vanguard role in the Samyukt Kisan Morcha at Tikri border and played major role in stitching the maha panchayats.It is also investing every ounce of energy in confronting the shackles of saffron fascism sponsored by BJP.Challenging the revoking of Article 370 in Kashmir, it played a most impactful solidarity role. Significant the organisation has resurrected itself in districts like Kapurthala,Jalandhar and Gurdaspur.Today the most vocal critique of Sikh Fundamentalism in Punjab is the C.P.I.(M.L) New Democracy as well as that of Brahmanical fascism .No group has taken up cause challenging casteism as seriously as this faction..It also supports federal rights for Punjab, challenging autocracy of the Hindu State.
A very illustrative biography has been written on Harbhagwan Bhikhi. portraying the very essence of the life of Mann.
Today we need characters like Baldev Singh Mann to re emerge, to sharpen the sword to cut the tumours of Saffron fascism growth. I suggest everyone read Mann’s letter to his daughter and the letter his daughter writes in memory of her father.
Harsh Thakor is a political commentator who has toured India, mainly Punjab and written on massline,Maoism,Tarimela Nagi Reddy line and peasant struggles. on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and Otto’s War Room. Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org