August 17, 2021
From In Defense Of Communism

Our Independence and India Today

By D. Raja.

On this day of August 15, more than seven decades back, in 1947, our
nation began her tryst with destiny. The political independence achieved
by us is the result of decades of struggles by the people of our
country. Recognising the exploitative nature of the British rule, people
in various parts of our country started resisting the exploitation by
colonial masters themselves much before organised platforms or political
parties to lead them came into existence. People fought against British
forces along with their native collaborators simultaneously at times.
These spontaneous uprisings were ruthlessly suppressed leaving an
indelible print on the collective memory of the people.

The struggles during this period were multifaceted. There was no
singular method nor one universal demand. If there was anything in
common, that was the urge for freedom. But this freedom meant different
things for different sections of our society. For women it was freedom,
self-respect and liberation from patriarchal subjugation of all kinds.
For Dalits and Shudras, freedom meant liberation from thousands of years
of exploitation and torture by Manuvadi Brahmanical hegemony. For
tribal communities it was the freedom to claim forest land as theirs and
freedom from ruthless forest contractors. Freedom from constant fear of
displacement in the name of development.

For the minority religious communities, it was freedom from the fears
of subjugation from majoritarian communalism and a right to practise
their faith. There was an underlying stream of clear understanding that
colonial rule was basically exploitative, constantly draining the
country and drying out all its resources.

In the initial decades of the 20th century, when the
movement for liberation was bringing communities closer, we saw Mohammed
Ali Jinnah standing in defence of Tilak in sedition case and Bhagat
Singh strongly arguing against communalism, Hindu majoritarianism or
Hindutva. People saw Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar making every effort to
make his struggle for liberation from caste-based exploitation inclusive
of women’s liberation and against feudal economic exploitation by
landlords. Dr Ambedkar led anti-feudal struggles in Konkan and other
regions were so inclusive that the exploited from upper castes too
participated in huge numbers and were beneficiaries when struggles led
to successful outcomes. All these struggles should be seen in totality
contributing to the freedom 75 years back apart from mass struggles led
by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Congress and from militant class
struggles led by nascent communist movement and other radical
revolutionary organisations and activists.

Independence of India from British rule was understood by the freedom
fighters as not only freedom from British rule but also freedom from
all forms of exploitations and oppressions which remained deep within
the social structures indigenous to India. There was constant resistance
from within to anything progressive, anything democratic, anything
secular and anything against patriarchal Manuvadi social order. This
resistance came from the orthodox and obscurantist sections of the
society in a coalition with organised institutions of power like
zamindars, feudal principalities or riyasats joined by the newly
emerging affluent in colonial India.

All those who were against any movement even remotely progressive,
democratic and inclusive have got one thing common — their loyalty
towards British masters. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS that
came into existence in 1925 has led to consolidation of all these
reactionary, communal, Manuvadi forces in a big way. The RSS can be
considered the largest pro-British and anti-people grouping of that

During the debates in constituent assembly, the attack on democratic
values was carried out in different forms on different occasions. There
was constant pressure from Hindutva forces to get India declared as a
Hindu state. Examples from Ireland and other countries were constantly
cited in support. Dr Ambedkar stood like a rock against all this. Dr
Ambedkar emphatically rejected theocracy and warned that “if at all
Hindu Rashtra becomes a reality that will be calamity for the nation.”
The struggle of Indian people against the forces of reaction became more
acute after independence. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram
Godse whose links with RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were well established.
Gandhi’s assassination is the beginning of consolidated and organised
assault on secular values.

The staunch adherent of secularism that Dr Ambedkar was, he framed
our Constitution in such a way as to protect the interests of all
sections of the society. Starting from the Preamble itself, the values
of our freedom struggle were enshrined in all parts of the Constitution
and we got Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy
to protect us from arbitrary state action contrary to the spirit of the
freedom movement and to guide our legislatures towards a welfare turn
with non-discriminatory foundations thereby the Constitution makes it
mandatory that Indian State should remain a Secular and Welfare State.

The able leadership of Dr Ambedkar had gone a long way to steer
through the intricate, complex sometimes heated debates of constituent
assembly and making a Constitution on time possible and at the same time
not allowing the final outcome deviated much from the cherished goals
of decades long freedom struggle that is democracy, secularism,
anti-feudalism and egalitarianism. He outlined a path to develop our
country along the lines of inclusiveness with social justice and
socialism. It was not a mean achievement. The credit goes to Dr Ambedkar
and his team for this singular achievement.

Let us remember also that on August 15, 1947 power to administer
areas under direct British rule only was transferred. There were
significant parts of country under the native rulers totaling more than
five-hundred and included significantly bigger and contentious ones like
Hyderabad under the Nizam and Kashmir under the Dogra ruler Hari Singh.
From 1947 to 1950, founding leaders of our nation were occupied with
the twin tasks of bringing all these into one country apart from shaping
a Constitution. The constituent assembly of India was elected by the
provincial legislatures and the then clandestine and largely underground
Communist Party got little representation in it.

However, communists made them heard and shaped the agenda of the
constituent assembly through militant mass struggles outside. As Sardar
Patel himself once remarked to Chari, the famous lawyer from Bombay that
the militant mass struggles led and organised by communists literally
left not many options to the princes, Rajas or nawabs except accepting
accession to Indian Union. The contribution of communist movement in the
evolution and integration of Indian nation state can never be

The communists were also at the forefront of shaping the demands of
the independence struggle and their ambitious agenda for the Indian
people expanded the horizon of the independence movement significantly.
It should be noted that the communists were the first to raise the
demand of ‘Complete Independence’ from the British, radicalising the
entire agenda of the struggle. Hasrat Mohani, the chairman of the
reception committee of the first CPI Conference in Kanpur first raised
the demand for complete independence in a Congress session.

He also coined the inspirational slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’,
popularized later by martyrs like Bhagat Singh. The demand for a
constituent assembly was also raised first by communist M N Roy. It was
the militant mobilisation led by communists that resulted in the
Congress adopting complete independence as part of its agenda. These
glorious contributions to the building of the Indian nation are still
our inspiration in our unflinching struggle against the new forms of

Freedom from British colonialism didn’t mean the end of all nefarious
designs by capitalist interests as they wanted to continue their
stronghold on developing nations including India and their markets,
resources and labour force. After the Second World War ended, the formal
end of colonialism resulted in the beginning of a new phase of
imperialist onslaught in collaboration with the rightwing forces of
India. This attack is also multi-pronged. The imperial design in the
region is on one hand trying to pressurise India by exposing it to
external threats and by trying to constantly add fuel to any kind of
divisive trends within country. The sustained imperial support for
rightwing forces in country has enabled them to widen the fault lines of
our society.

During the last three decades we have seen a constant process of
privatisation, commercialisation and liberalisation of our labour and
capital markets, constant process of yielding to pressures of WTO or
other such bodies and bringing disastrous economic changes to suit the
dictates of finance capital. The current RSS-BJP combine regime is
moving or literally galloping towards complete corporatisation of
everything from agriculture to education to health. This regime is
forcing India into an irreversible strategic partnership with America,
thus killing everything progressive and democratic in our foreign
policy. The Marxist emphasis on the inseparable nature of economics and
politics proves correct in this context as the growth of finance capital
in India has been concurrent with extreme polarisation on religious and
caste lines.

We see chaos and all-pervasive crisis around us as we approach the 75th
anniversary of our independence next year for which the government has
made an elaborate committee. The constitution of such committees remains
a façade when the state is eating away day-by-day our independence, the
Pegasus incident just being one recent example. The current regime has
done so much to undermine our precious independence and values attached
with it that we need to wage a new freedom struggle to take back our
freedom from the RSS and its Hindutva agenda. We should prepare and
commit ourselves to that struggle as the Left has done during the
freedom struggle. Our heroic past of committing ourselves wholly to the
service of the nation and organising its workers and peasants against
imperialism is a source of inspiration for us and all the others who are
fighting against new forms of domination facilitated by the RSS-BJP.
The struggle is an ideological one to get our freedom back. It has to be
waged from the grassroots to the Parliament and that is going to be the
true independence struggle for the people of India. The communists and
Left will play the leading role in this as the Left is the consistent,
uncompromising force fighting the rightwing-fascist assault.

* General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI).