Our Beloved Comrade Sivaram Never Dies! He Lives Through Us, Inspiring Present and Future Generations!
A tribute to com. Sivaram by KN Ramachandran.
By the time the online PB meeting was held on 5th May evening, Pramila had come out of Covid’s grip, but Sivaram was in ICU. Still he attended the meeting for few minutes. After extending greetings to all comrades he left. Within 4-5 days he was moved to ventilator keeping all of us in anxiety and with the hope that he shall resist and come back. We held the next PB meeting on 28th May evening, postponing it 2-3 times, waiting for his recovery. Meeting ended by 10 pm. As usual I called Shankar, he said no new report from hospital. The shocking news was send by hospital at 11.30pm. Early morning Shankar saw the message, soon called me, our Sivaram is no more. I felt totally exhausted, but recovered, started calling comrades, posting messages in social media. Now all our comrades, fraternal forces and friends are sharing our grief, a great loss not only for our party, but to the communist movement as a whole. For me, it is difficult even to think, he is no more with us, with his boyish smile, and revolutionary enthusiasm.
When I first met him in 1993 at Bangalore he was just 20, just completed his degree. It was a crucial time for the country: after getting Babri Masjid opened for Shila Nyas RSS was on the offensive, when to counter RSS/BJP Rathyatra, Mandal report was published in 1989, followed by Kamandal against Mandal by BJP, formal introduction of neo-liberal, corporatization by Manmohan/Narassimha Rao in 1991, followed by demolition of Babri Masjid by RSS in 1992, Indian politics was entering a new, dangerous phase. TUCI, with 9-10 workers’ organizations, mainly linked to CRs, organized the first demonstration at New Delhi against LPG in 1992. Then a well-attended Democratic Convention against Growing Autocracy was organized by CPI(ML) Red Flag at Thrissur, Kerala, with the participation of prominent all India leaders. In continuation to it a democratic convention was organized at Bangalore with participation of Dr. Balagopal (APCLC) like comrades as main speakers. Sivaram attended it with senior journalist com. Abir Pady from Berhampore. Sivaram spoke only few sentences in the convention, but his revolutionary spirit was evident. I discussed with Abir Pady and Sivaram in the evening, and they invited me to Odisha. During the discussion, com. Sivaram told me that he had participated in the movement of local fisher people aginst allotting Chilka lake to Tatas for prawn breeding. The Aska college where he studied was a center of left politics. Com. Balachader who first joined Liberation and then shifter to New Democracy, Sabyasachi Pandey who joined PWG were his college mates. But Sivaram was not satisfied with the political line of these CR organizations. After our discussions and the conversations with many left intellectuals where I presented our approach to the changes taking place in the imperialist system from colonial to neo-colonial forms of exploitation during the post-Second World War years and the failure of the CR organizations to recognize these developments, we got many friends there.
In 1980s, com. Gananath Patro, like most others in the forefront of the movement against building the Space Centre at Baliapal, proposed were also basically upholding the “Chinese Path’. Dr. Narayan, IIT Kharagpur student, who was trying to organize CPI(ML) inspired by Naxalbari Uprising. Though he joined us for some time. But his work was mainly focused on bringing a cultural paper in Odiya, and among intellectuals. He became inactive after becoming a lecturer in a college near Bhubaneswar. So, we were eager to start work in Odisha, but we had to start from scratch. Pady was very critical of the parliamentary stream, CPI, CPI(M) like parties whom he called “election, collection, corruption” teams. He was also critical against “only armed struggle line”. Our critic of hitherto communist movement, analysis of how neocolonial plunder intensified through neoliberal policies plundering the masses and devastating nature, the need to campaign against impending WTO formation, and our call for developing revolutionary mass line were supported by him. Sivaram was keenly attending the discussion, and raised many questions.
His father was a worker in the sugar factory at Nuva Gaon, in Aska tehsil, where his family is living. He was helping a tuition center, run by a progressive intellectual who was a supporter of Netaji Bose. He had read some of the basic documents of communist movement, and had discussions with CPI leaders of his area. When I met him, already he had an overall understanding about the Marxist- Leninist movement. Though his family wanted him to take up some job, he wanted to join the revolutionary movement. He had read Bhagat Singh’s articles which inspired him. He asked, if Bhagat Singh could join the movement at the age of 16, why can’t he start at 20?
Then our discussion shifted to where he will start working. I had explained how neocolonization have started capitalist transformation of agricultural sector, how crony capitalism was becoming dominant trend, driving millions from villages to urban areas. But the CRs then present in the state, while participating in issue based struggles joining with others, were still sticking to the Lin Biaoist analysis that India is like pre-revolutionary China and should follow the people’s war line. The CPI(M) led Left Front parties with their line of parliamentary cretinism, were continuously weakening. At the same time, the PWG pursuing its anarchist line was active on the borders with AP and Chhattisgarh; its extremely sectarian approach and isolated squad actions like exploding compartment of Kakathiya Express train, killing many passengers, were not winning friends for Marxism. Fighting both right opportunist and ‘left’ sectarian line, how to politicize and mobilize the masses and build a communist party was the challenge.
The socio-cultural, and economic backwardness of Odisha aggravated the problems. Though capitalist relations were entering agriculture, especially in the coastal districts, land concentration in the hands of Puri temple like Matts and big landlords continued. With the introduction of neo-liberal policies, the corporate forces were entering the state in a big way. They were allotted large areas of land for mining and establishing industries. As a result of growing people’ opposition to these policies pursued by hitherto Congress governments, Congress was reduced to 3rd position, BJD and BJP were fighting for power. But they also supported transfer of huge tracts of land to corporate forces. At the same time, Manuvadi Hindutva polarization was taking place fast with RSS increasing its strength. Caste system of the worst sort was dominant. Though the CPI and later CPI and CPI(M) had fairly good influence in many areas till 1960s, their line of economism, almost rejecting the need for socio-cultural changes, not fighting against the Brahmanical Manuvadi RSS doctrine of Hindurashtra weakened them considerably. The CRs who had presence there also failed to address these questions. So, it was not easy even to make an entry in to this complex socio-political and economic situation and build a communist party witch pursues revolutionary mass line. Following the traditional methods of going to the villages and start agrarian movement from scratch, or trade union work where reformist forces are dominating will be impossible. So, let us go for a new experiment.
Abir Pady knew some of the democratic rights and social activists having contacts in the vast Bhubaneswar slums with lakhs of population. So, with Sivaram’s consent, it was decided to start a new experiment by organizing the slum dwellers of Bhubaneswar, staying in Pady’s room to start with. According to this plan, both of us went around, met many of com. Pady’s friends and met many slum dwellers. We found the entry among these slum people is not going to be easy. I told him my experience in Mumbi slums. Almost all political parties, dalit and Adivasi organizations , numerous NGOs and religious/caste organizations are having well entrenched bases. They use political clout, religious/caste identities and giving economic and medical help and relief during the natural calamities, to hold on to their pockets. Anti-social elements also have their dens. Situation is almost here. Only difference is that these are new slums, the vested interests are not so well entrenched.
In our study of the area, we found that the basic needs, the housing right as fundamental one, and no demolition till satisfactory alternative housing were rarely or not raised and fought for. So, our work should mainly focus on it. Within two- three months, Sivaram found that, as soon as possible he should get some space in any big slum, make a shed and shift. But the party had no funds to help. Its funds came only from collection from supporters. We were strongly opposed to money action, or extortion practiced by most of the groups, or even collection from tainted forces. All these problems were explained to him. He liked this method of entirely relying on the masses for funds.
Within months, he be-friended an old slum activist of Salia Sahi from a left party, who joined Sivaram in his activities, and provided place near his house Salia Sahi to Sivaram for building a shed. Sivaram had many friends among the youth in the area already and he was really moving fast. So, next phase of work was planned. . In this manner, within two years he was known in most of the slum areas, Basti Surakha Manch was launched. The first resistance struggle against slum demolition also took place. Women were organized in large numbers and they were in the forefront to beat back the demolition squads with bull dozers. This took more organized form soon. Organization of units of Basti Suraksha Manch and their committees in as many slums as possible was started. A vacant spot was found and an office was started in a shed there. Within 2 years he had gained much confidence and was taking initiative in all fields.
Impressed with the progress of his work, Dr. Narayan who was teaching in a nearby college, with whom we had many round of discussions, gave his contacts in Bhadrak. In Bhadrak and Balasore district to the north, bordering Bengal, once CPI and latter CPI(M) had good influence. But, as they became entirely election focused parties, they got weakened. Still, they were against entry of Naxalites in the area. When our comrades approached the inactive former Naxalite activists and sympathizers, most of them were for ‘armed struggle only line’ though they were not doing anything! Contrary to what Mao taught they were not interested to mobilize the people and make them capable of creating revolution. They were not interested even to discuss how almost all former socialist countries where communists had seized power, including Mao’s China had degenerated from the socialist path and the importance of learning from them. Like the parliamentary stream of communists, they were also thinking socio-cultural changes will follow the revolution automatically, abstract understanding. Nobody had told them about Mao’s call to communists to learn from the negative experience in the former socialist countries, and dare to launch the Cultural revolution along with class struggle for revolutionary change. Sivaram’s theoretical clarity and dedication succeeded to win over many comrades who had left CPI and CPI(M) and it helped to start party building.
At the same time, more attention was given to win over mainly youth and students. But in the absence of comrades who are capable of taking this responsibility apart from him, this difficult task could not gather necessary momentum. During the political campaign in Bhadrak district Com. Pramila and her friends joined the movement and their political campaign inspired more women to join, paving the way for organizing women’s groups. Peasant and agricultural workers were organized. Some students from Bhadrak college also joined us. This offensive helped him to expand the field of activities to not only the slums of Cuttack, but to many districts.
Starting from getting involved in the Chilka movement against handing over the Chilka lake to Tata’s for prawns’ fishery, Sivaram was active in the movements against Kalinga nagar, Vedanta to the movement against corporate POSCO, which gave inspiration to many movements against corporatization of industries and trade at all India level. He was fully active in relief work with all comrades when the Super cyclone devastated most of Odisha’s coastal region. During these relief works, he had a very serious accident. Even before fully recovering from it, he was back in relief work. The cyclone had destroyed lakhs of coconut trees. So, coordinated by the CC a plan to bring two truck loads of coconuts from Kerala, to prepare a temporary nursery near Puri to make coconut saplings and distribute them ws worked out. The Kerala committee organized a campaign to collect the coconuts and the amount needed to take them in trucks to Puri, and when they reached Puri, in some vacant land a nursery was organized to prepare the saplings, and the party committees with the help of relief committees distributed them. It was a successful move, and most of those saplings have become trees giving coconuts. involving the Kerala state committeethe which included getting a truckload of coconuts from Kerala comrades, and supplying coconut shoots to those who lost them in large numbers.
At Bhubaneswar, a former Khurda district secretary of CPI(M) and a senior advocate RBM, who had left it and was inactive for many years, showed interest to discuss with us. Impressed by the dedication and Marxist clarity of Sivaram, he joined the party. Meanwhile some comrades from Puri and Koraput also joined. A party State Organizing Committee was formed. Sivaram attended the 3rd Ali India Conference in 1994 at Raichur, Karnataka, with two more delegates.
In 1996, when the Mumbai visit of WTO chief Arthur Dunkel, who drafted GATT Agreement based on which the WTO was formed, was announced, the party organized a militant Dunkel Go Back march, mobilizing hundreds of RYFI members from different states, along with slum dwellers of Mumbai and party comrades, com. Sivaram led a team of comrades from Odisha to join it. (As a result Dunkel had to cancell the visit). Though we could not use the positive impact it created in Mumbai as we had no consistent, active leadership in the state at that time, it enthused Sivaram immensely and had its good impact in other states also.
He met many intellectuals and the democratic rights activists and it led to long term relations with them. Among them, Adv. Biswapriya Kanungo, is closely associating with the BSM and all other activities even now. As a result of this relation with large number of university professors and other intellectuals, he became part of the environmental and socio-cultural movements He started attending the discussions on various issues in Bhubaneswar and became close to all progressive forces.
It was in 1995 or ‘96, an interesting thing happened. After working with PWG comrades in AILRC, in cultural field and fraternal contacts, and three round of discussion with its top leaders, we found that our differences with it are very serious. It had a static approach to Indian reality. Following it, there was open polemics with it in our organ. Meanwhile, some intellectual belonging to PWG’s network knowing Sivaram’s activities, tried to win over him. When he rejected their line out rightly, may be as a last attempt, he was asked to go to their ‘area’ once and see how their squads are functioning. When he informed me and asked permission, I told him if you know the contact well you can go, but take care.. From what he learned from three weeks stay and travels with the squad, he understood how politically backward they are, and like their theory how their practice is also bankrupt. Party’s approach to such things, allowing him to go and see for himself, increased his confidence in it.
Sivaram’s contribution to the revolutionary movement is that at a time when it is facing a great setback, when the degeneration to right opportunism and pragmatism was taking place at fast pace, when how to develop revolutionary mass line was eluding even those who had accepted mass line after the 1972 disintegration of the CPI(ML) , and when almost all of the ‘educated sections’ around him were ridiculing Marxism as a failed venture, he dared to embrace it, and dared to apply it in the concrete condition of his surroundings. As a result, during the last three decades he could build up a militant mass movement, and party and class/mass organizations to lead it. Though, still it has to cover a lot more distance to influence the politics of Odisha, it has become a continuously growing force, the most active section among all the parties belonging to the broad left spectrum.
By 2000, the Odisha State Committee could expand its influence and membership, and he could lead a strong delegation including comrade Pramila and other young women cadres to the 5th All India Conference of CPI(ML) Red Flag at Raichur. In this conference he was elected to the CC, when he was only 27. In the following years while the slum people’s movement and party was developing, Sivaram had to face two major ideological-political challenges.
In Kerala a rightist deviation was getting strengthened for some time focusing on approach towards CPI(M) and the LDF led by it. When the CC decided to convene the sixth All India Conference at Bangalore, inside the CC and among the members the rightists started a vulgour camapaign. They tried to influence the CC members from other states also, so that they can capture the leadership of the party, by unhealthy means. They targeted Sivaram and tried to win over him to their side. But Sivaram took firm stand against these advocates of social democracy and stood with the leadership.
Again, the Red Flag and CPI(ML) led by Kanu Sanyal merged with the understanding that differences still remaining on some of the basic questions shall be settled in an all India Conference within two years, and to work together at central and state level under a single committee based on consensus, In Odisha, while Sivaram was leading a very active organization led by young comrades, the ‘senior’ leader who was allowed to become secretary and others belonging to KS section started to put pressure on him, either to confuse and weaken him, or to win over a section of our comrades. It was an unhealthy thing against the understanding to work under consensus, and to create a healthy atmosphere for advancing towards the final merger. Sivaram faced this situation with exemplary patience and political maturity; he maintained good personal relations with the ‘senior’ comrades, but defeated all their efforts to weaken him politically or organizationally. As a result, even though we were forced to end the merger, as the KS section went on creating obstacles to implement the joint decision to hold the Conference within two years, even after three and half years, Sivaram could come out of it with increasing support from people in all fields.
From 2009, in expanding the slum people’s movement at state level, in organizing the trade unions and TUCI committee, the peasant movement and activities in all other fields there were further advances. Expect in Kerala where the rightist section were expelled in 2003, at all India level party activities have strengthened. During these 30 years, starting with the formation of RC and then CRC, CPI(ML) in 1979, its reorganization as CPI(ML) Red Flag in 1987, merger with KS led CPI(ML) as CPI(ML) in 2005 at Vijayawada, coming out of it in the beginning of 2009, registering as CPI(ML) Red Star with EC, and making all out efforts for the unity of the CR organizations, from a small group formed with the merger of Kerala committee of CRs with a few CRs from AP, it had grown in to an all India organization searching a new path for revolution according to the fast changing neoliberal concrete conditions, an unprecedented dangerous phase in the history of humanity, at international and national levels. To evaluate this rich experience and to chalk out the way forward, a Special All India Conference was held at Bhopal in November, 2009, which elected a new CC and CEC in which com. Sivaram was also included. When the CC decided to hold the Ninth Congress of the CPI(ML) Red Star in 2011, Sivaram confidently came forward and volunteered to take up the difficult task. The meeting of the ICC of the newly formed ICOR was also held along with it. Both these programs were great success. The 9th Congress elected a new CC and eleven member PB including Sivaram.
In 2001, Sivaram and Pramila decided to become life partners, and the event was organized by the party. Leaders of all parties except BJP and BJD, mass organizations and progressive forces active in all fields, a huge gathering participated in it. The simple way it was conducted inspired all. All leading comrades and friends congratulated Sivaram and Pramila for developing a communist culture not only in the people’s movements, but in personal life also. Soon Pramila developed as the leader of the Basti Surakksha Manch, AIRWO became active, and Gharelu Kamgar Sanghatan was formed. At a time when the communist movement had suffered severe setbacks and the party, trade union movement as well as other mass movements had become stagnant as a result of surrendering to economism, Sivaram took up the challenge of putting the party line explained in the new Party Program, Constitution and Path of Revolution adopted by the th Congress, addressing the new situation in to practice according to Odisha conditions, and successfully carried it forward. Sivaram has given immense enthusiasm to comrades to go forward, making bold experiments and searching for ways to develop revolutionary mass line. As many leaders from different organizations paying tribute to Sivaram after his departure has pointed out, by developing the class struggle in all areas and the challenging task of practicing communist culture both in the party and personal life, he was giving theoretical lessons to all.
A decade after the 2011 Party Congress, he has consolidated and further expanded the struggles and party building . Today if undoubtedly Red Star is the most active communist organization in Odisha, it is not only because of the party line, but because Sivaram relentlessly carried forward the organization building and struggles based on it with full dedication . During this process his family including Pramila and their son Sonu also became part of the party, showing what should be the communist culture. He was active in politicizing the party cadres and mass organization leaders, even trying to transform the workers; families in to communes wherever possible. As a result, in any strike or struggle call at state or central level, Sivaram with the whole organization will be in the forefront to make it a success. Based on party line, he organized many meetings with cultural activists, those who are active for caste annihilation movement, and environmental movement, inviting party leaders as well as intellectuals, scientists from outside to Odisha and launching these movements. Upholding Mao’s call on the need of developing Cultural Revolution as part of class struggle even from the pre-revolution days, to fight against all decadent ideas to create a new revolutionary consciousness among the masses, he initiated many discussions. Based on the call of the party, explaining how RSS could make the Manuvadi, Brahmanical ideas and practice as the dominant culture among the people, helping BJP to continue its rule with increased majority in 2019, he was very much concerned about developing ideological campaigns to combat it. He explained to comrades, that it shows the correctness of Marxist teaching that ‘ideas can become a material force”. When the Modi government is using Jai Sri Ram as its central slogan to polarize the people based on Hindutva concept diverting attention of the masses from all burning issuess, this counter revolutionary advance can be defeated and thrown out only through a very powerful offensive to make Marxism as the leading idea among the people so that it can become the most important material force guiding us.
Recognizing the importance of the struggle for making housing, education, healthcare and employment as fundamental rights, he was active in all these field. When some of the progressive minded took up the question of building a people’s health movement he extended all support to it. Advocating a people’s education system, free, equal, scientific and available for all, he became active in making the campaign of the AIFRTE campaign for it a big success. His presence was felt everywhere. When the Modi rule is intensifying fascist onslaughts, our party committee has become part of the broad anti-fascist movement of all parties except the BJP and BJD. In this way while showing the correctness of the party line through relentless struggles, he was humble, friendly with all, creating a fresh approach to develop the communist movement and the mass people’s movement.
The CPI(ML) Red Star is proud of com. Sivaram for the great work he has done in all fields. He was becoming a model for all to emulate. In 1993 when we went to Bhubaneswar, I was 55 years old, and Sivaram just 20. I wanted to see his reaction when we confront the different forces active in the slums, and the masses. We walked around from morning to evening for a week, and I could see his confident was growing day by day. Sivaram was very emotional. He was really touched while hearing how the bull dozers come and demolish the slums. I left him with the some of the new friends we got during this week with confidence that he will succeed. Now after his untimely departure when he has become a martyr in the valiant struggle against the naked unconcern shown by the Modi government, as well as all those who are in power, to save the people from this horrific pandemic, and destitution due to loss of livelihood for tens of crores, compelling activists like him to plunge in to relief work, exposing themselves to the danger of infection and its consequences.
So how do we see him? He was a dedicated communist, desiring the unity of all communist forces to build a powerful party capable of overthrowing the reactionary ruling system as early as possible and advancing towards people’s democracy and socialism. He was an untiring, relentless fighter till his last day. On 1st May he was active in organizing and addressing May Day programs. Next day, even when he had fever, till evening he was busy, till the time he went to hospital. On 3rd he was in ICU, then Ventilator. I used to console myself, he is a great fighter, he will resist and come out successful! But for once, he failed. This 48 year old young man has done so much, and now it is the responsibility of the party members, cadres in Odisha to get inspired by his revolutionary spirit and march ahead to fulfill the unfinished tasks. That will be the greatest tribute to him. It is not only the party in Odisha, but the entire party should take lessons from his practice, his daringness to make bold experiments and to realize them with determination, to put in to practice the path of revolution according to concrete conditions of India. Sivaram will be with us always inspiring us, as we move forward to revolution. He will be remembered always by the fighting masses of people. The best way to pay tributes to him is to become as untiring and determined like him, and dedicate ourselves to carry forward the tasks of revolution still left unfinished
Our Beloved Comrade Sivaram Never Dies! He Lives Through Us, Inspiring Present and Future Generations! Red Salute to Our beloved Comrade Sivaram.