This is the first time in the history of Bengal in the post 1947 period when a communal political force like BJP is dreaming to win the throne of the state government. They made a significant advancement in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 when they won 18 seats out of 42. Their number of seats increased from 2 to 18 in the five years and vote share increased by 22.25 percent.  Though there is a general saying that there is always a difference between Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, in a sharply politically compartmentalized society like that of West Bengal, any election can be a good indicator of ground reality. 

It is noteworthy that BJP made its advancement in Bengal not mainly due to the communal factor. It does not mean that communal factor is absent, however, it plays comparatively lesser important role for BJP’s advancement. In the main, it is a total failure of conventional political parties, like Congress, CPIM or TMC which has provoked the voters to develop a strong inclination towards BJP.

TMC led by Mamta Banerjee came to power in 2011 inspiring much expectation. People were disgusted over CPIM’s rule of 34 years, although they implemented some of the important pro-people policies in the initial years. Panchayat system was developed and regular elections in Panchayats started to take place. Thus the feudal control over the rural socio-economic life was broken. Lands were distributed among the landless peasants, share-croppers got their rights. Spreading of education was given priority and the teachers and government employees started to get good salaries.

However, very soon as a result of these reforms a new section of rural middle-class came up and eventually captured the political domination in the village area. Panchayats came under the hegemony of the party. Similarly, in the urban areas too, the mass initiatives and spontaneous political activities of the people faced more and more organizational resistance, sometimes violently, by the party workers. All political activities outside the party initiative and planning were dubbed as anti-party and right-wing conspiracy. Any opposition of government policies and practical steps were portrayed as planned efforts to bring back the heydays of Congress thugs. As a result overall democratic atmosphere of the state came to face danger.

Since the middle of the 1990s a new development started taking place. Left Front government started to adopt the neo-liberal policies which they had strongly opposed when Rajiv Gandhi for the first time introduced them in 1987-89 period. Since the starting of the new millennium Left Front started to become more and more aggressive to introduce the neo-liberal changes which finally led them to commit massive blunders in Singur and Nadigram which paved the way for  their departure from the seats of power . A closer look into the last years of Left Front’s rule may suggest that once again the question of democracy became the main area of political controversies and conflicts. So, one of the extremely popular slogans of Mamta at that time was “No to Partiocracy; we want Democracy!” [Dalotantranoy, ganotantra chai!]

The ten years rule of Trinamool Congress has left the people totally disillusioned about the party and its government. The grip of partiocracy has become even more pernicious. Wide-spread and rampant corruption in every field has become the norm of the day. A total failure in economic policies has led the people to frustration about the future of the growing generations. Moreover, extreme authoritarianism has given birth to a suffocative atmosphere in political arena. Democracy is facing even bigger challenges under TMC rule.

As a result BJP has made significant inroads in West Bengal. Bitter memories of LF rule are still living in the minds of the people. And the added advantage of BJP lies in the fact that the people of the state do not know the party well. Therefore, a popular sentiment has been growing among the Hindu toiling masses that BJP should be given a chance. “We have seen all the parties. Let us see what they do!”

In such a situation one important development is taking place in the state. In the first week of January a non-electoral political platform was formed to campaign against BJP/RSS under the name: “Bengal Against Fascist BJP-RSS”. This platform has campaigned throughout south-Bengal with the central slogan “No Vote to BJP” in a mass scale. Lakhs of posters are stuck on the walls, pamphlets are distributed, a number of conventions and public meetings are organized in all the districts, and finally a huge rally was organized by the platform on 10 March where 10-12 thousand people participated. Apart from our party, MKP and CPIML Liberation are the political groups which are taking part in this platform. There are many individuals and social organizations also taking part in this initiative. The campaign has gained sufficient currency and many intellectuals started to open their mouths against Fascist BJP after this campaign started.      

On the other hand BJP’s rule under the leadership of Narendra Modi for last seven years has created panic among the Muslim population throughout the country. Their whole mobilization behind the movement against NPR/NRC/CAA made it crystal clear to everyone. A section of Muslim people has now reached to this opinion that they must be organized as Muslim community in a separate independent party. The growing popularity of All India Majlish-e-Ittehad-ulMuslimeen [AIMIM] under the leadership of Asaduddin Owaisi is a good indicator of this phenomenon. The English translation of the name of the party -All India Council for Unity of the Muslims — clearly shows the aim of the organization. In West Bengal a similar kind of initiative has been developed by a section of Heirs of Furfura Sharif, especially by Pirjada Abbash Siddique. Very recently a party was formed, named Indian Secular Front which eventually has become an important partner in Left Front-Congress-ISF alliance. 

Although it is claimed that ISF is a front of as many as ten organizations including dalit and tribal organizations, however, it is already seen in case of AIMIM that using dalit and tribal cards is nothing but a tactical step for this organization to carefully avoid the Muslim tag. The tribal or dalit leaders have no significant role in the policy making or character making of the party. However, the process of forming ISF clearly shows that it is dominantly a Muslim organization whose interest is to organize the Muslims in religious line. This development in the state has provided a further impetus to BJP to carry forward its Political Hindutwa agenda. Moreover when CPIM and Congress went into an alliance with this organization, then it has earned some kind of political legitimacy in Bengal politics which in return help BJP to legitimize its religious politics breaking the apparent secular atmosphere in the state.

By the time a fierce and bitter debate has been cropped up among the leftist circles over the question of main enemy in the ensuing election. In the main the debate is taking place between CPIM and the radical lefts. Although all the parties which are known by the term “communist” have settled this question in their respective Party Congresses that at present situation BJP is the main enemy everywhere in the country, the CPIM state committee in Bengal has developed a clear mindset that unless and until TMC government is removed no struggle against BJP is possible, whereas the fact is in the electoral battle BJP is mainly challenged by TMC for obvious reasons. As a result of the debate CPIML [Liberation] came out from electoral understanding with CPIM and is fighting independently in 12 seats. Our party is fighting in 4 seats and has extended its support to the various Communist Revolutionary [CR] forces wherever they fight in the election.

Apart from these few seats, our party has given an open call to the people to defeat BJP and not to have any illusion on the other parties.  Most of the CR organizations have taken similar stand which is paving the way to build joint political activities of the revolutionaries in coming future. Ultimately, as per our understanding,  the Fascist advancement can be given actual challenge only by developing an anti-neoliberal, pro-people alternative development paradigm launched by an alternative political force which can only be formed by joint effort of all CR forces. Keeping BJP at bay from power can provide us important respite which will be helpful to develop the actual alternative to Fascism successfully.

With these long term and short term goals CPIML [Red Star] is taking part in the electoral battle. The party is directly fighting in four seats, out of which the Bhangar constituency, which obviously remains as the area of prime importance. TMC has failed to give a local candidate due to severe inner-party conflicts. However, more important factor for them to bring an unknown candidate from outside is that, all of their local leaders have lost credibility to stand in front of the people. Sitting MLA Rejjak Molla, an erstwhile minister in Left Front regime, is not even accepted within the party circle any more. Another strong man Arbul Islam who spear-headed TMC attack against Red Star and Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecology Protection Committee at the time of Bhangar movement, has become mostly irrelevant as a result of their near-total defeat in Bhangar movement and subsequent local body election in 2018.

BJP has also given ticket to an unknown candidate. They do not have much expectation in this seat since the constituency is over-whelmingly dominated by Muslim population. However, CPIM-CONGRESS-ISF has nominated Pirjada Nausad Siddique, younger brother of Abbas Siddique who is definitely going to be a major factor. Our candidate Comrade Mirza Hassan is one of the Conveners of JJPBRC and is having very good popularity among the masses and practically the only Leftist candidate in Bhangar. Therefore, practically it is going to be a fight among three major candidates. BJP can be a dark horse if the overall communal tension reaches in an unprecedented level in the state.

Whether Com Mirza Hassan will win or not is obviously an important question before the left and democratic people; however, more important thing before the left-leaning people of West Bengal is whether the real leftist ideology, politics and morality will be able to survive in this time of overall decay of left, secular and democratic politics and at the time of Fascist surge. The electoral challenge taken by CPIML Red Star in particular and Communist Revolutionary forces in general is giving assurance to the people that the glorious red flag shall not die, in spite of whatever may happen in the election.

As far as the overall situation in the state is concerned we have seen that some factors are working in favour of BJP, while some other factors are working against them. The initial advancement of the party in post-lockdown time has been significantly slowed down due to many reasons. Huge price-hike of cooking gas, petrol etc has caused large level resentment among the masses. Secondly, more and more public sector unions are coming to the streets against government’s effort to privatize those institutions. After many decades Bank Employee Unions started to organize street protests where they are inviting social organizations for their support. Recently, during their three days strike State Bank Employees Union invited “Bengal Against Fascist BJP/RSS” forum in front of their main office in Dalhoise, Kolkata for solidarity. All these protests against BJP have become vibrant with the ongoing peasant movement. Peasant leaders started to visit and organize Maha Panchayats in all five poll-bound states. In Bengal also five Maha Panchayats took place including in places like Singur and Nandigram. However, absence of proper alternative political force against BJP is the main trump card in its hand

Sangrami Sangbad Weekly

Digital Weekly in Bengali  from CPI (ML) Red Star West Bengal State Committee

Political Comments & Reports on Peoples Struggles 

Chief Editor - Comrade Alik Chakraborty ;

Editorial Board: Comrade  Sharmistha Choudhury, Comrade Sankar Das, Comrade Gautam Choudhury, Comrade Raju Singh, Comrade Pradip Singha Thakur and Comrade Priyam Basu

 

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I Have already given sufficient hints in the last issue that Comrade Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya possessed his own peculiar view on the tradition of Indian philosophy. He gave clean-chit to at least two philosophical systems, namely Purva Mimamsa and Naya-Vaisesika as materialist which were originated from the Vedas or at least declared their allegiance to the Vedas. He did not give much importance to Yoga since it was not a philosophy proper. The history of Samkhya philosophy we have already discussed according to the view of Debiprasad who did not accept this philosophy as a Vedic one. Therefore, there is only one Vedic philosophy left which Debiprasad declared as an out and out idealistic and that is Vedanta or Uttar Mimamsa. Along with that he added another philosophy, although non-Vedic in nature, in the list of idealist system, i.e. Mahayana Buddhism. Therefore he declared in the beginning of his another remarkable work, “What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy”: “At the same time when it comes to the question of a serious philosophical defense of idealism, the Advaita Vedantists eagerly borrow from the Mahayana Buddhists, just as the latter show no hesitation to work out the fundamental suggestions of the Upanisads, normally considered the scriptures of their aliens. This philosophical fraternity between the Vedantists and Buddhists is liable to be overlooked by us if we are misled by the face value of their own sectarianism.” Now let us see how Debiprasad described the fundamental tenets of the above mentioned philosophies and why he identified those as the most prominent idealist systems. I shall start with the Advaita Vedanta.

Debiprasad has divided the philosophical systems in idealist and materialist lines depending on the single issue, that is, whether the system recognizes the existence of the material world or not. The Vedanta philosophy opines that the material world is nothing but an illusion. We have already come to know that the Vedas are divided into four distinct portions, namely, Sanhitas, Brahmanas, Aryanakas and Upanisadas or Vedanta. The Vedic idealism took shape for the first time in the Upanisadas. Here, for the first time it was categorically asserted that actually there was nothing in this world but only Brahmo, the supreme idea due to which every creation was made possible. Whatever we see in this phenomenal world actually is nothing but only the manifestation of the Brahmo. However, we cannot recognize those as the one and same Brahmo due to our ignorance. Similarly all the human beings, or jibatman are actually another manifestation of the Brahmo or Paramatman.  Due to this monism the dominant school of the Vedanta is called Advaita Vedanta.

There are many Upanisadas so far discovered. The number might be around one hundred and eight. However, out of that only eleven Upanisadas are most important and sufficiently archaic in nature. Many Upanisadas are composed in the later period. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisada attributed idealist philosophy based on the concept of the Brahmo to one ancient sage called Yajnavalkya. Debiprasad wrote: “Such a philosopher is the great Yajnavalkya who declares that reality is just a mass of consciousness [vijnanaghana]. It can neither be grasped by the normal organs of knowledge nor described in normal language.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy]

The same conception we can find in other major Upanisadas also. Apart from the Upanisadas another important source of Advaita Vedanta is Brahmosutra composed by some Badrayana. Later, in the eighth century CE, Acharya Samkara wrote a detailed commentary on Brahmosutra which actually became the main source of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Although the Advaita tradition is pre-Buddhist and many Acharyas came into succession to uphold the view and establish it firmly into the people’s mind, Samkara became most prominent philosopher in this series. The upsurge of Samkara is described by Debiprasad in the following manner:

“In the subsequent history of Indian idealism, Advaita Vedanta becomes the most dominant philosophy, largely because of the marked decline of interest in philosophy proper among the Mahayana Buddhists after Santaraksita. The great prestige of Advaita Vedanta in later history of Indian philosophy is associated with the activities of Samkara, who is either a direct disciple of Gaudapada or a disciple of his disciple. Born in a village in Kerala he extensively travels in India and founds four monastic establishments in four corners of the country, the heads of which still bear the general title Samkara-acharya. In founding these monasteries, Samkara follows the organizational principles of the famous Buddhist monasteries which have provisions for wholetime religious and philosophical propagandists. In the context of his own times the establishments of these monasteries is surely an evidence of his exceptional organizational abilities, inclusive of his ability of mobilizing huge financial support for the purpose. Such organizational activities apart, his literary output is undoubtedly voluminous, just as the literary quality of his writings is exceptionally high. For sheer charm of lucid Sanskrit prose, none in Indian philosophy perhaps ever equals Samkara. And yet Samkara does not live a very long life. Born in AD 788, he dies at the age of only thirty-two. Judged by sheer personal gifts, therefore, this young philosopher has indeed a very imposing stature in the cultural history of the country.” [ibid]

This is an important fact, though Debiprasad did not give much importance to it, that all the major philosophies propagated by the Aryans, be it Vedic [namely Advaita] or non-Vedic [namely Buddhist], had started philosophical discourses with ignorance. Samkara also started his discourse with ignorance and “this behavior has for its material cause an unreal nescience and man resorts to it by mixing up reality with unreality as a result of superimposing the things themselves or their attributes on each other.”[Brahmosutravasya— Samkaracharya]. In Vedanta this superimposition is called nescience or avidya. Now, what is the consequence of avidya? As the result of this nescience lay persons perceive the material world and assume that it is real. According to Advaita this is the starting point of all problems.

But how can the felt reality actually be unreal? Here, the Advaita Vedantists reply that it is due to avidya a false perception takes place which is called Maya. Just as it is only because of ignorance that one saw a snake where there was just a piece of rope. Similarly the entire material world which we perceive is nothing but sense-illusion or Maya. However, the illusion is also a reality, but a different one. For a Vedantist illusion or Maya is illusory reality or pratibhasika-satta. But what about the perception of the rope in the rope? According to the Advaita Vedantists it is nothing but vyavaharika-satta or existence from the point of view of practical life. From the point of view of absolute reality both are false but the degree of their falseness differs. Debiprasad wrote: “The former [perception of a snake in the rope] not to speak of having any ultimate reality, could not serve even the purpose of practical life while the latter, though equally bereft of ultimate reality, could and did serve these purposes. From the point of view of ultimate reality or the paramarthika-satta both were of course utterly false, and as such, it would be wrong to imagine that the rope perceived in the rope had any more reality about it. In other words, there were degrees of untruth and unreality, though these were not to be confused with degrees of truth and reality. For there was nothing real excepting the Brahman and the whole structure of practical existence was false and unreal.”[Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya: Indian Philsophy]

Now, the question is why the Vedantists consider everything related to the material world is unreal?

No clear answer of this question is ever given in Vedanta, but there are enough indications. And Debiprasad too, did not pay much attention to it. However, it is an important subject which we must understand in order to follow the discussion of Debiprasad about the Indian career of Idealism. Let me quote a debate between Samkara and his opponent on a Sutra in Brahmosutra of Badrayana.

 The Sutra is: “Ante Caracagrahanat!”[He is the eater who consumes all that moves and does not move]. Now the question is, “who is the eater?” Samkara was in the opinion that the Eater was the supreme Self. Then the doubt was raised: “We read in Kathopanisad: ‘How can one know thus as to where It [the Self] is, for which both the Brahmana and the Ksatriya become rice [food] and for whom death takes the place of a curry [or ghee etc. poured in rice]?’ [I.ii.25]. Here we appraised of some eater indicated by the mention of rice and its adjunct [curry]. Now who can this eater be? Is it fire or the individual soul, or is it the supreme Self? This is the doubt, for no conclusive distinction is in evidence, and it is seen in this book that questions are put [to Death by Nachiketa] with regard to three entities——— Fire, individual soul, and the supreme Self. What should be the conclusion then?

So the Opponent said: “The eater is Fire. Why? Because this is gathered from the familiar use in such text as, ‘Fire is the eater of food’ [Brihadaryanaka Upanisada, I.iv.6], as well as common parlance. Or the individual soul may be the eater, for there is the text, ‘One of them eats the fruits of divergent testes [sweet or sour]’ [Mundaka Upanisada, I.1]. But it cannot be the supreme Self, for there is the text, ‘The other looks on without eating’ [ibid].

Samkara replied: This being the position, we say: The eater here should be the supreme Self. Why? Because of his appropriation of all that moves and does not move. For all movable and immovable things appear here as the eatable thing with death as its [pouring] adjunct. None but the supreme Self can consume such a food fully. As for the supreme Self, it is quite possible to assert that He devours all, inasmuch as He withdraws everything into Himself during dissolution.

Opponent: But the appropriation of all that moves and does not move is not stated here. How can then the appropriation of all movable and unmovable things be accepted as an established fact to be advanced as a ground [for inferring God]?

Samkara: That creates no difficulty, because when Death is mentioned as the curry, all beings present themselves along with it, and because the Brahmanas and Ksatriyas are cited by way of suggesting [all beings], they being the chief among them.

As for the arguments that even the supreme Self cannot be the eater in the face of the Upanisadic revelation, “The other looks on without eating”, we say: This revelation is meant to deny the enjoyment of the fruits of action, for that is near at hand [to the text]. That is not a denial of the dissolution of all things [figuratively denoted by eating], inasmuch as Brahman is well known in all the Upanisads as the cause of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. Therefore, the supreme Self can be the devourer here.” [Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya of Sankaracharya/ Trans by Swami Gambhirananda/ Advaita Ashrama/ Kolkata].

Although written in little obscure language, but it is very clear from the passage that Vedanta accepts the fact that in this world everything is perishable, impermanent. We have already seen that the materialists [Lokayatikas] also were in this opinion. But is there anything which is not perishable? The materialist answer is No. However, the Advaita Vedanta as the leader of idealism in our country strongly advocates the notion that there is the supreme Self which is not perishable. It is permanent [nitya]. Therefore, “He” is the “eater of all the things which moves and does not move”. Hence “He” is only real. And rest of the world which is impermanent and perishable is not real, only illusion or Maya. For the idealists, impermanent is unreal. And the permanent is only real, the absolute truth.

If the Mayavada [the theory of illusion] is the first basic tenet of Advaita, the second one is based on its denial of the valid means of knowledge [pramana]. Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya rightly pointed out, “Above all, any real allowance to the normal sources of knowledge carried the danger of imputing reality to the body and the external world. Therefore, to fortify his own position Samkara had to deny the validity of all possible sources of knowledge—— the senses, reason and even the Veda.” [Indian Philosophy].

Now, this conception needs some discussions. According to Samkara and Advaita philosophy only real thing is the supreme Self, which is called Brahmo. Therefore, the entire material world is unreal. A person is unreal. His or her body is unreal. Therefore, his sense-organs are unreal. So, his perceptions, inference and other means of knowledge are unreal. Therefore, all pramanas are unreal or invalid. All sense-organs are operating under the general boundary of ignorance or avidya. Therefore those are doing nothing but super-imposing one entity upon another. So, Debiprasad wrote:

“Samkara opens his Sariraka-bhasya with the declaration that the claim of all sources of knowledge like perception, inference, etc. as giving us real knowledge has to be rejected outright, because we can use these as instruments of knowledge only so long as we are under the general spell of ignorance. But why is it so? Samkara says that the basic function of ignorance— as is evident from the patent cases like seeing a snake in a rope —is to ‘super-impose’ something on something else, or, in simpler language, falsely imagining something to be what it is actually not. Without such a ‘super-imposition’ no source of knowledge can at all operate. The very precondition of all the alleged sources of knowledge is ignorance. Instead of giving real knowledge, all these so-called sources of knowledge keep one under the spell of ignorance.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy].

This same long speech Samkara gave in his Brahmosutrabhasya, too. Now the question is, how then a person can come out from the all-pervading grip of ignorance in order to achieve salvation or mukti? This is another question to which Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya once again did not pay much attention. He is only happy to identify idealism and not really interested into the social consequences of the same. According to Advaita since ignorance or avidya is the root cause of bondage and false knowledge, then the actual knowledge is the only way out. And what is the actual knowledge? It is nothing but the knowledge of the supreme self which is called Brahmogyana. However, since Brahmogyana is also a gyana or knowledge [actually supreme knowledge] then if there is no valid means of knowledge then how can one obtain this? Advaita philosophy has a specific answer to this question. In Kath Upanisad, when Nachiketa requested Yama [the god of death] to render him the knowledge of Brahmo [Brahmogyana], Yama at first expressed doubts whether he was a fit person for the job. He said that if this knowledge was rendered by an ordinary person then it would not be understood because this particular knowledge did not depend on debates and discussions, or on some other means of knowledge. Only a fit person [Brahmogyani] can render this knowledge [“Na narebarena prokto esa subigyea, bahudha chintyamanah/ Ananyoprokte gatiratra nastanian hi atarkam anupramanat”— Kath Upanisad/ 1.2.eight]. Therefore, as far as the philosophy is concerned, Advaita finally accepted the advices of the supreme teacher who possesses the knowledge of Brahmo as the only valid means of knowledge, since the knowledge of Brahmo— the only true knowledge—— is beyond of any debate or discussion [atarkam]. Same thing is repeated many times in different Upanisadas and other Vedantic literatures. As a result the grip of the Brahmins over the religious matters was firmly established. And it is a well known fact that the control over the religious matters was the key to control the society including its economy and politics. 

Here, Debiprasad unfolded a magnificent discussion that how the religious matters became the key to control the economy and society which in return played a pivotal role to develop the backdrop of idealist insurgency.  Yajnabalkya, the great sage at that time once called his two wives to divide his wealth between them as he was about to leave the family in order to pursuit for a higher life. Then Maitreyi, one of his wives asked him, “If now, Sir, the whole earth filled with wealth were mine, would I be immortal thereby?” The core philosophical discussion in the Brihadaryanaka Upanisada starts with this question. The question undoubtedly is thought-provoking mainly for two reasons.

Firstly, it is interesting to note that at that time in the realm of human thought one question was already present, i.e., how to become immortal! Debiprasad pointed out that in the Vedic age the thinking to be immortal did not occur at all in the human minds. However, in the Upanisadic age, when the surplus production had appeared and a propertied class was born then arising of this thinking at first among them and next to spread in the entire society became absolutely natural. Debiprasad said, “Nothing is more attractive for the kings than the prospect of overcoming death or attaining immortality. It is basically the same temptation that leads the Pharaohs of Egypt to waste colossal amount of wealth to build pyramids.” [What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy/ page 127]. Now the question is what is the connection between immortality and the idealist Vedantist philosophy? It is interesting to see that when Maitreyi asked Yajnabalkya the above mentioned question he replied, “No, as the life of the rich, even so would your life be. Of immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.” Then what is the path for immortality? Then Yajnabalkya started to render the “secret knowledge” on Barhmo to Maitreyi and the core philosophical discussion in Brihadaranakyaka Upanisada began.

This secret knowledge of Barhmo is nothing but the world denying idealism which is called Vedanta. Debiprasad remarked, “The metaphysical discourse attributed to him [Yajnabalkya— present writer] is a long one. Its main point is the gradual unfolding of the idealist outlook. But how is this outlook supposed to overcome death and ensure immortality? There is only one way of doing this and that is to remove from the realm of reality the physical world as a whole, and along with this the physical facts of birth and death. As Yajnabalkya argues, the soul, which is pure consciousness and bliss, is the only reality. Being completely uncontaminated by anything material, it is by nature aloof from what appears to mortal eyes as birth and death. This death, like birth, is completely unreal. How can one who knows this be any longer haunted by the fear of death? This is not ensuring oneself against the fact of death, before which the philosopher is as helpless as any other mortal. But it is a way of inducing a subjective change in oneself which helps one to overcome — though only in ideas and imagination — the sense of death and the terrors thereof.” [ibid/page:131].

Thus, according to the observations of Debiprasad, Indian idealism took up the task to make a subjective change in the minds of the people to deny the material world in order to deny the actual facts related to the birth and death of human beings. This observation is important and at the same time it is interesting to note that Rabindranath Tagore, a staunch follower of Upanisada for quite a long time in his life, finally landed in the same conclusion in a different perspective although. Travelling Iran by airplane at the backdrop of the war-ridden events between the World Wars was a turning point in the life of Tagore. Most probably it was the first ever experience for him to travel through an airplane in his life. He wrote that when the plane took off and reached in certain height the houses, roads and localities on the ground suddenly became a map only which in return exhausted the human relations centering round the ground reality. He exclaimed that probably for that reason it made so easy for a pilot of a bomber plane to drop bombs in order to create mass destruction. He said further that in the beginning of the Kurukshetra war when Arjuna did not want to enter into the war fearing mass killing, Krishna rendered him the knowledge of Brahmo. And what it did? Tagore said that it actually lifted the mind of Arjuna in such a height that from that above, the facts related to who killed and who were killed became absolutely cloudy. Tagore named this treatment of Vedanta as “theoretical airplane”.  [“As the flying machine goes higher and higher ... the signs that tell us the earth is real are gradually obliterated and a three-dimensional picture is flattened into two-dimensional lines. ... Thus deprived of its substantiality, the earth’s hold on our mind and heart is loosened. And it is borne in on me how such aloofness can become terrible, when man finds it expedient to rain destruction on the vagueness below. Who is the slayer and who the slain? Who is kin and who is stranger? This travesty of the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is raised on high by the flying machine.” Persia, 1932]

Now, let us back to the time of Yajnabalkya once again. We have already discussed the first point which we can understand from the question of Maitreyi to Yajnabalkya, that, the idea and aspiration to be immortal already appeared in the human minds at that time. The second important point is that how much wealth a sage who used to propagate a world-denying philosophy could have at that time, and what was the source of that wealth? Debiprasad tried to calculate the amount which a world-denying sage philosopher could earn at that time and indicated the source of that.

Yajnabalkya was a philosopher from Advaitva Vedanta school, according to which the material world was not real, only illusion. However, it is interesting to note that it did not prevent Yajnabalkya to accumulate wealth. This wealth was accumulated from the King. Debiprasad quoted Brhidaranyaka [Br] Upanisada: “Janaka, king of Videha, was seated. Yajnabalkya came up. To him the king said, ‘Yajnabalkya, what brings you here? Is it because you want cattle or hair-splitting discussion?’ ‘Indeed both, your majesty’, he said.” Debiprasad said further: “Thus this great idealist philosopher, with his intense contempt for the material world, shows no hesitation to admit that he is not interested merely in philosophy; he is also interested in the payment for it.” [ibid/ page:128].

 Now, Debiprasad took an attempt to calculate the amount of the wealth of Yajnabalkya. We all know the famous incident which is narrated in Br Upanisada: Once the king Janaka organized a massive yajna [Vedic ritual] where many Vedantist priests and philosophers participated. Janaka was curious that who possessed the highest knowledge on Brahmo [Brahmistha]! So he declared one thousand cows with ten pieces of gold [padas: 1/400th of a tula — ancient Indian measurement] tied to the horns of each as prize. [janako ha baideha bahudakshiena yajneneje tatra ha kurupanchalanam brahmana avisameta bavubustasya ha janakasya baidehasya bijiggisa bavuba kahswidesham brahmananamanucanatama iti sa ha gabam sahasramabarurodha dasa dasa pada ekaikasya srimgorabadha bavubah— Br Upanisada: 3.1.1]

Undoubtedly, it was a big amount. So everybody hesitated to advance. However, Yajnabalkya immediately ordered his disciple Samasraba to lead those cows towards his home [Yajnabalkya’s]. Naturally, it initiated resentments among the Brahmins present there and one of them came forward to challenge Yajnabalkya and a hair-splitting debate started. Yajnabalkya finally defeated Aswal [the Challenger] and won the prize.

This is a known fact. However, Debiprasad went on further investigation. He said: “In the account of the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad just quoted, Yajnabalkya’s pupil drives away for him one thousand cows, with ten padas of gold tied to the horns of each. In the next account of the same Upanisad, king Janaka——awed by Yajnabalkya’s breath-taking flights of pure reason—— four times offers him ‘a thousand cows and a bull as large as an elephant’. This is followed by another account of the same text in which the same philosopher receives from the same donor for the same reason five thousand cows, in installments of one thousand each……… Let us try to be clearer about the property accumulated. Not to speak of other accounts, the three that we have just mentioned tell us of a total of ten thousand cows, besides the ten thousands padas of gold.” [ibid, page 132]

Now, was it the total amount of Yajnabalkya? No. Debiprasad further remarked: “But this is only elementary arithmetic, and lest we are misled by it the Upanisad tells us also of the bulls as big as elephants. The cows accumulated by the priest-philosopher also multiply.” So now it is clear that why king Janaka did not give Yajnabalkya only the cows but also big bulls. Bulls were used to multiply the cows by reproduction. But what was the rate of that reproduction? In order to have a rough understanding regarding the rate of reproduction, Debiprasad quoted a story from Chandagya Upanisad. Let us read that portion:

“Satyakama Jabala goes to Haridrumata Gautama, desiring to be a student of sacred knowledge. After having received him as a pupil, he [the priest-philosopher] separated out four hundred lean, weak cows and said, ‘Follow these, my dear.’ As he was driving them on, he said, ‘I may not return without a thousand.’ So he lived away a number of years. When the number reached a thousand the bull spoke to him, saying: ‘Satyakama!’ ‘Sir’, he replied. ‘We have reached a thousand, my dear. Bring us to the teacher’s home’.” [ibid, page 133]

Then Debiprasad said again: “If this rate of increase satisfies the Upanisadic calculation in one case, there is no reason why it should not be applicable to another. The ten thousand cows received by Yajnabalkya only according to three accounts of the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad are soon supposed to multiply into twenty five thousand. It does not take much time again for the twenty five thousand to multiply into 62,500 and so on.” [ibid, page 133].

Yet the amount of wealth of Yajnabalkya cannot be restricted with cows only. At that time since the cattle were main form of wealth it is often overlooked that to maintain this huge number of cattle a vast portion of land was also required. So, indicating the text of Chandogya Upanisad, Debiprasad said, “Whatever may be the system of land tenure in Upanisadic India, there are in these texts unmistakable accounts of the gift of villages by the kings and the nobles to the custodians of secret wisdom.”

It is interesting to note that all the wealth of the priest-philosophers at that time was accumulated from the kings or the nobles. Therefore, it is clear that a portion of extracted surplus from the real producers by the ruling classes in our country at that time went to the hands of these idealist philosophers. The kings and the nobles used to pay these amounts to them as the reward of the ‘secret knowledge’ which was supposed to make them ‘fearless and immortal’. Therefore, there was a clear and definite relation between the world-denying idealist philosophy and the surplus sharing between the kings and the priests, i.e. between the Brahmins and the Khsatriyas.

However, in this course the biggest challenge emerged in front of the idealist philosophical theories to bridge between illusion and reality. If the material wealth was an illusion then why an idealist priest-philosopher was interested to accumulate wealth? How, Yajnabalkya solved this question which became the landmark of idealism according to Debiprasad, I shall discuss it in the next issue. In this course of discussion it is also an interesting point that how Debiprasad accused the Mahayana Buddhists to follow the path of Vedanta.

Vedic Society and Vedic Philosophies

As a stark contrast of the matriarchal society of the Indus Valley Civilization the Aryans, who started to pour in the ancient India since roughly 15OO BCE, had a society which was heavily dominated by the male. As soon as they formed a civilization of their own in this land, an inevitable struggle broke out between two civilizations. Debiprasad depended on the Rig Veda to accumulate the evidences of this struggle. So he pointed out some hymns in the Rig Veda where Indra, the war god, was praised for defeating Mother Usa [Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya/ Indian Philosophy/ Bengali Edition]. Interestingly Usa was not simply defeated, but, she was raped by Indra and was driven out from the valley of the river Indus. Let us read those hymns:

 “Inasmuch, Indra, as you have displayed such manly prowess, you have slain the woman, the daughter of the sky, when mediating mischief.”  [4:3O:eight]

“You Indra, who are mighty, have enriched glorious dawn, the daughter of heaven.” [4:3O:nine]

“The terrified Usas descended from the broken wagon when the [showerer of benefits] had smashed it.” [4:3O:1O].

“Then her shattered wagon reposed [on the bank] of the Vipas [river], and she departed from afar.” [4.3O.11].  {English translation taken from RGVEDA SAMHITA/ Edited by Raviprakash Arya and K.L. Joshi/ Parimal Publication/ New Delhi, translation done by H.H.Wilson}

In the hymn number ten it is said that Indra smashed the wagon of Usa and terrified Usa descended from the wagon and fled. The Sanskrit text says: apasa anasah saratasangpistadaha bivushi/ ni yatasim shishnathadbrisa. Wilson translated “shishnathadbrisa” as “the showerer of benefits”. However, Debiprasad straight translated it as “applied his penis [shishna] like shower”. It clearly means that Indra raped Usa terribly. Many modern writers also admitted that Indra raped Usa at that war [see Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology/ Shan M.M. Winn].

Now, Debiprasad raised the question that who was this Usa? He again pointed out another hymn where Usa was described as the mother of the gods, but rival of Aditi. The hymn reads as follows:

“Mother of the gods, rival of Aditi, illuminator of the sacrifice, mighty Usas, shine forth; approving of our prayer, dawn upon us.” [1:114: ninetten].

This again appears as a riddle. She in the one hand is described as the mother of the devas, however, on the other she is identified as the rival of Aditi, the mother of the devas, “mata devanam Aditeh anikam”! From the Vedic mythology we know that Dayus [the god of the sky], the most ancient god of the Aryans had two daughters, Diti and Aditi. Diti was the mother of the asuras and Aditi was the mother of the devas. Usa was described as the mother of the devas but at the same time she was the rival of Aditi. Then who was she? Debiprasad took help of Kosambi to solve the riddle. In an article published in the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society [JBBRAS] he said that Usa was not the mother of the Aryans, rather she was the mother goddess of the more ancient people in this country. Usa was no one else but Diti, the mother of the asuras. [With the discoveries made by Bachofen and Morgan we can now understand that it was not unnatural to the poets of the Rig Veda to have the memory of more archaic group marriage within their clan, so calling the sister of mother as “mother” was a natural outcome.]

 So Indra unleashed his ruthless attack on Usa and raped her terribly to destruct her completely. According to Kosambi it was the reflection of the fierce battle which was broke out in the valley of the Indus between the male dominated savages and the people of the ancient matriarchal society. Debiprasad showed that it was not an isolated passage in the Rig Veda, but this description of the war was cited in many hymns in the Rig Veda. What was the outcome of this war between Indra and Usa? Usa was defeated and fled and the whole valley of the Indus came under the domination of the Aryans. Debiprasda cited some more hymn from the same Sukta where Indra was praised by the following words:

“You have spread abroad upon the earth, by your contrivance, the swollen Sindhu when arrested [on its course].” {The Swollen Sindhu when Arrested: Sayana says that it means when it is full of water, sampurnajalam.} [4:3O:12]

“By valour you have carried off the wealth of Susna, when you had demolished his cities.” [4:3O:13]

“You have slain the slave Sambara, the son Kulitara hurling him from off the huge mountain.” [4:3O:14]

“You have slain the five hundreds and thousands [of the followers] of the slave Varchin, [surrounding] him like the fellies [round the spokes of the wheel].” [4:3O:15]

So, it can be easily understood, when the defeat of Usa and subsequent killings of the asuras are described at a stretch in a same Sukta, that, Usa’s defeat played the pivotal role behind the domination of the Aryans on the valley of the Indus.

Indra’s second important win was to defeat and killing of Vrtrasura which was heavily praised in the entire Rig Veda. It can be assumed from the Rig Vedic evidences that killing Vrtra was one the major achievements of Indra. In many places of the Rig Veda he was called as Vrtrahan, i.e. the killer of Vrtra. Debiprasad showed that this qualification was used seventy times in the Rig Veda. Now, who was the Vrtra? Let us listen to Debiprasad: “Vrtra is usually taken as the name of a dragon, destroying whom often with the aid of other gods, specially of the hoard of semi-deities called the Maruts, was considered one of his major performances. But there are certain peculiarities about this performance which cannot be easily overlooked. Vrtra literally means the Obstructor, and is also described as ahi, literally ‘serpent’. In other words, it is an obstructor, which also lokked like a huge serpent. Many things are said by the Vedic poets about this serpent-like obstructor, among which some are extremely interesting. Vrtra, it is said, was complacent with the idea that its real vulnerable part was known to none; however, along with the Maruts, Indra discovered its vulnerable part [iii.32.4; v.32.5] and thus he struck and destroyed the ‘obstructor’ with such fierceness as to shake the heaven and world. And what was the result? The whole area was flooded with water which was being obstructed by the serpent-looking obstructor.” [Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya/ Religion and Society]

While the Hindu religion-traders were busy to construct myths on Vrtra-killing the Marxist philosophers and historians of our country and abroad found out the real story behind the myth. Debiprasad took help of Kosambi to uncover the mystical glory of Indra and found out how the savage Aryans demolished a much higher civilization in India. Debiprasad quoted Kosambi which is as follows:

“Vedic India is described again and again as freeing the streams. This was taken as a nature-myth in the days of Max Muller, a poetic representation of the rain-god letting pent-up water loose from imprisoning clouds. Recorded but ignored details of the feat make such an explanation quite impossible. Indra freed the rivers from the grip of a demon Vrtra. The word has been analysed by two most competent philologists [with full knowledge of Iranian {Aryan} as well as Sanskrit records] who did not trouble to theorise about the means of production. Their conclusion from purely philological considerations was that vrtra meant ‘obstruct’, ‘barrage’, or ‘bloquage’, not a demon. This actual Rgvedic description independently bears this out in full. The demon lay like a dark snake across the slopes. The rivers were brought to a standstill [tastabhanah]; when the ‘demon’ was struck by Indra’s shattering weapon [vajra], the ground buckled, the stones rolled away like chariot wheels, the pent-up waters flowed over the demon’s recumbent body [cf. R.V. 4.nineteen.4-eight; 2.15.3]. This is a good description of dams [not embankments as Piggott would have it] being broken up, while such pre-historic dams, now called Gebr-band, are still to be found on many water-courses in the western parts of the region under consideration. The evidence for Indra’s breaking up dams is not merely rationalization of the Vrtra myth. RV. 2.15.eight: rinag rodhamsi krtrimani = ‘he removed artificial barriars’ makes this clear; rodhas means dam elsewhere in the RV, as in the later Sanskrit. Indra is praised for restoring to its natural course the river Vibali, which had flooded land along its banks. That is, the Pre-Aryan method of agriculture depended upon natural floods and flooding the lands on the banks of smaller rivers by means of seasonal [RV. 5.32.2] dams [without regular masonry], to obtain the fertilizing deposit of slit to be stirred by the harrow. The Aryans shattered this dam system, thereby ruining the agriculture of the region and the possibility of continuing city life for long, or of maintaining the urban population. The fact of the ruin is undeniable: the causes have to be deduced from whatever date is available, which includes numerous heavy flood slit deposits that are visible in Mohenjo-daro excavations. The very floods which endangered city and hamlet had made possible the agriculture which supported the inhabitants.”

It is still a debatable issue in India that how the Indus Valley Civilization became collapsed around 15OO BCE! While a section of the historians say that the attacks of the savage Aryans were one of the major reasons behind it, the Hindutva-vadins never accepted it. Recently RSS influenced historians have started again to alter the history with renewed enthusiasm. Debiprasad convincingly established and proved that with the invading India by the Aryans at that time a fierce conflict took place and subsequent attacks on Harappan civilization were the natural outcome of this conflict.

However, it does not mean the Aryan civilization was a savage civilization in European sense. On the contrary it had a lot of bright aspects. The Vedas are not only the description of the conflict between the Aryans and the pre-Aryan people, but, a great literature on human life and thought. However, again it is not like a sacrosanct religious text as the Hindutva-vadins want to portray. A deep and thorough research of Debiprasad on the Vedas revealed that it was like all other successful literature nothing but the mirror of human life at that time.

Conventionally, it is assumed that in our country six major mainstream philosophical systems had come out from the Vedas. Literally, “Veda” means knowledge. However, Debiprasad showed that in the Vedas there is nothing which can be called as philosophy. It is mainly related to the prayers to the various gods for various worldly matters, especially, the food. Food is the central theme in the Vedas, specially, in the Rig Veda. Why? It was so because that the Aryans did not have any knowledge of agriculture in the beginning. They were nomadic people based on cattle rearing activities. Gradually they learned agriculture from the pre-Aryan people, however, due to lower techniques agriculture was always uncertain and the scarcity of foods was a day-to-day matter for them. Therefore, throughout the Rig Veda we see prayers for food to the gods. For an example:

“Protected by that destroyer [of foes], who is united in praise with the Maruts, we may receive sustenance from Indra; and may Mitra, Varuna, Aditi——— ocean, earth and heaven, preserve it to us.” [1:1O1:11]

Before going into the discussion of the Vedic philosophies we must understand what type of society the Aryans built at that time. It will be helpful for us to understand the real nature of Vedic philosophical system. From the above discussion one can easily understand that a society with extreme scarcity of food and other material objects for subsistence class division was impossible to exist. Debiprasad also very naturally considered the early Vedic society as a classless society or primitive communist society. In his famous book “Indian Philosophy” [Bengali edition] he gave a long description that how the Vedic people at that time based on communistic ideas.

In Rig Veda the word barsha was used frequently to denote property or wealth. Plural application of the word as barshanam or barshani can be found in many places of Rig Veda. Sayana, the most prominent commentator of the Vedas, explained the word as wealth or property. However, most interesting fact according to Sayana’s commentary is that the word barsha originated from another word (daturupa) brng adding nyat (brng+nyat= barsha). Here, the meaning of the word brng is ‘to distribute’. So Debiprasad reached in the conclusion that at the time of Rig Veda wealth or property were generally meant something which must be distributed. (see Debiprasad Chattopadhyay/ Indian Philosophy/ Bengali Edition/ K.P. Bagchi &Co). 

Praising Indra it is said in Rig Veda: “The purpose of Brahmanaspati, engaging in a great work, has been successful, according to his wish; for he it was who recovered (the stolen) cattle for (the dwellers in) heaven; and distributed them; so that of their own power they took different directions, like (the branches of) a mighty river.” (Mandala 2/ hymn 24/ verse 14. English translation is taken from H.H. Wilson, edited and revised by Ravi Prakash Arya and K.L. Joshi/ Parimal Publication/Delhi/ Fourth Reprint Edition/2016). Praising Agni it is said: “You, Chitrabhanu, are the distributor of riches, as the waves of a river are parted by interjacent (islets), you ever pour (rewards) upon the giver (of oblations).” (ibid/1/26/6). Praising Savita it is said; “We invoke Savita, the enlightener of men, the dispenser of various home-insuring wealth” (ibid/1/22/7). Praising Usa it is said: “Well-born and divine Usa, who are the protectress of mortals; whatever share (of light) you apportion to men, may the radiant Savita be disposed (to confirm) the gift, and declare us free from sin; so that (he) the sun (may come to our sacrificial hall).” (ibid/1/123/3. Here, Sayana said that the bhagam (the share) is not only applicable to prakasasya (light), but to all the offerings, as the sacrifice is offered at dawn, the dawn may be said to be its distributor). Praising Indra and Agni: “I have heard, (when you were present) at the division of the treasure (among the worshippers), that you two, Indra and Agni, were most vigorous in the destruction of Vrtra: beholders of all things seated as this sacrifice upon the sacred grass, be exhilarated, (by drinking of the effused libation).” (ibid/1/109/5). Praising Indra: “We offer the Soma libation to him who is the performer of many exploits, the beasts (of the gods), the showerer (of benefits), the possessor of true strength, the hero who, holding respect for wealth, takes it from him who performs no sacrifice, like a footpad (from a traveler), and proceeds (to give it) to the sacrificer.” (ibid/1/103/6). Praising Indra: “The upholder of heaven and of the firmament, the wind, like a chariot traversing the upper (region) accompanied by the Vasus; the clother of the night (with gloom), the parent of the sun, the distributor of the portion (allotted to the pious), like the words (of the wealthy appropriating to all) the food.” (ibid/3/49/4). Praising Savita and Bhaga: “For you, (worshippers), I approach today the divine Savita and Bhaga, the distributor of precious (wealth) among men: Asvins, (leaders of rites), enjoyers of many (good things), desiring your friendship, I solicit your daily presence.” (ibid/5/49/1. The interesting development in this verse is ‘the sharing activity’, i.e., Bhaga is deified. This may be the possible source of the term bhagaban, i.e., the God). Praising Bhaga once again: “Or may the glorious mountains, the beneficent rivers, be to us for our preservation: may Bhaga, the apportioner of wealth, come with abundance and protection: may this wide-pervading Aditi hear my invocation.” (ibid/5/46/6).   

It is a conventional belief that the Vedas are religious texts. The Hindutva-vadins propagate glory of the Vedas. However, Debiprasad showed that those are not really religious texts because most parts of the Vedas were composed at a time when proper religion was not at all originated. One may ask that the texts are full of prayers to the gods, then how come those are non-religious? When there are gods then it must be religion, one may think. However, Debiprasad does not agree. Here, we see that Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya again displayed the rare quality of a scholar and theoretician who did not restrict himself in the custody of dry formulas in order to seeking truth from the facts. Debiprasad opined that religion is something which must be a feature of class-divided society, not a society like primitive communist one. “A religion may be defined as a system of practices and beliefs resting on the assumption that the world is subject to the control of a supernatural force or agency, which can be influenced by prayers and sacrifice and is apprehended by faith as opposed to knowledge…”, Debiprasad quoted George Thomson in order to provide a definition of religion. However, the gods in the Vedas are not that type of super-natural entities who created the world and controlled the world. Here is a Sukta from the tenth mandala of the Rig Veda which describes the creation of the universe:

  1. There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomlessly deep?
  2. There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond.
  3. Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat.
  4. Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence.
  5. Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above? There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was giving-forth above.
  6. Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows when it has arisen?
  7. Whence this creation has arisen——— perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not—— the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows——— or perhaps he does not know.

[The Rig Veda: An Anthology/ Wendy Doniger]

This is one of the very important Suktas in the Rig Veda where it is clearly said that the gods were originated with origination of the universe, hence they are not the originators. Debiprasad opined several times that the gods in Rig Veda were not the gods proper, but the advanced elements of the human society whose higher abilities in battle, in morality (rt) and responsibility were praised and gradually deified in the imagination of the Vedic poets.

In the Rig Veda there was a pair of gods, Asvins, later called as Asvin brothers were addressed in a verse by the following manner which can be considered as some kind of reminder: “O Asvins, our friendship with you comes down from our fathers; in friendship you are equal with us; know your and our grandfather to be the same.” (7/72/2. English translation is taken from “Religion and Society”/Chattopadhyay/pp 110). Debiprasad wrote about Indra: “Indra was a friend indeed! He was a friend with friends; the friend and benefactor and protector (i.63.4). He was a friend coming from the heaven and honouring ‘us’ as his friends (i.63.4); a friend accompanied by faithful friends (iii.39.5); listening as a friend to the praises of his friends. (iii.43.4).The friends of Indra poured out Soma for him (iii.30.1)” (ibid/110). Regarding Agni it is said in the Rig Veda that he is the greatest friend (sakha sakhye varenyah). Debiprasad noted that all these concepts about the gods in the Rig Veda are extremely ancient which the early Aryans developed as their cultural fabric which corresponded with their communistic life. Using the philological tools he again proved it from another angle. Debiprasad wrote: “Philological considerations, too, corroborate this. Here is a rk of immense significance: ‘O Agni, O Asura, this rituals (yajna) of ours is full of cows, of sheep (aviman), of horses, of food, of offspring, may thou be always without anger being in our assembly (sabhavan), a friend, like a human being (nrvat-sakha), possessing huge wealth and vast waters (iv.2.5).’ Agni being addressed as an asura is indeed remarkable; Sayana found it too inconvenient to comment upon. It indicates that the rk dates back to a period when to the poets of the Rgveda the word asura had not fallen into disrepute. Probably, more significant than this is the use of the word aviman, ‘one full of sheep’. This is the solitary use of the word in the whole of the Rgveda, the only reference to the sheep as a form of wealth. This again indicates that the rk dates back to a period when the Vedic sheers were still raising and tending the sheep, a practice they must have eventually given up. These, therefore, are evidences of the rk belonging to the most archaic stratum of the Rgveda. And it is also the rk in which the word nrvatsakha, ‘a friend-like-a-human being’, occurs; in the comparatively earlier periods, the comradely relations felt by the Vedic poets for their gods were indeed overtly human.” (Chattopadhyay, ibid, 113-114).

In another verse Agni was addressed as jananam jamih (1/75/4). Debiprasad explained that the meaning of the word jamih is ‘a comrade’. Agni was called as ‘a comrade of the people’. And who is a comrade according to the Vedic poets? Sayana explained that the word came from another word jama which was meant ‘to eat’. So Sayana explained the word as follows: Jama adane jamanti saha ekasmin patre adanti iti jamavah, bandhavah. That means those who eat together from the same plate are friends, jamih. Agni used to eat together with all the people from the same plate without any discrimination.

Therefore, it is amply clear that the gods in the Vedas are not the gods proper and the texts are not religious in the strict sense of the word. Or, more appropriately the texts can be called as pre-religious. There were gods but no religion. Gods without religion.

Then how the religion was originated? Debiprasad showed that at some point of time the surplus production started to take place in Aryan society. Now the question is what should be the mechanism by which this surplus was extracted and accumulated at the hands of a tiny portion of the population? This is a vital question at which the communists never paid sufficient attention. Debiprasad Chattopadhyay put forward a magnificent answer for this question. He said: “There were three conceivable alternative techniques that could make this possible: 1) direct plunder, 2) purchase and 3) persuasion by ideological devices. We are going to see why the third of this presumably best suited the city governors and that moreover we have the clue in this to the making of religion.”(Chattopadhyay/ Religion and Society/pp 53). Debiprasad convincingly showed that out of three probable alternatives, i.e., plunder, purchase and persuasion why only persuasion had to be the only method to extract the surplus production from the hands of its direct producers. At this point in societal development the actual and proper religion as the most powerful ideological device for surplus extraction was originated. The earlier gods like Agni, Varuna, Indra, Mitra, Sabita, Bhaga, Ashvins, Maruts and many others who were considered as the friends or comrades of the people (jananam jamih) mostly disappeared from the realm of reality. In the Later Vedic Period even the concept of the individual gods was abundant and the concept of the abstract, impersonal force or power like Brahmo was originated. Now, the God was neither a friend nor he knew anyone other than his representatives in the human society that is the Brahmins. The prerogative of one section of the people was born in the spiritualistic matters who maintained a ‘living connection’ with the God. Therefore, all offerings to the God must have been handed over to his representatives on the earth. We can visualize that with the breaking of the primitive communist society of the Aryans, the Aryan society as a whole was going through huge and far-reaching changes at this point of time. The division of labour started to take place and the momentum of that was increasing in every passing day. The division of labour was started in the Aryan society much earlier as some indication can be found in the Rig Veda (The dawn rouses one man to acquire wealth, another to earn food, another to achieve greatness, another to sacrifices, another to his own (pursuits), another to activity, and lights all men to their various means of maintaining life. Usas has given back all the region. /1/113/6, Parimal Publication, see 1/113/5 also). However, Purusha-Sukta gave the division of labour such a permanent and some kind of divine structure which obviously led to a society where the Brahmins and the Rajanyas acquired the political power and accumulated surplus wealth at their hands.

Therefore, now we can understand that the Vedas covered most of the timeframe when the ancient primitive communist society of the Aryans transformed into a class society and since these huge literatures were composed through quite a long time, nearly eight hundred to one thousand years, the transition from one society to another is reflected in the Vedas. From this angle, too, the Vedas have immense importance which might have no parallel in the world.

At the same time this peculiarity, however, gave birth two contradictory philosophies, namely materialism and idealism. In the previous chapters we have seen how Debiprasad proved that India is not a country of idealist and religious thought, but, a land of early materialism. Now discussing the Vedic philosophies he showed how materialism sprang out from the Vedas, too, in order to contradict the idealist world outlook. I shall discuss Vedic materialism and the origin of idealism under separate sub-headings from the works of Debiprasad Chattapadhyaya in the following issuers of Red Star.

(To be continued...) 

The caste system in India is a unique system which was developed almost three thousand years back as per the Rig Vedic evidences. However, the system became rigid and institutional at the time of Manu who composed Manusmriti. Ascribing an exact date of composing the Manusmriti is difficult but according to different sources and modern researches it may be safe to assume that the period of Manusmriti is between 200 BCE to 200 CE. The socio-economic fabric of our country reveals that how much powerful an ancient system, like caste division can be in even present times that the practical politics of a revolutionary party cannot ignore its dynamics. However, a systematic study of this system from Marxist point of view was never done with due importance. Therefore, it has become a herculean task today to enter into a comprehensive study of the system. This paper, therefore, did not try to do that. Instead, the paper concentrated on the key issues related to the subject in order to understand the very nature of our social struggles which may facilitate to develop the correct strategy and tactics of our revolution. In this paper it may be fruitless to search answers. On the contrary, the paper has strove to formulate the questions. A collective effort based on the combination of theory and practice may find the answers of those.

Origination of Varna and Caste Division

Manusmriti is the most ill famous source of the ugly form of caste division against which all the democratic forces vow to fight. Manu divided the society into four varnas, i.e., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra (Chaturvarna system) where Brahmin is in the top of social hierarchical ladder and followed by other three varnas respectively. Shudra is the lowest varna and deprived from all the rights and whose duty is only to serve other three varnas. Some of the dicta of Manu are as follow:    

  1. In whom among the three (higher) castes the most and the best of (those) five may be he is here worthy of respect; a Shudra (is not worthy of respect on the ground of his wealth or knowledge no matter how high they are)….
  2. A Kshatriya who reviles a Brahmin ought to be fined one hundred (Panas); a Vaishya one hundred and fifty or two hundred, but a Shudra ought to receive corporal punishment.
  3. A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all belongs to this Shudra as his own, he is one whose property may be taken away by his master.
  4. Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth by a Shudra injures the Brahmin.
  5. If a man (of the Shudra caste) makes love to a girl of the highest caste he deserves corporal punishment.
  6. A woman alone (is) a wife for a Shudra; both she and a woman of his own caste (are) legally (wives) of a Vaishya; they two and also a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Kshatriya, both they and a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Brahmin.

We need to discuss Manu’s system more elaborately, however, before that we must understand the actual difference between the varna system and caste system. According to the varna system the Indo-Aryan people were divided into four groups. However, according to the caste system which arose from the varna system in later period divided the people in numerous subdivisions and all the divisions were placed hierarchically. These sub-divisions are rigid and are determined by birth. In the beginning the varna division was not very much rigid because it was said that the division did not take place by birth, but by the action (karma). Therefore, at the time of great epics or even after that we can see many Shudra kings ruled different parts of the country. However, after the fall of Mauryan Empire no major Shudra empire came into being.

But it does not mean that the varna system was mere a theoretical one while the caste system is practical and very much a matter of day-to-day life. Many anti-caste scholars propagate this idea which we consider not only as wrong but an attempt to give concession to the ‘sacred’ scriptures. Therefore, they put overemphasis on the difference between varna system and caste system.  It is true that in the beginning the varna system was not rigid and social mobility was there unlike the caste system and this is an important difference between these two systems. However, as time passed by, the system became rigid, oppressive and a matter of day-to-day life and as the division of work spread all over the society and more and more new professions came into existence the caste system originated as a finer and all-embraced form of varna system in later period. However, It should be noted that whole of the Manu’s system is based on varna division, not on the caste division. If the varna system was mere a theoretical one then all the hatred of the dalits against Manusmriti become unexplainable.

But what was the inspiration behind the origination of a system like varna system? Let us hear Manu:

"Shaktena api hi shudrena na karyah

Dhanasanchayah shudrah hi dhanamasadya Brahmanan eba Badhate!"

i.e., even if able, the Shudras should not accumulate wealth. Accumulation of wealth by the Shudras make the Brahmins suffer. Many passages can be quoted form Manusmriti and other Smrities (scriptures of codified laws) to show that the main inspiration behind the varna division was highly economic in nature, that is, to extract the surplus production and to deprive a large section of the people from social production other than the means of subsistence only. JANASHAKTI, the central organ of presently non-existent CPIML—JANASHAKTI once took an attempt to study the caste question from Marxist point of view. The paper was published by a social organization later as a booklet. According to their understanding: “Thus the varna system which first started social making based on a primitive social division of labour and political subordination of one group by another, took the concrete shape of social division based on social division of labour to extract surplus from the toiling people and division of labourers too originated.” (Class Caste Relations: Marxist Approach). Comrade Santosh Rana also had similar understanding. He wrote, “In short, the position of an individual in social division of labour, his role in controlling the means of production, his social prestige in relation of the law, his portion of social surplus and the means of achieving this surplus, etc., are determined by his varna. The task of the Shudras was to produce surplus and the three upper varnas used to extract that. It only means, the class division in India at first expressed itself through the varna system.” (Samaj Shreni Rajniti, A collection of Essays by Santosh Rana in Bengali/ Translation is mine).

Once upon a time the West Bengal state committee of CPIM undertook the task to study the social history of our country under the leadership of Anil Biswas around the year of 2OOO and a brief outline of the study was published as a booklet in the year of 2OO3. They also reached in the same conclusion and admitted that the class struggle in ancient and mediaeval India took the form of caste struggle, however, they considered it as a barrier for the development of a classical class struggle.

Among the early communists of our country Comrade S. A. Dange first engaged in a systematic study of the history of ancient India form a Marxist point of view. Although he was influenced by a mechanical Marxist approach and tried to impose the western pattern of social development on the history of India (especially in the case of slave system), still he has left behind some important observations for us. He also admitted that although the varna system emerged in the primitive communist society of the Aryans, however, with the advent of private property the varna division took the shape of class division. He wrote, “Once that stage has been reached, private property and classes are born. The Varnas metamorphoses into contradictory classes and take the path of civil war, class war. The primitive commune dies, never to return.” (INDIA: FROM PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM TO SLAVERY/ PPH/ Page:1O1).

Professor Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya had an elaborated study on the Vedic society in ancient India. He also convincingly proved that in early Vedic period the Aryan society was a primitive form of communistic society without the class division, although, a simple form of division of work was present there. However, for the first time the Indo-Aryan society became divided into four varnas when the ill-famous Purusha Shukata was composed. It was nothing but the reflection of the emerging class division within the Indo-Aryan society.

 The Rig Veda is an important source to understand the transition from classless society to the class society in India. The experts have an opinion that the Rig Veda was composed through a long time, nearly seven hundred to eight hundred years. Within this time frame the Vedic society passed through this transition. That is why we see a concept of equality of all human being (obviously within the clan) and gods too were considered as the friends of all human being (Jananam Jamih). However, in the later portion of the Rig Veda we see a work division came into being where the Brahmins had the prerogatives to maintain the connection with the gods, that is, in the ritualistic matters. The Purusha Shukta proposed a division among the Indo-Aryan people, however, it did not set up the hierarchy. It gave some indications only. The Brahmins were formed from the mouth of the Purusha. The Rajanyas were born from his arms. The Vaishyas came from his thighs and the Shudras from his feet. Many different interpretations are possible of this symbolic presentation of the division. The question arises that how far it is correct to assume that the Rig Veda determined the hierarchical places of four varnas and their duties or role in the society! Manu had his particular interpretation. He was convinced that the Purusha Shukta place the Brahmin at the top of the social hierarchical ladder, by saying that they were born from the mouth of the Purusha. For him it was quite sufficient indication that the Brahmins should own all the knowledge and wisdom in order to appear as the sole representatives of the divinity in this material world. Similarly the Rajanyas had the duty to protect the people since they were born from the arms. The Vaishyas and the Shudras were duty-bound to produce the wealth and the Shudras had a role only to serve the upper three varnas. Since they were born from the feet of the Purusha they had no right.

This interpretation of Manu was not acceptable to many admirers and followers of the Rig Veda and so called Vedic religion. According to them, by the system of Chaturvarna the Vedas only proposed a job division only, nothing more than that. Therefore, a person can be a Brahmin, or Kshatriya, or Shudra not by his or her birth but by work or karma. Ambedkar called these people as the most dangerous enemy of the dalit movement.

 However, we must understand why Manu interpreted the Purusha Shukta in such a manner from the historical materialist point of view. Manu composed a literature which was called Smriti, that means, the law. But the laws are creations of the human being. The strong presence of the memory of old days of communistic society never allowed the people to accept any discrimination when it was created by the human itself. This is an important peculiarity of Indian society. Therefore, it must have been supported by the divinity. The Smrities must have been supported by the Shruti (the Vedas). Why? Because ‘the Vedas are not created by the human being, it was composed by the God’. The fatal Shruti-Smriti combine now became eligible to dictate the discrimination. Had there been no Purusha Shukta in the Rig Veda it would be difficult for Manu to justify the class division within the Indo-Aryan society which in return would make the class struggle much sharper. Therefore, today at least it can be said that the Purusha Shukta gives an important service to the ruling classes from the ancient time till today. (The whole hymn of Purusha Shukta made of sixteen verses along with annotation and notes by Wendy Doniger are given in Appendix for the advanced readers). 

    Now let us enter the political consequences of this development as laid down by Manu. From above discussion one thing is very clear. The varna division and subsequent caste division in Indian society is nothing but the class division in a different form. Therefore, when Ambedkar gave a call for annihilation of castes and the Communist Party gave a call to fight for a classless society, there was no essential difference between these two calls.

The Political Struggle of the Shudras

However, the early communists of our movement failed to see the matter from this angel. This is not true, as some of the critics of the communist movement always try to propagate, that the Communist Party did not take care of the Caste Annihilation movement led by Ambedkar at all. However, all the efforts of the Party were based on some half hearted understanding of the social struggles in our country. In the preface of “Who were the Shudras?” written in nineteen forty six Ambedkar said, “It is well-known that there is a non-Brahmin movement in this country which is political movement of the Shudras. It is also well-known that I have been connected with it.” Thus under the leadership of Ambedkar the political movement of the Shudras was born. When the Shudras of our country who were actually the Indian version of proletariat having nothing to lose except their chains waged a political struggle against their oppressors, it should have been a welcome development for the communists. However, the matter did not develop in this line. Instead, a bitter relation was developed between the Communists and the Ambedkarites and an unwanted rift was emerged between these two camps which helped Congress to manipulate the complicated situation prevailed at that time of nineteen thirties and nineteen forties successfully to capture the leadership of anti-British struggle in India in order to give birth a neo-colonial India after nineteen forty seven. We need to understand the failure of both the camps, the Communists and the Ambedkarites, in this regard in order to determine today’s task in the concrete social condition of Indian revolution. At first we will discuss the mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar. The above-mentioned preface of “Who were the Shudras” written by him can be an eye opener in this case.

In that preface Ambedkar divided the ‘Hindus’ in five distinct categories. He said, “There is a class of Hindus, who are known as Orthodox and who will not admit that there is anything wrong with the Hindu social system. To talk of reforming it is to them rank blasphemy.” Regarding the second category he said, “There is a class of Hindus who are known as Arya Samajists. They believe in the Vedas and only in Vedas. They differ from the Orthodox inasmuch as they discard anything which is not in the Vedas. Their gospel is that of return to the Vedas.” On the third category Ambedkar said, “There is a class of Hindus who will admit that the Hindu social system is all wrong, but who hold that there is no necessity to attack it. Their argument is that since law does not recognize it, it is dying, if not a dead system.” He remarked on the fourth category, “There is a class of Hindus, who are politically minded. They are indifferent to such questions. To them Swaraj is more important than social reform.” Ambedkar found his ally in the fifth category, so he said, “The fifth class of Hindus are those who are rationalists, and who regard reforms as of primary importance, even more important than Swaraj.”

Ambedkar admitted that there was a fierce battle was going on between him and the first two categories of the ‘Hindus’. On the probable impact of his book, ‘Who Were the Shudras’ on the Arya Samajists he said, “The book treads heavily on the toes of the Arya Samajists…. Both these conclusions are bound to act like atomic bombs on the dogmas of the Arya Samajists.” He said further, “I am not sorry for this clash with Arya Samajist. The Arya Samajists have done great mischief in making the Hindu society a stationary society…… I am convinced that the Hindu society will not accept the necessity of reforming itself unless and until this Arya Samajists’s ideology is completely destroyed. This book does render this service, if no other.”

On the Orthodox ‘Hindus’ he remarked, “What the Orthodox Hindus will say about this book I can well imagine for I have battling with him all these years. The only thing I did not know was how the meek and non-violent looking Hindu can be violent when anybody attacks his Sacred Books. I became aware of it as never before when last year I received a shower of letters from angry Hindus, who became quite unbalanced by my speech on the subject delivered in Madras. The letters were full of filthy abuses, unmentionable and unprintable, and full of dire threats to my life…. I don’t know what they will do this time….. For I know very well that they are a base crew who, professing to defend their religion, have made religion a matter of trade. They are more selfish than any other set of beings in the world, and are prostituting their intelligence to support the vested interests of their class…. What I would like to tell these amiable gentlemen is that they will not be able to stop me by their imprecations.”

On the other hand Ambedkar admitted that he had no expectation to be able to change the minds of third and fourth categories of the ‘Hindus’. While he furnished some arguments against the third category he just simply ignored the fourth category of the “Hindus” whom he called “politically minded”. On them he only employed two or three remarks, “As to the politically-minded Hindu, he need not be taken seriously. His line of approach is generally governed by a short-term view more than by long-range considerations. He is willing to follow the line of least resistance and postpone a matter, however urgent, if it is likely to make him unpopular. It is therefore quite natural if the politically-minded Hindu regards this book as nuisance.” On the ‘Hindus’ of fifth category Ambedkar said, “The only class of Hindus, who are likely to welcome the book are those who believe in the necessity and urgency of social reform. The fact that it is a problem which will certainly take a long time to solve and will call the efforts of many generations to come, is in their opinion, no justification for postponing the study of the problem. Even an ardent Hindu politician, if he is honest, will admit that the problems arising out of the malignant form of communalism which is inherent in the Hindu social organization and which the politically minded Hindus desire to ignore or postpone, invariably return to plague, those very politicians at every turn. These problems are not the difficulties of the moment. They are our permanent difficulties, that is to say, difficulties of every moment. I am glad to know that such a class of Hindus exists. Small though they be, they are my mainstay and it is to them that I have addressed my arguments.”

From above quotations we can have a sketch of mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar and his general political understanding. For him the Independence of the country was not that much important if the rule of the newly independent country would go in the hands of the caste-Hindu leadership. A Hindu India was no way better for him than the colonial India. Therefore, he wanted to launch a decisive battle against caste discrimination and for the annihilation of the caste system at that point of time when the struggle for independence of our country from the British rule reached at its peak. This became the point of difference between the Ambedkarite movement and the Communist movement. It is also very clear from the discussion put forward by Ambedkar in that preface that he meant the leadership of the Communist Party and the non-Orthodox leaders of Congress as “politically-minded Hindus”. Here, one can easily notice the weakness in Ambedkar’s politics which lost credibility to represent the nation as a whole and remained merely as dalit politics. The Communist Party warned Ambedkar continuously about this lacuna and urged him to be united with the mainstream of the struggle for Independence. However, the Communist Party was always apprehensive about the actual political aim of Ambedkar and thought that his politics would create disunity among the ranks of the working class and the toiling masses which in return might create harm to the communist movement in particular and the struggle for Independence in general. Therefore, while the party was sympathetic with the condition of the dalits and agreed upon the justification of dalit movement and criticized heavily the Congress leadership for not paying attention to their cause, the Communist Party did not believe the leaders of the dalit movement including Ambedkar. (See the documents of B.T. Randive on dalit movement, nineteen forty six) Thus, a space of political dialogue between the Communists and the Ambedkarites could not come into being and the warning from the CP to Ambedkar went in vain as the later saw no friendly advice in it. Therefore, the Communist Party failed to perform its historical duty.

Today a large number of the Communists will accept this fact, however, it is not enough. We must analyze why the Communist Party failed to build unity with the dalit movement. We must identify the shortcomings in the theoretical understanding of the communist practice in this question in order to understand today’s task. Otherwise again the movement will be directed by the pragmatic political understanding and we will repeat the same mistake, may be from an opposite direction. 

It is a well accepted fact that the original Shudras of the Rig Veda were gradually marginalized more and more by the three upper Varnas and at one point of time started to be mixed up with the so called fifth Varna or the Avarnas who were actually the vanquished non-Aryans and formed a large section of the Indian people who are generally called as the dalits. According to a recent survey conducted by NSS nearly three fourth of the Indian population are entitled to some kind of reservation as they belong to SC, ST or OBC categories. The overwhelming majority of the dalit people in our country are landless, property-less, marginalized, socially and economically oppressed. The largest section of nearly fifty crore strong unorganized workers in India is made of by these people.

However, it must be taken into account that we are not living in English or West European condition. In Indian context this huge section of the working class is not only economically exploited but at the same time socially deprived since in our country the class division was introduced in the form of caste or varna division in order to take religious sanctity. The positive side of Ambedkar’s politics lies in the fact that he understood that without snatching the political power from the caste-Hindus, dalits could never achieve a country or society of its own. The annihilation of the caste division cannot be achieved by changing the minds of the caste-Hindus or through some patch work to reform Hindu social structure. So he declared his movement as the political movement of the Shudras.

From a Marxist point of view the political struggle of the Shudras is nothing but the political struggle of the working class. Therefore, the political formation which led this struggle must have been a party of the working class. However, Ambedkar was not a Marxist. It is not necessary for a working class party to be a Marxist party all the time. The Marxist party does not necessarily lead through its majority or organizational strength but through its clear and profound theoretical-political understanding. The Communist Manifesto says: “In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” (The Communist Manifesto/ Edited by Frederic L. Bender/ Norton Critical Edition/ pp 67).

Therefore, the Communist Party cannot oppose other working-class parties because they don’t have any separate sectarian principles. Keeping a cooperative and friendly relation with those parties the CP must lead them to move forward by pointing out the general and long-term political interest of the working class. Now the question is did the early Communists of our country apply this teaching of the Communist Manifesto or were they were led by sectarian principles?  

Instead of becoming glad to see the political upsurge of the dalits under the leadership of Ambedkar, the Communist Party became apprehensive and scared. Comrade BTR repeatedly pressurized SCF (Scheduled Caste Federation) to dismantle the dalit mass organizations under its umbrella and to work within same mass organizations led by the Communist Party.(See the above mentioned documents of BTR and also the Introduction by Anand Teltumbde of ‘India and Communism’ written by Ambedkar/ Left Word/2O17) Sometimes the organs of the party openly advocated the necessity to bring out the dalit masses from the dalit organizations in order to organize them under the fold of the Communist Party. All this activities of the party and the mentality behind those helped to develop mistrust, fear and distance among the ranks of the dalit movement. Undoubtedly it was nothing but the sectarian policy of the Communist Party. Instead of performing the labourious task to find out the general and long-term political interests of the working class and by pointing out those to the leaders of the dalit movement the party took a shortcut road of putting the organizational interest in command and did the same mistake which The Communist Manifesto warned against, i.e., to develop sectarian principles against other working class parties. 

What was the general interest of the working class in India at the decisive moment of the struggle for Independence? Undoubtedly it was Swaraj—— the Independence from the British rule which Ambedkar failed to see. It was quite expected from a man like Ambedkar as he was not a Marxist and from a political formation like SCF as it was a non-Marxist working class party. The Communist Manifesto clearly said that it was the distinguishing feature of the Communists to see and uphold the general interest of the working class. However, while the Communist Party correctly pointed out the general interest of the working class to the dalit leaders but at the same time showing left-anarchist political mentality they accused and opposed and very often described Ambedkar and other dalit leaders as the stooge of imperialism. But what was the reason behind this kind of behavior of the Communist leaders towards the dalit leadership? 

The answer probably lies in the fact that the leaders of the Communist Party never recognized the dalit movement as the integral part of the Indian working class movement. They never recognized the dalit leaders as the representatives of a large section of the Indian working masses. Therefore, they never recognized SCF as another working class party. So they never tried to find out the way to develop a proper relation with them. It does not mean that the Communist leaders did not know the actual condition of the dalits in our country or they had no sympathy towards the dalit movement. BTR admitted in those documents that in the Indian Railways thousands of the dalit workers received only nine rupees as DA while the workers in the garment factories of Mumbai were paid one hundred rupees for the same. The party admitted that since the time immemorial the dalits were deprived from all the rights which were absolutely essential to lead a decent life and if these people were not given equal status then an Independent India was not possible.  Practically there was actually no demand of Ambedkar left which was not accepted by the Communist Party. However, when the dalits formed their own political organization in order to launch a political struggle, the Communist Party became scared and apprehensive. Actually half-hearted understanding on the Indian history and reality led the Party to commit this political blunder.

We will see how this blunder took more complicated and irreversible turn when the question of the long-term interests of the working class was confronted by the Communist Party. What was the long-term interest of the working class in the freedom struggle? Undoubtedly it was to build up a New Democratic India as a result of anti-colonial struggle. Now, the question is, was it possible under the leadership of Congress? The answer is No. Then why the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement and never tried snatching the leadership? Ambedkar and other leaders of SCF were not against the freedom movement or freedom from the British as such. However, Ambedkars was in total disagreement of the leadership of Congress as he knew that since the Congress party used to represent the interest of the bourgeois and zaminder class of our country who were at the same time from so called higher castes then it was quite imperative that the ‘free’ India would be a prison for the dalits. Ambedkar called those freedom fighters as ‘politically minded Hindus’ and advised his fellow comrades ‘not to take them seriously’ who did not bother that outcome of the freedom movement. Unfortunately, the Communist Party placed itself in this position. Had the party been directed by the long-term interest of the working class then it became absolutely natural for it to develop a rock-solid alliance with the Ambedkarite movement in order to emerge as a potential claimant of the leadership of the freedom struggle. In that case the course of the history might change into a new direction.

Some comrades do not accept the fact that the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement. Many documents can be cited to negate this thought. If this is done the size of the present article might be longer than it was intended. However, one can remember that as early as in nineteen thirty two there were four communist parties of the Third Communist International to write an open letter to the Indian Communists warning about the danger of accepting the leadership of Congress in the freedom struggle which they thought that the Communist in India did not care. In nineteen forty four, Comrade P.C. Joshi wrote a few letters to M.K. Gandhi and MK replied those, too. The correspondence between PC and MK is one of the important documents of the Communist Party. Replying one letter from Gandhi Comrade Joshi wrote to him, “If my own father wrote such a letter I would not respond and never would see his face. However, I am replying you because you are the father of our nation. As a patriot it goes against my duty to be angry with you even when you insult and harass us.” (English translation is mine from Bengali document)

Some comrades think that Ambedkar and other dalit leaders were against the freedom struggle as a whole, therefore an alliance with them was not possible in the movement for Independence. Again, many articles wrote by Ambedkar can be cited to negate this thought but for the time being we can be restricted in the above mentioned documents of comrade BTR in this regard. He wrote: “However, it is true that SCF never commit a crime to go against the demand of freedom. As a matter of fact Rao Bahadur Shibraj, the President of their Kanpur session clearly stated, ‘We are not against the freedom of India but we want assurance that what we demanded in Nagpur that will be accepted’.”(English translation is mine form Bengali document

In spite of knowing all these things the Communist Party never paid deeper attention to the fact that if it was true that the SCF leadership were not actually against the freedom movement then why apparently they used to take such political position which might be depicted as against anti-colonial struggle! The party never tried to realize with enough seriousness that why the severe bitterness emerged in the relation between the dalit movement and the Congress party! The party never learned from the history of our country to understand the serious nature of the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus.

On the contrary Comrade BTR tried repeatedly to convince Ambedkar and his fellow comrades about the importance and necessity of the leadership of Congress in general over the freedom movement and the leadership of MK Gandhi in particular whom the party already recognized as the father of the nation! It is true that the Communist party criticized the Congress for not accepting the demands of SCF, but it is also true that in the contradiction between SCF and the Congress the party associated itself with the later which meant that in the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus the party associated itself with the later.

This strategic blunder of the party negated the merit of its criticism against Congress for not accepting the demands of the dalits. It is true that the Communist Party honestly and earnestly wanted the unity among Congress, Communist, Muslim League and SCF including all the nationalist forces against the British but they failed to realize that it could not be possible if the Congress would remain as the leader of the freedom movement. The party needed Congress as they used it as a cover and continued to work inside it. This tactical blunder negated the merit of its honest aspiration to unite all the nationalist forces against the British rule.

Today’s Task

After seventy two years of so called Independence a serious evaluation is required regarding the relation between the dalit movement and the communist movement. By this span of time many changes took place in the Indian political scenario. Congress ruled the country for more than 6O years within these seventy two years of ‘Independence’. No significant improvement in the general condition of the dalit masses can be seen by this time. In spite of the capitalist development in India the ugly form of caste discrimination, caste oppression, and the domination of Brahmanical ideology and practices continue with same vigour. Ambedkar’s apprehensions have come true. The “free” India is actually a neo-colonial India which has become the prison of the dalits. Receiving an insignificant share of the state power by a handful of the dalit leaders does not indicate any kind of change in the condition of the dalit masses.

The dalit movement has undergone many changes. Repeated division and re-division within dalit movement has weakened the movement which only helped the Brahmanical Manuvadi ruling class to use one section of the movement against another in order to retain its domination over the country. The communist movement also has passed through many changes and within this movement, too, repeated division and re-division have taken place.

Initial lacuna in theoretical understanding has aggravated, however, from the same pragmatist outlook many left and revolutionary left organizations now are raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan landing in the opposite pole in the case of relation with the dalit movement and started to preach red-blue unity. However, how far this change of position is coming from the improvement of theoretical understanding on Indian reality or comes as a result of practical-political need at the time of severe crisis throughout international communist movement, is a difficult question to answer.

However, it is interesting to see that while the party like CPI(M) is raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan in different parts of the country, at the same time they support the cunning step of the BJP government of introducing economic condition based reservation. This self contradiction only raises serious doubts that they have not learned anything from the past experiences. For them the talk of red-blue unity is nothing but a short-term tactical game. Their tacit support to BJP in the political battle against TMC in Bengal again shows how easily these ‘communists’ can ally with the Brahminvadi, Manuvadi forces.

In this scenario we, the revolutionary lefts, must accomplish the long-pending task to bridge the

‘unholy rift between the dalit movement and the communist movement’ (as coined by Anand Teltumbde) in our country. We need to recognize the dalit parties as different kind of working class parties. It is true that today many dalit organizations under the leadership of Mayavati like leaders actually left the revolutionary slogan of Ambedkar, the annihilation of the castes. Instead of that they are busy to find privileges for a handful of dalit aristocrats within this caste-divided society. However, it does not mean that the whole dalit movement has lost its relevance or deteriorated in a reformist opportunist movement. We cannot forget that the same scenario is also evolved in the communist movement itself. However, it does not mean that the communist movement has lost its relevance as the revolutionary movement in the society. We can say it emphatically that if we can build the real red-blue unity based on proper understanding of the Indian condition and history, the struggle against the ruling classes of our country will have a better chance to win.

(Paper presented in Study Class) n

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.