Though no longer with us, he lives on – in his writings and in the countless memories he has left behind. He continues to be the inspiration he always was. Many is the occasion, when confronted with an organisational or political issue, one has tried to measure up to it by a Sridhar yardstick – trying to figure how Sridhar would have looked at it or tried to solve it.
A small example of the Sridhar way is the letters he wrote from jail. Even a simple communication to his lawyer regarding a legal issue could become for him an opportunity to bond politically.
Adv Dhairyasheel Patil, Sridhar’s trial court lawyer, is not only one of the seniormost in the legal profession – he has served as Chairperson of the Bar Council of India; he is also one who keenly and actively participates in the political events of the day.
Sridhar’s letter below to Adv Patil, written in 2010 from Nagpur Central Prison, illustrates a connect somewhat beyond the normal political prisoner-lawyer relationship. Apart from the political commentary, the spirit of the letter has in it the potential to inspire, not only its recipient, but also those of us who read it several years later. A reading and re-reading provides many a lesson.
Here’s to hoping that 2010 will see the people’s struggles rescue Indian Marxism from the hole that the mainstream Marxists have pushed it into. Just a few minutes ago, the transistor blaring in the corridor outside our cell reported the demise of Jyoti Basu. It was depressing the way the worst reactionaries heaped encomiums on him. Depressing because it once again brought home forcefully the abysmal depravity of these ‘Marxists’ who reduced the most rebellious and radical ideology that man has created into a tame lap dog of the ruling classes. Praise from Chidambaram and Arun Jaitley – any respectable human being should have been revolted, but I am sure Jyoti Basu and also those of his ilk would have probably rejoiced as if it were the crowning glory of their lives. (Jyoti Basu from wherever people like him go to when they depart this world).
There is probably some metaphorical significance in that this icon of defanged, truncated Marxism leaves this world just as the people of Lalgarh have begun to reclaim and resurrect Marxism to its pristine and exhilarating essence. It probably symbolises the process of the old and putrefying giving way to all that is fresh and fragrant. There is this hint of a unique process of regeneration discernible in India. In the history of Marxism it has often required the brilliance of individuals like Lenin and Mao to extricate Marxism from the abyss of revisionism and restore it to its rightful place in the van of the proletarian struggle. But here in India the most advanced social science finds its saviour in the most ‘backward’ tribal people. Marxism is being expounded and elaborated, not in a rich intellectual polemic or in studied treatises, but by the collective practice of an illiterate peasantry in the forests and mountains. You may think I am romanticising things extravagantly (maybe so). But then how else to view these movements in Lalgarh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh which are raising the most credible challenge to the ruling classes in the last 60 years. And their challenge is not just a knee jerk reaction to deprivation but poses an alternative. Implicit in the practice of this movement is the reassertion of all the fundamental principles of Marxist thought. In the dialectic between theory and practice, here we find praxis leading theory by the nose. Traditional and establishment Marxists are unable to grasp the character and essence of the movement and run behind flailing their hands, muttering inanities about violence, democracy, futility of armed struggle etc. This movement has posed such questions which have confounded these intellectuals. In the internet websites and columns of magazines like EPW you will find so many of these ‘wise’ men panicking at the way this movement has rendered them irrelevant and without a constituency (except for themselves).
Undoubtedly the present people’s movement is not just some spontaneous upsurge, but the result of decades of work of a party whose hall mark has been an unswerving dedication to Marxist principles, determination to inseparably link themselves to the people and limitless capacity for sacrifice. This party brought the theory to the people; now the people have owned it and surged ahead. Theory now needs to keep pace with the praxis. Maybe even the party which made all this possible too has lagged behind on drawing the correct theoretical lessons of successes and failures in this practice. Very few of the Marxist intellectuals seem to be able to grasp or even sense the questions and challenges the movement faces or is itself raising. Among a few who do attempt to grasp the issues or try to articulate it with some depth is one Saroj Giri. Attached is another recent article of his which we found interesting especially since he has theoretically tried to present issues which the movement has raised in practice. Hope you also find it interesting.
To what extent the peoples movements will reclaim the Marxist heritage and render irrelevant the revisionist version will depend on how well the state’s offensive is repelled. Chidambaram has wisely decided to disassociate himself from the operational name of his offensive. He disclaimed any knowledge of ‘Green Hunt’. He is not sure of a clear and decisive victory – so he talks of a long battle, that all those 70,000 troops are deployed to ensure ‘development’ etc. He will not like to be burdened with a defeat or a festering war associated to him. But unfortunately the current offensive has been irrevocably linked to him and he will not be able to wash his hands so easily. However the balance in military terms is tilted in his favour. However if he does not achieve significant military success in reasonable time the political initiative may tilt away from him. The consensus he has built behind him will slowly begin to crack. There are small hair line fractures already visible which seem to be coming from below. Reformist social movements (who are essentially system status quoists), who always viewed the Maoists with anathema are more keen to distance themselves from the repressive state than from the Maoists. (A small but visible reversal of earlier trend).This was the situation a couple of years back. Should these embryonic fault lines develop into a full blown fissure, spreading from below into the ranks of the ruling elite, then Chidambaram’s military advantage will be of no avail to him. History shows that if asymmetric wars are stretched out over a long period then it is politics that will determine the outcome and not just military strength. This is true even for the Maoists – something they should factor into their strategy and tactics.
Any swing in the political balance of forces in favour of the movement cannot be easily achieved if the movement remains confined to tribal pockets. Here in lies the Achilles heel of the Maoist movement – its immense weakness in the developed areas and urban centres. If the Maoists succeed to build their movement in these areas it will strengthen them immensely and make it difficult for their enemies to defeat them. All those who desire the flowering of Revolutionary Marxism in the country have no alternative but to pitch in and defend this movement from Chidambaram’s offensive. Hope that 2010 will prove beneficial for the cause of revolutionary Marxism and democracy.
Now that we are ensconced in Nagpur jail we have been able to prod our cases along. There has been some semblance of progress in this front. Cases are getting committed to Sessions court and charges are being framed. These sorts of things should have taken place as a matter of course much earlier. But our worthy judicial system has the uncanny ability to make even these simple automatic steps in the trial of a person into occasions worthy of much rejoicing. And jail instils a sense to appreciate small mercies. But on the whole, things are undeniably slithering forward and who knows, in about 6 months, we may even have the first of our acquittals. Insha’Allah.
There is a bit of good news in the Mumbai matter. An RTI enquiry has yielded a useful response. It helps to establish the lie regarding the alleged seizure of explosives etc on the day of our arrest. Attached is a copy of the reply. Please inform as to what follow up needs to be done and also how we should use it to bring this evidence on record.
Should we apply for bail in the Mumbai case? We were thinking of applying for bail in cases here after achieving some acquittals.
Earlier I had sent you a note regarding the matter of rearrests and foisting of cases after long periods of incarceration or at time of release after acquittal in all cases. Can you suggest some ideas as to how we could challenge this in the higher judiciary?
Hope you and your family are in good health.
Yours sincerely, Love Sridhar