Travelling from the finance capital of India, Mumbai, the Western Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha covered 2717 kilometres through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to reach Delhi. Starting from Hutatma Chowk, (Martyr's square: now dysfunctional symbol of British Bombay – Flora fountain) a location that hosts many corporate headquarters and the Stock Exchange, a perfect reference for what we call the 'Shining India', it travelled through one of the most backward regions in the country – Dhule, Nandurbar, and Bundelkhand – the 'Suffering India', of the majority.
The Jatha had started from the land of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who gave the call, 'Freedom is my birth right and I shall have it' and passed through the land of Rani of Jhansi who was martyred in the first war of Indian independence. All through, the people we have met, identified themselves with the six-main slogans of the Jatha and paraphrased them: 'land for the landless, food for all, jobs for all, education for all and health for all, are our birth rights and we shall have them'.
The agony among the people in all the areas we had visited was palpable. The severe drought conditions in Dhule and Nandurbar of Maharashtra had forced many of the farmers to abandon the villages and migrate to cities. Those remaining in these regions, told us that cultivation will be difficult for the next five years because there is no sources of water even over 2000 feet underground. The government has done precious little to increase the area under irrigation in this region. The peasants expressed their distress at the present situation and were apprehensive that this region too would soon become a hotbed for suicides like in the other parts of Maharashtra. Experiencing such a daily struggle for life, the Jatha moved to Madhya Pradesh.
Garlanding the statue of B.R. Ambedkar in Mhow, his birth place, we were reminded of his famous concluding speech in the Constituent Assembly, commending the Constitution for approval. We have created a society that grants one person one vote and one vote one value. But are yet to create a society where one person has the same one value. Our Jatha carried the 'sandesh' to strengthen popular struggles – Sangharsh – to end such social and economic disparities. As Ambedkar said: “How long will we continue to live like this”.
Holding a public meeting in front of the statue of Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai, the precise spot assumed to be where she was killed, one could not help but contemplate how insidiously the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is spreading communal poison, whereas here lies a Rani, who performed her pooja every morning, took up a sword to fight the British and proclaimed the Lal Quila's Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar as the Head of Independent India. The BJP decrying the minorities as 'Babur ka aulad', is openly discriminating against them. The need to wage a struggle against these communal forces brings back onto agenda the task of consolidating the synchretic character of Indian civilisation against the divisive policies of caste, gender and communalism.
From an area of institutionalised communalism, we entered the land of caste based Khap panchayats. This only reinforced the long distance and way Indian revolution has to travel to establish a society where we can find a true expression of liberty, equality and fraternity.
One could see a growing popular perception for sharpening struggles on all these scores. The responsibility of Indian communists grows more than of anybody else to intensify the struggles and mitigate the sufferings of the majority of our people.