Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

A Unique Ruling Class

March 30, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Do you remember the time when the necklace donated by the Turkish first lady for flood victims disappeared? After much search it was discovered in the possession of the prime minister of Pakistan. The explanation he offered was that he had close ties with the first family and first lady was like a sister to him – “The necklace belongs to my sister and is with me.”

Now the former chief executive and president has disclosed that the Saudi monarch gave him millions of American dollars to buy apartments in Dubai and London because he “was like a brother to me” and “I was the only one with whom he used to smoke.”

Why are only Pakistani leaders fortunate enough to find such generous brothers and sisters and does this phenomenon, beyond its surreal aspects, merit some serious deliberation? We know of rulers patronized for being the ‘running dogs of imperialism’ as the Chinese used to call them, but is there any other country whose leaders get tips worth millions of dollars just for being nice guys loitering around swimming pools?

Just in our neighborhood, can you imagine, say, Manmohan Singh or Vajpayee pocketing a cool few million to buy apartments in fancy places? If not, what does it signify about our leadership and is there cause for concern?

What deserves attention is that unlike the leaders of, say, India or China or Vietnam, almost all our leaders have arranged safe havens abroad where they can recuperate when out of power or seek refuge when things get hot – apartments in Dubai, palaces in Jeddah, flats in London, estates in Surrey, villas in France, ranches in Texas and Australia, and who knows what else where. Some leaders are permanently overseas directing affairs from abroad; others move back and forth as the situation demands; some just fly in and fly out.

The reason this matters is because there can be a world of difference between the attitudes of political leaders who know they have to live among their people when out of power and those that know they can flee abroad to the protection of patrons who can engineer their return at suitable moments in the future under some kind of ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ deal.

Besides, leaders anchored abroad needn’t just stop at furnishing their foreign abodes for the occasional sojourn. They can go all the way and park the bulk of their assets in safe havens while retaining just enough running expenses in local currency to suffice for the odd buying and selling that may be necessary to keep the gig afloat.

This is how one can end up with an extractive economy in which the game plan of the leaders becomes impervious to the risk of accountability or citizen pushback. They can extract resources till the very last moment at which time they can take flight, literally with the clothes on their backs, and be safe abroad until some patron or the other engineers their return after a decent interval.

Think of a country as a ship at sea with citizens as passengers and the leader as captain. The fate of ships in which the captain knows he will sink or swim with the passengers is different from that of one in which the captain believes he can bail out at the first wave of a storm. For the latter there is little need to pay attention to the welfare of citizens. Projects and schemes, billed to serve people, are initiated more as a source of funds to be added to the capital abroad – think of where the proceeds of a game-changer like Reko-diq went. And thus the strip-mining cycle continues before our eyes.

These extract-and-escape cycles undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process. In India, political contestation is still between political parties (except in the Naxalite belt where the extractive economy is at its most rapacious). Pakistan, however, is spawning groups that reject electoral politics and aim to destroy the entire rotten system associated with rapacious elites beholden to outsiders. The virulence of this rejection also removes from their consciousness any compunctions about the destructive consequences of their actions. Unlike the despised leaders, these groups consider themselves locally anchored. They can survive on a bare minimum without luxury apartments and believe everyone else should too till the transformation from which the nation would rise purer and stronger.

The contrasting imperatives, incentives and strategies of their respective rulers have led to divergent sociopolitical trajectories in Pakistan and India and thereby to the different prospects for their citizens. While democracy slowly evolves and delivers in India, Pakistan has descended into a civil war without end.

At another level, the real question is the following: Why do our leaders, who make so much of national honor, not comprehend there is another option when offered a gift? It is possible to say NO. It really is.

This opinion was published in Express-Tribune on March 28, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Back to Main Page

Healthcare Needs a Warning Label

March 22, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Healthcare is dangerous to your health. Ask your neighbor for verification. You will likely hear more than one first-hand experience of someone dead who should be very much alive.

This outcome is unsurprising for three principal reasons related to peculiarities of the industry, social attitudes of the population, and  commercialization of the economy.

First, the industry. Healthcare is a field exhibiting the starkest asymmetry of information between providers and consumers. Every incidence of illness is in some way new and patients have insufficient knowledge to question diagnoses or prescriptions without second opinions and retesting for which there is often no time. In healthcare lives are literally at stake unlike, say, in education, where, if dissatisfied, one can change a child’s school and start again.

Second, social attitudes. People, by and large, still attribute unfavourable outcomes to divine will. Even when convinced of poor service, they rationalize that intentions of providers must have been good but that the patient’s time to die, one way or another, had arrived. This no doubt provides solace to the bereaved but does nothing to hold poor service accountable or provide countervailing pressure for improvement.

Third, commercialization. The logic of the market has now fully permeated the provision of healthcare earlier regarded as a social service yielding providers a respected status in society. Income maximization is now a much more salient motivation. In private conversations, medical professionals even point to the emergence of collusive networks among physicians, laboratory owners, pharmacists, and equipment and medicine suppliers aimed solely at fleecing patients without even the pretence of providing care.

As a result standard norms of economic theory are upended – the free market in healthcare does not minimize cost of service, competition does not drive out bad providers, and it is not only the fittest that survive. Because patients do not have the luxury of withdrawing from the market, poor performance actually increases the revenue transferred to providers as patients shuttle helplessly from one facility to another.

Given these factors, the only way to protect patients is very tight regulation in which the state, the traditional regulator, despite continuing attempts, has failed to measure up to needs. In fact, standards of service and accountability have continued to slip simply because growth in the number of providers and facilities has outstripped regulatory capacity.

While there is no alternative to regulation, it is generally accepted that expecting the state to discharge that function in Pakistan is unrealistic. The record shows that the state politicizes the operations of the regulatory body and compromises its independence. It uses its powers for patronage and does not appoint competent professionals to positions of leadership. Many of the officials it does appoint use the opportunity for rent seeking. There is no other explanation for the number of private medical colleges licensed without adequate faculty and the number of facilities advertising themselves as hospitals without fulfilling basic requirements.

Given that lives are at stake, citizens cannot afford to wait indefinitely for a caring state to emerge. A second-best solution is urgently called for. One alternative is to push to privatize the regulatory function while being cognizant of the private sector’s weaknesses and hedging appropriately in the interest of the citizens.

The only function remaining with the state regulator would be to bid out the regulatory contracts for predefined terms to established private audit firms with reputations to defend. Since this is a major departure, the experiment can be piloted in one sub-district or small city. The private regulator would categorize and register all facilities, ensure compliance with minimum requirements, introduce standard record-keeping protocols, and initiate a regime of random inspections. Based on cumulative review of records, facilities would be assigned quality rankings to be disclosed to citizens. Facilities falling below acceptable standards would be given a limited time to improve to avoid losing their operating license. Registration fees could partly finance the experiment.

In parallel with this privatization, a board of credible individuals would serve as an independent watchdog on behalf of the local population. In addition, the federation of newspapers could nominate a set of journalists to report regularly on the experiment. Thus circumscribed, the second-best alternative could be expected to prove more effective than the state regulator. Based on the results of the pilot, the arrangement could be fine-tuned before expanding its coverage.

For the longer run, however, the existing model of curative care is unsuitable in a country where incomes are low, the incidence of ill-health is high, and basic public health infrastructure – safe water and sanitation, clean air, pest control, etc. – is missing. Populist attempts to make curative care affordable will prove to be unsustainable. We need to transition to a wellness model based on preventive care in which households are visited, monitored, and guided at regular intervals independent of episodes of sickness.

Such a model could also be tried on a pilot basis in one jurisdiction. There are a number of very successful examples to learn from. In 2014, the Director-General of the World Health Organization recommended Cuba’s preventive healthcare model to the entire developing world even though it is not considered politically correct to applaud anything happening in that country. In Cuba, family physicians supported by para-medical staff deliver primary care and preventive services at the local level to panels of patients, about 1,000 patients per physician, with patients and caregivers generally living in the same community.

Even an affluent country like England subscribes to a similar model in which family practitioners and ancillary staff responsible for registered populations of patients act as gatekeepers to specialist care.

Healthcare in Pakistan is out of control and in bad shape and it is up to citizens to articulate alternatives to avoid more tragic losses. This can be a common cause for the rich and poor because not even all the well-off can travel abroad for their check-ups and medical needs.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on March 21, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Back to Main Page

CPEC: Questions Persist

March 20, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Is there a fruitful line of inquiry regarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)? That depends on the questions with which one initiates the inquiry.

Would CPEC be a game-changer for Pakistan? This drawing-room question is particularly useless to begin with. With so much uncertainty and so many variables beyond human control no one except a clairvoyant can predict with any confidence. It is just as pointless, if not actually silly, to take sides. Enough hard information is not available for one side to convince the other on the basis of analysis – believers will continue to believe and doubters will continue to doubt for reasons having little to do with the intricacies of the initiative.

The following questions pertaining to details of the deal are more useful: Under what conditions are the various components of the initiative being negotiated? What are the financial obligations and terms of repayment? What tax concessions are being offered? What are the revenue and capital cost projections of the various components? Who will bear the operating and maintenance costs?

Citizens responsible for the debt liabilities have a right to ask for this information and expect it to be provided. What are the reasons for the secrecy? What is there to hide? The numbers that are filtering out in dribs and drabs on guaranteed rates of return are not very reassuring. The very fact that information is not being fully shared is a major cause for doubt – people are naturally apprehensive in the absence of transparency.

It is good that the government has set up a CPEC website (http://cpec.gov.pk/) but at this time it is only a list of projects with costs and timelines. The terms of financing and revenue projections are missing. In addition, the website suffers from information overload. For example, it includes the Karachi Circular Railway, Peshawar Mass Transit, Quetta Mass Transit, and the Lahore Orange Train.

These are all plausible projects with individual justifications and may all involve Chinese funding but what do they have to do with the corridor? It seems suspiciously the case that various stakeholders are being bought off by including their pet projects under the CPEC umbrella.

The case with the power projects listed on the website is similar. Each might be justified but why is a wind farm in Bhambore lumped under the CPEC? Wouldn’t it make more sense to treat them as independent projects with separate feasibility studies as is the norm. The indiscriminate lumping together of everything happening in the country is another red flag regarding the coherence of the initiative.

It would help to strip out the core corridor investments and share details of their financing and cost-benefit projections. It is reasonable to expect that barring unforeseen events, a functioning corridor would be beneficial for China. But what would be in it for Pakistan except collecting a toll on the transit trade? How much toll collection is being projected? What would Pakistan be exporting via the corridor given its grossly uncompetitive economy? Why would industrial estates succeed along the isolated corridor when they have failed in major locations like Peshawar and Quetta? How many permanent jobs are expected to be created?

These are legitimate questions deserving answers in order to build consensus and take citizens into confidence. It is not enough for the government to say ‘trust us’ because governments in Pakistan have done nothing to earn that trust. Neither international agencies nor Pakistani citizens believe the various governments have been upfront with facts. Such behavior is not unique to Pakistan – after all, Bush and Blair lied to their citizens to invade Iraq.

In the absence of honest answers, those without vested interest in deal-making can only point to historical precedents and past evidence. Take, for example, one of the most significant trade corridors of recent times, the Suez Canal. Was it a game-changer for the people of Egypt? Or take the game-changers for Pakistan promised in the past – Thar Coal, Saindak, Reko-diq, all, incidentally, with Chinese involvement. What happened? They certainly changed the game for those involved in the multiple transactions but is there anything to show for the people of Pakistan or even the locals of the project sites?

The attempt to turn such questioning into issues of patriotism or of maligning our best friends strengthens the impression that all is not above board. These are the standard tactics of those who wish to divert discussion from facts and stifle inquiry with intimidation. Under normal circumstances citizens would be within their rights to examine the track record of Chinese investments in other countries like Sri Lanka (Google Hambantota) or prior deals with Pakistan like the railway locomotives. In all such cases the Chinese are not to blame – ‘buyer beware’ is rule of the market. The concern is with those negotiating the deals on our behalf and the question remains the same: Do you trust them? If so, on what basis?

Given the lack of transparency and the historical evidence, the following outcomes appear likely: For better or for worse, the CPEC momentum is unstoppable; It will be beneficial for the Chinese economy; It will generate toll revenues for Pakistan which may be more or less than operating costs depending upon contractual terms, much as for the Lahore-Islamabad motorway; Without inclusiveness, economic gains might be outweighed by political stresses; It will definitely change the fortunes of a few thousand individuals in Pakistan; It is unlikely to be a game-changer for the Pakistani people much as the Suez Canal was not one for Egyptians.

On the other hand, this could be the mother of all miracles. Let us bow our heads and pray while the untethered camel wanders into Kashgar.

This opinion was published in The News on March 19, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. See also, CPEC: Lessons from History.

Back to Main Page

A History of the Left in Pakistan – 17

March 18, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Pakistan Movement

As we noted earlier in Chapter 3, the Indian Muslims separate political consciousness evolved in early 20th century during their struggle for obtaining administrative autonomy in East Bengal and minority protective rights in Hindu majority provinces of UP, CP, Bihar, Madras, and Bombay.

The Muslims first spoke about their “national interests at the mercy of an unsympathetic majority” in their joint deputation to the Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, in 1906, at Shimla. The peculiar international situation developing before and during First World War also worked in raising Indian Muslim’s political consciousness. The Indian Muslims whole-heartedly joined in the struggle for Indian independence movement. M.A. Jinnah, an avowed liberal barrister from cosmopolitan Bombay and an active member of both Indian National Congress and Muslim League, helped craft the ‘Lucknow Pact’ between the two parties, ushering in a unique phase of unity and cooperation between Hindus and Muslims. He was acknowledged as ‘ambassador of unity between Hindus and Muslims’. This rare communal harmony and the spirit of cooperation was achieved based on mutual recognition of minority rights and obligations, separate electorate, reservation of quotas and special weightage for representation of Muslims and other minorities and providing structural assurances for protection of these rights. After the First World War, Muslims were particularly agitated against dismemberment of Turkish Empire and for the protection of Ottoman Caliphate. Appealing to their acute sense of injustice meted out to Muslims and their strong resentment against aggression of the European powers in Muslim lands, the Muslim religious and communal leaders whipped up an emotional campaign in support of Khilafat and even calling for Muslim Jihad and migration (see Chapter 1). Gandhi and Indian National Congress supported the Muslim agitation (albeit, with strong reservation from certain sections within Congress and opposition from Hindu fundamentalists represented by Hindu Mahasabah) to bring Muslims in Non-Cooperation movement against British government launched in Apr 1919. M.A. Jinnah and Muslim League, however, stayed away from this agitation. Jinnah strongly opposed mass agitation at this stage and injecting raw religious beliefs and archaic cultural symbolism in the Khilafat and non-cooperation agitation to whip up public emotions. He felt that rousing of rabble to religious frenzy was bound to explode the fragile communal unity and that it will pit Hindus and Muslims against each other, both brandishing opposing religious and historical narratives. Due to strong opposition from Gandhi, Jinnah resigned from the Home Rule League that he had once led (30). At the Indian National Congress session in December 1920 at Nagpur where Jinnah stood up to oppose Gandhi’s prescription for the future course of action, he was shouted at for his ‘want of courage’ and ‘howled down with cries of ‘shame, shame’ and ‘political impostor’. Gandhi held complete sway and Jinnah was rejected by the Congress and “reviled by fellow-Muslim Khilafat leaders even more than by the Mahatma’s devoutest Hindu disciples” (31).

Unfortunately, as was expected, without a solid foundation of agreement on constitutional safeguards for the minorities the dream of communal unity and harmony in Indian politics indeed proved short lived. M.K. Gandhi finally called off his Satyagrah agitation after the shocking incident of 22 policemen burnt alive in Chaura Chauri police station in UP by an angry mob in February 1922. But, the damage was done. The Hindus and Muslims turned against each other. The collapse of non-cooperation agitation and Khilafat movement was followed by unprecedented series of riots and killings between Hindus and Muslims across India. The Congress, Hindu and Muslim communal leaders had mobilized Hindu and Muslim masses around their respective religious beliefs, mythology, and historical narratives. The competing economic interests fueled by conflicting Hindu and Muslim idiom of political narrative and fiery rhetoric of communal leaders created a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. The gulf between the two communities only widened over time and was exacerbated due to uncompromising attitude on both sides, especially the Hindu majority leaders who were expected to step forward to allay the fears and apprehensions of minorities. The first major political breach was witnessed in August 1928. While Jinnah was abroad, the Congress and some leaders of the All Parties Conference formed a committee for preparing a draft nationalist constitution to counter Simon Commission proposals for the future constitutional arrangement of India. The Committee (headed by Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru as its secretary) under increasingly belligerent pressure from Hindu Mahasabah formulated its draft report in July 1928— commonly known as ‘Motilal Nehru Report’. It ignored the basic principle of agreement between Hindus and Muslims (Lucknow Pact of 1916) of separate electorates and proposed a strong centre with all residuary powers. Also, no meaningful safeguards were offered in compensation to satisfy the apprehensions of Muslim minority. With a clear Hindu majority population in the country, a strong centre was anathema to the Indian Muslims and other minorities due to fears of the tyranny of majority. But, the Muslim demands of continuing with separate electorate, constitutional safeguards and weightage for minorities were thorny issues for Hindu Mahasabha and for increasingly aggressive Hindu leaders of Indian National Congress. To escape from this impasse and find some common ground, Jinnah had crafted an ingenious constitutional scheme in March 1927. Working out a mutually acceptable compromise formula, Jinnah accommodated Congress’ insistence of restoring joint electorate for both Muslim and Hindu population, provided certain guarantees are ensured in the proposed constitution to adequately protect Muslim minority interests, and Muslim majority control is granted over three new proposed provinces of Sindh, NWFP, and Balochistan. At that time, Sindh was still a part of Bombay province and NWFP and Balochistan were not yet given status of full provinces and were governed by Chief Commissioners. Twenty-nine leading Muslim leaders had agreed to Jinnah’s scheme called Delhi Muslim Proposals. The proposals were ‘substantially’ accepted by the Congress in May 1927 and again a hope appeared to see Hind-Muslim unity on the road to independence. Meanwhile, the 1921 census figures had revealed “rapid growth among Muslims in both wings of the north that they were now a majority in the Punjab (54.8 percent) and in Bengal (52.7 percent). This development stimulated demands for renegotiating the Lucknow Pact formula, with many League leaders from both Muslim-majority provinces no longer willing to rest content with the prospect of mere minority council seats” (32). In this backdrop of rising hopes and expectations of Muslims and corresponding rise of Hindu’s fears and apprehensions, Nehru Committee Report as finalized in August 1928 plainly ignored and repudiated the compromise formula acceptable to all communities at this critical juncture. Upon his return from abroad, Jinnah was angry at his friend Chagla and other Muslim leaders who had acquiesced to Nehru’s proposals effectively undermining Jinnah’s position on the issue and thereby encouraging Indian National Congress to ignore a weakened Jinnah’s objections. At All Parties Convention at Calcutta in December 1928 convened to discuss the Nehru Report, “Jinnah’s proposed amendments were rejected and he felt deeply ‘hurt’. He believed his proposals were reasonable. He wanted separate electorates to continue; one-third of the seats to be reserved in the provincial and central legislatures for Muslims; and the residuary powers to be vested in the provinces and not at the centre. Jinnah wanted a federal system with a weak centre” (33). The breach had occurred. It was a major turning point between Muslims and Hindu national aspirations and the foundation of a major political breach had been laid. This effectively sealed the prospects of a meaningful and sustainable compromise between the two communities so vital for a future united India. It was, as Jinnah had put it, ‘a parting of ways’ from ‘Motilal Nehru and his lot’ (34). For a while, Jinnah stood alone rejected by both Congress and Muslims and proceeded to London and lived there in isolation. He observed in London, as per his friend, Durga Das, “The Congress will not come to terms with me because my following is small. The Muslims don’t accept my views for they take orders from the Deputy Commissioners” (35).

Undoubtedly, other factors also played their role in this breach. In a political triangle of contest between the British imperial interest on one hand and Hindu and Muslim nationalist interests on the other, the third party, the British, could not have been expected to sit quietly, twiddling their thumbs. Clearly, the British imperialist interests were at play in maneuvers and exploiting the conflict between Hindus and Muslims by making them forward empty promises of promoting communal harmony and raise platitudes but preventing them from laying the foundation of a real and meaningful consensus built on concrete constitutional safeguards for mutual confidence. Maintaining elements of political breach and distrust between two major communities was to enable imperialist rulers continuing their hold over a prized trophy of Indian Empire (36). When British government had sent Sir John Simon’s Commission in February 1928 to evaluate and recommend constitutional reforms in India, Congress had opposed it on the grounds of its all white members and no Indian representation in it. Muslim League was divided and a group in Punjab headed by Sir Mohammad Shafi and Dr Muhammad Iqbal had separated a faction of the League deciding to welcome the Simon Commission. However, despite his differences with Congress leaders on method and strategy, Jinnah had strongly opposed the Commission. Simon’s boycott in Bombay led by Jinnah was so effective that even Gandhi had congratulated him on this singular performance (37). But, cleverly playing a double game of feigning to side with Muslims and frightening Hindus to take an uncompromisingly hostile position and thereby securing a breach between the two, Secretary of State Lord Birkenhead had urged the Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, to undermine the position of M.A. Jinnah. He wrote, “I should advise Simon to see at all stages important people who are not boycotting the Commission, particularly Moslems and the depressed classes. I should widely advertise all his interviews with representative Moslems.” He then announced, as baldly as it had ever been put into writing by a British official, the ‘whole policy’ of divide et impera, advising that Simon’s ‘obvious’ goal was “to terrify the immense Hindu population by the apprehension that the Commission is being got hold of by the Moslems and may present a report altogether destructive of the Hindu position, thereby securing a solid Moslem support, and leaving Jinnah high and dry” (38). The stratagem seems to have worked well. But, at the end of the day, the blame of failing to reach an amicable agreement squarely lies at the doors of Hindu and Muslim leaders themselves for not displaying sufficient far-sighted vision to develop a compromise among themselves based on mutual respect, and for allowing a third party to successfully manipulate their intrinsic differences.

Unlike Europe and Americas, the Global Depression and economic downturn of 1930s did not cause universal stagnation in India nor did it affect all spheres of Indian economy uniformly. While export-oriented industries had suffered considerably and their output declined, some other industries that were more oriented towards domestic market were not greatly affected. In fact, the aggregate industrial output of India during 1930s grew at a faster rate than the average growth of rest of the world. The industries that the economic slump had hit hard were jute and cotton manufacturing, mainly based in Calcutta and Bombay respectively in which budding Muslim capitalists also had built their interests. The combined value of these industries fell from 51.2% to 37% of the total industrial output. To remain competitive, the Indian textile manufacturers tried to cut wages and production costs resulting in labour unrest. Although, initially, the big Indian bourgeoisie including Muslim capitalists were highly cosmopolitan and generally free from communal prejudices but as the competition grew more intense the polarization of bourgeoisie along social and communal dividing lines also became apparent. On the other hand, the demand for some new import-substitution industries like sugar, paper, cement, wool, iron, steel, and safety matches increased significantly. This gave rise to a new breed of Hindu Marwari and Gujarati capitalist ‘marketeers’ who had a mindset different from the cosmopolitan outlook of the old breed of industrialists. These new rising Hindu businessmen tended to organize themselves along communal and caste lines for much needed intra-caste credit facilities or credit from special communal funds, exchange of business intelligence or a joint united effort against competition. Muslim trading castes— Memons, Khojas and Bohras— had only limited access to this type of ‘communal’ credit facilities compared to their Hindu counterparts. As Levin observed, “the division of the Hindu bourgeoisie into isolated caste and religious-communal groups has already and in itself created favorable conditions for capitalist competition to take the form of inter-caste competition and religious-communal conflicts” (39). The Second World War brought immense profits and influence to large sections of Indian capitalists by expanding war business, reduced foreign competition for domestic industry as a result of cessation of imports from Germany and Japan, lucrative war supply contracts of food and materials for a greatly enlarged British army (the British army personnel increased to 160,000 and the number of Indian soldiers expanded to over two million), and ‘marketeers’ widespread speculation in food grains and commodities had provided opportunities for making extra-ordinary profits. But the war also created an economic dislocation. The additional and increasing requirement of food and other supplies for the army in expanding war fronts in East Asia resulted in shortage of essential food commodities. Millions died of famine and starvation in Bengal. Wheat requisition by the government and hoarding of its stock by the profiteers caused these commodities to disappear from the market. Not only Bengal but for the first time the farmers of otherwise relatively prosperous Canal Zone in Punjab were also hit hard. The Muslim capitalists felt the impact of intense competition from the Hindu capitalists more than ever. They were reaching to a point of no return and this led the Muslims to rethink and reset their political identity in the independence movement.

It was at this stage when slowly the idea of Pakistan evolved from an earlier position of fighting for autonomous Muslim-majority provinces within a united Indian Union to ‘independent and sovereign’ Muslim-majority ‘states’ as a last resort. Indications are that initially Jinnah had taken the posture for ‘independent sovereign’ states more as a negotiation ploy for obtaining greater and meaningful ‘autonomy’ for Muslim minority than as a primary objective of his political struggle (Ayesha Jalal). By now, Muslims were in majority in Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, and Balochistan. With gradual introduction of political reforms in British India electoral system of public representation was introduced for local, provincial and central government legislatures for limited governing functions. In Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and NWFP, Muslim landed aristocracy together with a few representatives from their co-religionist urban middle classes had been able to share elected government positions in their respective provinces with Hindus but most of the economic power, trade & industry, urban property, bureaucratic positions, and influential professions, other than those held by Europeans, were still pre-dominantly occupied by Hindu merchant castes and Hindu middle classes. In Bengal, even much of the landed estate was owned by Hindu landlords. Therefore, despite their common heritage of language, culture, and customs the Muslims political struggle against Hindus was essentially for getting economic independence and governance largely in their own hands.

On the other hand, there also was developing a strong case of reasoning among some Hindu leaders that it was, perhaps, better for big Hindu bourgeoisie and upper castes’ political and economic interests that a major part of Muslims in the borderlands are separated from India rather than trying to keep them in. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, himself a converted Buddhist from Hindu Scheduled caste origin, had argued that a Hindu India would rather gain, instead of losing anything, in terms of net revenue income, and at the same time getting rid of a potentially dangerous and disproportionately large Punjabi Muslim army and a permanently hazardous counter balancing Muslim voting power in a united India. He said, ‘it is better that they should be without and against rather than within and against… That is the only way of getting rid of the Muslim preponderance in the Indian army’. He further argued that, ‘but in the N.W.F.P. and Sind, owing to the scattered state of the Hindu population, alteration of boundaries cannot suffice for creating a homogenous State. There is only one remedy and that is to shift the population…That the transfer of minorities is the only lasting remedy for communal peace is beyond doubt.’ Eventually, this idea prevailed among real power brokers in Indian National Congress and the fate of a united India was sealed.

In the beginning, Muslim League had a narrow and limited support base confined to the Muslim elite in the urban centres of Muslim minority provinces of India. Out of 144 resolutions passed by Muslim League during 1924-26, only 7 had barely touched upon social and economic problems of common Muslim men. Its Council decisions were taken by an extreme minority quorum of 10 out of 310. Muslim League was conspicuous by its absence in the Muslim majority provinces of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh, and Balochistan. In 1927, Muslim League’s total membership was said to be 1,330. Its 1930 session at Allahabad where Dr. Muhammad Iqbal delivered his famous presidential address wherein he suggested the vision of a Muslim state in the North-West comprising of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and NWFP had barely managed to get the quorum of 75 members. Muslim League didn’t do well in 1937 elections, particularly in the Muslim majority provinces. It had secured 43 out of 272 Muslim seats, obtaining only 4.8 per cent Muslim votes. Muslim League won 37 out of 117 seats allotted to Muslims in Bengal and that was the best performance; it won only 3 seats out of 33 in Sindh. It chose to contest only 7 seats out of 84 Muslim seats in Punjab but barely managed to win 2. Punjab’s Unionist Party emerged again as the major party in the province. By now, Muslim League had only built an appeal for the upstart Muslim bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie of mainly Muslim minority areas. But despite its growing support among Muslim urban intelligentsia and artisans, in terms of modern electoral politics it had serious numerical limitation in Muslim minority provinces. With the idea of Pakistan gradually crystalising into some concrete shape, it was getting clearer that the Muslim League would eventually lose its territorial base in the Muslim minority areas to India. Its attention was turned to Punjab.

Notes

30. In reply to a letter from Gandhi seeking his return, asking him to take ‘his share in the new life that has opened up before the country, and benefit thye country by your experience and guidance’, Jinnah wrote back in the autumn of 1920, ‘if by “new life” you mean your methods and your programme, I am afraid I cannot accept them; for I am fully convinced that it must lead to disaster… that your methods have already caused split and division in almost every institution that you have approached hitherto, and in the public life of the country not only amongst Hindus and Muslims but between Hindus and Hindus and Muslims and Muslims and even between fathers and sons; people generally are desperate all over the country and your extreme programme has for the moment struck the imagination of mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate. All this means complete disorganisation and chaos. What the consequences of this may, I shudder to contemplate; … I do not wish my countrymen to be dragged to the brink of a precipice in order to be shattered.’ M.H. Saiyid, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, S.M. Ashraf & Co., Lahore, 1945, p.264-265 as quoted by Stanley Wolpert in Jinnah of Pakistan, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984, p. 70.
31. Stanley Wolpert, p. 72.
32. Stanley Wolpert, p. 87.
33. D.N. Panigrahi, India’s Partition-The story of imperialism in retreat, Routledge, New York, 2004, p. 23.
34. Durga Das, India from Curzon to Nehru and After (London:1969), p. 154 as quoted by D.N. Panigrahi p. 24.
35. Durga Das, India from Curzon, p. 154 as quoted by D.N. Panigrahi, p. 35.
36. Outgoing Viceroy of India, Lord Reading, offered Jinnah the honour of knighthood but Jinnah firmly declined the offer writing back in Dec 1925, ‘I prefer to be plain Mr. Jinnah. I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah.’ Fazal Haque Qureshi in Every Day with Quaid-i-Azam (Karachi: Sultan Ashraf Qureshi, 1976), p. 394 as quoted by Stanley Wolpert, p. 87.
37. Gandhi wrote to ‘tender my congratulations to the organisers for the very great success they achieved…it did my soul good to see Liberals, Independents and Congressmen ranged together on the same platform.’ M.K. Gandhi, Young India, February 2, 1928, as quoted by Stanley Wolpert, p. 92.
38. Second Earl of Birkenhead, F.E. The Life of F.E. Smith, First Earl of Birkenhead (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1960), p. 516 as quoted by Stanley Wolpert, p. 93.
39. Quoted in Syed Nesar Ahmed, Origins of Muslim Conciousness in India: A World-System Perspective, Greenwood Press, Connecticut, 1991, p. 230.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

Back to Main Page

Locating the Enemy

March 9, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

I speak as a layperson not as an expert on the subject and so may be missing a lot but I have a strong feeling something is very wrong with the way terrorism is being combated in the country. If I am mistaken, and I fervently wish I am, I would really appreciate someone explaining what might be going on.

Ever since the recent spate of suicide bombings a feverish campaign has been launched against terrorists and if reports are to be believed over a hundred have been eliminated just in a couple of days. What puzzles me is how the terrorists who have been eliminated have been identified and located so quickly. Did we always know where they were but were letting them be for some reason? If we were letting them be was it because we did not have enough evidence they were involved in terrorism? If that is indeed the case, how could we just go ahead and eliminate them without conclusive evidence? And, if we did have the evidence and knew where they were, why did we not arrest them and establish their involvement in some sort of a normal civilized manner?

These questions, as I have said, are very confusing and I cannot help but think that we are not being told the truth. Either that or our rulers have attained such a unique state of incompetence that they too do not know what they are doing. Both alternatives are frightening and frankly unacceptable. Once again we are faced with what we might call our enduring condition, the bin Laden phenomenon – did we know or didn’t we? Neither answer does us any honor.

It seems to me that the frenzy of maniacal activity is just intended to convey an impression of steely determination and purposeful action in order to placate the public and buy time. Who knows how many innocent people are being sacrificed to keep up this charade. In the meanwhile we are subjected to inane statements that the opening of the new Islamabad airport would promote the soft image of Pakistan and holding a cricket match would convince the world that the country is safe from terrorism and bring superstars flocking back to the country.

I fail to understand how spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe a handful of foreigners to play a game in a nuclear bunker can be convincing proof that the country is back to normal. Or how announcing that a permanent force of 15,000 military personnel needs to be deployed to protect a trade corridor would reassure investors that the country is safe for business. This is self-delusion carried to absurdity.

And what should one make of the resolve that terrorists would now be pursued into other countries? How would one respond if some other country takes that as a license to pursue terrorists into our country? This is jumping from the frying pan into the fire potentially pushing the entire region towards a conflagration. Is there someone thinking before shooting off at the mouth?

Add to that the spate of accusations that our enemies are exacerbating our problems because they do not wish us to succeed or even to hold a cricket match. Much as one would like to swallow this line it is really hard to believe that it was our enemies who convinced us to create these monsters in the first place. Or that it is our enemies who are forcing us to discriminate between good terrorists and bad, between real terrorists and mere sectarian killers, and between terrorists and philanthropists who rush to help the poor and needy in times of floods and earthquakes when the state fails to do what it is supposed to do. Is it all that difficult to comprehend that people can be philanthropists and terrorists at the same time if some all-encompassing ideology can make both compatible with a greater glory?

It is hard to understand why we can’t approach these matters with the normal process of state-to-state collaboration to eliminate terrorism from the region which would be a win-win outcome for all. Or maybe it would not. Otherwise why do we seem to be in this game of ranking terrorists along some scale of goodness or usefulness? If that is indeed the case, could someone have the courtesy of taking the nation into confidence, explaining how some terrorists are better than others and what is that we are aiming to do with the good ones?

And while we are being made wise to that could we also be told if we are succeeding or not and how far are we from the grand objective we have set for ourselves, whatever it is?

A failure to provide convincing answers can only lead to one conclusion: We have met the enemy and he is us.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on March 7, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Note: There are 170 comments on this opinion on the Dawn website. The wide agreement amongst readers and the absence of the usual trolling is an extremely encouraging sign.

Back to Main Page

Economic Bullshit

March 6, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

A lovely little book came out in 2005 titled On Bullshit. Written by a professor of philosophy at Princeton, it remained a bestseller for months. Its principal message was that “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies” because “Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true.” Bullshitters, on the other hand, convey impressions without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.”

I recalled the book after reading two articles within a week talking up the Pakistani economy in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Both employed the classic bullshitter’s gambit of throwing out random facts to convey a favorable impression without caring in the least whether the inferences were in any way supported by fact or argument. Had a PR person been paid to write these articles, he or she couldn’t have done a better job.

At the heart of both articles is the blinding vision of a middle class ready to rocket the Pakistani economy into the stratosphere. The WSJ article summarizes its thesis in its title: “Pakistan’s Middle Class Soars as Stability Returns: Consumer spending rockets as poverty shrinks, terrorism drops and democracy holds.” The title of the WP article is more bland –  “Beyond the headlines of terrorism, Pakistan’s economy is on the rise” – but its argument is the same.

Observe how the impression is constructed. First the numbers – 38% of the country is middle class, while a further 4% is upper class. That’s a combined 84 million people.” Then a true fact which means nothing by itself: This size is “roughly equivalent to the entire populations of Germany or Turkey.” And then another less than relevant generalization: “A study by the OECD forecasts that the bulk of the growth in the middle class in the years ahead will come from Asia, which will account for two thirds of the global middle class by 2030.”

Comments culled from international agencies provide a favorable jumping-off point: “What’s more, Pakistan is winning plaudits from the International Monetary Fund, and its economy is forecast for a healthy 5.2 percent growth rate in 2017, according to the World Bank.” That’s enough to conclude that “As Pakistan turns a corner… Three key factors are driving Pakistan’s economic awakening: an improved security climate even despite the most recent attack, relative political stability, and a growing middle class. These three interlocking pieces are fueling Pakistan’s growth story.”

From here the autopilot takes over: “Robust middle classes are vital to healthy societies and growing economies, and Pakistan’s middle class may have reached a tipping point.” Throw in a couple of quotes by experts and the future becomes more than incandescent: “Pakistan’s consumer middle-class market could hit $1 trillion by 2030” and “middle classes are driving impressive 25 percent rates of return for large multinational consumer companies… middle-class growth is sparking increased production of cement, steel, automobiles and the like… one of the key reasons for current bullishness on Pakistan.”

Let us now subject this bullshit to a stool test. First, what does the size of the middle class have to do with anything? Does a population as big as Germany’s mean that a tipping point has been reached fueling Pakistan’s economic takeoff?

Consider several examples in comparison with Pakistan (population 200 million, income per capita $5,100). Singapore, with scarcely any natural resources, has a population of 5.8 million (less than that of Faisalabad) and a per capita income of $87,100. Ask how Singapore’s economy skyrocketed with a middle class that could not have exceeded 5.8 million? Or consider the tiny populations of Dubai and Abu Dhabi which have boomed in front of our eyes. South Korea and Pakistan had roughly the same per capita income in the 1950s (when Pakistan was billed as a model of development with a much smaller middle class). Today, the former with a population of 51 million has a per capita income of $37,900. Does this not suggest that the size of the middle class by itself has very little to do with economic growth? Very clearly it is economic policies and governance that matter much more.

The typical response to such examples is to blame overpopulation for the poverty in Pakistan. Now suddenly the large population has become the magic wand that will even make up for the absence of sound policies. The same fact can fuel very different stories depending on the occasion.

Second, even if the Pakistani middle class is 84 million strong how much purchasing power does it really have? Note that Pakistan’s per capita income of $5,100 is below poverty level income in the U.S.A. Add to that the phenomenon of inequality which is the major issue of the moment. The latest Oxfam numbers inform that in India just 57 individuals own more wealth than the bottom 70% of the population. Isn’t it likely that most of the wealth in Pakistan is concentrated in the hands of the 4% that comprise the upper class. If things were indeed so rosy for the middle class why would almost every member of it want to move to a stronger economy? Can’t they see that Pakistan has turned the corner?

Yes, of course, more cement and steel is being purchased but is it consumption per capita that is going up or simply a reflection that the population of Pakistan has skyrocketed – from 61 million in 1971 to 200 million today. Just keeping up with the additional needs (food, clothing, houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, roads, electricity, etc.) means that commodity sales would increase. And yes, many companies providing these commodities are profitable. But does one see foreign investment rushing into new projects? Even the Chinese have to be guaranteed exorbitant returns to be tempted. In fact, Pakistanis themselves are avoiding new investments preferring to put their money in land or buying property in the Middle East or parking cash in tax havens. Some are even shifting existing manufacturing capacity to foreign countries where costs of doing business are lower.

Ask the middle class if the skyrocketing economy is generating enough acceptable jobs to accommodate those entering the labor force every year let alone the poor who are still in a majority? Is that the reason why more and more people wish to leave to send back money for their families to consume and keep the bleeding economy on life support?

Snake-oil will continue to be sold and there will never be a shortage of buyers. Allah be praised.

This opinion appeared in Express Tribune on March 4, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Back to Main Page

A History of the Left in Pakistan – 16

February 22, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Kirti Communists in Punjab

After the periods of significant unrests of Ghadar Party (1914-1916), Jallianwala Bagh (1919) and Babbar Akali Jatthas (1920-1925) in Punjab, a monthly Kirti (Worker) journal was published by Santok Singh from Amritsar in February 1926. Santok Singh and Rattan Singh of Ghadar Party had been to Soviet Union for training and had attended the fourth congress of the Comintern in 1922 (16). The first Kirti conference was held in Hoshiarpur on 6-7 October, 1927. Sohan Singh Josh presided over the meeting that demanded freedom of India, eight-hour work day for factory workers, and expressed its support for the Chinese freedom struggle and Russian revolution. The second conference under Tara Singh was held on 17 October, 1927 in Lyallpur. In early 1928, Sohan Singh Josh and Bhag Singh Canadian called for a larger conference at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in April 1928. Over 60 workers attended the conference. Among those who attended Mir Abdul Majid and Firozuddin Mansoor were among the first trainees of the Communist University in Moscow during 1921. Kirti Kisan Party was formed with Sohan Singh Josh elected as secretary and M.A. Majid as joint secretary. It’s headquarter was at Amritsar. The second conference of the Kirti Kisan Party held on 28-30 September, 1928 at Lyallpur. The Communist leaders from other parts of India, including S.A. Dange, Philip Spratt, and Ben Bradley also attended this conference. Kirti Kisan Party held many peasant conferences in various towns, including, Rohtak, Sargodha, Hoshiarpur, and Lahore. Party’s leadership including, Sohan Singh Josh, Kedar Nath Sehgal, and M.A. Majid were arrested in March 1929 in Meerut Conspiracy case.

The aftereffects of the world economic recession in 1929 marked the beginning of a new unrest in Punjab, mainly emanating from its rural areas. Former soldiers of the British Indian Army, now facing extreme hardship due to economic depression and rising cost of living joined peasant movements. Ex-soldier Risaldar Anup Singh marched to Lahore with a band of about 1,000 ex-soldiers demanding for the lands promised to them by the army officials at the time of recruitment but denied after de-mobilization. For British administration, Anup Singh’s Morcha was a dangerous turn in the rural unrest in Punjab. Nehru attended the Naujawan Bharat Sabha’s (NJBS) conference in August. Despite the policy leads given by the Comintern for breaking off relations with the Indian Congress, the demarcation line between CPI and the Congress in Punjab was still unclear. The conflict between the new ‘party line’ apologetically pushed down from the top and the ground realities caused confusion and the agitation was gaining momentum. Although, an anti-Congress tone was noticeable at the Kirti Kisan Conference held in Lahore in December 1929 but the speakers in the Kirti Kisan Political Conference in Hissar on 21-22 February, 1930 openly supported the Congress’ Civil Disobedience movement. The Congress had decided in December 1929 at Lahore to launch civil disobedience movement and declared 26 January, 1930 as the date for the complete independence of India. At this time, a circular letter dated 14 January 1930 issued by the Chief Secretary of Punjab addressed to the Commissioners and the Police administration in Punjab said, “The Congress has not only declared itself the enemy of the Government as at present established, and of the British connection, but also of all stable interests in the country… Under the guidance of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the new Congress creed is derived from Moscow…[he] directly attacked the important interests on which the stability of the country depends… the landed proprietors, and it is clear that the independent India which the Congress has in view will not contain this class. The land is either to be nationalized or divided among the peasants” (17). But, with the signing of Gandhi-Irwin Pact in March 1930, however, the Indian Congress leadership abruptly called off the Civil Disobedience movement.

As Mirdula Mukherjee observed, “the Kirti Kisan Party was able to achieve a significant enhancement of its influence among peasants in some of the central districts of Punjab and had been able to contribute to the process of their organization and politicization” (18). While Congress was more effective in the districts of Rohtak, Karnal and Hissar (present day Haryana in India), the Kirti Kisan Party was stronger in the central districts of Amritsar, Lahore, Sheikhupura, and Lyallpur, most of which are in Pakistan today. Now, the trend of convergence between radical small peasant organizations and moderate middle-peasant organizations was also emerging. The Zamindar League of Sir Chhotu Ram of Rohtak agreed for holding joint session of and uniting the Punjab Zamindar League with the Punjab Zamindar Sabha (or Kisan Sabha) at Raiwind on 4 April 1931. The session was reportedly attended by large number of peasants; some estimates are as high as close to 10,000. The Zamindar League of Sheikhupura held its annual meeting in May and changed its name to Kisan Sabha. A Ghadarite Kirti leader Teja Singh Swatantar was elected as the president. By November, the Punjab Kirti Kisan Sabha had grown so influential and confident that it called for affiliation of all Kisan Sabhas, Mazdoor Sabhas and Kirti Kisan parties in Punjab, Delhi and NWFP with the Kirti Kisan Sabha (19). The party also held a conference in Karachi in 1931, and at Nankana Sahib in 1932 in which reportedly over 2,000 delegates attended. The party celebrated May Day in 1933 at Amritsar and Lahore. Around this time the Ghadar Party in U.S.A had given its second call for return to India (see Chapter-3).

Based on their assessment of the failure of first Ghadar Party rebellion in 1914-1915 due to lack of ideology and proper political and military training, the Ghadar Party’s new president Giyani Singh and his colleague Rattan Singh had travelled extensively in early 1920s in the U.S.A and South America motivating party sympathizers to get formal military and political training for joining the struggle for independence (20). Several batches of Ghadar Party volunteers travelled to Soviet Union. They were enrolled in a typical two-year course of ideological, political and military training at the Communist University in Moscow during 1926-1935. Many trainees recruited in USA, Canada, and South America were sent to Moscow. Teja Singh Swatantar was also one of them. In all, about 76 volunteers received training in Moscow. Interestingly, in this effort an element of ideological puritanism was also at work. For example, one of the recruit, Hazara Singh Hamdam, was rejected by the Moscow University and sent back home owing to his family having too much land (30 acres) in Punjab. He was categorized as a ‘Kulak’ (rich peasant) and, therefore, unfit for becoming a ‘communist revolutionary’ (21).

After receiving their political training in Moscow, these workers started arriving in India. According to an official file note in November 1933 as quoted by Mirdula Mukherjee, the Director of Intelligence Bureau said, “if it was not for this batch of ‘Soviet agents’ that had just arrived last month, he would be in favour of releasing the six state prisoners—Ghulam Muhammad, Fazal Elahi, Abdul Waris, Harjap Singh, Ehsan Elahi, Karam Singh—arrested in 1930… But he did not want them to establish contact with these Soviet agents therefore he was in favour of postponing their release” (22). Almost all of the Moscow trained Ghadar Party volunteers joined and worked as the mainstay of Kirti Kisan Party. They were commonly known as ‘Kirti Communists’.

In late June 1933, Karam Singh Mann, a barrister who had returned from London called a meeting of left workers at Lahore for revival and reorganization of CPI in Punjab, which was almost disintegrated after the massive arrests in Meerut Conspiracy case. Mann, together with Sajjad Zaheer, was a member of the ‘London Group’ of bright, young Indian students who had converted to communist ideology under the influence of CPGB luminaries like Rajini Palme Dutt and Shahpur Saklatwala in London. Meanwhile, Sohan Singh Josh and M.A. Majid were also released in November 1933 after completing their jail terms. By April 1934, most of the ‘left’ workers were re-organized in Punjab in a new communist group that worked in the front organization of the Anti-Imperialist League. This Punjab group was later integrated into CPI at the time of its revival under P.C. Joshi. Fazal Elahi Qurban and Abdul Waris were also released in March 1934 and joined the CPI group.

CPI was declared illegal in July 1934 and the Kirti Kisan Party was also banned in September 1934. Its journal Kirti ceased publication. It, however, reappeared as weekly Kirti Lehar from Meerut in 1935. It continued publication until 1939. Communists working in Kirti Kisan Sabhas and CPI had formed Qarza (Debt) Committees for cancellation of the mounting rural debts burdening the peasants. Meanwhile, Punjab politics had undergone a significant shift. The Communal Award of 1932 and the Government of India Act of 1935 had far reaching impact on Punjab politics. The electoral balance between towns and countryside was recast, further reducing urban seats from one-fourth to about one-seventh of the rural constituencies; the towns now had only nineteen seats compared to 130 rural seats. This severe curtailment of towns’ sphere of influence greatly weakened and almost destroyed the Congress in Punjab, which was already divided in two factions after the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. Its identity was starkly reduced to representing Hindu trading and moneylender interests in the province, which in turn changed its relationship with the radical left. The Muslims in India had generally been disappointed and were drifting away from the Congress. To save it from near extinction, the Punjab Congress had to re-brand itself to appeal to the larger rural electorate and to forge alliances with radical socialists and communists in the Punjab. A radicalized Indian National Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru initiated its expansion drive to reach out to the Punjabi peasants. By 1936, the Comintern and CPI had changed their line in favour of the ‘united front’ with Indian Congress and the Congress Socialist Party. As the CPI got better organized after its revival by P.C. Joshi, its organization in Punjab became more visible and distinct in and out of Kirti Kisan Party. The CPI group was led by Sohan Singh Josh, and Karam Singh Mann. CPI Punjab was bringing out a magazine Communist in Urdu and Gurmukhi and the Kirti group brought out Lal Jhanda (Red Flag). The Kirtis in general had a strong streak of Ghadar party tradition among themselves. Their primary motive for political activity was anti-British anger.

The communists were now freely working in both the organizations. Seven communists were nominated by the Congress for the elections due in January 1937. These included, Sohan Singh Josh, Teja Singh Swatantar, Kabul Singh, Harjap Singh, Bibi Raguhbir Kaur, Mange Ram and Baba Rur Singh. Karam Singh Mann was active in Mian Iftikharuddin’s election campaign. From the Congress’ High Command, Jawaharlal Nehru frequently visited Punjab and addressed meetings during 1937 election campaign. One of the British police report says, “There is a great activity among Socialists and communists in this district in preparation for a conference which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is expected to attend. … Much of the speaking is actionable and all of it is objectionable and dangerous when delivered to illiterate audience. It is a crude blend of socialism, communism and hardly veiled sedition, and full vintage is being taken of any local grievance, real or imaginary, to stir up discontent’ (23). CPI leader Sohan Singh Josh wrote in his memoirs on his being elected in 1937, “Before the election I was just a district leader. But after I was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly…I overnight became one of the leaders of entire Punjab. I was welcomed and honoured everywhere—a Communist getting elected to the Assembly was a big and new thing then in the eyes of the Punjabi people” (24). The 1936-1937 election campaign contributed significantly to the process of politicization of peasants. The election campaign was galvanized on the issue of anti-British or pro-British political stance of candidates. In this backdrop, province-wise Kisan movements were organized. An All-India Kisan Sabha was already established at Lucknow in April 1936 with Sohan Singh Josh and Munshi Ahmed Din as delegates from Punjab. The Punjab was represented on All-India Kisan Committee by Karam Singh Mann, Sohan Singh Josh, Munshi Ahmad Din, and others.

A Punjab Kisan Committee was formed on 7 March 1937 in Lahore with Baba Jwala Singh as its president. Its first conference held in October 1937 in Lyallpur was presided over by Sajjad Zaheer. The Punjab Kisan Committee played a leading role in 1938 peasant agitation across Punjab. About 25,000 peasants & agri-tenants went on strike refusing to pick cotton and sow wheat in Multan and Montgomery districts. Similar strikes and agitations were carried out in other parts of Khanewal, Multan, Lyallpur, and Lahore. The agitation of Lahore Kisan Committee turned into an All-Punjab Morcha (battle-front) with jatthas (bands) marching on foot to Lahore from Amritsar, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Lyallpur, Firozpur, Hoshiarpur, and Ambala. Close to six thousand peasants were arrested and jailed during this movement (25). The Lahore Morcha lasted for about five months till September 1939, when the Second World War broke out.

Initially, both CPI and the Indian National Congress strongly opposed the involvement of India into an imperialist war in Europe. In 1939, Sohan Singh Josh of CPI was the general secretary of Punjab Congress and in 1940 Mian Iftikharuddin who was very close to CPI became the president of Punjab Congress. In June 1940, many workers of Kirti Kisan Party, CPI and Indian Congress were arrested. With a view to isolate these radical political leaders from other workers and prisoners, the government decided to put them all in an isolated camp at Deoli in Rajasthan. These prisoners included most of the senior CPI and Kirti Kisan party leaders. The Communists in CPI had been working together with Kirti Communists in Kirti Kisan Party (KKP) and the Congress, but there has been an undercurrent of mistrust between communists of CPI group and the Kirti Communists of Ghadar Party background. The CPI leadership always had a feeling of disquiet about the Kirti Communists because of their frequent display of independent anarchist tendencies. They viewed Kirtis’ commitment to communist ideology as being driven more by Ghadarite anti-colonial hatred rather than a scientific understanding of Marxist theory. Deoli Camp confinement provided an opportunity to the senior CPI leaders and Kirti Communists to come closer to each other. After some initial discussions, a ‘unity committee’ was formed; Bhagat Singh Bilga, Gurmukh Singh Lalton, and Achhar Singh Chinna represented Kirti Communists whereas Karam Singh Mann, Sohan Singh Josh, and Abdul Aziz represented the CPI. Prominent Kirti leader Teja Singh Swatantar also made an appeal from Campbellpur Jail for forging organizational unity in the party. Kirti Party decided on 16 Jul 1941 to fully merge with CPI and the merger formally took effect on 28 May 1942 when CPI Punjab held its reorganization conference after its leaders were released from Jail including, Teja Singh, Bhagat Singh Bilga, Achhar Singh Chinna, Iqbal Singh Handal from Campbellpur, Sohan Singh Josh, Firozuddin Mansoor, Fazal Elahi Qurban, and Karam Singh Mann from Gujrat (26). The new Punjab Committee had Sohan Singh Josh as the Secretary; Iqbal Singh Handal was elected central committee member. The Kirtis, much to their distaste also grudgingly accepted (at least, for a while) CPI’s new ‘Peoples War’ line supporting the British government in its war efforts. And so did the All-India Kisan Sabha and the Punjab Kisan Committee (27).

To their credit, and perhaps due to somewhat different social norms in Punjab, Kirti Kisan and Communist activists succeeded in mobilizing a sizable number of Punjabi women in radical politics (28). These women underwent rigors of a radical communist movement in a colonial state, including incarceration in jails but remaining lifelong activists, rising to prominence in left politics of India. Sushila Kumari Chain, Dhan Kaur and Usha organized study circles and brought several women into radical politics. Kirti Kisan Party circulars of 1941 and 1942 indicate party’s efforts to encourage active participation of women in the Kisan Committees and Mazdoor Sabhas. In a provincial conference held in Lahore in February 1942, 100 women delegates attended. In this meeting,

Progressive Women’s Conference was formed. Bibi Raghubir Kaur was elected as the president and Sitadevi (of Congress) and Baji Rashida Begum (of Muslim League) as vice presidents, and Sushila Kumari was the general secretary. By March 1942, the membership of the organization was said to have risen to 2000 (29).

Notes

16. After his return to India in 1923, Santok Singh spent two years of confinement orders within his village. After his release, Santok Singh had started Kirti but he soon died in May 1927.
17. Mirdula Mukherjee, Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution: Practice and Theory, SAGE Publications India, New Delhi, 2004, p. 90.
18. Mirdula Mukherji, p. 105.
19. Mirdula Mukherji, p. 104.
20. ‘Some Aspects of the Communist Movement in Colonial Punjab: Testimony of the Participants’ by Surinder Singh of Punjab University, Chandigarh.
21. ‘Colonial Dominance and Indigenous Response’ by Hari Vasudevan and Anjan Sarkar in Aspects of India’s International Relations, 1700-2000: South Asia and the World, Ed. Jayantha Kumar Ray, Centre for Studies in Civilization, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 39-40.
22. Surinder Singh, p. 116.
23. Home Political File 18/6/36, Fortnightly Repor,t June 1936, NAI quoted in Shalini Sharma, p. 71.
24. Shalini Sharma, p. 82.
25. Quoted in Mirdula Mukherjee, p. 89.
26. Ajmer Sidhu, From Ghadar to Naxalbari: Baba Bhuja Singh, An Untold Story, Chandigarh, 2013, p. 68.
27. Mirdula Mukherjee, p. 208.
28. Raghubir Kaur, Ghulam Fatima, Sushila Kumari, and Shakuntla Sharda were few prominent names. Sushila was the sister of Amolak Ram and later she became wife of Chain Singh whereas Shakuntla was the sister of Shiv Kumar Sharda and later married Kunj Bihari Lal. All of them were Kirti activists. Sushila also became a formal communist party member.
29. Surinder Singh, op cited.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

Back to Main Page

Land Grants

February 15, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Is there any other country that rewards government employees with grants of land? The issue is not whether the grants comply with existing rules or follow precedent but whether the practice makes sense in the modern age.

We are no longer living in the age of monarchy or colonial rule when land was gifted at will by the rulers to whomsoever pleased them – just think of the landed gentry we inherited as a result. We are now in the era of democracy in which public resources belong to citizens and are to be used in accordance with their sanction. In our system these decisions are made by their representatives in appropriate legislative forums. If citizens are not satisfied with the decisions of their representatives they have the well-known triad of ‘Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’ to fall back on which itself is a democratic choice. In short, they can ignore, oppose, or support the representatives depending on whether their preferences are being respected or not.

We are also living in the age of science where all authority can be questioned as long as the mode of inquiry itself adheres to a set of acceptable rules. In this case the rules of inquiry are enshrined in the right to information. Since there are no conceivable issues of national security involved in matters pertaining to in-service and retirement benefits of state servants, citizens are quite justified to inquire into the rules applicable to such benefits especially when they involve allocation of public resources.

Therefore, it seems quite reasonable to ask for a transparent disclosure of the rules applicable to land grants at this time. A number of questions are very relevant to the review: Who made these rules? When were they made? Have they been debated and approved by the legislature? How do they vary across services? How do they compare across countries? Etc., etc.

Such a review might yield a number of advantages: A reformulation of benefits in accordance with modern bureaucratic practices, a more equitable distribution across services, and a legitimized dispensation more acceptable to citizens.

At first blush, it does seem that grants in terms of land are an anachronistic practice dating, as mentioned before, to the age of monarchy and colonial rule when jagirs were assigned at will. Some might be aware of the Homestead Acts of the mid-nineteenth century in the US when, for a nominal sum, grants of 160 acres of land were made to any citizen migrating West and willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years. In all over 270 million acres of public land was given away under these acts.

One should not forget that in the US all this land was stolen from native inhabitants. It is interesting that similar acts were passed in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, all settler colonies with small immigrant populations in which land was also appropriated from native inhabitants. In this day and age one would want to avoid the impression that land is being appropriated from the citizens of Pakistan and distributed to members of a conquering population.

It also does appear from casual observation that the benefits presently assigned to the armed forces in Pakistan are disproportionate to those for other services and to global norms. The people’s representatives might well decide there are sufficient reasons for the discrimination but it would be good to gain the understanding and acceptance of the citizens to avoid controversies in the future.

A flavor of the pros and cons was conveyed in a recent discussion where it was mentioned that since members of the armed forces risked their lives in the service of their country they were entitled to disproportionate benefits. This point was conceded but it was mentioned that those working in coal mines and stone crushing factories exposed themselves to greater risk of death. Not only that, they faced the certainty of shortened lifespans because of lung diseases caused by inhaling the coal and silica dust. These workers were not even compensated for work-related mortality or morbidity. The conclusion was that there was a justification for compensatory awards in the event of death or disability at work but not really for the normal execution of duties for which one received adequate emoluments.

It was also mentioned that since our armed forces were the best in the world they were entitled to benefits exceeding global norms. It is indeed quite acceptable to have higher rewards for services over and above expectations but again it would eliminate areas of contention if the global norms are made part of the public disclosure.

An indirect disadvantage of rewarding government employees in this manner is that still far too many aspire for government service without really wanting to serve in the interest of the public. This may be one reason why there is so little innovative activity in Pakistan. Given that such civil servants have been complicit in the mismanagement of public enterprises, a particularly just solution might be to substitute the allocation of scarce land with shares in bankrupt state-owned enterprises like the steel mill or the national airline. This might create some self-interest to improve the profitability of these assets for the shares to yield value. In a capitalist economy there is no quarrel with becoming rich but it is socially beneficial if fortunes are made by entrepreneurial and managerial ability rather than through capturing rents.

No patriotic Pakistani wishes to malign the institutions of the state but citizens do wish to avoid tarnishing the image of the country by conveying the impression that it is a governed by a kleptocratic and authoritarian clique that assigns resources to itself and stifles discussion through intimidation. A little bit of transparency should dispel all such doubts.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on February 14, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. There is a logical connection with an earlier post: A DNA Test for Our Democracy

Back to Main Page

A History of the Left in Pakistan – 15

February 11, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan

The areas now forming today’s Pakistan i.e. the western wing of the country at the time of its establishment in 1947 had a long and chequered history. For a long time, this region remained the centre stage and cradle of the ancient Indian society. It’s the home of the most ancient known civilization in the world. Well until Shahjahan’s reign of Mughal dynasty, this northwestern region of India remained one of the most important theaters of military expeditions and station for Maharajas, kings and emperors continued royal presence for long periods. Despite Delhi being the nominal capital of the empire, most of Mughal emperors spent more time in Lahore or on other military expeditions than in Delhi itself. Western Punjab always occupied an important strategic position as the only gateway of foreign invasion into fertile Indian plains. During its twilight days when Mughal Empire was undergoing rapid decay after Aurangzeb, successive ineffective rulers in Delhi lost their capacity to hold this region firmly in their grip and the western regions slowly turned into a periphery of shrinking Mughal Empire. For an understanding of the evolution of the communist and larger left movement in Pakistan and to correctly asses its role in the country’s politics it is important to understand the political backdrop of Pakistani politics and the cross currents in its society together with its class composition and conflicts of key interest groups shortly before and after founding of Pakistan. Briefly revisiting and reviewing the historical context of the political issues and class positions in different areas forming Pakistan will the help reader to correctly position the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and its policy responses and actions in practice in the given wider political spectrum that had evolved in recent past. In the process, it is important to have a brief look at the classes formation and their alignments and political developments leading to the formation of Pakistan. The regions comprising Pakistan didn’t have uniform economic and social evolution. Each area had a different path for its political development.

Changing Dynamics during British Rule

Marx’s incisive articles on Indian society, written in a series for the New York Daily Tribune in 1853, are one of the most seminal, albeit lesser known, of all his writings. There are numerous references to India in his most celebrated work Capital and several more are found in his copious and equally brilliant correspondence with Frederic Engels. “Those small and extremely ancient Indian communities,” Marx observed in Capital, “some of which have continued down to this day, are based on possession in common of the land, on the blending of agriculture and handicrafts, and on an unalterable division of labour, which serves, whenever a new community is started, as a plan and scheme ready cut and dried…Hence, production here is independent of that division of labour brought about, in Indian society as a whole, by means of the exchange of commodities. It is the surplus alone that becomes a commodity, and a portion of even that, not until it has reached the hands of the State, into whose hands from time immemorial a certain quantity of these products has found its way in the shape of rent in kind” (1). Engels wrote to Marx on 6 June 1853, “…the absence of property in land is indeed key to the whole of the East. Herein lies its political and religious history” (2). Describing the self-sufficient and self-contained social structure of Indian village, Marx remarked, “The simplicity of the organization for production in these self-sufficing communities that constantly reproduce themselves in the same form, and when accidentally destroyed, spring up again on the spot and with the same name—this simplicity supplies the key to the secret of the unchangeableness of Asiatic societies, an unchangeableness in such striking contrast with the constant dissolution and refounding of Asiatic States, and the never-ceasing changes of dynasty. The structure of the economic elements of society remains unchanged by the storm-clouds of the political sky” (3). Marx’s references to the ‘Asiatic Society’ here were mostly related to the Indian society.

In ‘The Future Results of the British Rule in India’, the concluding part of his series of articles on India, published in New York Daily Tribune on 8 August 1853, Marx remarked, “the village isolation produced the absence of roads in India, and the absence of roads perpetuated the village isolation. On this plan a community existed with a given scale of low conveniences, almost without intercourse with other villages, without the desires and efforts indispensable to social advance.” He also observed, “it is notorious that the productive powers of India are paralyzed by the utter want of means for conveying and exchanging its various produce. Nowhere, more than in India, do we meet with social destitution in the midst of natural plenty, for want of the means of exchange… when grain was selling from 6s. to 8s. a quarter in Khandesh (4), it was sold at 64s. to 70s. at Poona, where the people were dying in the streets of famine, without the possibility of gaining supplies from Khandesh, because the clay roads were impracticable” (5).

The unchangeable nature of this almost frozen in time rural village life of India was not going to remain intact forever. The British colonial rule was about to change it in a big way. Marx said, “The British having broken up this self-sufficient inertia of the villages, railways will provide the new want of communication and intercourse.” He further observed, “The [political] unity [of India], imposed by the British sword, will now be strengthened and perpetuated by the electric telegraph.” Finally, with an amazing foresight Marx concluded, “The ruling classes of Great Britain have had, till now, but an accidental, transitory and exceptional interest in the progress of India… But now tables are turned. The millocracy have discovered that the transformation of India into a reproductive country has become of vital importance to them, and that, to that end, it is necessary, above all, to gift her with means of irrigation and of internal communication. They intend now drawing a net of railways over India. And they will do it. The results must be inappreciable” (6). The resulting effects on Indian society, particularly on those areas where massive irrigation projects were undertaken and railway lines were laid to connect the rural hinterlands with market and port cities were indeed what we call today a ‘sea change’. Thus, India got the distinction of being the first country in Asia to have railways and unprecedented canal irrigation system.

Punjab – Massive Social Engineering

Ranjeet Singh’s Kingdom of Punjab was one of the last areas of India to fall under British control in 1849. At that time, Punjab included vast territories of present day Punjab and KPK (former NWFP) provinces up to Jamrud in Pakistan as well as the present day Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Uttarkhand. Today’s KPK of Pakistan was detached from Punjab as a new North West Frontier Province (NWFP) only in 1901. The province of Punjab was essentially rural. Of 24.4 million of its population in 1901, close to 90% people lived in rural areas in, as Marx had put it, ‘unchanging self-sufficient’ village communities.

The British Punjab could be roughly divided for ease of reference into three regions: Eastern Punjab, from Kangra hills to Ambala, with Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, and Ludhiana as its big towns, was the most prosperous but densely populated part. With 55 percent Muslims, 32 per cent Hindus and 13 per cent Sikhs, it mostly had small landholdings. In terms of traditional social structures of India, the population was predominantly Rajput and Jat communities closely knit around their sub-castes and kins, cutting across all three major religions. Apart from Rajputs and Jats, Muslims also had Syeds, Sheiks, and Aarains. The central Punjab with Lahore and Amritsar as its major towns had dominant Hindu moneylenders and traders. Amritsar also had significant share of Muslim trading community. Although, Amritsar was the centre of Sikh religion and culture but they had only 15 per cent share of its population in the district. The western Punjab stretched from NWFP borders in north-west along river Indus and Balochistan in the west to the Cholistan desert region in the east to the border of Rajasthan. It had vast tracts of infertile and dry lands and, for a change, it mostly had large landholdings. Muslims had 80 per cent share of its population but its towns had large numbers of Hindu moneylenders and trading community. Soon after Punjab’s annexation in 1849, the British administrators astutely sensed the special strategic importance of Punjab for the British Empire in India. For them, Punjab acquired special position because of following primary reasons: (i) Due to its vast swathes of fertile lands and natural river system its enormous potential to meet the Empire’s growing need for agricultural produce, (ii) as a bulwark against the threat of Russian Czar’s expanding empire in the Central Asia, and (iii) as a source of recruiting and maintaining a ‘less expensive’ sturdy and loyal army to take care of Empire’s military needs on Indian borders and other colonial possessions in Asia and Africa, without the need of putting the lives of a large number of youth recruited from England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland at stake. The last dimension of their peculiar view of Punjab, the British political and military administration had quickly learnt to their delight during successful recruitment of soldiers for putting out mutiny erupting in the northern India in 1857.

To exploit the unique agricultural and economic potential of the Punjab’s virgin plains, the British carried out an unparalleled massive physical and social engineering feat. The waters of the Himalayan system of five rivers flowing through Punjab were harnessed in an ambitious irrigation development comprising a massive network of canals and canal-colonies. The first modern canal was built in Multan to bring water and cultivation to infertile dry lands in 1859 only ten years after Punjab’s occupation and immediately after the mutiny of 1857 was subdued. Subsequently, more canals were built in the central Punjab clearing the woods. The Upper Jhelum canal alone brought over 350,000 acres of infertile land under cultivation. The Lower Chenab canals brought 2.5 million acres of unproductive land to cultivation. In all, it transformed about six million acres of uncultivated barren lands into one of the richest agricultural regions in Asia. It was a stupendous attempt to create from scratch a whole new world of neatly cut Murraba’s (squares) of land in canal colonies with a newly crafted legal and administrative system by bringing in thousands of enterprising sturdy farmers from central and eastern Punjab and implanting them in the newly fashioned colonies with land-lease grants. The new market towns were laid out with engineering precision. Though, immensely crowded and dirty today the eight straight-lane bazaars radiating out from a central clock tower in the image of a Union Jack in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) is a testimony to this social engineering experiment in Punjab over a century ago. It was the first of its kind of social revolution in the history of rural India. The project was completed after 40 years of labour, fundamentally changing the demography and topography of the central and parts of western Punjab. The massive migration of enterprising sturdy farmers, technical workers, and labour to take part in the engineering endeavor and cultivate newly developed lands dramatically increased population of new cleared lands. The population of Montgomery (now Sahiwal) and Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) rose from 416,669 and 60,306 respectively in 1891 to 1,814,000 and 2,157,000 in 1951. As it is commonly observed, however, the patterns of cultural and social relations die hard and the peasant farmers in the new canal colonies in Punjab tried to recreate their social relationships in the image of old village communities but the underlying land-ownership pattern had been fundamentally altered. In the plains of Punjab there emerged a new class of peasants and enterprising farmers freed from ancient and traditional ‘relations of production’. The contrast was particularly visible in comparison with the land-ownership patterns still well-entrenched in some north- and south-western parts of the west Punjab where the canal network was not built due to mountainous terrain rising from the Punjab plains towards north-west and Afghanistan.

The British over-enthusiasm for precision in crafting everything of these colonies afresh in their own image was, perhaps, reflected most in the drafting of Land Colonization Bill of 1906. In drafting this bill, the English mind sought to regulate every aspect of community and lay down procedures of reward and punishment for every colonization activity in European fashion; the eligibility criteria for lease grant and development of government lands in the colonies, including compliance of defined parameters for living, maintenance, sanitation, and cancellation of land leases in the event of failure of compliance of the lease contracts. Also, because new settlements, the government sharply increased the land revenue taxes in Rawalpindi and water user charges from Bari Doab Canal, irrigating the Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Lahore districts. Perhaps, it was too strong a prescription for essentially rural and traditions-bound peasants coming from semi-feudal social background with decidedly tribal and ‘caste’ outlook. The harsh provisions of the proposed bill sparked protests and agitations that was led by Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh who were arrested and banished in exile. The colonial administrators initially tried to suppress the opposition and agitation with characteristic colonial brute force. But with the painful sword of possible cancellation of land grants in the event of non-compliance of strict regimen of alien procedures threateningly hanging on their heads, the unrest and agitation among farmers was not going to die down easily. Eventually, the proposed bill was passed after significant amendments and removal of irritants as the Colonization of Government Lands (Punjab) Act of 1912 that replaced the Government Tenants (Punjab) Act of 1893. The new British legal system enforced in the country had two faces: its ‘public’ face enforced English Common Law and British criminal law in ‘modern commercial transactions’, while its other ‘private’ face defended and reinforced the primordial traditional and tribal laws. It is to be noted that these ‘personal laws’, however, were not rooted either in Muslim Sharia and or in Hindu religion. These were essentially the tribal and traditional community customs.

From the 1860’s onwards, agricultural prices and land values soared in Punjab. New cash crops such as wheat, tobacco, sugar cane and cotton were introduced following improved communications and new extensive canals. By 1920s, Punjab produced one tenth of India’s total cotton crop and one third of its wheat. The wheat, which had previously rotted whenever a bumper crop had occurred was now exported in vast quantities via the new railway network. Per capita output of Punjab’s crops had increased by nearly 45 percent between 1891 and 1921. The British investment in Punjab’s canal system proved highly profitable. The revenue earned by only those Punjab canals that were specifically built with profitable investment perspective (7) increased from Rs.1.46 million per annum during 1860-69 to Rs.8.0 million during 1937-1946, and by the year 1945-46 the net profit earned from canals exceeded the total capital investment by more than 200% (8). The rapid socioeconomic transformation, however, greatly disturbed the traditional class and economic structure—the old ‘relations of production’. While increased imports of British manufactured goods at the expense of Indian cottage industry cruelly destroyed its workers and craftsmen in urban towns, its interventions in the agriculture of the country, mainly in Punjab, threatened its rural order as it was accompanied by mounting indebtedness and social and political rise of the moneylenders and urban petty bourgeoisie. In a rapidly expanding economy spurred by new canal colonies, rising agricultural produce and far reaching commodity trade immensely expanded the cash economy and farmers’ propensity to pile up debt to finance consumption. Newly introduced alien and complex British legal system to foreclose debts of mortgaged land caused havoc with the traditional rural society. Land parcels began to pass into moneylenders’ hands at alarming rates, particularly in less developed and agriculturally backward areas. The malaise had pervaded into the vast rural areas of India and was threatening not only the traditional social class structure but also its unique and extremely conservative and regressive caste system. Karl Marx had foreseen the social ruin that the new economic forces were to bring to India while destroying its traditional, and, so far, mostly ‘undisturbed’ society. He had remarked, “now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village communities, inoffensive as they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism… England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution” (9).

Nevertheless, the British colonial administration in India was not an agent of a ‘social change’ with some lofty purpose. They were solely driven by their economic and administrative interests. The British administration quickly sensed the possibility of other harmful dimensions of this ‘social revolution’. The ground was slipping under the feet of traditional landowners as lands started to pass into the hands of absentee moneylenders. The unrest among this bulwark of despotism was palpable. A Revenue Department Note on Land Transfers observed in October 1885, “It is essential on the one hand that the management of the villages should be in the hands of men who possess the confidence of the villagers, and it is equally essential on the other hand that if the executive is to be obeyed and its objects rightly understood, there should be a class of men intermediate between the Government and the mass of the people who, while trusted by government, should have influence over their neighbours. In this respect moneylender can never take the place of the large ancestral landlord or the substantial yeomen who he dispossesses” (10).

Sir Denzil Ibbetson, author of the magisterial 1881 Punjab Census Report, writes in his confidential report on land transfers in 1895, “To secure the contentment of the masses is our first duty in India; in it lies our safety. As long as they are loyal to and contented with their rulers, the internal peace of the country is secure, and the professional agitator powerless. And most of all the loyalty and contentment of the sturdy yeomanry from whose ranks we draw our native soldiers, the safe foundation upon which our rule can rest secure” (11).

The Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1901 was a watershed legislation that prevented the urban commercial classes—the moneylenders and non-agricultural ‘professional’ petty bourgeoisie from permanently acquiring lands held by the ‘statutory agriculturalist’ tribes. For the purpose of this Act, even the lower castes of the villages traditionally engaged in menial support services for the villagers (the so-called Kammis, Mussalis, and the ‘Shudras’ of Indian society) were excluded from the ‘statutory agricultural’ classes exclusively entitled to own and hold agrarian land thus depriving them ever to come out of the straitjacket of the traditional caste system. Among the British districts (excluding semi-autonomous princely states), the population was roughly cut into half between agricultural castes and non-agricultural castes. Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the Governor of Punjab during 1912-1919 had remarked, “As a result of the [1901] Act the Punjab landowner, the finest body of peasantry in the East, who but for it would now be largely a landless proletariat, … which have been staunchly loyal to the British Government. The best proof of this is that we were able to raise from them three hundred sixty thousand fighting men … in the four years of the Great War” (12). The organic growth of disruptive modern capitalist forces in Indian society was forcibly blocked to protect and preserve traditional land-owning relationships in both feudal and non-feudal regions and their associated social, economic and caste structures in rural society. Naturally, the bourgeoisie, moneylending interests and urban petty bourgeois elements of Indian society were furious at their abrupt exclusion from playing full force. The Indian National Congress, mainly representing the urban middle classes and the moneylenders strongly protested this imperialist intervention on behalf of the ‘decadent’ land-owning classes of society who mostly remained loyal to the colonial rulers. The Unionist Party was founded after 1920 to defend the agriculturist interests against the urban ‘outsiders’. It was a divide between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ and between agriculturist ‘landowning’ classes and non-agriculturist ‘bourgeois’ money lenders and trading classes. Unfortunately, there were some other thorny twists in Indian social fabric that later played their role in political developments in regions comprising Pakistan.

The troublesome requirement of political stability and agricultural development in Punjab lies at the foundation of the core Imperialist contradiction between order and transformation. As Ian Talbot observes, “The closing decades of the nineteenth century saw the colonial strategic imperative of rural stability and order in Punjab threatened by the transformation arising from the commercialization of the region’s agriculture” (13). By 1875, the British Indian Army drew a third of its recruits from the Punjab. By 1914, the proportion was an astounding 60%, though the Punjab then accounted for only 10% of the India’s population. The ‘imperative to secure order in its rural recruiting areas understandably exerted a profound impact on British policy in the province’ (14) and had its lasting effects on the development of a ‘praetorian’ garrison state in Pakistan.

In the British mind, Punjab was seen as a buffer between British India and the expanding Russian Empire. This rivalry acquired a new ideological dimension after the successful Bolshevik revolution in 1917. These imperial imperatives necessitated development of unique methods of iron clad administration in Punjab compared to other parts of India. This ‘Punjab School’ of British administration relied heavily on securing loyalty of Punjab’s rural hinterland with a heavy hand on urban towns. Punjab was allowed to have its first political council 36 years after the Council Act of 1861 was implemented to establish legislative assemblies in other parts of British India. ‘As late as 1909, the government of the Punjab continued to nominate all nine Indian members in the fledgling council in Lahore… So every non-official representative in the Punjab Council was nominated by the administration, which to a man, stuck to its rule that the Punjab needed its traditional native leaders to keep the ‘classes below them in order’ (15). The Government of India Act, 1919 restricted urban seats to a mere ten of ninety-one seats in the council; five additional seats were given specifically to the landlords; urban politicians were strictly restricted to contest from rural seats. Interestingly, the same prescription was effectively used after independence of Pakistan in Sindh due to development of its unique ethnic dimension of urban-rural divide.

Notes

1. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, p. 337.
2. ‘On Colonialism’: Articles & Correspondence of Marx & Engels, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p. 312.
3. Karl Marx, op cited, pp. 338-339.
4 Khandesh, in the northwestern part of Maharashtra state, is about 400 Km from modern Pune (Poona) using modern network of roads. Pune is about 148 Km southeast of Mumbai. 5. Marx & Engels, ‘On Colonialism’, pp. 82-84.
6. Marx & Engels, ‘On Colonialism’, pp. 40-41.
7. The British planners had divided all development works in India into two categories: ‘protective’ and ‘productive’. Protective works were those that were required for carrying out necessary governance and usually included facilities for official use whereas the ‘productive’ works were carried out with investment purpose with a view to earn financial profit in the form of interest on loans provided by the government for the work and resulting enhanced tax revenues.
8. Timothy Daniel Haines, Building the Empire, Building the Nation: Water, land, and the politics of river development in Sind, 1898-1969, PhD Thesis, Royal Holloway College, University of London, 2011, Pg. 53.
9. Marx & Engels, p. ?
10. Quoted by Ian Talbot in ‘The Punjab under Colonialism: Order and Transformation in British India’.
11. Ian Talbot, op cited.
12. Michael O’Dwyer, India as I Knew it (London: Constable, 1925), p. 39 as quoted in Shalini Sharma, Radical Politics in Colonial Punjab: Governance and Sedition, Routledge, London, 2010, pp. 17-18.
13. Ian Talbot, op cited.
14. Ian Talbot, op cited.
15. Shalini Sharma, p. 16.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

Back to Main Page

 

A History of the Left in Pakistan – 14

January 28, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Three: The Rise and Fall of Indian Communists
(1933-1951) – (Continued)

Stalin’s Advice

In the party, however, a uniformity of ideas and a broad consensus on policy matters was still a far cry. Strong disagreements persisted along fractured lines in the party. The party organization in Bombay led by Ajoy Ghosh, S.V. Ghate and S.A. Dange opposed this new policy as a ‘mechanical application of the Chinese model’. Together, they issued a ‘Three P’s Letter’ (Prabodh, Purshotam, Prakash; pseudonyms of Dange, Ghate, and Ajoy Ghosh respectively) in the party advocating withdrawal of the armed struggle and forming a united front with Nehru against imperialism and feudal lords in its struggle for the international peace. P.C. Joshi also came out opposing the new radical line saying that conditions were not ripe for immediate armed revolution in India. Again, the central committee could not have functioned properly, leading to another organisational paralysis. Towards the end of 1950, CPGB also came out with a letter addressed to CPI rejecting the ‘Andhra Thesis’. A second Party Plenum was called in December 1950, restoring Ajoy Ghosh and S.A. Dange back into the central committee. But the stalemate continued and the party was on the verge of a formal split.

Finally, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) intervened and called two representatives each from both the Radical Left and the Right factions of the party to Moscow. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh and S.A. Dange of the ‘Right’, and Rajeswar Rao and M. Basavapunnaiah of the ‘Left’ reached Moscow for holding consultative meetings with the CPSU leadership in February-March 1951. Both cases were presented before an Inquiry Commission comprising of V.M. Molotov, Mikhail Suslov, Gregory Malenkov, and J.V. Stalin. Detailed accounts of what transpired in these crucial meetings have been recorded (with some differences) by Basavapunnaiah, (34) S.A. Dange, (35) P. Sundarayya, (36) and Mohit Sen, (37). The personal narratives of the first two who were personally present in the meetings and the other two who were close confidantes and comrades of the key participants do not differ with each other much, except in some details. The Russians have also now released the official minutes of the meeting.

According to the detailed personal accounts and the Russian minutes of the meetings, Stalin advised CPI leaders that the ‘expulsion of P.C. Joshi from the party in 1948, even if his line was incorrect, was a mistake’. ‘Instead’, he said, ‘an inner party discussion should have been pursued’. Referring to two contesting theses advocating the ‘China Path’ or the ‘Russian Path’, Stalin informed Indian communists that the talk of India being on the path to a socialist revolution with sole reliance on the insurrection of working classes in cities and general strikes [Ranadive’s Calcutta thesis of ‘Russian path’] ‘is very dangerous thesis’. He said, ‘the Indian conditions were similar to ‘China’s path’ in as much as India’s revolution is also primarily an ‘agrarian revolution’, which means liquidation of feudal property and its distribution among peasants. He said, ‘we do not think that India is on the threshold of a socialist revolution… India is approaching the first stage of ‘people’s democratic revolution’. At this stage, there is no doubt, the entire peasantry, including the kulaks, needed to be mobilized against the feudal lords. But, then, there are significant dis-similarities with China’s conditions as well. The Chinese carried out an ‘armed revolution’ signifying the existence of ‘partisan warfare’ together with the participation of a sizable trained liberation army to set up bases. They were surrounded, escaped encirclement, abandoned the old liberated areas, created new ones, tried to avoid battle, and then longer it lasted the more the Chinese communists were cut off from the workers and cities and railroads. Off course, Mao Tse-tung did not want to break off ties with the workers, but the path of partisan warfare led to losing touch with the cities. This was an unfortunate necessity. Finally, in order not to be surrounded and broken up, they were based in Yenan where they defended themselves for a long time. After Japanese army surrender to the Soviet army in the Japanese occupied Manchuria in the north-east of China and ensuing Chinese civil war, the Chinese communists swiftly moved from isolated Yenan into Manchuria to hold positions creating a safe rear area, near borderlands of a friendly country [Russia] for themselves. After this, Chiang Kai-shek lost the ability to encircle the Chinese peasants. The ‘conditions in China were much more favorable than in India. There was a trained People’s Liberation Army in China. You do not have a trained army. China does not have such a dense rail network as India… India is more developed than China industrially. You don’t have such a friendly neighboring country on which you could rely as a backbone… the Chinese way was good for China.’ According to Dange, during the meeting, Stalin pointing towards the very heart of India on the map asked with unconcealed contempt, “Is this your Yenan?”

About the struggle against bourgeoisie and Nehru government, Stalin said, ‘I cannot consider Nehru’s government to be a puppet. He has his own roots among the population nevertheless. The top level of national bourgeoisie is already in league with the imperialists but this is only a part, and moreover, not a large one. The bourgeoisie is mainly interested in supporting you in the struggle for the complete independence of India. The national bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie of India, is the middle and big [bourgeoisie]; these are your own national exploiters. You need to say that you are not going against them, but against a foreign enemy, against the British imperialists. Many will be found among the national bourgeoisie who agree with you. I would not advise you to expropriate the big capitalists, even if they are in alliance with the American and British banking capitalists. If you have a demand to expropriate the big bourgeoisie in your platform, then it needs to be eliminated. You need to draw up a new platform or a program of action. It is very much to your advantage to neutralize the big bourgeoisie and split off nine-tenths of the entire national bourgeoisie from it. You don’t need to artificially create new enemies for yourself. You have many of them. The big capitalists’ turn will come, too… The problems of a revolution are decided in stages. All stages cannot be lumped together. Your people are copying our revolution. But these are different stages. You need to take the experience of the other fraternal parties critically and adapt this experience to the specific conditions of India. Don’t be afraid of being criticized from the left. Bukharin and Trotsky criticized Lenin from the left but they ended up ridiculous. Ranadive has criticized Mao Tse-tung from the left, but Mao Tse-tung is right – he is acting in accordance with the conditions of his own country.” Stalin asked CPI leaders to “pursue your own policy and pay no attention to leftist shouting.” He advised that the armed struggle being conducted in various areas, especially the Telengana region should be ended.’ According to Mohit Sen, Stalin said that it was ‘Comrade Rajeswar Rao who should travel to different camps and see that the arms were surrendered. This would be difficult but it was he alone who could do it.’

During his interview with H.D. Sharma, Basavapunnaiah observed in his reflections that the Russians and Stalin had said at the outset of the meetings in Moscow, “Our knowledge of the Indian conditions is very limited. With the available general knowledge that we have got about some dialectics and some Marxism and Leninism, we will try to help you”. At the end, the conclusions of the discussions were incorporated in a program that was seen by the Commission also. Stalin concluded by saying, “I gave you no instructions. This is just advice, which is not obligatory for you… Your party is sovereign. There is no more the Communist International. That is dissolved. From one centre we cannot run the international communist movement. That is why you are at liberty to follow your own independent line. Understand this, amend it, accept it, reject it, do anything you like. That is all for you to decide.” He, however, asked the leaders to “unite, work together, save the party and take it forward.”

After return of CPI leaders from Moscow, a new draft Party Program, Tactical Line and the Policy Statement were published by the Polit Bureau in April 1951.These were formally adopted by the All India Party Conference in Calcutta, in October 1951. The central committee was reorganized with Ajoy Kumar Ghosh taking over as the new Secretary General. On Telengana Question, the party stated, ‘With a view to establishing peaceful conditions in Telengana, the Central Committee as well as the Andhra Committee has decided to advise the Telengana peasantry and the fighting partisans to stop all partisan actions and to mobilize the entire people for an effective participation in the ensuing general election to rout the Congress at the polls” (38). CPI stalwarts of the Telengana movement, Rajeswar Rao and AK Gopalan helped CPI formally withdrawing the Telengana armed struggle. According to Mohit Sen, Rajeswar Rao later told him that ‘this was the most difficult task he had ever performed for the party’ (39).

Another failing of the CPI leaders at this stage, perhaps, was not acknowledging the communal excesses committed during Telengana movement in Hyderabad. As senior journalist Jaspal Singh Sidhu later observed, albeit from a Khalistani perspective, “it is astonishing that communist leaders are never heard of talking about and never they penned down the Hyderabad massacre of Muslims in 1949 as they are proudly referring to the Telangana armed revolt led by the communists during the same period and in the close vicinity of Nizam’s princely state capital—Hyderabad city. One wonders whether underground communist fighters did not take note of communal killings unleashed against the Muslim minority in Hyderabad after Army action there” (40).

Back in Moscow, it is reported that Stalin was not too pleased with the performance of Indian communists. He was polite to the visitors but, apparently, they did not win his respect. Stalin’s interpreter and diplomat Nikolai Adyrkahyev in his memoirs released on 118th birth anniversary of Joseph Stalin recounts that later that year in 1951 during a meeting with the Japanese Communist Party delegation on their party matters, Stalin observed: “In India they have wrecked the party and there is something similar with you”(41).

Joseph Stalin died on 5 March, 1953, leaving an enigmatic legacy and an indelible mark on the history of the international communist movement and of the world. Like other communist parties of the world, Stalin had inspired and greatly influenced the CPI and the communist movement of India from its inception. He had worked closely with M.N. Roy and other Indian communists and the last major impact he had on CPI’s strategic thinking was during his meetings with CPI leaders in Feb-Mar 1951. Although, already fallen from the grace of Stalin, M.N. Roy, while he was still in an Indian jail in Jan 1936, wrote about Stalin “…after all, I still remain a personal admirer of my ex-friend, who used to pride over our racial affinity, and called me ‘gold’. Now he won’t appreciate me even as copper! But I have the weakness of giving the devil his due. And in my account, his due is very considerable” (42). When Stalin died in 1953, Roy wrote in his journal Radical Humanist, that ‘Stalin was the most hated, feared, and maligned man of our time’. He added, ‘No great man has ever been an angel. Greatness is always purchased at the cost of goodness. Stalin did not do anything worse. He certainly deserves a place among the great men of history… He was the greatest military genius of our time… Stalin was undoubtedly the tallest personality of our time, and as such is bound to leave his mark on history’ (43).

After Stalin was roundly denounced by the CPSU leader Khrushchev three years after his death, Mao Tse-tung who was known to have sharp differences with Stalin on matters of policy and theory on many occasions, strongly defended Stalin saying, “The Communist Party of China has consistently held that Stalin did commit errors, which had their ideological as well as social and historical roots. It is necessary to criticize the errors Stalin actually committed, not those groundlessly attributed to him…Stalin … headed by Lenin …took part in the struggle to pave the way for the 1917 Revolution; after the October Revolution he fought to defend the fruits of the proletarian revolution. Stalin led the CPSU and the Soviet people, after Lenin’s death, in resolutely fighting both internal and external foes, and in safeguarding and consolidating the first socialist state in the world… Stalin led the CPSU, the Soviet people, and the Soviet army in an arduous and bitter struggle to the great victory of the anti-fascist war. Stalin defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the fight against various kinds of opportunism, against the enemies of Leninism, the Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites, and other bourgeois agents… Stalin made an indelible contribution to the international communist movement in a number of theoretical writings which are immortal Marxist-Leninist works… Stalin stood in the forefront of the tide of history guiding the struggle, and was an irreconcilable enemy of the imperialists and all reactionaries… Stalin’s life was that of a great Marxist-Leninist, a great proletarian revolutionary. Stalin, a great Marxist-Leninist and proletarian revolutionary, also made certain mistakes; some could have been avoided and some were scarcely avoidable at a time when the dictatorship of the proletariat had no precedent to go by… In the work led by Stalin of suppressing the counter-revolution, many counter-revolutionaries deserving punishment were duly punished, but at the same time there were innocent people who were wrongly convicted; and in 1937 and 1938 there occurred the error of enlarging the scope of the suppression of counter-revolutionaries. In handling relations with fraternal Parties and countries, he made some mistakes. He also gave some bad counsel in the international communist movement. These mistakes caused some losses to the Soviet Union and the international communist movement… on the whole, his merits outweighed his faults. He was primarily correct, and his faults were secondary” (44).

CPI’s Impact on Society

The ideas of socialism and communist ideology, which were first introduced in India in 1920s and gained wider circulation in 1930s, had a significantly powerful impact on Indian society, particularly among people from academia, art and literature during 1930s through 1960s. Perhaps, few countries had had such a wide and far reaching impact of Marxist and socialist ideas on its social and cultural consciousness as it was witnessed in Indian society at the time. A very large number of essayists, teachers, university professors, writers, playwrights, poets, film-makers, theater artists, lyricists, and musicians who had their hearts in the right place were powerfully attracted towards the liberating ideas of Marxism. Particularly, the powerful Indian film industry that took off in 1930s and bloomed initially in Tollygunj, Calcutta (Tollywood) and, later, in Bombay (Bollywood) had considerably large number of leading actors, directors, producers and musicians who were influenced by socialist ideas and several them worked as active members of the Communist Party of India.

The Progressive Writers Association (PWA) was first founded in London in 1935 by few young Indian writers. Meeting once or twice a month in Nanking Restaurant in London, they also drafted its initial manifesto. These included, Syed Sajjad Zaheer, Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Parmod Sengupta, Dr. M.D. Taseer, Dr., Jyoti Ghosh, Dr. K.S. Bhat, and Dr. S. Sinha. As a backdrop of this initiative of these young energetic Indian students there was a larger international effort of organising writers and poets for the human rights in Europe. Fascism was now clearly on the rise in Italy, Germany, and Spain. Similar trends were evident in other countries. International PEN (renamed as PEN International in 1910) was already founded in London in 1921 as an NGO for promoting cooperation among writers (poets, essayists, novelists, hence P.E.N.). An Indian chapter of the International PEN was founded in London in 1934 by Sophia Camacho Wadia (American wife of an Indian trade unionist and theosophist B.P. Wadia), K.M. Munshi, and Kaka Sahib Kalelkar with support from Gandhi. A little earlier, the Left Review had announced that a writers’ ‘International Congress for the Defence of Culture’ was to be held in Paris on 21-26 June, 1935. The Congress was “called by a committee of French Writers who believed that the perils confronting cultural freedom in a number of countries today are such that measures should be taken for its defence”. The committee for this congress was comprised of some of the most distinguished names in French letters, some of whom also had direct connection with India or Indians. Andre Gide had translated Noble Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali in French; Henri Barbousse had assisted Evelyn Roy, wife of M.N. Roy, in agitating at highest levels against expulsion of Roy from France in 1925; Romaine Rolland, had worked with Tagore and wrote his book Mahatma Gandhi; Andre Malraux had written a novel concerning the Chinese civil war (45). The Congress’ call was forwarded to many writers and journals throughout the world for information and circulation. In India, an appeal from this committee was printed in the journal Savera (Dawn) of Karachi (46).

Soon, Sajjad Zaheer returned to India and the Association under the name of Anjuman Taraqi Pasand Musanifin Hind (All India Progressive Writers Association: IPWA) was founded in Lukhnow in April 1936 with full support from CPI. Almost all prominent Urdu writers, poets, essayists and critics of that time supported and joined this new literary movement. Although, as most of its early sponsors were from Urdu literature in North India and the first IPWA congress was a galaxy of mainly Urdu luminaries, however, some very eminent Hindi and Bengali writers also attended and extended their support (47). The senior Urdu writers and literary luminaries who extended their full support to the progressive literary movement in its formative years including, Munshi Prem Chand, who also presided over its first conference in Lukhnow, and Maulvi Abdul Haq and Josh Malihabadi, carried hugely respectable and influential positions in Urdu literary field (48). Arguably, the ‘progressive literature’ movement had an enormous impact on the Indian belles-letters for a long time. A significantly large number of young writers of Anjuman (PWA) rose to literary prominence, almost completely dominating the Urdu language literary horizon from 1930s till at least 1970s in both India and later in Pakistan (49).

CPI also sponsored an Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1942. Its founding members included Pirthvi Raj Kapur, Balraj Sahini, and Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (50). Shailandra, a noted music composer had worked as a welder in Indian Railways and was a union leader. The advent of Indian cinema in a big way in 1930’s and its evolution during 1940’s and 1950’s in cosmopolitan Bombay was mostly dominated by progressive film makers and artists playing a significant role in influencing changing lifestyles and worldview of Indian people, particularly in its big cities and towns (51). Bombay and Lahore were two big circuits of Indian films industry. By 1933, Lahore alone had sixteen cinemas. There were several regional theater associations also in Maharashtra, Gujarat,Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Bengal. Khwaja Ahmed Abbas adapted a Bengali play by Jyotianand Mitra called ‘Nava Jibonar Gaan’ and made a film ‘Dharti Ke Laal’ in 1946.

A Progressive Artists’ Group was also formed in 1947 that included M.F. Hussain, S.H. Raza, Manishi Dey, and Francis Souza who later emerged as the most eminent and internationally acclaimed artists from India.

Notes

34. Interview with Dr. Hari Sharma, Oral History Project of the Nehru Memorial & Library (NMML), June 1978.
35. Interview with Dr. Hari Sharma, Oral History Project of the Nehru Memorial & Library (NMML); and his radio talk on ‘My Visit to Russia’ in weekly BBC Marathi programme ‘Radio Jhankar’.
36. Interview with Dr. Hari Sharma, Oral History Project of the Nehru Memorial & Library (NMML). Sep. 1974; and ‘Telengana People’s Struggle and Its Lessons’ by P. Sundarayya, CPI-M, Calcutta, 1972.
37. Interview with Dr. Hari Sharma, Oral History Project of the Nehru Memorial & Library (NMML); and his Memoirs: ‘A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist’, by Mohit Sen, Rupa & Co., 2003.
38. K.N. Ramchandran, op cited, p. 29.
39. Interview with Dr. Hari Sharma, Oral History Project.
40. ‘Role of Left in Punjab’ by Jaspal Singh Sidhu in CounterCurrents, January, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/sidhu060113.htm
41. ‘Of Quit India, Nehru & CPI Split’ by A.G. Noorani in Frontline, Dec 31, 2011 – Jan 13, 2012.
42. As quoted in Overstreet & Windmiller, op cited, p. 142.
43. ‘The Death of Stalin’ by M.N. Roy, Radical Humanist, XVII (March a5, 1953), pp. 121-132 as quoted in Overstreet & Windmiller, p. 143.
44. ‘On the Question of Stalin: Second Comment on the Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU’, by Mao Tse-tung in People’s Daily and Red Flag, September 13, 1963.
45. Marxist Influences and South Asian Literature, Vol.1, Ed. Carlo Coppola, Asian Studies Centre, Michigan State University, Michigan, 1974, p. 13.
46. Khalilur Rehman Azmi, Urdu mein Taraqqi Pasand Adabi Tarikh, Anjuman Tarraqi-e Urdu (India), Aligarh, 1972, p.30 as quoted by Carlo Coppola cited above.
47. Among Hindi writers, prominent names included, Shivdan Singh Chohan, Narendra Sharma, Ramesh Chandar, Balraj Sahini, Om Parkash, Acharya Narendar Dev, Pandit Ram Naresh Tirpathi and Amrit Rai. Manik Benerji, Tara Shankar Benerji, Budhdev Bose, Primatma Chaudhry, and Sarojni Naidu were among Bengali supporters while Vallathol Narayan Menon was a well-known Malayalam writer.
48. Other prominent senior Urdu writers coming out in support of Progressive Writers Association included, Hasrat Mohani, Chaudhry Mohammad Ali Rudelvei, Rabindranath Tagore, Qazi Abdul Ghaffar, Sufi Tabasum, Maulana Salahuddin Ahmed, Abdul Majid Salik, and Dr. Abid Hussain.
49. These young writers emerging in the progressive writers movement and dominating Urdu literature for some time include, Ahmed Ali, Mulk Raj Anand, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Krishan Chandar, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Quratulain Hyder, Ismat Chughtai, Rajendra Singh Bedi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Israrul Haq Majaz Lakhnavi, Sahir Ludhyanvi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Syed Sibte Hassan, Amrita Pritam, Ahtisham Hussain, Saadat Hassan Manto, Majnun Gorakhpuri, Syed Mutalibi Faridabadi, Hamid Akhtar, Hajra Masroor, Khadija Mastoor, Saghar Nizami, Mumtaz Hussain, Ibadat Barailvi, and Ibrahim Jalis.
50. Others included, Bijon Bhattacharya, Ritwick Ghatak, Uptal Dutt, Salil Chaudhry, Jyotrindra Mitra, and Pandit Ravi Shankar.
51. Among prominent artists and writers in Bollywood who were powerfully moved by the Marxist ‘progressive’ movement included, Cheten Anand, elder brother of Dev Anand, Habib Tanvir, S.D. Burman, Ismat Chughtai, Kartar Singh Duggal, Vishwamitr Adil, David, Shayam, Kaifi Azmi, A.K. Hangal, Satay Jeet Ray, Bimol Roy, Sahir Ludhyanvi, Shabana Azmi, Jawed Akhtar, Akhtarul Iman, Shayam Benegal, Samita Patel, Amol Palekar, Nasiruddin Shah, Om Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Punkaj Kapur, Deepti Nawal, and Grish Karnad.

Chapter 3… Concluded

Back to Main Page