Tribute to Baba Bhuja Singh on 50th martyrdom anniversary

Harsh Thakor

On July 28th the Communist revolutionary world dips its blood in memory of one of its greatest martyrs, Baba Bhuja Singh on his 50th martyrdom anniversary. Few comrades shimmered the torch of what is now Marxism-Leninism-Maoism with the intensity or meticulous skill of Baba who blended the determination of a soldier with the vision and creativity of a painter. In his lifetime he encountered the most turbulent or stormiest of oceans or the wildest forests but his spirit remained undeterred. With dialectical mastery he overcame every hurdle. Even in the gravest of situations he would resurrect his soul like a phoenix rising from the Ashes.

He had a subtle or characteristic approach in integrating with the struggles at different junctures understanding the language of the masses in deep depth. He gave great respect to the involvement of women and the Dalit community. In his view the aspects of oppression of women and dalits had to be treated as separate subjects in itself.

Baba Bhuja Singh played the role of an architect in the building of the Ghadr party, the Kirti party, the revolutionary movement of the pre 1947 period of the Communist Party of India, the post-1947 agitations led by the Communist Party of India and finally the naxalbari movement led by C.P.I.(M.L.). Within the Communist movement he confronted revisionism with a sword of iron and was instrumental in the Communist party in Punjab rejecting the revisionist line of the All India Communist Party of India in the 1940's, and lighting the spark of armed agrarian struggle in Punjab. His practice gave shape to the Communist movement in Punjab adopting the Chinese path prescribed by Chairman Mao. After 1947 Comrade Bujha raised his powerful voice against revisionism more than anyone and morally led the demarcation of the Punjab Communist movement against revisionism. Within the AICCR and the C.P.I.(M.L.) itself he strived for mass line and mass movements and with surgical precision.

He established great rapport with the Argentine people in the anti-colonial struggle, winning their hearts as a Ghadarite. Meticulously with other comrades like Teja Singh Swatantra he established units through political study circles and initiated military guerrilla training. Being a hard core opponent of Gandhian non-violence he stressed on the need to militarily overthrow the British rule. In Rosario he was arrested for raising funds after imposition of martial law.

In Moscow he was inducted into study classes on Marxism-Leninism and its application to colonialism. He interacted with fellow Ghadarite students from China, Japan, Argentina, Malaya etc. which he brought into the Ghadr movement. All the Ghadraites received military training. Baba was deeply impressed with the socialist construction in Soviet Russia which he thought represented a new epoch.

His contribution to the building of the agrarian movement under the Kirti party was remarkable. The Kirti party was precursor to many of the agrarian revolutionary struggles and later armed revolutionary peasant struggle of the Communist Party and a base for recruiting cadres into the party. It’s practice exposed some of the pretensions of practice of Leninism of the Communist party that at one stage paid no heed to agrarian movements. He initiated formation of debt committees in Doaba. He launched a magazine "Kirti”. In Jalandhar he began to organize a Punjab Kisan Sabha. Then in Lyalpur district he worked as a main organizer and in four tehsils mobilised the peasantry. His efforts enabled the Kisan Sabha to combat Sikandar Haya Khan and Chhotu Ram who were amongst the most powerful landlords and ministers. They used to organise peasant conferences on lines of caste and ruled and divided peasantry on caste lines. It facilitated the growth of the Kisan Sabha with a central poster published exposing the nefarious designs of the ministers.

Under Bhuja's leadership a campaign was initiated to open and close mouths of water channels for irrigation. The peasants blocked the water openings irrigating land of the 2 ministers and other oppressive landlords. The small peasants now had access to channels of their own fields. This campaign enabled to accentuate the struggle between small peasants with the feudal lords and government.

Under Baba's tutelage a mass upsurge erupted which took a major organizational shape after a landlord slapped a water carrier. At the conclusion the landlord yielded and pleaded for mercy by touching the feet of the water carrier.

On issue of debt Bhuja Singh launched many struggles which paved the way for many comrades to be won over to the body of the Kirti party. He explained to the peasantry that only through integrating them within the framework of the Kirti party that any genuine freedom could be won from the British. The issue of political consciousness and military training was highlighted through this platform.

Bhuja Singh continued to expand the Kirti party on the peasant front with great dedication enabling the communists to come closer to the democratic forces. The Kirti party had appointed a decision of joining a united front of the Congress party. Bujha Singh thus adopted membership of the Congress party. He became involved in propaganda against communalism with other comrades.

The Kirti magazine was formally was formally banned so Bujha Singh resurrected it under the name of Kiri Lehar which was circulated all over Punjab. After 1937-38 elections Kirti party raised issue of political prisoners and organized a fast in front of the Lahore assembly hall in support of prisoners of Andaman jail. A demonstration was staged on the first day of the assembly session at Lahore, with Bujha Singh the main leader. The police obstructed the demonstration in a Muslim area on its way to Anarkali Bazar and tried to terrorise the people. However the Muslim community not only welcomed the demonstration but also served the demonstrators with roti and water. The procession converged at the Anarkali Bazar being a huge success. It inspired similar demonstrations in Calcutta and leaders of the Kakori case in mobilising huge numbers of people in front of Lucknow assembly.

Inspite of being confined to his village Bujha Singh adopted underground life but still organized mass upsurges, led peasant conference and demonstrations without failing into the trap of the police which was remarkable.

Kirti party organized three conferences in Lyallpur in 1938.In July 1938 ,15000 peasants organised a conference and demonstration in the city after they had blocked moths of water channels. All three conferences were led by Bujha Singh and had historic impact. It resulted in the building of the Doab Canal and the Lahore Kisan Morcha. A major campaign was launched by this force against World War 2.
Under Teja Singh Swatantra the Red party condemned the collusion of the Communist Party of India with British imperialism. and the Indian comprador bourgeoise. In waging a crusade against the revisionist or or-Congress approach of C.P.I. Bhuja Singh with other comrades he raised the mantle of armed revolution and hit out against princely states, feudalism and pro-British imperialism. Baba Bhuja Singh championed the cause of tenants of PEPSU. He performed task of schooling the organized tenants, train them in arms and collect funds. He developed party armed guerilla squads. educating cadre about secret party work and how to face the enemy. With great persistence he collected funds. The party published a magazine Lal Jhanda and stage secret meetings. Baba Bhuja exhibited the relentlessness of a soldier in arousing tenants of PEPSU.Now the PEPSU govt. was compelled to distribute the land legally.

In 1962 Buja Singh was a most vocal opponent of the Indo-China war and sided with China under Mao. He resigned from the Communist Party of India and joined forces with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He activated the mass movement guided by the new party defending Socialist China and condemning Kruschevite revisionism. He became editor of the party Organ 'Peoples Democracy. He deployed great energy in building the mass organizations of the party. and party branches. He waged a sharp polemical debate with the C.P.I. combating revisionism.

In 1965 his party condemned the Indo-Paka war, exposing its anti-people character. Bujha Singh had been arrested in the Indo-China war earlier but this time evaded arrest by staying underground. Bujha Singh propagated how the rulers were deploying nation chauvinism from diverting the people from their basic issues. like unemployment, starvation and poverty.

In 1966 he became an active participant in the civil liberties movement. and supported struggle for Punjabi Sabha.

The Naxalbari movement although very late was still the most defining event in Bujha Singh's life which gave him untold glory. He played an important role in steering comrades within the Punjab unit of the All India Coordination Committee of Communist revolutionaries and joint comrades like Gandharav Sen, Saraban Singh Cheema, Baburam Bairagi, in an inaugural meeting of the Punjab unit in Jalandhar. It is difficult to find an adjective that can do full justice to the spiritual metamorphosis within Bujha Singh and hundreds of other pro-naxalbari cadres ,as though a red flame was shimmering within their hearts. It was as though he had garnered all his energy and harness life's experiences to confront a final climax. On bicycle he travelled many a region in Punjab in the manner of someone reborn and illuminate the red flame to capture the hearts of thousands of youth. Bujha Singh gave them a vision of the new man which a revolution would create., touching them in the very core of their soul. With dialectical mastery to the core he imbibed the revolutionary ideology of what is now Maoism in the youth. With surgical precision he educated the youth on revisionism, naxlbari dialectical and historical materialism, and the root cause of the Naxalbari upsurge.

The Bhakra Samaon peasant struggle was shaped to a great extent by Bujha Singh. Land was first occupied in Samaon on 8th December and in Quila Hakiman on 18th June 1969.Before initiating capture of lands preparations were made with mass gatherings. Bujha Singh raised the central slogan of land to the tiller. He also taught the strategy of building an army to capture state power through guerilla warfare and forming revolutionary committees of landless peasants, agricultural labourers and tenants., and how to accomplish the new democratic revolution. by capturing the cities. The role of the vanguard Communist party was also elaborately explained. He organized important camps in the villages of Quila Hakiman, Balian, Kumbahrwal, Sultanpur, Rangian, and Bhaini.  After lecturing cadres in the camps he deputed different persons to perform various duties to organise preparations for land struggle s.Hundreds of peasants seized lands and planted the red flag. With incisive application of massline Baba organized landless peasants and agricultural labourers.

One of the most poignant aspects of Baba Bhuja Singh's role was his criticism of line of C.P.I.(M.L.) He was critical of line of annihilation of individuals opposed designating Chairman Mao as India's chairman, criticized party for rejecting economic struggles, supported mass struggles and movements and people’s organizations which the party rejected and felt party had not created a red army in Bengal. Still revealing the qualities of a disciplined soldier he upheld the party line with the tenacity of a rock and played a major role in the 1970 C.P.I.(M.L.) Party Congress.

The state targeted Baba Bhuja Singh and on three grounds. One was the murder of Quila Hakim landlord, General Balwant Singe, the others were the publishing of a poster and the Acharwal conspiracy case.

The Punjab govt felt Baba Bhuja was a grave threat to their rule or the opressive social system and went to the extent of executing a plan to assassinate him. Tragically on July 27th 1970 he was captured by the police force as a result of information of a police agent .Baba was on the way to attending a meeting in village Haripur near Phillaur riding his bicycle by the side wall of the school which was the meeting pace when a police jeep barged into him ,toppling him to the ground. Before he could retrieve himself the police got hold of him and flung him into the jeep. With death defying courage he raised the slogans of 'Naxalbari zindabad" In the police station Bujha was severely tortured but he revealed no secret not even the name of the place o the meeting he was to attend that night. On the 28th July early morning after not being able to extract any information after two rounds of interrogation the police threw his body down on a bridge after breaking his backbone. The police fabricated the events by stating in report that Bhuja Singh was killed in an intense encounter with the police on the bridge of village Nai Majara. They alleged that he was on his way to murder Rana Mota Singh Jadla, state Congress president.

Today we do not exactly face the same circumstances Comrade Bhuja Singh did but we face a regime which is morally more oppressive than what existed in time of Baba. Semi-feudalism may not exist in the classical form as in the time of Baba but has disguised itself in a more pernicious version with the advent of globalization. We may not have warlords as in China but the peasantry in Punjab is subjugated by to the enslavement of the moneylenders or commission agents and are unable to repay loan debts for which they are penalised. So called development has not emancipated the dalit agricultural labour community from the wrath of upper caste landlords who rob them of the promised right to 1/3rd of panchyat land ,in addition to being denied permanent work. Thousands of poor and landless peasants and agricultural labourers were compelled to commit suicide, unable to repay debts incurred. Democratic movements of dalit community and landed peasantry face brutal attacks .Hindutva fascism is twice as dominant as it was in the 1970's with the current rulers smashing every form of democratic dissent to the dust. The recent incarceration of urban intellectuals is a perfect illustration with leaders like Vara Vara Rao and Saibaba framed.

Baba's teachings and practice play a major role in shaping the mass movements and mass organizations towards revolutionary inclination. His practice and teachings were instrumental in paving the guidelines for building movements that at their very core rejected Gandhian non-violence and exposed its superficiality in practice.

In the last 50 years counter revolutionary winds of revisionism or right deviationist trends emerged as a major obstacle which Bujha Singh confronted with the tenacity of boulder in his lifetime. He gave us abject lessons on how to counter revisionism and repression of the state. Comrades must learn how inspite of differences he went along with the party in 1969 when factionalism or splittism was beginning to emerge with comrades being openly critical of the party. Baba never openly spoke against the errors of practice like attack on police stations which in his view would break the backbone of the party. It is similar to the situation of the C.P.I. (Maoist) today.

Baba Bhuja Singh's assassination symbolized the oppressive nature of the semi-colonial, semi-feudal state as a whole which today is fast turning into a fascist one dictated by Hindutva.I congratulate the democratic movement of Punjab for showing such strong mental resilience in confronting the brutal assault of operation Greenhunt, like the recent arrest of the urban intellectuals. Nowhere in India has the spark of resistance to extinguish proto-fascism shimmered as much as in Punjab, inspite of times of adversity, engulfing almost every region. Fitting that in the time of the 50th martyrdom anniversary of Baba Bhuja Singh such organized protest is taking place in all spheres whether on issues of poor peasantry, of dalit agricultural labour or on democratic rights.

I recommend readers to read or get translation of the writings published in Punjabi journal Surkh rekha narrating the contribution of Baba Bhuja Singh and the document of the erstwhile Central Team of the C.P.I.(M.L.) on martyrs of naxalbari in Punjab. I feel the Surkh Rekha of the 1980's ideologically was closest to the line and practice of Baba Bhuja Singh. No group made such an incisive theoretical analysis of the reasons for setback in naxalbari movement in Punjab and evaluation of the C.P.I.(M.L.) line and practice as the Central Team group.

Resembling the flow of water in a river or a road continuing many happening in Punjab resurrected the spirit of Baba Bhuja Singh. Today all revolutionary groups irrespective of belonging to different trends illuminate Baba Bhuja Singh's name in golden letters. Resembling the flow of water in a river or a road continuing many happening in Punjab resurrected the spirit of Baba Bhuja Singh. I must make a worthy mention of the memorial conference in memory of Bant Singh Rajeanna in November 1994 held by 2 organizations which ultimately merged into the Communist Party Re-Organization Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist or Nagi Reddy group) mobilizing 10000 people. All cadres should read or get a translation of journal Surkh Leeh's historical review of the Naxalbari movement in Punjab on 50th anniversary in 2017, which does ample justice to comrades like Baba Bhuja Singh.

After his death history was repeated of such killings of Bhuja Singh in the forests and plains of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Telengana and now Dandakaranya Thousands of maoists including important leaders were murdered in staged encounters like Azad and Kishenji and in earlier years Murli, Shyam and Mahesh in 1999.

Comrade Bhuja Singh was the strongest advocate of a unified party. Today the party and the revolutionary movement is at the stage of being re-organized in Punjab with different trends .However all groups basically adhere to the path of new democratic revolution and path of protracted peoples war which Comrade Bhuja Singh prescribed.

Subjective factors are not conducive for launching armed struggle today in Punjab Still the practice of Baba Bhuja Singh is a vivid example, that without raising arms, any change will be superficial or cosmetic. This very line is being rekindled in the forests of Dandakarnya by the Maoists. The armed inclination of the days of Baba Bhuja Singh have to be resurrected to make any genuine headway in the revolutionary movement. One major aspect that requires study are the complexities of the impact of globalization in agriculture. Even if semi-feudalism still prevails to large extent it is defined by forces of imperialism and it is hard to envisage feudalism still as the principal contradiction with the masses in Punjab. Situation and conditions in Punjab is not fertile for launching of protracted peoples war and a different strategic pat has to be devised in accordance. Punjab lacks forest regions or mountains which are a perquisite to apply Chairman Mao's peoples war theory. Arguably there has been greater qualitative political development in Dandkaranya than in Punjab, which is more in tune with the ideas of Baba Bhuja Singh. Intellectuals have to investigate why a red army has not been created in Punjab as Bujha singh visualized.

Tribute written with reference to BABA BHUJA SINGH An Untold Story - by Ajmer Sidhu. I thank comrade Ajmer for this.

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Jul 30, 2020

Harsh Thakor

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