Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

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Indian Political Prisoner Kobad Ghandy ends hunger strike

June 6, 2015
kobad

Kobad Ghandy, arrested in 2009

Kobad Ghandy, the 68-year-old undertrial lodged in Tihar Jail here, called off his hunger strike on Friday soon after a court ordered the jail authorities to provide him easier access to basic facilities and adequate health care.

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Questions of Freedom and People’s Emancipation — Part 4, by Kobad Ghandy

Kobad Ghandy after his arrest

Kobad Ghandy after his arrest

[Kobad Ghandy, a member of the Politburo and Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was captured by Indian Intelligence Bureau on  September 17, 2009.  Initially kept in illegal detention and tortured, he remains a political prisoner in Tihar Jail, where he continues his revolutionary studies and writings, organizes Maoist classes, and joins the struggles of other prisoners against the draconian conditions they face.  The following is the fourth of a 5 or 6 part series on freedom–its promise and the problems in its pathway.  The first article (covering Part I – The Context) and the second one (covering Part II – Search for Freedom through History) can be seen at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/questions-of-freedom-and-peoples-emancipation-by-kobad-ghandy/  The third installment, on Socialism and Existentialism, can be seen at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/questions-of-freedom-and-peoples-emancipation-part-3-by-kobad-ghandy/  — Frontlines ed.]
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Mainstream, VOL L No 47, November 10, 2012

PART IV — No Freedom without Values

When a man feels superiority over others, this sort of inward elation is called pride. A proud man will not tolerate any other to be on equal terms with himself. In private and public he expects that all should assume a respectful attitude towards him and acknowledge his superiority, treat him as a higher being… So long as man feels proud he will not like for others, what he likes for himself. His self-esteem will deprive him of humility, which is the essence of righteousness. He will neither be able to discard enmity and envy, resentment and wrath, slander and scorn, nor will he be able to cultivate truth and sincerity, and calmly listen to advice. In short, there is no evil which a proud man will not inevitably do in order to preserve his elation and self-esteem. Vices are like a chain of rings linked together which entangle the heart. —Al Ghazzali

So said the famous Sufi philosopher over one thousand years back.

One may have the best of ideologies, but without the inculcation of good values the ideology will remain hollow and hypocritical. One may seek an equitable economic transfor-mation, but if one does not acquire a commen-surate value system, the changes will remain illusory. One may create beautiful theories of freedom, but if one does not have decent values, it may be anarchy or extreme individualism, but certainly not freedom. One may evolve the most democratic of organisational structures, but if the individuals within it (particularly the leadership) do not have a set of proper values, any organisation, whatever the form, is bound to get distorted and become autocratic. One cannot expect nice sweet fruit from a mango tree by nurturing it on poisonous water. With filthy water we cannot expect to clean the vessel, however much we keep scrubbing it with glossy detergents. Continue reading

Questions of Freedom and People’s Emancipation — Part 3, by Kobad Ghandy

Kobad Ghandy

Kobad Ghandy

[Kobad Ghandy, a member of the Politburo and Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was captured by Indian Intelligence Bureau on  September 17, 2009.  Initially kept in illegal detention and tortured, he remains a political prisoner in Tihar Jail, where he continues his revolutionary studies and writings, organizes Maoist classes, and joins the struggles of other prisoners against the draconian conditions they face.  The following is the third part of a 5 or 6 part series on freedom–its promise and the problems in its pathway. The first article (covering Part I – The Context)  and the second one (covering Part II – Search for Freedom through History) can be seen at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/questions-of-freedom-and-peoples-emancipation-by-kobad-ghandy/— Frontlines ed.]

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Mainstream, VOL L No 42, October 6, 2012

PART III—Socialism and Existentialism

The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed two major schools of thought—socialism and existentialism. The former reflected the agony of the vast impoverished masses, the latter mirrored the acute alienation within society, strongly reflected in the middle classes. While socialism focused on the society, the existentialists concerned themselves more with the individual. Both these philosophical trends had a powerful impact till the 1980s.

I shall first briefly look at these two trends and then come to the present, post-1980s situation.

Socialist Trend

The agony of the impoverished people was beautifully portrayed in a large number of classics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There was Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in Britain, a large number of novels by authors like Emile Zola, classics like the book Grapes of Wrath etc. which depicted how cruel capitalism was.

In the post-war period there were a number of African and Latin American writings which pictured the agony of colonial conquest like the book Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galaeno. Continue reading

Questions of Freedom and People’s Emancipation, Parts 1 and 2, by Kobad Ghandy

[Kobad Ghandy, a member of the Politburo and Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was captured by Indian Intelligence Bureau on  September 17, 2009.  Initially kept in illegal detention and tortured, he remains a political prisoner in Tihar Jail, where he continues his revolutionary studies and writings, organizes Maoist classes, and joins the struggles of other prisoners against the draconian conditions they face.  The following is the first two parts of a series on freedom–its promise and the problems in its pathway. — Frontlines ed.]

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Mainstream, VOL L, No 35, August 18, 2012

[Kobad Ghandy from Tihar Jail now writes on the concept of freedom vis-à-vis present-day society as also in relation to a future just order, bringing out some causes for the failure of the erstwhile socialist states. It will comprise a series of five to six articles. —Editor]

PART I — THE CONTEXT

Communism is the return of man himself as a social, i.e. really human being, a complete and conscious return which assimilates all the wealth of previous development. Communism, as a fully developed naturalism, is humanism, and, as a fully developed humanism, is naturalism. It is the DEFINITIVE resolution of the antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man. It is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be this solution. —Karl Marx

Utopian? Maybe. Yet, it sounds like the ultimate in freedom, something toward which one could move towards, step by step. The rose of freedom in the above-mentioned garden, called by any other name, would, no doubt, smell as sweet. It may seem ironical to dream of freedom locked up in a jail within jail (the high-risk ward), with lathi-wielding cops breathing down one’s neck 24 hours a day, denied access to even the normal jail facilities. But dream one must to maintain one’s sanity under such conditions.

Yet FREEDOM… that much abused word. Freedom—around which hundreds of myths have been woven into beautiful-looking intricate webs waiting to entrap us. US, as the ultimate in freedom: free speech; free trade; free association; free thought; et al. And, if perchance we are unable to find freedom here, there is always the escape to religious illusion—moksha, to be acquired in splendid isolation. In all this are we not losing the essence of freedom?

Coming back to this jailed existence, we find some bright spots within the darkness—like the compound attached to our ward covered by a canopy of trees. I sit in silence watching the squirrels prancing around in gay abandon, and listen to the chirping of birds in the tree. Looking at them, they seem so free. But, are they really? I begin to think what really is the meaning of freedom?

My thoughts drift to the time I developed an interest in communism. It was a time in the late 1960s and early seventies when lakhs, nay millions, of youth came to a similar conclusion in their search for freedom and justice. After all, at that time one-third of the world was socialist, and, in addition, Left national liberation movements raged throughout the backward countries. One can safely say that about half the world was under the sway of communism. But today, just forty years later, when the world is going through one of its worst crisis, when the gap between the rich and the poor has never been so wide, the communist existence is insignificant. Though all the conditions exist for it, yet it is unable to captivate the minds of the youth, workers and students. The socialist countries have collapsed, the national liberation movements have been replaced, in many places, by Islamic resistance, and of the millions who have come onto the streets in the West, one can see only a sprinkling of Communists. There continue to be a few communist resistance movements, but even of these, many have collapsed, while a few continue with enormous difficulties, fighting with their backs to the wall. Sitting here in the quietude of the compound, I begin to contemplate the serious implications of what has happened. Why such a devastating reversal? What happened to our hopes and dreams of a better future? Was it to witness a mafia-type rule in the first ever socialist country, or the billionaire princelings of China, not to mention the tin-pot dictators of earlier East Europe!! Forget the autocratic rulers, why did the masses so easily choose a free market over freedom from want? If there are no clear-cut answers and also solutions, the Communists of today may continue to live ostrich-like in their make-believe worlds; but the people will go their own way. The reasons given by many an academic for the failures—lack of democracy and development of productive forces—are in no way convincing; so these have little impact on the people. If the sensitive amongst the people are unable to find answers in real life, they will once again seek solace in religion and spiritualism. As Marx put it, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual world. It is the opium of the people.” Yes, people are seeking spiritual solace from a crass-materialist consumerist opium, far more potent than earlier religions. Do we not see such a turn not only amongst the deeply alienated middle classes, but even amongst the organised working class? Communism seems no longer an attraction for the youth, as it was for us in the 1960s and 1970s.

Tracing my way back to the cell, through two locked iron gates, I feel that I am returning from the garden of paradise to the real cruel world. My musty cell brings me back to reality—recollections of my past experiences.

Images float before my eyes, some clear, some hazy. Quite naturally the first image to come is of the person with whom I had the longest and deepest relationship—my late wife Anuradha. So lively and chirpy, like the little squirrels, she was straightforward, simple, with few complexes, and her reactions were so spontaneous and child-like (not calculated and cunning). My impression was that probably her inner feelings were very much in tune with her outward reactions; as a result she was closest to what we may call a free person.

The image passes. Then others appear—of associations experienced over forty years of social activities. I could club them into three categories:

First is the Anuradha-type. Many of these (not all) would be from tribal, women and Dalit background, but would include others as well.

The second category would be those from the other extreme. Notwithstanding their dedication, they have been unable to get out of the prevalent value system, deeply embedded in their sub-conscious, and have to resort to pretences, intrigues, subterfuges, etc. to gain acceptability. Often they may even be unconscious of this dichotomy wherein their inner feelings are in deep contradiction with their outward behaviour. They therefore get entangled in a web of comp-lexes, like caged animals in a zoo. Particularly, in India, the entrenched caste hierarchy adds to the existing feelings of class superiority, creating fertile grounds for these complexities. This may not reflect in crude casteism, but gets manifested in the form of intellectual superiority, arrogance/ego, domi-nation/authoritarianism, etc.—one could call it, in its extreme form, the Chanakya syndrome.

And between these two extremes of white and black would lie the third category—the varied shades of grey: some veering towards the white, others towards the black. I would consider the majority would lie here.

My mind then switches back to myself and the present caged existence. I look out at the guards walking up-and-down through two sets of gates. It reminds me how animals in a zoo look at us humans from their cages—only they have one set of gates, and sufficient space to pace up and down. In this caged existence it is difficult to evaluate myself in relation to freedom, in the sense outlined above. But before arrest, where would I have stood? An honest self-assessment is often the most difficult, while one easily jumps to conclusions about others. Yet, a truthful self-assessment is most important, as that and that alone would be the starting point for any positive change—given that we would all be infected, to varying degrees, with the dominant values prevalent in the system. Well, I think I would place myself in the third category. One may say that this is a convenient broad categorisation. Very true! But, the important aspect here is to remember that no one is static (this applies to all categories), we are in continuous flux; the key factor here is the direction of our movement—whether it is towards white or heading towards the morass of black. This I leave to others to assess.

NOW, before coming to the CONTEXT in which FREEDOM should be viewed, a point of clarification needs to be made. The above presentation may appear as a crude pragmatic interpretation of freedom, lacking a scientific content. But, all I have sought to present is the reality. Science seeks to understand the laws behind the reality, which I will try and do in my future articles. Continue reading

India: “Terrorism” Charges Crumble in Prosecution of Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy

Thanks to Delhi Police goof-up, Ghandy cleared of charges

by Jiby Kattakayam, The Hindu

Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy. File photo

But he will face trial for assuming fake identity and forging documents

New Delhi, March 28, 2012 — Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Kobad Ghandy earned a reprieve on Wednesday when a Sessions court here discharged him of offences under the stiff Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), thanks to a defective prosecution sanction obtained by the Delhi Police. However, he will stand trial for impersonation, cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy charges under the Indian Penal Code for assuming a fake identity and forging documents. He faces a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment for these charges against life imprisonment under the UAPA charges from which he was discharged.

Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Kumar Jain said: “I am of the considered opinion that there is sufficient material on record to make out a prima facie case for the offence punishable under Sections 20 and 38 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against accused Kobad Ghandy. But since the cognisance order dated February 19, 2010, qua the offences punishable under the UAPA was not in accordance with the mandatory provisions of Section 45(2) of the UAPA, I hereby discharge accused Kobad Ghandy for the offences punishable under Section 10/13/18/20/38 of the UAPA. Similarly, I also discharge accused Rajinder Kumar for the offences punishable under Section 10/13/18/19/20 UAPA. However, there is sufficient material on record to make out a prima facie case against both the accused for the offences punishable under Section 419/420/468/474/120B Indian Penal Code.”

Ghandy’s counsel Rebecca John had pointed out that the investigating officer had violated Section 45(2) of the UAPA by not submitting the evidence he gathered to an independent authority constituted by the Central or State government, which after vetting the documents was to recommend the sanctioning authority (the Lieutenant Governor) to grant sanction for prosecution. Realising the blunder committed, the prosecution, last week, belatedly submitted a fresh prosecution sanction as per the Act in the form of a supplementary charge sheet.

“There is nothing to show that the evidence collected by the investigating officer was independently reviewed by any authority appointed by the Central government or that after review of collected evidence, such authority had ever made any recommendation to the Central government … Needless to say, the main object of imposing condition of independent review is to prevent the misuse of the stringent provisions of the UAPA by the law-enforcing agencies … Since provisions were inserted by Parliament, thus the State cannot take the plea that State was not aware of the provisions …. By obtaining the fresh sanction, prosecution is trying to cure an incurably bad sanction order, which in the absence of any provisions of law is not permissible,” Mr. Jain said.

The court said it was clear that Ghandy was an “active member” of the CPI (Maoist) and it appeared that “his role was to persuade people and exhort them for Maoism.” The court also noted that he had prepared forged documents in the name of Dilip Patel in order to conceal his identity and avoid arrest.

Mr. Jain added: “There is sufficient material on record to hold prima facie that accused Ghandy was a vibrant member of CPI (Maoist). Since the CPI (Maoist) is a declared terrorist organisation, presumption will [be] that [the] CPI (Maoist) is involved in terrorist acts. Accordingly, I am of the view that prima facie a case is made out against the accused Kobad Ghandy for the offence punishable under Section 20 and 38 of the UAPA.”

The judge further said there was no evidence on record to show that Ghandy had committed any terrorist act and hence he could not be called a “terrorist.” This finding also helped co-accused Rajinder, who was discharged for offence under Section 19 of the UAPA for harbouring a terrorist.

India: Maoist political prisoner challenges trumped up charges, forces court to question government case

Supreme Court seeks evidence against Ghandy

New Delhi, Jan 4, (IANS)

Kobad Ghandy

The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Andhra Pradesh government to prove that jailed Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy was involved in the killing of the deputy speaker of the assembly in 2005.

Narsi Reddy and 10 others were killed Aug 15, 2005 in Mahabubnagar district of the state.
Referring to the Andhra Pradesh High Court order granting bail to Ghandy, Supreme Court judges B.S. Chauhan and T.S. Thakur told counsel Mahavir Singh that the high court had said that there was no evidence against the Communist Party of India-Maoist leader.

The state government moved the apex court seeking cancellation of the bail.
When Mahavir Singh, appearing for the state government, told the court that Ghandy had confessed his role after his arrest in Delhi in 2009, the court said the statement cannot be considered evidence.

The government has been given two weeks to furnish evidence against him. Ghandy is now lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail from where he still writes for various magazines — and is known in the prison as “Gandhi Baba”.

From jail, Kobad Ghandy submits paper on inclusive growth to New Delhi seminar

Kobad Ghandy after his arrest

The Times of India,  Oct 20, 2010
NEW DELHI: Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy has been in custody in the Tihar jail for months now, but his views on development seem relevant for those trying to address the issue of inclusive growth.

Sitting in his jail ward, Ghandy, one of the senior members of CPI (Maoist) politbureau and known for his intellectual inputs to the Maoist movement, presented a paper at the National Seminar on Development on Monday.

The two-day seminar, which ended on Tuesday, also had representatives from corporates like Microsoft India and the Tata Group, who tried to find ways of development that could include the masses.

Interestingly, the seminar — organised by Forum for Promoting Inclusive Growth — that included speakers like CPI leader Sudhakar Reddy and civil society members like Sujato Bhadro among others had Ghandy’s eight-page hand written paper read out.

Apologising for not being able to write a better paper than the one that was presented for “lack of access to relevant information in jail”, he quoted profusely from government data as well as from UN reports to build his case that there is tremendous imbalance in development in the country. He quoted from the Atharva Veda and the Bible to explain the need to maintain an environmental balance while undertaking overall development. Continue reading