Communist Movement in Kashmir
n 1947, the major regional political party in Kashmir was National Conference. A few of its young and enthusiastic members, having received higher education in institutions outside the State, had come into contact with some people of progressive thought and outlook there. These young people played a prominent role in maintaining the democratic and secular direction of this major political Party The National Conference; and, in the process they come to be identified with a small group within the Party, who had a progressive thinking. In December 1948, a section of this progressive group within the Party was ousted. They were accused of being audacious enough to criticise the Shaikh (Muhammad Abdullah) for behaving in an autocratic and dictatorial manner. After its ouster, this small group of youngmen started working separately and opened a bookshop at Miasma in Srinagar, where communist and other progressive literature was sold. Later on they shifted this shop to Gadha Singh Building in Lal Chowk (Srinagar) and its management was entrusted to one, H.N. Durani. This small group formed the first nucleous of the State Communist unit. The unit organized peasants under “Gris Gand” (Peasant Unity) and the youth under Students’ Federation and Democratic Youth League. But group merged with the National Conference again after the arrest and dismissal of the Shaikh in August, 1953.
Following Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah’s arrest, National Conference was naturally weakened. In its struggle for resurgence, there appeared cracks in it. This culminated in the crisis of 1957 general elections. The prominent members of progressive group left the National Conference alongwith their followers. They formed into a new party called the ‘’Democratic National Conference ‘’. The new party adopted a plough with three bars on red background as its flag and started an official newspaper, “Jammu Sandesh”. The Democratic National Conference functioned smoothly as a party in opposition till 1960, when majority decided to merge with the parent organization- National Conference. A few of the members of the Democratic National Conference did not, however, reconcile themselves to this reunion and formed another new partly called the “Democratic Conference”, with Ram Piara Saraf as its General Secretary. The party aligned itself with the Communist Party of India. Subsequently Ram Piara Saraf became a member of the National Council of the CPI from the Jammu and Kashmir State. Krishen Dev Sethi and Ghulam Mohammed Malik became provincial secretaries from Jammu and Kashmir provinces respectively. A general meeting of the party was held at Samba in the middle of 1960 in which the party flag was changed from plough and three bars with red background to red flag with hammer and scythe, and a State Committee was formed. The weekly “Jammu Sandesh” was taken over by this party with Ram Piara as its printer, publisher and editor.
The party could not make much headway in 1960-61. No doubt, in Jammu province it tried to penetrate into the government low-paid employees, labourers, peasants, teachers and refugees. In 1962, the party participated in general elections in Jammu province , but failed to win any seat. However, party boycotted the elections in Kashmir province for unknown reasons.
In 1963-64, the party activities remained confined to peasants only, and its leaders and workers devoted themselves in reorganising “Kisan Sabha”, which had been formed earlier. The party could not make any appreciable impact because the jagirdari system had been abolished long back under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act of 1950 in the State. Abdul Kabir Wani joined the party in June 1964, on the persuation of Ghulam Mohammed Malik and became a prominent functionary in the “Kashmir Kisan Sabha”.
By the end of 1964, the Communist Party of India was split into two, and a separate all India party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), was formed. This development had its direct impact on the Democratic Conference. Ram Piara Saraf changed his allegiance to the newly formed party- Communist Party of India (Marxist) and his party also become affiliated to it. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had become pro- Chinese and the Democratic Conference also harboured pro- Chinese sentiments. The State government was perturbed with the activities of Democratic Conference and arrested Ram Piara Saraf, Kishen Dev Sethi, Ghulam Mohammed Malik and Abdul Kabir Wani. However, they were released by the end of June 1966. It was during these days that CPI (R) came into existence in the State. A sizeable numbers of workers left the Democratic Conference, particularly in Kashmir province and joined CPI (R). To establish this party here, Z.U. Ahmad also made frequent visits to the State. This dealt a serve blow to the Democratic Conference. However, efforts were made to rejuvinate the party Democratic Conference, and a meeting was held in Jammu in June- July, 1966. Harkishen Singh Surjit, a CPI (M) activist from Punjab, also participated in this meeting; and the decision was taken to change the composition of the party. Provincial Secretary’s post was abolished and instead District Committees were formed, holding them directly responsible to the State Central Committee. Ghulam Mohammed Malik, Abdul Kabir Wani and Ghulam Mohammad Lone were appointed the Secretaries of Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla districts respectively. Krishnan Dev Sethi, Mehta Bagwandas and Ved Paul Deep were elected the district secretaries in Jammu province. A State Central Committee was also formed with Ram Piara Saraf as its General Secretary. The other members elected for the Central Committee were: Krishnan Dev Sethi, Ghulam Mohammad Malik, Abdul Kabir Wani, Nahar Singh and Ved Paul Deep.
In 1967, the Democratic Conference also participated in the Assembly Elections in accordance with the programme of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The party contested five assembly seats in Kashmir and one parliamentary seat in Jammu. Its election manifesto was on the same lines as that of the CPI (M) in India. However, it could not get even a single seat. This failure dealt a severe below to the party , frustrating its leadership and making most of its workers and sympathisers inactive. Following the setback in the elections and the zero response of the masses, a meeting of the Central Committee was convened at Jammu in June- July, 1967, to review the party position. In this meeting decisions were taken to offer active support to the low-paid government employees in their struggle for pay revision and further to organize the peasantry on revolutionary basis. Formation of “Kisan Sabha” to facilitate an awakening was also decided. Subsequently “Kisan- organizations” were formed at different places in Kashmir province. Abdul Kabir Wani was made incharge of all peasant activities in the State. In the opinion of State Administration , it was an effort in political strategy and opportunism.
The Democratic Conference leaders instigated the low- paid government employees and the government school teachers to go on a “Pen down” and “Chalk down” strike. The government acted firmly and arrested some prominent leaders. Ghulam Mohammad Malik and other were rounded up. Ram Piara Saraf and Krihen Dev Sethi went underground. But the agitation proved abortive and fizzled out. Ghulam Mohammad Malik and some others were released in early 1968.
In 1968, certain differences developed inDemocratic Conference. A meeting was held at the house of Ram Piara Saraf at Samba. Besides discussing the party issues, a decision to mobilize the peasantry for resisting the fertilizer advance recovery was taken. The “Kisan Sabha” workers were directed to wrest the initiative in this connection from the Jana Sangh, which also had decided to organize resistance in rural areas. But the inner party differences continued in Democratic Conference to wreck it from within and these came to a point of split, through not openly, with Ghulam Mohammad Malik and Abdul Kabir Wani opposing each other. The Central Committee, however, continued to work as one unit. The party leaders, after breaking off their links with Communist Party of India (Marxist) which they dubbed as revolutionist, adopted the following programme:
This programme was drawn up in the light of what naxalites preached and practised in those days. By May 1969, Democratic Conference had adopted the naxalite approach to work out subversive programme. Ram Piara Saraf and Krishen Dev Sethi went to Calcutta, met the Communist Party of India (Marxist-L) leaders and expressed their allegiance to them. A number of secret meetings were held by the leaders of the party. One such meeting was reported to have been attended by Charu Mujamdar of Bengal, the Communist Party of India (MarxistL) Chief, in a forest close to village Sikri in Samba in May 1970. It was attended by almost all the party leaders. Ram Piara Saraf explained the party programme in the meeting and said that they require three categories of volunteers and workers. These were:
Revolutionaries were to engage themselves directly in armed struggle. Whole-time workers were to propagate the ideas of Mao among the peasants and other working classes for organising an armed revolution; and, to enrol the sympathisers for the party. The sympathisers were to provide shelter and food to the revolutionaries and collect funds for the party. The revolutionaries were to be sent for guerilla training some where outside the State. On the completion of this training, they were to be supplied arms and ammunition for carrying out revolutionary activities in the State.
It was also decided by the group members to continue their struggle against the imperialist and feudalist powers. The party also decided not to enter into any electoral alliance with any political party in general elections (1972). It even accused the Soviet leadership as defective and in collusion with the American foreign policy. The policies of China were appreciated as being in live with the true communist doctrines. It was in July 1970 that the Party had started publishing a monthly magazine, “Nukta Nazar”.
*Dr Satish Ganjoo was born on May 1, 1956, to Shree Omkarnath Ganjoo and Smt Sheela Ganjoo in the Saffron Valley of Kashmir. He obtained the coveted academic degrees of M.Phil (1983) and Ph.D (1987) in Modern History and International Relations from the University of Kashmir. He held the distinguished faculty position in Govt. Degree College, Baramulla (Kashmir), Centre for Advance Study in Education and Technology, Srinagar (Kmr), CASET Post Graduate Evening College, Srinagar (Kmr) and the Centre of Central. Asian Studies, University of Kashmir. Now he is working as Head and Senior Faculty Member at the Post Graduate Dept. of History, Ramgarhia P G College (GNDU) Phagwra (Pb), with the additional charge of the Dept. of Computer Sciences and Information Technology. |
Dr. Ganjoo developed the excellent potential for research and published a number of books on diverse topics of history, politics and international relations. Ignoring the pain and agony of migration from his motherland because of political turmoil, he exclusively worked on Islamic Studies with all devotion and dedication. His widely acknowledged books include :
1. Afghanistan’s Struggle for Resurgence
2. Soviet Afghan Relations
3. Kashmir Politics
4. Muslim Freedom Fighters of India (in 3 vols)
5. Economics System in Islam
6. Glimpses of Islamic World
7. Prophet Muhammad
8. Wailing Shadows in Kashmir (Anmol Publications, New Delhi)
9. Dictionary of History firstname.lastname@example.org
Besides Dr. Ganjoo is involved in different interdisciplinary research projects, participated in several seminars and wrote about sixteen research papers. His name was recommended for the Soviet Land Nehru Award (1991) and received recognition from prestigious NGOs --- Rashtriya Gaurav Award (2004), Best Citizen of India Award (2005), Vijay Shree Award (2005). He is the member of the Arts and Social Sciences Faculty, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; and, the life member of the Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society.
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