A few days back, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held its 22nd Party Congress at Hyderabad. It was a very crucial meeting for the party, especially at a time when they are facing potentially tough electoral challenges in West Bengal from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
They have just lost their foothold in Tripura, where the BJP has secured a great victory. In November 2017, ABVP activists had marched in Kerala with 50,000 cadres against the so-called ‘murder politics’ of the CPI(M)/SFI. Even in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which was popularly known as the ‘Red Fort’, there have been significant chinks in the armour of CPI(M)’s students’ wing SFI.
And yet again, the party leadership failed to give a leadership spot to a member from the Dalit community in their 17-member apex body. Since their inception, the 53-year-old party has been unable to give proper representation to and have continuously ignored Dalit activists. Instead, it is full of people from the Brahmin, Kayastha, and upper-class Muslim communities. There is a nominal number of women and people from the OBC community.
In the 22nd Party Congress, many leaders talked about the failure to implement reservation for people from the Scheduled Castes and the rising number of atrocities against them. But, the issue of the lack of their inadequate representation in the party politburo remained unaddressed. In my opinion, their fight for social justice is just a melodrama and nothing else.
In 2015 too, a journalist had asked Prakash Karat why CPI(M)’s politburo always consisted of people majorly from upper-caste Brahmin, Nair, Kayastha communities (and some people from OBC communities) but not Dalits. Karat came up with an evasive reply: “You ask me this question on April 19 when the new politburo and central committee is in place.” Karat said that he would check the records to see if there had been a Dalit member in the party’s central committee, but he couldn’t remember a single name.
These self-styled leaders of the oppressed class are not democratic while operating their own party. They suppress the voices of dissent within the party. The CPI(M) has also been linked with perpetrating violence on their political rivals in West Bengal and Kerala. Many CPI(M) activists have been allegedly involved in the murder of people from other political parties. Moreover, since 1964, three out of five Brahmin leaders have become the general secretary of the party. It would seem as though only upper-caste people can become the members of the politburo. There seems to be no internal democracy within the party.
It’s very sad to note that the representation of the oppressed and marginalised classes in the party is indeed very low – be it at the politburo or the state committee level. This despite the fact that they seem to be great advocators of Ambedkar and Marxism (that is, ‘laal salam‘ and ‘neel salam‘ tie up here). Instead, the state committee of the CPI(M) in Kerala has a minimum Dalit representation. Most of the committee members are from upper castes.
Currently, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front is ruling in only one Indian state – Kerala. In recent times, we have also seen that the atrocities on people from the Schedule Castes are increasing daily. Though Dalit and Adivasi organisations across the state have not hit the streets openly with widespread protests, Dalit outfits state that atrocities against SC and ST communities have gone up immensely in Kerala. The killing of the Adivasi youth Madhu by a lynch mob in Attappadi was the one of the latest instances to make the headlines.
According to records available with the state government, from the time LDF government came to power till February 2018, 1,776 cases were registered for atrocities against SCs and 335 cases for atrocities against STs. Besides, the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures show that 810 cases of atrocities against SCs were registered in 2016, compared to 696 in 2015. The corresponding figure in 2014 was 712. When it comes to atrocities against STs, 182 cases were registered in 2016, as per the NCRB data. As per the data, the cases have a 92.6% pendency rate, while the conviction rate is only 7.9%. Besides, trial proceedings were completed only in 165 cases. Thirteen persons were convicted, while 152 were acquitted or discharged. The figures paint a sordid picture of the Left’s governance in the state and exposes their hypocrisy.
CPI(M) cadres seem to very active in academic and journalistic circles. They are smart enough to create their desired perception through their writings and words. They pretend to be crusaders of Dalit-Adivasi rights – but in reality, they are not. During the CPI(M)’s rule in Bengal, nearly 11% of the families there faced starvation during several months of the year – the highest among any state in India. The Left government tried to capture land from the farmers by force – and this sparked the uprisings in Singur and Nandigram.
Regarding the representation of Dalits in the party, one of the Dalit student leaders in JNU said that the party has been making a fool of the party for a long time. They took the Dalits’ votes, but in return, they have not given adequate representation to them in their party leadership. Another Dalit research scholar from the School of International Studies said that the party is only doing lip service, and have not opted for any substantive policy change within the party in favour of internal democracy. “Due to the CPI(M)’s upper-caste Brahmanical approach, people are rejecting them continuously. They are losing their electoral and ideological foothold – from JNU to Kerala. Most of the Dalits have become aware about their agenda for power.”
The author is an assistant professor at Delhi University.