Speech delivered by Prakash Rao, Convenor, Lok Raj Sangathan
in the Public Discussion organised by Lok Raj Sangathan on the ocassion of 60 years of Independence and
150 years of the Great Ghadar of 1857
Sixty years ago, power was transferred from the hands of the British colonialists to an interim government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
This transfer of power was the greatest betrayal of the aspirations of all the Indian people for sovereignty, for political power to determine their own destiny!
When the Indian people rose up in 1857, they demanded the elimination of firangee rule. They did not fight for the restoration of Mughal rule, Maratha rule, and Sikh rule and so on, but with the vision of a new Hindostan wherein the power would be in the hands of the insurgent people. Hum Hai iske maalik, Hindostan hamara was the slogan of the insurgents. They appealed to the different sections of the population groaning under colonial rule — artisans, peasants, zamindars, soldiers, with clear proposals about why they should join the revolution. That is, a clear plan of action, a vision of a new Hindostan, was proposed by the revolutionaries under Bahadur Shah Zafar’s leadership. This was a continuation and development of the statecraft developed by Indians over thousands of years.
The British crushed this revolt. Queen Victoria, through her proclamation of 1858 simply declared herself sovereign over the territories and peoples of India. Patriotic and revolutionary Indians never accepted this. One crore Indians were martyred in just two years of the great Ghadar – 1857-1859. Indian peoples rose in revolt time and again in the period after that, and in so many struggles, which took place in different regions of the country, despite the savage repression of the colonialists. Nagas and Kukis, Santhals and Manipuris, Bhils, Jharkhandis and Moplahs, the peasants of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Telengana, Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab — there were no people of India who did not shed their blood for freedom from firangee rule, from colonial rule. Many of these struggles lasted decades — some of them have never ended. In the course of these revolutionary uprisings the peoples put forth the idea of peasant power or people’s power or lok raj.
Why do we say that the transfer of power betrayed the aspirations of the Indian people for sovereignty, for political power?
If we study the history of development of political power in India, from the times of rigved, we find that in those times, the praja elected the raja and the raja was duty bound to defend the interests of the praja. Later on with the advance of society and the emergence of classes, the raja was no longer elected by the praja. However, the raja still had the duty to ensure sukh and raksha for the praja. And if he did not do so, the praja had the right to behead him!
Till the British colonialists took over our country, there was no private property in land. The peasants gave a share of their crops as taxes to the raja or nawab, in return for protection as well as public works. At the level of the village communities, power vested in the hands of the people. This power did not extend to the center, to the top, and there was a dichotomy between power at the base and power at the top. The British captured power at the top. Then, unlike the rajas and nawabs of the past, they went about changing the entire economic and political structure of the society to completely disempower the people. Capitalist relations were facilitated with the Permanent Settlement act and the creation of new kind of Zamindars with land converted into private property, which could be bought and sold and expropriated. The peasants were expropriated. A class of landless peasants was created. The artisans had their hands cut off and Indian manufacture was ruined. And the British established a system of rule in which all power vested with the British crown â€” the illegitimate power of the crown, which the Indian people never sanctioned and against which they rose again and again.
The rebellions of the Indian people were directed against both the capitalist plunder and the illegitimate usurpation of sovereignty by the colonisers.
Comrades and friends,
In August 1947, power did not get restored to the people of India.
India consisted of numerous nations and peoples, who had lived in harmony with one another, despite frequent changes of borders. The peoples of India rose up against colonial rule for self determination, which in some cases went to the extent of the demand for secession. At the same time, all the peoples of India were also desirous of a mutual relationship to mutual benefit, to ward off the evil aims of the imperialists.
It is very possible to conceive of a new political power wherein the India is a voluntary union of consenting peoples. Instead, even while the constitution was being written, Jawharlal Nehru, Valabhbhai Patel and the colonial army were busy crushing the Nagas, and other peoples of the North East and organising coups elsewhere as in Manipur and Kashmir. The Indian Union was built in the image of the imperialist nation states of Europe.
The Indian rulers till today deliberately call India as a nation. According to the supporters of this theory in India, if it is even acknowledged that India consists of many nations and peoples, then it will lead to break up of India as allegedly multi national states cannot exist. The question arises, why is it not possible for many nations to join together in one country, for mutual benefit? Why is it necessary to crush with force of arms, as a threat to national unity and territorial integrity, any people who raise their voice for self determination, as is the case with the Kashmiri people and some peoples of the North East?
The Constitution of India does not acknowledge the existence of nations and peoples and their rights. Instead the fundamental law swears by the unity and territorial integrity of India. It allows those controlling power to deny people their languages, their cultures, their right to live as a people, and sanctions the use of military power against the peoples who want to affirm their national rights.
If people are to be considered sovereign then they must have the power to write the fundamental law. Their human rights including the right to conscience must be guaranteed in this fundamental law. And the political system and process must ensure that power vests with the people.
If we look at what was established in India as the fundamental law, none of these have been ensured.
People have no place in framing or amending this constitution. There is no mechanism in place even to take the view of people on the Constitution. Any one opposing this constitution, on any grounds is deemed to be an enemy of the state, to be mercilessly put down.
The Constitution of India does not guarantee human rights — whether right to conscience, or right to livelihood, or national rights. It does not even guarantee democratic rights, with enabling fascist laws that deprive people of even the right to life. Anyone can be incarcerated indefinitely and tortured and killed in the name of being terrorist, naxalite, separatist, underground, militant and so on.
The political system and process ensures that majority of people are powerless in determining their own future and that of society. In fact they are kept deliberately marginalized, with their participation in the political process restricted to voting during the elections. A SYSTEM of representative democracy has been put in place, taking forward the system that was established by the colonialists to rule India, whereby political parties rule in the name of the people and act as gatekeepers to power. They prevent people from coming to power. The underlying theory behind this is that people of India are unfit to rule themselves. They need someone to rule on their behalf, someone to act as their trustee.
People are opposing entry of corporates into retail trade. Peasants are opposing take over of their lands for SEZ’s . All over Central India, people are opposing the loot of mineral resources by giant multinationals. In the cities and countryside, as well as in mountains and deserts, working class and peasantry, women and youth, adivasis, are all demanding a say in determining their own destiny. It is clear that people are not satisfied with a political process which does not allow them to decide their own destiny.
Lok Raj Sangathan considers that the time is here and now to establish a system of direct democracy in our country in place of representative democracy. People do not need some trustees to rule on their behalf. It is immaterial whether the trustee is an individual politician or a political party that claims to represent the people. A system must be put in place wherein people organized in their Lok Raj Samitis in their residential areas and work places select and elect candidates. The system must ensure that there is enabling mechanism to ensure that those elected could be recalled if the electorate felt that he or she has failed in their duty.
Lok Raj Sangathan is convinced, and our work amongst the people reinforces the conviction that the Indian people have the capacity to give rise to a system which ensures that power vests with the people. In such a system, political parties will have an important role to play — that of politicizing the people, making them conscious, organising them in defence of their rights and their power. In such a system political parties which depoliticize masses, which unleash sectarian violence to advance vested interests, must have no place. The people must decide what should be done with such parties, which strictly cannot be even called political — whether they should be allowed to exist or not.
Comrades and friends,
These days, the imperialists, the world bank, IMF and other agencies, as well as our own government are making a lot of noise about ensuring "good government".
We have no hesitation in declaring this to be a big diversion, and onslaught on the people.
This slogan of good governance is a typical imperialist and colonial slogan, something reminiscent of the white mans burden which was justification for prolonged colonial rule. The ferangees said they had to rule over Indians because Indians couldn’t rule themselves.
Queen Victoria promised "good government" to Indians after crushing them. The entire edifice of "rule of law" established in India by the colonialists after 1857 is part of this "good governance". Describing English failure to fool the people of Awadh through "good governance", Veer Savarkar, in his book on 1857, written in 1907, says — Indians do not want good government — they want their own government. It is not accidental that the nagas, when they are promised "good government" have boldly replied . We do not want "good governance" — we want our own rule.
Today, the key issue in India is all the people of India want to rule themselves. Lok Raj Sangathan is committed to organizing the peoples of India in achieving this goal. We call upon all those fighting for the rights of people to join in this endeavour. It can be done. It will be done. Sovereignty shall be restored to the Indian people.