ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mobilisation against Communalism in South Maharashtra

in South Maharashtra A 30,000-strong 'parishad' was organised in a small village, Kini, in Kolhapur district in southern Maharashtra against communalism, against the Congress-BJP axis and pleaded for a new direction in a new agricultural development. Against the back ground of a low-key, weak response of the left in Maharashtra to the onslaught of aggressive Hindu-chauvinism and the new economic policy, this parishad stands out as a bold, welcome initiative. Baba Adhav, the noted socialist reformer, had taken the initiative in Pune to organise a rally of all democratic, secularist, leftist forces in Pune, on Republic Day this year. This national Integration March' in Pune of over 5,000 people showed that given determined efforts, people can be rallied for a secular stand. The Kini parishad has not only demonstrated this again but has gone beyond the Pune rally. It was bigger and had a wider appeal and agenda and was a rural mobilisation. Inaugurated by the famous progressive film artist, Nilu Phule, this parishad was organised jointly by a combine of a handful of left activist leaders from southwest Maharashtra. Nagnath Anna* Naikwadi, the revolutionary freedom-fighter (a member of the revolutionary 'Prati-Sarkar' group in 1942) turned leftist took the initiative. He has a charismatic image which was an important factor for the success of the parishad. This 70-year-old independent leftist leader has been the moving spirit behind and is at the helm of the famous Hutatma Ahir Sugar Co-operative factory. This is the best run cooperative sugar factory in Maharashtra aid its functioning has been quite democratic, egalitarian and free of cor ruption, mal-utilisation of funds, indifferent management, nepotism, etc. It has therefore been consistency paying a higher price for cane-sugar than any other sugar factory. In addition a good amount of money is spent on pollution prevention measures. Anna is, therefore, looked upon by many farmers as an alternative to the sugar kings and as somebody who can deliver the goods. At the instance of 'Anna' Naikwadi, the 5,000- strong general body meeting of the factory decided to launch a big campaign against communalism and sanctioned Rs one lakh towards expenses. (More and more money was subsequently sanctioned,) As a first step, on February 15, the death anniversary of Hutatma Ahir, a human-chain of 88 km was formed symbolising national integration. Enthused by the response of the people, it was decided to carry out a sustained campaign against communalisia 'Anna' was joined by a few activists of Shramik Mukti Dal; a few from the Lal Nishan Party, (the Maharashtra-based left party parallel to SUCI in West Bengal). Bharat Patankar and his colleagues of Shramik Mukti Dal had proposed that all progressive organisations in Maharashtra organise a Maharashtra-level rally against communalism and the new economic policy on the Shahid Bhagat Singh Day. But the response to this was weak, one reason being a general sense of helplessness amongst the progressive forces. But the fact that some activists, intellectuals have reservations about Bharat Patankar's attempt to drive a wedge between brahminical Hinduism and people's culture' also played its part in the uneven response to this proposal. Shramik Mukli Dal had given a call for rallying around the slogan of 'Ida Pida Tato, Baiiche Rajya Yevo' ('let the evil forces go, let Baliraja's Kingdom arrive'). Baliraja is a popular legendary king of the toiling peasants and was much glorified by Mahatma Phule. But according to some leftists intellectuals Baliraja is not a very appropriate counter-focus to the BJP's dream of *Ram- rajya'. In practice, however, this distinction between brahminical Hinduism and people's religion seem to be making a lot of sense to the people in rural areas.

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