Comrade Srilata Swaminathan
(29.04.1944 – 05.02.2017)
Veteran CPIML leader Comrade Srilata Swaminathan passed away in Udaipur (Rajasthan) in the early morning of 5 February. She was 74. Comrade Srilata had suffered a brain stroke on 28th January night and was rushed to a hospital in Udaipur where she breathed her last following a cardiac arrest.
Comrade Srilata was born in Chennai on 29 April, 1944. After finishing college she came to Delhi and joined the National School of Drama and subsequently went to London to pursue her interests in theatre. But back in Delhi in 1972, her life took a decisive turn. She joined the CPIML and began organizing farm workers in Mehrauli region of Delhi. She also worked among hotel workers in Delhi. During the Emergency she was imprisoned in Tihar jail for a period of ten months following which she was interned in Chennai. For Comrade Srilata this only meant an opportunity to plunge back into trade union work among Port and Dock workers.
After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, Srilata returned to Delhi and shifted base to Rajasthan in 1978 to start working among Adivasis, women and various sections of working people from rural bonded labour and displaced people to trade unions in the mining sector and various industries. For a woman with an elite background and upbringing to adopt rural Rajasthan as her area of Marxist activism was a bold decision that typically reflected Srilata’s revolutionary zeal and political courage. Till her last breath she worked to strengthen the revolutionary Left movement and spread and defend progressive ideas and values against the deeply entrenched feudal-patriarchal forces and communal-mafia nexus in Rajasthan.
Following the early 1970s setback to the CPIML, Comrade Srilata worked for some time with Comrade Kanu Sanyal, but the rise of the IPF in Bihar attracted her attention and following the highly inspiring Delhi rally of the IPF in October 1990, Comrade Srilata joined the CPIML along with Comrade Mahendra Chaudhary, her husband and comrade-in-arms, and hundreds of other comrades. She was elected President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association in the mid 1990s. At the Varanasi Congress of the CPIML in October 1997, she was elected a member of the Central Committee, a responsibility she continued to discharge till she had to be relieved on health grounds at the Ranchi Congress in April 2013. She was also a Vice-President of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions.
Comrade Srilata was a remarkably versatile activist with great creative energy, infinite enthusiasm and strong political will. She withstood every adversity in life with characteristic resilience and powerful sense of humour. When her deteriorating health stopped her from attending the AIPWA National Conference in Patna in November 2016, she composed and sang a song for the delegates and sent the audio clip to the conference. With her wide-ranging concerns and activism, Comrade Srilata was a natural bridge between the CPIML and various streams of progressive democratic ideas and action. She had high respect for all struggles of the people for a progressive cause and had great hopes from the CPIML-led struggles in Bihar and Jharkhand. She had deep empathy for the people and felt deeply for all her fellow comrades working on various fronts.
Comrade Srilata’s illustrious legacy will continue to inspire us to carry forward the struggles of the oppressed people for dignity, democracy and social emancipation.
Red Salute to Comrade Srilata Swaminathan !
Comrade Srikishun Choudhury
Comrade Srikishun Choudhury – survivor of the Bathani Tola massacre of 1996, was the one who filed the FIR in the case and is the main petitioner in the petition in the Supreme Court against the acquittal of the killers. But he died on 8 January 2017 at the age of 50 without seeing justice in his lifetime.
Even before the massacre, Comrade Srikishun had displayed great courage in the resistance struggle against the Ranveer Sena. In the massacre he lost his wife Sundari Devi, and his two daughters Kalavati (aged 8) and Ramavati (aged 3). He never forgot that day of horror that he witnessed. As a witness to the massacre, he was repeatedly threatened by the killers but never lost courage and never turned hostile. He was heartbroken at the High Court verdict overturning the convictions secured in the lower court.
His death poses a question to the judicial system of our country, that made a victim wait for justice for over 20 years and then die without tasting justice.
CPI(ML) is committed to continuing the struggle for justice that Comrade Srikishun waged.
Red Salute Comrade Srikishun!
Comrade Baleshwar Choudhury
The TADA Act enacted during the phase of terrorism in Punjab is no longer in force, but social activists of Bihar jailed under this Act in Bihar are dying one after the other in Bihar’s jails. The government which boasts of social justice refuses to review this situation. Comrade Baleshwar Choudhury aka Pahalwan Ji was a resident of Ibrahimpur. He passed away in jail on 30 January 2017 at the age of 82. He had been in jail from 2003 for the Bhadasi TADA incident. He used to farm singharas (water chestnuts) in the Bhadasi pond when he was framed on false charges and jailed under TADA. 5 of the 14 TADA convicts have died due to negligence by the government and the administration. 9 people are still in jail. Some of them are old and some ailing. They have completed the terms of their sentences, but the government has not released them. These include Comrade Tribhuwan Sharma, Comrade Chudaman Bhagat, Comrade Dr Jagdish Yadav, Comrade Arun Bharti, Comrade Laxman Choudhury, Comrade Shyam Choudhury, Comrade Ajit Kumar, Comrade Arvind Kumar and Comrade Madho Choudhury.
Comrade Indal Mehta
Com. Indal Mehta, hailing from Arwal district passed away at the age of 65 years in jail. He had been in jail since 2003 and had been keeping ill since several days. Due to the negligence of the jail authorities he died on 10 January.
Com. Indal Mehta joined CPI (ML) in 1985 and soon became a strong voice of the workers and farmers of the region. In 1999, after the Narayanpur massacre, he was one of the leading activists to reach the site of the massacre and lead the protests. He led the struggle for capture of Gair Majrua land in Lari and made it possible for the poor to reside there. Police unleashed a brutal lathicharge on him and had him arrested. Under the instructions of the feudal forces of Belsaar village in Arwal, he was charged under TADA. He was acquitted of the charges in 2004. However, once again the feudal forces filed false charges against him. He started the campaign to inhabit the poor on Kesar-e-hind land captured by feudal goons. It is for his involvement in this movement that he was arrested on the charges of a murder of a feudal goon Lalan Yadav and was given the sentence for life imprisonment.
Com. Indal Mehta belonged to oppressed sections and had also participated in the anti-emergency agitations. Most of his political life was spent in jail. However, even inside the jail, his fight against corruption continued. He is survived by his wife and four sons. One of his brother is district committee member of Arwal unit.
His last rites were performed in his village- Sarvarpur, in which party’s Central committee member Com. Ramjatan Sharma, Kisan Mahasabha leader Com. Raamdhar Singh along with other leaders and hundreds of people from the village participated.
The ruling establishment has committed judicial murders of Com. Shah Chand, Com. Indal and several of our comrades. Even now, several of our leaders are in jail despite having served sentences. Several of them are ageing or ill and the government refuses to release them.
Com. Mehta will remain a source of inspiration. Be it jail or toiling lands, his voice always resonated against oppression and injustice.