Experience has unmistakably shown that for the Indian media the Emergency was rather a blessing in disguise. Cashing in on the immense credibility provided by the Emergency, various branches of the media have since then been experiencing an unprecedented growth, a virtual boom to be precise. Today the media men are really powerful people, greatly influencing the opinions of large segments of our intelligentsia, including the ones on the ‘left-of-the-centre’ and the ‘extreme left’.
How is the present day Indian reality portrayed in the media? There seems to be a general consensus in this regard among different branches of the official as well as unofficial media. India today is the centre of a grave conflict between two contrary pulls, they say, one piloting the country to the 21st century through national unity and computerization and the other dragging it down the way of religious fundamentalism and separatism fostered by unfriendly foreign forces. And Punjab is projected as the focus of this grim battle for the nation’s survival. To be sure, the unofficial media do also carry occasional reports of a struggle for ‘democracy’ being waged by the so called ‘regional forces with national outlook’ as well as the ‘Left’ under the common banner of ‘federalism’ and ‘parliamentary democracy’. Barring a few laudable exceptions, the media’s portrayal of the Indian reality does not go beyond this limit.
As far as the peasants are concerned, sizeable sections of them are considered to have already become ‘farmers’. And Chaudhuri Charan Singhs and Sharad Joshis are regarded as their only recognised representatives. The rest are dubbed as ‘people living below the poverty line’, ‘the weaker sections of the community’, ‘scheduled castes and tribes and other backward classes (OBCs) and so on and so forth. The plight of these official categories does also receive sensational coverage from time to time, but not so much as an object of interest in itself as propaganda-weapons used by bourgeois politicians in their bid to outsmart one another in the battle for entry into the corridors of power. And when these poor people are murdered in a cold-blooded manner, one comes across routine reports in the press attributing these deaths to police firing on ‘unruly mob’ or, simpler still, to encounters between ‘Naxalite extremists’ and the police, while the official media just do not care to report these ‘non-events’. Then there are the adivasis who are regarded in our country as some queer objects. While the media make a colourful affair of their poverty-prompted natural lifestyle and successive prime ministers find them a veritable source of amusement, leftists generally tend to forget that the adivasis are also flesh and blood peasantry and in their bid to arouse sympathy for the adivasis they often reduce their simplicity to sheer stupidity.
The disturbed liberal conscience suggests relief, reforms and civil liberties as the remedial recipe, but when it comes to politics the vision of all liberals stops at the bourgeois horizon. For them, all that matters is whether the Babu Jagjivan Rams are provided suitable berths.
This is how politics is understood by the dominant sections of our intelligentsia. Peasant struggles and their playing any significant political role are all considered things of remote past. Now, if this line of thinking was prompted by such government measures as the ‘zamindari abolition’ and other land reform acts, the green revolution and a host of schemes for the rural poor including the reforms from above initiated by the left front governments, it has been all the more reinforced by setbacks in the Naxalbari-inspiraed peasant struggles of the 70s. And the boom in studies on peasant revolts that one witnessed ‘in the wake of Naxalbari’ has finally got stuck up in the subaltern framework. The subaltern-studies, based on otherwise commendable researches, dilute the all important role of peasant rebellions as the locomotives of Indian society. And as a logical consequence of this framework, the role of the Communist Party in imparting consciousness to the ‘conscious’ peasant struggles is greeted with utter ridicule, while Naxalites are portrayed, if at all, as Robinhoods amidst the struggle of the peasants, by the peasants and for the peasants.
In such an environment a book by an M-L group? on the peasant struggle in the backward State of Bihar will perhaps be interpreted as an extension of ‘left adventurism’ to the academic field by many of our friends in the intelligentsia. Some may consider it simply irrelevant, some others may expect nothing more than jargons typical of the M-L groups and still others may apprehend exaggeration of the achievements of a particular group. In the prevailing atmosphere, all these fears cannot just be wished away and to an extent they are justified.
However, as far as we are concerned, we have wanted this book to analyse the ongoing peasant struggle in Bihar with a view to unfolding the classes standing on the foreground of this struggle, its underlying aims, the issues involved, and the policies and tactics adopted as well as to examine the chances of its survival and more specifically its role in the democratic revolution of the Indian people. The methodology followed has been, in the first place, to trace the changing course of the struggle of the Bihar peasantry in the context of conflicting strategies of freedom struggle, debates within the Indian communist movement and the government-sponsored agrarian reforms since 1947; secondly, to investigate the specific economic, social and political situation prevailing in Bihar which is responsible for the unique forms of struggle, and finally, to hint at general conclusions, to the extent possible, for the country as a whole. If anything the book highlights, it is the role of peasant struggles in shaping the destiny of our beloved motherland. Anyway, the success of our endeavour can only be judged by the extent we are able to allay the aforesaid apprehensions of our friends as well as critics.
A large number of comrades have been involved in the preparation of the book. To begin with, first-hand reports were sent by almost all the district Party organisations and these were then verified by the Central Committee members working in Bihar. Out of the mass of these scattered reports the book was then prepared by Comrade Raghu, one of the two Secretaries of the Party Central Committee and a member of the Polit Bureau, and given the final shape by the members of the Editorial Board of Liberation.
Central Propaganda Department,
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
28 July, 1986