Mumbai's Communist Party joins forces with farmers in their agitation

Mar 13, 2018, 11:44 IST | Hemal Ashar

Azad Maidan was a sea of red as the Communist Party of India joined forces with their farmer comrades, proving there is strength 'Left' in their ideology

Thousands of protesting farmers were joined by the CPI at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Thousands of protesting farmers were joined by the CPI at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Yesterday, the city woke not to Monday morning blues, but a sea of red, as the city's Communist comrades joined forces with the state's farmers at Azad Maidan. Earlier, Prakash Reddy secretariat member of the Maharashtra wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI) had stated that, "We, a sizeable number from the Left in Mumbai wanted to be at Lalbaug, near the old Morarji Mills, quite close to Bharatmata theatre, to welcome the farmers."

The choice of venue was heavy with symbolism — Lalbaug was the beating heart of the mill workers movement, led by the Communists who mobilized mill mazdoors and led militant textile strikes, which is now part of Mumbai's history But Reddy and followers had to scotch their Lalbaug plans. "We moved to Azad Maidan very early yesterday morning as the farmers had already reached the ground."

Prakash Reddy
Prakash Reddy

New symbols
On Monday morning, the CPI embraced their new comrades — thousands of farmers and members of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). The agrarian movement seems to have given the Left its moment of resurgence. "But we were never finished," said Reddy, adding, "We may not be that visible, but we are not wiped out and will continue to oppose this government, whose statements are all about confusing the people.

"It would be nonsensical to say that Communism is dead seeing the thousands of red flags today. More importantly, unlike political morchas, we have not given anyone money to come here and show strength in numbers. They are here because they are demanding their rights. We have to give voice to their concerns," finished Reddy, a Nana Chowk resident, who matched his militant red shirt to the flags and caps all around.

Charul Joshi
Charul Joshi

Numbers game
Communist ideologue Charul Joshi from Malad made his statement with a small CPI badge clipped to his white shirt. "Look at the numbers," he said pointing to the crowd, "How can the Left die out? I wanted one lakh people here, including the adivasis whose lands are being taken away on some pretext."

When asked about violence by Naxals and the targeting of innocent people, he said, "I am totally against that. Instead of bullet trains, why not extend the rail network to remote areas? What is this obsession with smart cities? Why not be smarter and do development that gives jobs to small-town India?"

'Can't bulldoze beliefs'
Joshi though did agree that there was a significant disconnect between the Left and urban areas. "I tell the Communists not to shout from the fringes, come into the mainstream." Asked about the recent sweep of the BJP in the north eastern state of Tripura on March 3, ending 25 years of Left rule and the subsequent toppling of a Lenin statue there, Joshi laughed. "What is a statue? It is a concrete structure that can be broken. What they cannot bulldoze is an idea and a belief that is in the mind," he said pointing to his forehead.

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