By Harsh Thakor
Today we commemorate the 35th martyrdom anniversary of Comrade Baldev Singh Mann, who succumbed after waging a valiant battle against the Khalistani terrorism. On the night of 26th September he fell to the bullets of the Khalistani Commando force. He was the Amritsar district secretary of the Communist Party India (Marxist Leninist), Chandra Pulla Reddy group. and editor of party magazine 'Hirawal Dasta."His memorial meeting in his ancestral village is an annual event. Till this very day his memories shimmer in the revolutionary camp like an extinguishable flame, being amongst the most popular youth leader sever in Punjab. The Comrade was simply the epitome of the all-round skill of a revolutionary. Without doubt one of the greatest Communist leaders in history of Punjab. Mann’s martyrdom in 1986 was simply a defining moment in my life.
Mann was part of the trend in the Communist revolutionary camp that uncompromisingly challenged Khalistani terrorism and state terrorism. Later comrades belonging to the same group were martyred like Jaimal Singh Padda and Sarabjit Singh
From his very inception into the movement in his youth, he deployed every ounce of energy towards serving the people's revolutionary cause. He made an immense impact on shaping the minds of youth in his time and after his martyrdom. His powerful voice struck a chord in the broad masses, in the most challenging times. Mann took spiritual depth of a revolutionary to regions rarely transcended. He incarnated the vey soul of Solders in the Vietnam war or in the Great Patriotic war, displaying death-defying courage.
The meeting staged in his commemoration had an attendance of around 20000 people in 1986 and 1989.The memorial meeting of 1986 in his village Channa Bagga in Amritsar was most unforgettable, with a representative from every section of the Communist and revolutionary democratic camp. Mann was part of a contingent of Communist leaders who challenged Khalistani forces in their very hotbed as well as exposed state terrorism, fluttering the red flag of secular democracy. Most notable messages from party leader Darshan Singh Khatkar, Inquilabi Jantak Leh editor Jaspal Jassi, Cultural activist Gursharan Singh, Association for Democratic Rights secretary Jagmohan Singh etc. There was also a well attended meeting staged by Navnirmana Sanskritik Manch in Bombay in 1986.Movie ‘In Memory of Friend’s by Anand Patwardhan projected Comrade Mann’s martyrdom-,as a part of its theme.
A letter he wrote to his daughter is one of the most inspiring ever in the Communist movement. It is heart touching that today his very daughter Sonia Mann, an actress is resurrecting the very teaching s or values of her slain father. In spite of being an actress, she is devoting her utmost energy working in the Kirti Kisan Union, to support the farmers movement. It gives vibrations of her taking over just where her father left off. There could not have been as ripe a time for Sonia Mann intervening in the movement than today, with Hindutva fascism penetrating unparalleled proportions.
Today we need characters like Baldev Singh Mann to re-emerge, to sharpen the sword to cut the tumours of Saffron fascism growth.
I had the privilege of conversing with Comrade Darshan Singh Khatkar,who is now secretary of the C.P.I(M.L)New democracy ,and then the secretary of the Punjab State Committee of the Communist Party India Maoist. Chandra Pulla Reddy Group. He narrated the specific facts that wove around Mann's life and his role in the movement.Khatkar revealed to me that even today his group seeks no compromise and wages a bitter battle Sikh fundamentalist politics, whose infection is still prominent in his view.
It was the meticulous work of comrades like Baldev Singh Mann, which sowed the seeds for revolutionary roses to bloom in later years, like in Punjab today.The cadres of the Kirti Kiasn Union owe their orgin to people like Mann.
A very illustrative biography has been written on Harbhagwan Bhikhi. portraying the very essence of the life of Mann.
Today we need characters like Baldev Singh Mann to re-emerge, to sharpen the sword to cut the tumours of Saffron fascism growth. I suggest everyone read Mann’s letter to his daughter and the letter his daughter writes in memory of her father.
Baldev Mann was born on 9 July 1952. He was the son of Inder Singh. He lived in the village Bagga Kalan Tehsil Ajnala, Amritsar. He completed his primary education at the village school he matriculated from government high school at Raja Sansi. He then went to Khalsa College, Amritsar, where he had to face detention from the college during the time of 'the Emergency', and graduated in 1983.
While at Day College, he came in contact with the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) of Chandra Pulla Reddy -SN Singh. He organized young people in his village under the banner of 'Naujawan Bharat Sabha', a left-wing Indian association that sought to instigate revolution against the British Raj by gathering together workers and peasant youths. He galvanised it into a district-wide youth moment in Amritsar. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha crystallized into a district wide youth moment that encompassed districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Kapurthala. His work was also notable in constructing units of the Punjab Students Union. Mann displayed great skill in knitting together scattered seeds to make the movement flourish.
While at Amritsar he was held and tortured at Amritsar's interrogation center, but released in 1975.
Approximately two years before his death, Mann married Paramjit Kaur, with whom he had a daughter. She was one week old when he was murdered while on his way to his village, Chinna Bagga, in Amritsar.
Baldev Singh Mann led the drama troupe and waged a constant battle against the reactionary ideologies in the cultural sphere. The state was subjected too. He never shied away from confronting the brutality of the police head on, and voiced his dissent over the framing of innocent youths.
During the Emergency Mann was arrested for his writing was considered seditious and conflicting with that of the government. Due to torture his eyesight suffered very badly. Following his interrogation in Amritsar he was released in 1975 and cleared of all accusations, but he then plunged into the struggle for justice led by CPIML with great passion.
In 1980, comrade Mann contested for the Punjab State Assembly where he won with a resounding margin of 10,000 votes, a feat never witnessed before by the general masses. Again, during the communally vitiated atmosphere of 1985 he proved to be a strong contender for the Raja Saansi Assembly constituency. Again, in 1985, he contested for the MLA elections. He won many a heart and was labelled the 'People’s Man'.
From 1982 Mann joined the Kirti Kisan Union, a farmers organization. In 1983 Mann helped Punjabi farmers oppose increases in electricity tariffs, and led a large rally as the Kisan union leader of Punjab from CPIML. Further rallies were organised on 19 March 1983 in Chandigarh and on 9 April a second big rally was held in Jalandhar which forced the government into action. Comrade Mann played a vital role in the struggle of Punjab peasants against intolerable tariff raise for electricity in 1983, furthering his belief in his cause. In 1979, he helped Punjab Police to further the process of amending the extant policies for the better functioning of the Police forces.
In 1983 when farmers of Punjab had been financially squeezed between excessive rates of power (electricity) for their largely mechanized farms and un-remunerated for their produce, a huge campaign was organized, led by him as the Kisan Union Leader of Punjab. From March 1983 the campaign had started to spread to Chandigarh and Jalandhar and was epitomized as Punjab Kisan Lehar. Till today his contribution is not forgotten in the Chandigarh Kisan rally.
During the dark days of the Khalistan movement Mann led many a public rally or adressed many meetings, pledging for Communal Harmony. At many points he openly confronted or challenged Khalistani forces and played an instrumental role in building bastions of secular resistance in villages. His powerful voice touched the very core of the soul of the Punjab farmers, taking secular spirit to a crescendo. Mann’s voice revealed the intensity of a thunderstorm, delivering a striking blow to the enemy at it’s hardest point. He became editor of party Organ, 'Hirawal Dasta,' and directed plays to expose the communal and divisive treachery of the government and the anti-people economic policies. Plays were a strong medium of communicating with the masses and Baldev Singh made sure that his voice was heard over all the raucous the government was creating. He staged such thought provoking plays not only in the city but in villages too.
Baldev singh Mann was gunned down by Khalistani terrorists on September 26, 1990 in his native village Channa Bagha near Pakistan border.
LETTER TO DAUGHTER
He had written her an emotional letter expressing his joy at becoming a proud parent and acknowledging the difficulties she would face in the social system into which she had been born. His letter expressed the duty he felt he had to perform in following his political and social beliefs. 'I am struggling for the birth of a social order in which the shackles that enslave human beings are broken to bits, where the oppressed can heave a sigh of relief.', he wrote.
He was prescient in foretelling of his own death during his struggle to help his people. He ended his letter as follows: "My darling daughter, these few words are my message to you in this moment of your birth. I hope you will accept them and try to act according to them. These few words are the foundation of your life, to build your dreams on. Your father."
On the night of September 25, 1986, Baldev Singh Mann, a communist–activist fighting the extremists in Punjab, was killed while on his way to his village, Chinna Bagga, in Amritsar district, to meet his one–week–old daughter. Reproduced below is the letter he wrote to his daughter the day she was born.
Welcome to the world my darling daughter! I got the news of your birth from your dadi on the 18th (September 1986). While intimating to me the news of your birth, your grand–mother did not express the joy that she undoubtedly would have shown had a son been born in your place. Because you are a girl, your birth did not bring joy to our home. "So, the guddi has arrived", said your aunts in a sad tone as if nature had given me an unfair deal. Your uncles did not even speak to me today. Perhaps they think it’s best to say nothing in the circumstances. I am sure that my friends and comrades who share or empathise with my ideology will congratulate me and demand a party in celebration of your arrival.
Your dadi is surprised by the congratulatory messages she has received from your mother’s natal family. "Whoever sends congratulatory messages on the birth of a girl?" is how she sees the situation. Your dadi is saddened by the fact that I stand ‘diminished’ with your arrival; a son, on the other hand, would have ‘added’ to my status.
My darling, I am not in the least surprised by their reactions for I am aware that in the present social system a girl is considered a burden, a source of indebtedness. I had heard and read a lot on the subject. Today, I am having to live through the same experience. Perhaps your dadi is even more saddened because in her view I am unemployed and useless. So, at least, you should have been born to someone with a proper source of livelihood. This is how society has been for centuries. The enslavement of women is an integral part of the feudal, capitalist system.
Dear daughter, your father is neither a good for nothing, nor worthless. He is busy in the struggle to change the present social setup where the birth of a girl like you is greeted not with joy but sorrow. There is no doubt that even many progressive–minded people, who are regarded as path–breakers and leaders, have in their practical life behaved in much the same fashion as is to be expected from hard–core reactionaries. But I have resolved to live my life in a fashion where there is no dichotomy between word and deed.
My lovely one, it will perhaps be a long time — only after you’ve grown up — that you appreciate the ideal of my life and the struggle that I am engaged in. Perhaps I have been unsuccessful in explaining to your mother till date that I am not killing time but am in fact investing it in the fulfillment of very lofty aims. I am struggling for the birth of a social order in which the shackles that enslave human beings are broken to bits, where the oppressed can heave a sigh of relief. The struggle is on for the emancipation of starving children, of women who are forced to sell their bodies in order to feed their bellies, of workers who trade their blood for bread, of peasants groaning under the crushing burden of debts. And in this battle for a new world, your father, too, is playing his humble role.
In the times in which you have been born, Punjab stands divided along communal lines. In some places people are being killed because they do not grow their hair long enough, while in others people are being burnt alive for precisely the opposite reason. Humanity is being butchered in the name of religion. Having created divisions among people, having initiated a Holi that’s being played with blood, the Devil is having a good laugh from a distance. My baby, in the moment of your birth your father is engaged in a battle against the forces of darkness. Such forces are conniving to banish every sun that could bring light into this world.
My darling young one, it is absolutely essential to struggle against such an evil conspiracy, even at the risk of one’s own life. I cannot be certain that in this search for light, I too will not be done away with. Whatever may happen to me my little one, you will forever be proud to be born to a father who battled against the evil storm. Perhaps I will be unable to provide you with the comforts or fulfill the responsibilities that are expected of a father. But the legacy of principles I will leave behind will be precious. You are the flame of a candle that is destined to spread light. Beware, do not ever get mislead by the devils that conspire to torch homes of the poor in the name of humanity.
The struggle, the struggle of my people, is certain to end in victory. You might hopefully be spared the era of darkness in which people are today forced to live. Hopefully, the seeds of sacrifice that we are sowing today will give birth to a garden in which you can inhale the breath of freedom. Even if we are unable to win in our battle, my darling, try you must to be at the head of the caravan engaged in the battle for truth. It is far from my dream that you grow up to be a Sikh, Hindu or Muslim. Try you must to rise above such identities and be a human being. Beware, lest the humanity in you is diminished because of such divisions.
My darling daughter, these few words are my message to you in this moment of your birth. I hope you will accept them and try to act according to them. These few words are the foundation of your life, to build your dreams on.
SONIA MANN WRITES IN THE MEMORY OF HER LATE FATHER COMRADE BALDEV SINGH MANN
June 16, 2020
Amritsar,16.06.20-My father, Comrade Baldev Singh Mann, a left-wing activist of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), brutally murdered by Khalistan movement extremists, way back on September 26, used to edit Hirawal Dasta, a revolutionary journal.
He worked for the society throughout his life, without even caring about his own safety and security. He never bowed before the power that be and kept his head high and chest puffed with pride and dignity. Even as he was tortured by the so called law enforcers in the name of maintaining law and order. He fought for peasants of Punjab and every farmer today takes his name with high regard and salutations.
The literature he left behind is full of knowledge which shares his experience while dealing with the contemporary evil socio-political forces. He used to say, “In the process of social development, the revolution proceeds through different stages and struggles. We aim at the establishment of a society without class and without exploitation, towards socialism and communism.”
He taught that, “the historic goal of the working class of India, as well as of the whole world, is to establish socialism and communism in the world as a whole.”
Once was I was going through one of his articles, which mentioned about the “Great October revolution”, which was nothing but an inevitable outcome of the revolutionary struggles of the international proletariat and the people and the Great Chinese Revolution was the continuation of that process.
Mr Mann was of the view that the Indian Revolution too is an inseparable part of the revolutionary struggles of the international proletariat and the people.
He asserted that without the correct class analysis of the objective conditions of the whole world and of world politics and economics, that is, the correct class analysis on the basis of Marxism-Leninism of the fundamental contradictions of the contemporary world and their mutual relations and influences, it is impossible to make a correct appraisal of the international situation and of the internal situation of India, it is impossible to formulate the general line determining the main direction of the revolutionary struggles of the working class and the people of all countries or to realize its significance, and it is also impossible to determine in conformity therewith, the correct strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution.
Hence, he viewed the concrete objective condition of India and the question of the Indian revolution should be judged only in the light of the international situation and the revolutionary struggles of the people of the whole world. India, a vast country inhabited by about 1.5 billion people, rich and abundant in natural wealth, is one of the strongest bases of imperialism.
The success of the new democratic revolution of India and the establishment of a people’s democratic state in India will play an important role in accelerating the world proletarian revolution and will signify an important historical advancement towards the establishment of a new world free of imperialism, capitalism and the exploitation of man by man.
He visualized the contemporary Indian society to be semi-colonial and semi-feudal under neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation, and control.
I got to learn from his writing about how the British colonialists conquered India in the second half of the 18th century and capitalism was beginning to develop in the womb of feudal society in our country. The British colonialists arrested the independent development of capitalism and the Indian society was transformed from feudal to colonial and semi-feudal. In 1947 the colonial and semi-feudal society was transformed into a semi-colony.”
Thanking Comrade Darshan Singh Khatkar for facts. and for homage publication in 1986 of C.P.I.(M.L.)