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Home > India > News > Report

Small state Leftists seek bigger role

Ganesh Nadar in Coimbatore | March 29, 2008 19:06 IST
Last Updated: March 29, 2008 22:40 IST

The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of India � Marxist in Coimbatore is being attended by over 700 delegates from across the country and dignitaries from 24  countries. Not surprisingly, workers from CPI-M ruled states like West Bengal, Kerala [Images] and Tripura outnumber the representatives from smaller, non-CPI-M ruled states.

Balbir Singh Dahiya hails from Haryana, where the party does not even have a single representative in the Legislative Assembly. spoke to Dahiya and learnt that the state CPI-M unit, though insignificant in terms of political seats, is quietly helping people and changing archaic caste equations.

Dahiya, a professor of Economics at the Kurukshetra University, decided to quit his job and work full time for the party approximately 31 years ago.

He was the state president of the Student Federation of India from 1977 to 1980. He is currently involved in the organisational work of the party and is also the state vice president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. He organises unions for government staffers and also industrial workers in the private sector.

He educates the union members about their rights and class consciousness. Dahiya, who is attending his seventh CPI-M Congress, has never contested an election. He says, "I work all over the state. Those interested in elections can work only in the constituency they want to represent."

The party pays him Rs 1,500 per month and Rs 400 for his phone bill. "I don't need the money. My wife Rajkumari works as the Principal of the Tikaram Secondary school in Sonepat. Those who are poor are paid more by the party," says Dahiya.

Dahiya informed us proudly that his wife belongs to a different caste. "In Haryana, people get killed for marrying in a different caste," he declared. His wife is also a CPI-M worker and is the vice president of the state women's wing. His daughter, an Ayurvedic doctor, also supports the party ideology. 

"In my organisation, I have arranged more than 500 inter caste marriages. But my son's class mates still call him a 'mixture'," said Dahiya.

Jagmati Sangwan, another delegate from Haryana, teaches in the Physical Education department of the Maharishi Dayanand University in Rohtak.

She has represented India in the 1981 Asian Volleyball championship in Seol, where she won a bronze medal.

As a student, she took part in the union activities and joined the party in 1986. She is a member of the party state committee and president of its woman's wing.

She works against caste panchayats, Dalit oppression and honour killings. "When we go about our work in an organised way, we attract a lot of people to our fold," said Sangwan.

 'The right to marry the person of your choice, irrespective of his or her caste. has to be protected. The state bureaucrats and politicians support the oppression," rues Sangwan.

According to her, the state government doesn't want to disturb the caste structure as it appeases the voters. Usually, when an inter caste marriage takes place, the caste panchayats issue a fatwa and isolate the couple and their family. "We support the couple and force the police to protect them," she says.

She narrates an incident in June 2007, when a couple was killed for daring to marry outside their community. When the boy's mother and sister protested against this brutality, Sangwan and her party workers took to the streets to support their cause.

They approached the National Human Rights commission and the Woman's Commission. Finally on March 28, after a struggle of nine months, a court issued a non- bailable warrant against Congress leader Gangaraj for the murder of the couple. 

The Haryana unit of the CPI-M also organises sports events for women. 'Betiyo ko Majbooth banao, Khel Khud mein aage lao' is their motto. Sangwan feels that women, who participate in such public events, are more self-confident. "These women also set an example for other women and young girls," she said.