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Introductory Speech by S Sudhakar Reddy, General Secretary, Communist Party of India at the Second A

Respected Dr Manmohan Singhji, Shri P Sainath, comrades and friends,

It is a moment of great pride for me as the General Secretary of Communist Party of India to invite you all to this august meeting dedicated to the memory of one of the tallest figures of the communist movement of our times Com A B Bardhan. It is all the more so for all of us assembled here as our former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who steered our great country in her turbulent days for 10 years will be delivering this Second A B Bardhan Memorial lecture on a subject of great concern for not only all of us assembled here but also for everywhere anywhere in the world as well as to all nations that cherish the growth and prosperity of our country, viz, ‘Defence of Secularism and Constitution.’

While standing between you and the learned speakers whom you have come to listen I am duty bound on this occasion as the chairperson of today’s programme to say a few words about the Communist veteran Com A B Bardhan and also to introduce the subject of today’s lecture. In today’s India when there is a BJP government remote-controlled by RSS and led by Narendra Modi, Secularism and the Indian Constitution have been pushed aside so that the hidden agenda of neo-liberal, divisive and anti-Constitutional polices can be adopted and practised to the extent that former French President Hollande is forced to reveal the details scam-smacking Rafale deal.

Without taking much of your time, let me now refer in a nutshell to Com Bardhan’s life and his more than six decades of public life that often has left remarkable impacts on the socio-economic-political life of our country. He came into politics as a student activist, became a CPI member at the young age of 15 and took part actively in the struggle for Independence along with other Communist leaders. He was a brilliant student leader of the All India Students Federation which too was a product of the freedom struggle.

From student politics, he became an organiser of the working class and till last kept his active association with the working class movement. From Nagpur where he started his activities he soon rose to a state leader of Maharashtra and without much delay became an all-India AITUC and CPI leader, along with heading national federations like that of Defence employees and employees of electricity boards. In 1996 he had to give up the post of general secretary of the AITUC as the party wanted him to become the general secretary of the CPI. He is the author of many books including on Adivasis, Minorities, Trade union problems, reservations and on crisis of capitalism.

Com Bardhan, along with other Left and Congress leaders played an important role in drafting the Common Minimum Programme, the main instrument in running the UPA – I, which in turn helped the country to march forward socially, economically and politically. Dr Manmohan Singh who headed the government, implemented the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) in letter and spirit.

Dr Manmohan Singh and Com Bardhan had the opportunity to work closely during the UPA – I government which CPI and Left supported from outside. Com Bardhan was known for his firm convictions and once committed he never used to bother about difficulties or adverse criticism.

Now at this critical juncture when the country is facing unheard of attacks by Hindutva forces, we really feel the absence of Com Bardhan who was well known as a powerful campaigner against the Hindutva forces in the post-Babri Masjid demolition period and even later. His life style was that of a Communist and a working class leader — honest and forthright with no pretence. The best tribute one can pay to him is to save Secularism and the Indian Constitution from the clutches of disrupters and throttlers of democracy.

Coming over to the subject of today’s lecture, when our country is facing the fifth and final year of Modi rule, the very idea of secular, pluralistic India, tolerant of all sects and religions is under severe threat and serious attacks targeted at turning the secular India into a Hindu Rashtra tearing off the statutes of our Constitution that oppose the moves, or changing the Constitution itself.

It should not be forgotten that our Constitution doesn’t acquire its secular character merely from the words in the Preamble and or from the amended version, but from a collective reading of many of its provisions, particularly the various fundamental rights that it guarantees. Unless one reads our Constitution in its entirety, one will not be able to fully understand what secularism really means for us and it is that salient features ingrained in our Constitution that makes it different from others.

In spite of ideological, political differences as we belong to different political parties. Major secular parties and Left need to be part of broad platform to fight fascistic trends and defend secularism, democracy and constitution. Hence we invited Dr Singh who kindly agreed to be chief guest of this evening programme.

Shri P Sainath, well known journalist, who echoed the woes of drought hit peasantry in the country, is a different type of journalist, who does not go for sensationalism. His depth on the issues of rural India reflects in his reportage. We are thankful that he accepted to be the speaker in today’s meeting.

With these humble introductory words let me now invite respected Dr Manmohan Singh to present the Second Memorial Lecture.

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