(Text of the speech delivered by Vinod Mishra at the Third National Conference of AISA)
As I rise here to speak and look at your bright faces, faces shining with determination, I visualise the beaming image of the young hero, Chandrashekhar that overwhelms this auditorium. Chandrashekhar became a martyr, far away from the glamour of Delhi, in the street of an obscure town of Siwan. He had a promising career before him but he preferred to live and die as a revolutionary. His decision didn't come out of any spontaneity, or as an emotional response. It emerged out of his deep faith on the revolutionary ideology of Marxism, on the revolutionary party and his deep commitment to the cause of people. Once in discussions with me he appeared quite concerned about lack of emphasis on the study of Marxism, on ideological orientation in JNU AISA. So he wasn't a romantic revolutionary but a vanguard conscious of his mission.
Comrade Chandrashekhar is no longer with us but his killer the notorious Shahabuddin is sitting in parliament. CBI enquiry that was instituted to investigate Chandrashekhar's killing has been abruptly stopped and Sahabuddin is moving scot-free. BJP government at the centre doesn't seem to be interested in pursuing the investigations and one doubts whether some kind of clandestine deal has been struck at the high levels! It is, therefore, an important task before AISA and before the student and youth in general to continue your agitation till the guilty is punished. In this context it is important to continue the popular movement to drag him out of parliament Let Chandrashekhar's memory remain alive in your hearts and let it guide you in completing his unfinished tasks.
AISA more than a formal organisation is a movement in making. It wasn't formed from any closed-door party meeting just as the party's wing. It emerged out of the revolutionary stream of the student movement and that's why it is so different from the crowd of student organisations. Under the guidance of the revolutionary ideology it charted out it's own course of action and deepened its roots in several parts of the country particularly emerging as the foremost left student organisation in the Hindi heartland. In 70's we had a powerful revolutionary student-youth movement that rocked West Bengal and affected almost all campuses. In those days no formal student organisation was there and nor did we contest union elections. Campus issues were hardly taken up and it was the call for direct action for plunging into the great battle of social and political transformation. And yet there was a tremendous response. Well, the situation has radically changed in all these years. You have a formal organisation, you contest, and quite vigorously too in the student union elections and also you pay much of your attention on campus issues. All these are important no doubt but you should not get bogged down in them. Once the organisational paraphernalia of high ranking leaders, the constitutional formalities and the rigidity of structure becomes dominant you often turn introvert getting bogged down in internal bickering, in hankering after posts, in factional squabbling and tend to lose the movemental edge. AISA has been a movement and an important challenge before the new generation of AISA leaders and cadres is, therefore, to keep alive this phenomenon.
You have before you a number of challenging tasks in present day conditions.
India as a free nation began its journey with the high sounding slogans of socialism, land reforms, secularism etc. but after fifty years we find all of them replaced by the slogan of building a theocratic state, a Hindu Rashtra. This is a great tragedy that has befallen the country after half a century of the demise of colonial rule. The forces who had risen in recent years on Mandalite and the federal plank and were hailed as the antidote to the saffron project have themselves fallen from grace. For example, here in Bihar, the so-called forces of social justice under the leadership of Mr. Laloo Yadav have turned Bihar into a veritable lumpen raj. As a result while students and youth as well as the working classes remain divided on caste and regional lines, the march of saffron continues unabated and often on the fodder supplied to it by these very regional and Mandal forces. It is AISA's duty to rebuild the student unity cutting across caste, communal and regional divide. You have to forge the student unity on an all India scale a unity that can reshape the future of the country.
Secondly, we have seen the Vajpayee government blatantly changing the course of India's foreign policy and working for turning India into a stooge of American imperialism. Government, the other day, justified US missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan. After Pokhran tests the PM in his letter to Clinton had proposed a strategic tie-up with America against China and Islamic countries. They are also contemplating signing CTBT. Despite Swadeshi rhetoric the pace of mortgaging the country's economy to the multinationals has only become faster. It is the foremost duty of AISA to mobilise students in anti-imperialist struggles.
Thirdly AISA must stand in solidarity with all democratic struggles and oppose all anti-people policies irrespective of whether the colour of the government is saffron, green or even red.
Finally, I would like to remind you that the movement of 70's had a passion, a determination to weed out all that was old, all that was rotten and bring about a radical social change. We were in a hurry those days and our preparations were almost nil. What we thought of revolution turned out to be a rehearsal only. Those days are over. You are proceeding through a different route and that is okay. Yet, in a nutshell combining the revolutionary spirit of the 70's with the realism of the day is the foremost task before you and I am confident that this conference will ponder over this question.
AISA is the name of a glorious chapter of the revolutionary student movement of this Decade and students feel pride in identifying themselves with AISA. The tasks assigned to you are not merely party's decisions and are neither mechanically worked out. They are the tasks assigned to you by the history itself and you must prove yourself equal to them.
In tune with our Parry's rich tradition of organising nation-wide campaigns against the principal enemy we organised an 'Oust saffron Save the nation' campaign in the later part of the year.... Though the campaign has ended, the exposure of various facets of BJP rule should go on unabated. We should particularly focus on its economic doctrine of wholesale globalisation and that of capitulation to international financial interests. Its gimmick of Swadeshi is thoroughly exposed and it is high time that the left forcefully espouses the cause of a self-reliant economy. December 11 action of the working class was a highly significant move in this direction. We have to take a much larger initiative among the working class where the ice has started melting and we have started getting a better response. It's an opportune moment to politicise the working class movement and our trade union leaders should go for less paper work and more direct interaction with the workers.
As the political situation is turning topsy-turvy and one cannot rule out the possibility of yet another mid-term poll in the year 1999, the party must remain fully prepared for any eventuality. Hence all our mass organisations, particularly the youth front, should take bold initiatives on all issues of people's concern and strive to march ahead of all others. The days of closed-door conferencing are over. This is the time for all round initiatives. In history the issues of major significance are only resolved on the streets. …
A strong communist party firmly upholding the red banner of revolutionary Marxism, a powerful movement of the rural poor and an all-round initiative against the designs of the saffron power are the three major challenges before us in this year. Social democrats as well as the anarchists of all hues are facing serious internal disorders due to faulty tactical lines and every advance we make will further destabilise them and establish us at the head of the left movement. Such a development is absolutely essential for building a democratic front that is really a people's alternative in contrast to various versions of bourgeois alternatives.