Comrade Kardam Bhatt (Vikas) died of a heart attack on the 2nd of February. He was 62 years old. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. Kardam, then a post graduate student, was one of the leading activists of the Nav Nirman agitation that shook up Gujarat in the early 1970s. Though initially focussed on fee rise and similar issues it soon broadened into a movement against inflation, corruption and nepotism. It drew in a whole new generation of student and youth into politics and social activism. Kardam’s interests deepened to an awareness of the anti-people social system as such and he became a Marxist.
Soon enough he was attracted to its leading edge of Maoism. Following the withdrawal of emergency he, along with some other associates, came into contact with the Reorganisation Committee, CPI (M-L) [later renamed as Central Reorgnisation Committee, CPI(M-L)] and became a professional revolutionary. He became a member of its highest body and secretary of its State Committee and remained so till the liquidation of that party in 1991. Kardam, with the able support of a close comrade Aswin Desai (since deceased), launched a magazine ‘Mukti Jung’. This publication, that continued till it was suppressed in 1984, played a big role in spreading the revolutionary message of Maoism all over Gujarat. The State unit of the CRC, CPI (M-L) led by Kardam was active in mill workers, Dalit, and womens issues. Kardam was a good singer and dramatist.
He applied these qualities in a creative manner in his political work. The occasions where his rendering of the Gorakh Pandey’s revolutionary Bhojpuri song ‘Hillele Jagh Jor Duniya’ (The world is shaking…) and agitational song ‘Bol Mere Sathi Halla Bol’ (Come comrade, lets start the attack..) roused and steeled people in struggle were numerous. Kardam played a very important role in the agitational group sent by the CRC, CPI (M-L) to Bhopal in the wake of the Union Carbide gas massacre of 1984. He stayed there for months together to build the movement against the Union Carbide. Later he had a special role in the 1990 diamond workers strike in Mumbai. Kardam was a major contributor to the study group formed by the CRC, CPI (M-L) tasked with preparing a resolution on Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s contributions.
In this period he consistently advanced his anti-Brahmanic understanding and developed a sharp awareness. In particular, he undertook an exhaustive critical study of Brahmanic aesthetics, such as the criticism of Bharatha’s Natya Shastra. He ably demonstarted how the assimilative mode of suppression exercised by Brahmanism was Bharatha’s real organising principle, how all the art forms he claimed to have originated from Brahmanic deities were in fact peoples’ forms emerging from a totally opposite basis. This study served him well when he later went to Keralam and guided and participated in the development of the drama, ‘Shambookan’, incorporating folk forms. This was also a unique experiment in theatre.
He stayed in a Dalit colony for nearly a year to carry out this project. The conceptualisation, script, dramatisation and the actors were all forged through a lively interaction, living and working together. But the CRC leadership had started to openly flaunt its liquidationist intentions by this time. Kardam was one of those who stood firm against this. This led to his becoming the victim of isolation and calumny which caused him great hurt. The formal liquidation of the CRC,CPI(M-L) in 1991 drove in the final nail and this drama project which had great potential to become a new trend setter had to be abandoned. Kardam went back to Gujarat, grievously disappointed at having to abandon what had become a life-project. Now, back in Gujarat, there was no organised party with him.
But he was never broken in spirit. He got involved in local issues keeping close touch with all oppositional movements in Gujarat. This he would continue till the very end. He was in the forefront in mobilising public opinion against the genocidal attack on Muslims in 2000 and in resisting thegrowing Brahmanic fascicisation. When the Maoists who had resisted CRC liquidationism joined to form the Maoist Unity Center, CPI (M-L), Kardam was part of it. He played a role in the critical evaluation of the CRC. He later retired from active party work but remained a close sympathiser of the CPI (M-L) NAXALBARI.
At a crucial time of its being attacked by the state he bravely came forward to assist it and shouldered the task of keeping in touch with the comrades in jail. He continued to help the Maoist movement to the best of his capacities. Kardam Bhatt was many things. This wonderful person is now gone. He leaves behind memories of a creative revolutionary artist, an implacable foe of reaction and steadfast server of the people, street fighter, organiser and propagandist, a comrade warm in caring, a loving husband, father and friend.
Central Organising Committee,
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
NAXALBARI February 28. 2014