On the occasion of the 164th Anniversary of the Great Ghadar:

The Struggle continues for People to become the Master of India

It was on the 10th of May, 1857, that soldiers of the British Indian Army at Meerut Cantonment revolted and marched to seize Delhi. That was the signal for revolts against the rule of the British all over the subcontinent.

The soldiers who seized Delhi appointed Bahadur Shah Zafar as the representative of a new political power. A Court of Administration (Ghadar Committee) was formed in Delhi, consisting of both civilians and army soldiers, whose decisions were binding on the king. Similar courts were formed in Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi and other places.

Bahadur Shah explicitly declared that he had been placed on the throne by the people and was bound by their will. Arguing that British rule had no legitimacy and must be eliminated; he said, “as for the future, the people of India will decide”.

The Ghadar of 1857 was the greatest war of the 19th century in terms of geographical scope and numbers of people involved. It was a revolutionary uprising of soldiers, peasants, artisans and patriotic kings and queens of various parts of the country. People united across religion and caste against the hated Company Raj.

The British rulers were terrified by the fact that Indian people had united in spite of all their efforts to set Hindus and Muslims against one another. After crushing the uprising and unleashing brutal repression, the British Raj spread the lie that it was a “revolt of the Mussalmans”. They called the Ghadar a “sepoy mutiny”, so as to hide the widespread participation of people from all walks of life.

The Indian bourgeoisie, which took the place of the British rulers in 1947, has continued to spread disinformation about 1857. The ruling class does not want the people to draw inspiration from their revolutionary traditions and advance their struggle to become the masters of their own destiny. Following the line of British historians, the Indian bourgeoisie has spread the notion that the Ghadar of 1857 was a “feudal reaction”, implying that it was the resistance of old rulers to the modern system introduced by the East India Company.

It was not the king, Bahadur Shah, who was directing the insurgent people. On the contrary, the mass uprising compelled the king to stand by his people. The establishment of a people’s council whose decision was binding on the king was something entirely new. It was profoundly democratic and thoroughly revolutionary. On the other hand, the British Indian State, based on the theory of white man’s burden, was thoroughly reactionary. It was designed to preserve the caste hierarchy and everything backward from our past, to keep the people divided and enslaved.

The Ghadar of 1857 articulated a political goal that galvanised peoples of different nationalities, tribes, castes and religious beliefs. The insurgents declared: Hum hain Iske Malik! Hindustan Humaara! {Hindustan belongs to us! We are her Master!}

Who were these insurgents? They were soldiers, peasants and artisans. They were supported by numerous poets, artists and scholarly persons, including pundits, maulvis and priests. The soldiers were mostly from peasant families. The Ghadar of 1857 represented a powerful assertion by the masses of toiling and patriotic people that this land belongs to us and we are her master.

The problems that Indian society faces today have their root in the fact that the workers, peasants and other patriotic people did not become the master of independent India in 1947. This position was usurped by traitorous capitalists and landlords, headed by the Tatas, Birlas and other monopoly houses.

The common fear of revolution brought the Indian and British capitalists and their politicians together. They struck a deal whereby the white men were replaced by representatives of the Indian bourgeoisie, while the economic and political systems continued to operate.

The 1950 Constitution was for the most part a reproduction of the 1935 Government of India Act, passed by the British Parliament. As a result, everything backward from the past has been perpetuated. Decision making power remains concentrated in very few hands. The vast majority of people are reduced to a marginal role, treated as vote banks.

The capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses, has been setting the agenda for Indian society ever since 1947. The ruling class uses elections to settle inter-capitalist conflicts and decide which of its trusted parties is best suited to implement its agenda and deceive the people for the next five years.

We, the workers, peasants, women and youth, have nothing to gain by defending the existing State, the existing system of parliamentary democracy and its political process. We have everything to gain from fighting for the vision of the Ghadaris – that is, to lay a new foundation for Indian society, a new State of workers’ and peasants’ rule, committed to ensure prosperity and protection for all. The new state must be based on a Constitution that respects and guarantees human rights and democratic rights, including national rights within the Indian Union. We need a new human-centred orientation for the economy, replacing the existing inhuman capital-centred orientation.

For the working class, toiling peasants and all other hardworking and patriotic people of our country, the Ghadar of 1857 and its clarion call, “Hum hain iske malik!” remains a compelling call to action. It is a call to work wholeheartedly for the Navnirman of India – for a new State and political process based on the principles that sovereignty belongs to the people; and that the State is duty bound to ensure prosperity and protection for all.

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