Friday, November 17, 2017

Alandi pilgrimage and Saint Dnyaneshwar

Alandi,, is the pilgrimage centre famous for the samadhi of the great Maharashtrian Saint Dnyaneshwar. Pics below seem to be of the annual pilgrimage there around this time of the year.

Above pics courtesy:

A few Maharashtrian friends of mine during my Mumbai and Dombivli days, told me about their love and adoration of Dnyaneshwar,,13th century (1275-1296) Maharashtrian saint, especially his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita called Dnyaneshwari. I was exposed to Marathi books of Dnyaneshwar, including Dnyaneshwari and Amruta Anubhav (a good friend had given me a copy of Amruta Anubhav). As my Marathi reading and understanding was rather slow, I was able to read only part of these great works and not be able to benefit as well as I wanted to, from these great and sacred works which are treasured by Maharashtrian Hindu devotees, especially those whose path involves a lot of reading and contemplation of Bhagavad Gita and other philosophical scriptural treasures of the Hindus.

But the story of the ordeals and achievements of the four siblings: Nivruttinath, Dnyaneshwar, Sopan and Muktabai is well known to Maharashtrian Hindus and which I too learned about, and benefited from. The above wiki page has some references to it.

Some decades ago, I was blessed to visit Alandi and worship at the samadhi of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj.

I found these pics of Alandi at the time of the pilgrimage this year to be very enjoyable which bring to life the awesome depth of devotion to God of the Varkari Maharashtrian Hindu devotees. Maharashtra is a land of great devotion with Dnyaneshwar and his samadhi at Alandi being two important symbols of this great devotion to God.

Dnyaneshwar Maharaj ki Jai!

Monday, November 13, 2017

What does the economic and military rise of communist China mean for religious people and for freedom of religion, in Asia and in the world?

Last updated on 15th Nov. 2017

China's economic and military rise in the world

In the past few weeks, right from the 19th Communist Party of China Congress in Beijing, to USA President Trump's recent visit to China, there is a lot of discussion about the economic and military rise of China and what it means for the world, in international media and among noted commentators and political leaders (like former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, who now heads Asia Society, an Asia policy think tank in the USA, Mr. Rudd, who seems to be a strongly pro-China person, seems to have the view that the international order is changing from the post World War II USA dominated international order, and that China is going to become a major force in the new international order, not only in Asia but also in the world.

In particular, Mr. Rudd seems to be very supportive of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (aka One Belt One Road, OBOR) which is promoted by China. Given below are some extracts from its wiki page,

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, better known as the One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR), The Belt and Road (B&R) and The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy proposed by China's paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People's Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the oceangoing Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network. It was unveiled in September and October 2013 for SREB and MSR respectively. It was also promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during the state visit to Asia and Europe and the most frequently mentioned concept in the People's Daily in 2016. It was initially called One Belt and One Road, but in mid-2016 the official English name was changed to the Belt and Road Initiative due to misinterpretations of the term one. In the past three years, the focuses were mainly on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.

Practically, developing infrastructural ties with its neighboring countries will reduce physical and regulatory barriers to trade by aligning standards. Additionally China is also using the Belt and Road Initiative to address excess capacity in its industrial sectors, in the hopes that whole production facilities may eventually be migrated out of China into BRI countries.

A report from Fitch Ratings suggests that China's plan to build ports, roads, railways, and other forms of infrastructure in under-developed Eurasia and Africa is out of political motivation rather than real demand for infrastructure. The Fitch report also doubts Chinese banks' ability to control risks, as they do not have a good record of allocating resources efficiently at home, which may lead to new asset-quality problems for Chinese banks that most of funding is likely to come from.

The Belt and Road Initiative is believed by analysts Tom Miller, Christopher Balding and Chenggang Xu to be a way to extend Chinese influence at the expense of the US, in order to fight for regional leadership in Asia. China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to improve their basic infrastructure, with implications for China's trade regime as well as its military influence. China has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India – it was the 17th largest in 2016, up from the 28th rank in 2014 and 35th in 2011, according to India’s official ranking of FDI inflows.

Analysis by the Jamestown Foundation suggests that OBOR also serves Xi Jinping's intention to bring about “top-level design” of economic development, whereby several infrastructure-focused state-controlled firms are provided with profitable business opportunities in order to maintain high GDP growth. Through the requirement that provincial-level companies have to apply for loans provided by the Party-state to participate in regional OBOR projects, Beijing has also been able to take more effective control over China's regions and reduce "centrifugal forces".

--- end wiki extracts ---

An interesting but a few months old article in the New York Times on this initiative: Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order,, 13th May 2017. The article states, "The initiative, called “One Belt, One Road,” looms on a scope and scale with little precedent in modern history, promising more than $1 trillion in infrastructure and spanning more than 60 countries."

The article has the view that China is using this intiative to help achieve a new global order with strong Chinese influence that will replace the post World War II global order/rules based order dominated by USA and other Western nations. It views the plan as more audacious than the Marshall plan of the USA used for reconstruction of some nations after World War II.

India has so far not joined the BRI initiative. This article, Connectivity Has To Be Open, Equitable: India On Belt And Road Initiative,, 28th Oct. 2017, gives some info. about India's reservations about and stand on BRI.

It is not clear, under the President Trump administration, whether the USA plans to join the BRI or not.

Russia seems to be interested in the BRI with China and Russia exploring ways to link the BRI with Eurasian Economic Union project involving Russia and some other former USSR countries (for more, see Russia, China to look for new areas of cooperation — Putin,, dated 10th Nov. 2017.

What is clear from all of the above, is that China is very serious about expanding its role in the global order to be a major, if not dominant, player. Some commentators including Mr. Kevin Rudd, expect China to become the largest economy of the world in the coming decades.

Views of Communism about Religion

China is a communist country with the Communist Party of China being the only political party and which dominates Chinese government. So it is important to know the history of communism's views and actions with respect to religion.

Given below are extracts from

The nineteenth-century German thinker Karl Marx, the founder and primary theorist of Marxism, had an antithetical and complex attitude to religion, viewing it primarily as "the soul of soulless conditions", the "opium of the people" that had been useful to the ruling classes since it gave the working classes false hope for millennia. At the same time Marx saw religion as a form of protest by the working classes against their poor economic conditions and their alienation.

In the Marxist–Leninist interpretation of Marxist theory, developed primarily by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, religion is seen as retarding human development. Due to this, a number of Marxist–Leninist governments in the twentieth century, such as the Soviet Union after Lenin and the People's Republic of China, implemented rules introducing state atheism.
Vladimir Lenin was highly critical of religion, saying in his book Religion :
"Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and practice of scientific socialism."

In About the attitude of the working party toward the religion, he wrote :
"Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class."

However, while Lenin was critical of religion, he also specifically made a point to not include it in Our Programme or his ideological goals, saying :
"But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven."
In their influential book The ABC of Communism, Nikolai Bukharin and Evgenii Preobrazhensky spoke out strongly against religion. "Communism is incompatible with religious faith", they wrote.

However, importance was placed on secularism and non-violence towards the religious.

"But the campaign against the backwardness of the masses in this matter of religion, must be conducted with patience and considerateness, as well as with energy and perseverance. The credulous crowd is extremely sensitive to anything which hurts its feelings. To thrust atheism upon the masses, and in conjunction therewith to interfere forcibly with religious practices and to make mock of the objects of popular reverence, would not assist but would hinder the campaign against religion. If the church were to be persecuted, it would win sympathy among the masses, for persecution would remind them of the almost forgotten days when there was an association between religion and the defence of national freedom; it would strengthen the antisemitic movement; and in general it would mobilize all the vestiges of an ideology which is already beginning to die out."

---- end wiki extracts ---

Ravi: What the above wiki extracts tell us is that the communist view is an atheistic view, which therefore considers belief in God which is the cornerstone of most religions including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, as a false belief. This is very important to bear in mind. So a well indoctrinated communist in China will not have any belief in God. That means the top Chinese leadership would, in all probability, be atheists! That is a stark contrast to USA and India where most of the top political leaders in government as well as the top bureacrats are believers in God!

But it is interesting to note that major communist theorists were willing to tolerate religious practice so long as that practice does not create problems for the communist party and its rule over the country. This willingness though is of a condescending kind as they have the view that believers in God are ignorant and superstitious people.

As a devout believer in God, I am somewhat repelled by such condescension. I don't have any issues with persons who don't have belief but who respect my belief and don't view me as ignorant and superstitious. I don't view atheists and agnostics with condescension. My belief in supernatural/divine/Godly power was made strong by personal encounters that I had with such divine supernatural power. Atheists and agnostics may not have had such encounters. That's what I see as the primary difference between believers like me and atheists & agnostics. There is no condescension is this view of mine. There is only a recognition and acceptance of difference.

Religion in Communist China

Given below is an extract from the wiki page:

The People's Republic of China, established in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong, established a policy of state atheism. Initially, the new government did not suppress religious practice, but, like its dynastic ancestors, viewed popular religious movements, especially in the countryside, as possibly seditious. The government condemned religious organisations, labeling them as superstitious. Religions that were deemed "appropriate" and given freedom were those that entailed the ancestral tradition of consolidated state rule. In addition, Marxism viewed religion as feudal. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement institutionalised Protestant Churches in official organizations that renounced foreign funding and foreign control as imperialist. Chinese Catholics resisted the new government's move toward state control and independence of the Vatican. The Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) included a systematic effort to destroy religion. The historian Arthur Waldron adds, however, that "communism was, in effect, a religion for its early Chinese converts: more than a sociological analysis, it was a revelation and a prophecy that engaged their entire beings and was expounded in sacred texts, many imported from Moscow and often printed in English".

The radical policy relaxed considerably in the late 1970s. Since 1978, the Constitution of the People's Republic of China guarantees "freedom of religion". Its article 36 states that:
"Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."

For several decades, the party acquiesced or even encouraged a religious revival. Most Chinese were allowed to worship as they felt best, even in churches, mosques, and temples. Although "spiritual practice" groups such as the Falungong were banned and some practitioners arrested, local authorities were likely to follow a hands-off policy toward underground House churches. In the late 20th century there was a reactivation of the state cults devoted to the Yellow Emperor and the Red Emperor. In the early 2000s, the Chinese government became open especially to traditional religions such as Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and folk religion, emphasizing the role of religion in building a "Harmonious Society" (hexie shehui), a Confucian idea. China hosted religious meetings and conferences including the first World Buddhist Forum in 2006 and the subsequent World Buddhist Forums, a number of international Taoist meetings and local conferences on folk religions. Aligning with anthropologists' discourse about the importance of "culture", the government considers these religions as integral expressions of national "Chinese culture".

A turning point was reached in 2005, when folk religious cults began to be protected and promoted under the policies of intangible cultural heritage. Not only were traditions that had been interrupted for decades resumed, but ceremonies forgotten for centuries were reinvented. The annual worship of the god Cáncóng of ancient state of Shu, for instance, was resumed at a ceremonial complex near the Sanxingdui archaeological site in Sichuan.

In late 2013, however, a change in policy emerged, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, expressed hope that "traditional cultures" might fill a "moral void" and fight corruption. But in 2014, the government began a policy that restricted Christian churches by enforcing building codes, removing crosses from church steeples, and even tearing down church buildings. At least one prominent pastor who protested was arrested on charges of misusing church funds. A lawyer who had counselled these churches appeared on state television to confess that he had been in collusion with American organizations to incite local Christians.

At a conference on religions held in Beijing in April 2016, President Xi promised to "fully implement the Party's policy of religious freedom,“ but continued that religious groups “must adhere to the leadership of the CPC, and support the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics.” He called upon them to "merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture," and urged that "We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means and prevent ideological infringement by extremists."

André Laliberté notes that despite there having been much talk about "persecution against religion (especially Christianity) in China", one should not jump to hasty conclusions, since "a large proportion of the population worship, pray, perform rituals and hold certain beliefs with the full support of the Party. Most of this activity affects people who subscribe to world views that are sometimes formally acknowledged by the state and are institutionalised, or others that are tacitly approved as customs". In this context, Christianity not only represents a small proportion of the population, but its adherents are still seen by the majority who observe traditional rituals as followers of a foreign religion that sets them apart from the body of society.
---- end wiki extract ---

Ravi: It is very good to see that over the past few decades, the Chinese communist party has become more tolerant of religion and promotes some level of freedom of religion. The above extract has these words of President Xi Jinping that religious groups “must adhere to the leadership of the CPC, and support the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics.” He called upon them to "merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture," and urged that "We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means and prevent ideological infringement by extremists."

So religious beliefs and practices that blend with Chinese communist party doctrine and views, and Chinese culture, may be provided freedom in China. Of course, any religious group that becomes a threat to the Chinese communist party will be vigorously opposed.

But I doubt very much that the Chinese communist party will encourage belief in God/divine power among its members. I can't imagine Xi Jinping say in his public addresses: "God bless China" like USA presidents regularly say, "God bless the USA" or "God bless America" in their public speeches. And so I guess that most Chinese communist party members will also not say "God bless China" in their public addresses. I doubt if Chinese communist party leaders will visit houses of worship and pray, and have photographs of that shared on social media, like what is done by many Indian political leaders from various political parties.

Interestingly, this article: Lose religion or face censure, top China official tells Communist Party members,, 19th July 2017, has the following words from an article in a top political theory journal of the Chinese communist party written by the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA):

"Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members…Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party's faith…they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion".

"Officials who have religious faith should be persuaded to give it up, and those who resist would be punished by the Party organisation".

There seems to be opposition from the communist party towards organized 'foreign' religions like Christianity and Islam. The director, as per the article, wrote, "Some foreign forces have used religion to infiltrate China, and extremism and illegal religious activities are spreading in some places, which have threatened national security and social stability."

"Religions should be sinicised…We should guide religious groups and individuals with socialist core values and excellent traditional Chinese culture and support religious groups to dig into their doctrines to find parts that are beneficial to social harmony and development."

So the director seems to be more accommodating of religions that blend with Chinese traditions. But that too seems to be only for the governed people and NOT the members of the Chinese communist party who are expected to be atheists (and who were reported to number 89 million in 2016).

As Chinese power and influence spreads to other countries in the world, will the Chinese appreciate or downplay religion in those countries? I think that China, at least in the initial stages of its expanding power & influence in other countries, will show a tolerance to religion in those countries. But I very much doubt that China will encourage Chinese citizens who visit or stay in foreign countries to participate in such 'foreign' religious matters in foreign countries. In fact, it may even discourage them from doing so as it would be concerned that when these Chinese citizens go back to China they may try to spread those 'foreign' religious beliefs and practices among other Chinese people (in China).

Over time as China acquires significant power and influence over foreign countries where it has large investments and industry/services presence, the big question for me is whether China then will try to influence the people of these countries, directly or indirectly, to take up Chinese communist attitudes towards religion including the atheism that most Chinese communist party members would have. If so, in my considered view, that would be an undesirable effect of Chinese growth in power & influence in Asia and the world.

I am fine with people losing faith in a religion and becoming an atheist, so long as that is done in a free environment (and not as a communist/political party directive that must be followed). There should be proper freedom of religion which allows people to explore various religions if they want to, and then take up a religion if they get convinced about it. I think the rise of Chinese power and influence in Asia and in the world, needs to be monitored to check whether that is resulting in reducing freedom of religion in countries that come under Chinese power and influence.

Can the China of today in 2017 be really referred to as a communist state (and the Communist Party of China be viewed as a really communist party)?

Firstly, I would like to clearly state here that, in a previous post or two, I have publicly congratulated the Chinese people and their Communist Party leadership for the astounding material progress they have made with decades of hard and dedicated work, which has moved many hundreds of millions of Chinese people from poverty to the middle class. I am happy for the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party including its living past leaders like Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao as well as the current leaders like Xi Jinping and Li Kequiang.

Now my view is that China today in 2017 hardly seems to be a communist country based on what I had understood a communist country to be in my early youth in the late 1970s going into the 1980s, when I came to know about communism and other political systems. Note that even in the 1980s, communist countries like USSR and Cuba had friendly and close relations with India. India then had powerful communist political parties, especially in the states of (West) Bengal and Kerala, and these communist parties had a strong presence/influence in the Indian trade unions. Those communist parties continue even today with CPI(M) also referred as CPM,, and CPI,, having seats in Indian parliament, though they do not have many such seats and so do not have much clout in Indian parliament today. But in the previous Indian union govt. (UPA II of Manmohan Singh) the seats these two parties had in Parliament were crucial for the govt's majority, and so its leaders became influential in policy making of the then Indian union/federal govt. Some communist trade unions with their easily identifiable as communist, red flags, continue to be around in India. They are there even in my rural town of Puttaparthi where I have seen sit-down strikes of a communist party affiliated trade union of workers in the local municipality (municipal corporation), with their red communist flags being prominently shown.

In the states of Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, CPM has an important presence. It lost power in Bengal but is in power in the state of Kerala with its alliance winning the 2016 election and the chief minister, Pinnari Vijayan being from CPM,,_2016. The north-eastern state of Tripura has had CPM chief ministers from 1978 to 1988, and from 1993 to now (2017), That makes it nearly 35 years of power for communists in Tripura! Manik Sarkar is the (CPM) communist chief minister of Tripura now and has been in that position since 1998.

Both CPI and CPM have had historical ties with and support from Russia. CPM was formed in 1964 as a breakaway group from CPI, though the division seems to have become serious from1962 onwards. CPI, the united communist party then (as CPM was yet to be formed), seems to have had ties with China too, with CPI even supporting China in India's 1962 war with China!!! throws more light on the 1962 situation and the CPM formation in 1964 as a breakaway group from the CPI. Some extracts from it are given below:

CPI(M) emerged from a division within the Communist Party of India (CPI). The undivided CPI had experienced a period of upsurge during the years following the Second World War. The CPI led armed rebellions in Telangana, Tripura, and Kerala. However, it soon abandoned the strategy of armed revolution in favour of working within the parliamentary framework. In 1950 B. T. Ranadive, the CPI general secretary and a prominent representative of the radical sector inside the party, was demoted on grounds of left-adventurism.

Under the government of the Indian National Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India developed close relations and a strategic partnership with the Soviet Union. The Soviet government consequently wished that the Indian communists moderate their criticism towards the Indian state and assume a supportive role towards the Congress governments. However, large sections of the CPI claimed that India remained a semi-feudal country, and that class struggle could not be put on the back-burner for the sake of guarding the interests of Soviet trade and foreign policy. Moreover, the Indian National Congress appeared to be generally hostile towards political competition. In 1959 the central government intervened to impose President's Rule in Kerala, toppling the E.M.S. Namboodiripad cabinet (the sole non-Congress state government in the country).

Simultaneously, the relations between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China soured. In the early 1960s the Communist Party of China began criticising the CPSU of turning revisionist and of deviating from the path of Marxism–Leninism. Sino-Indian relations also deteriorated, as border disputes between the two countries erupted into the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

During the war with China, a faction of the Indian Communists backed the position of the Indian government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist and a capitalist state. The basis of difference in opinion between the two factions in CPI was ideological – about the assessment of Indian scenario and the development of a party programme. This difference in opinion was also a reflection of a similar difference at international level on ideology between the Soviet and Chinese parties. The alleged 'right wing' inside the party followed the Soviet path and put forward the idea of joining hands with the then ruling party – Indian National Congress. Whereas the faction of CPI which later became CPI(M) referred to this as a revisionist approach of class collaboration. It was this ideological difference which later intensified, coupled with the Soviet-Chinese split at the international level and ultimately gave birth to CPI(M).

Hundreds of CPI leaders, accused of being pro-Chinese, were imprisoned. Thousands of Communists were detained without trial. Those targeted by the state accused the pro-Soviet leadership of the CPI of conspiring with the Congress government to ensure their own hegemony over the control of the party.

In 1962 Ajoy Ghosh, the general secretary of the CPI, died. After his death, S.A. Dange was installed as the party chairman (a new position) and E.M.S. Namboodiripad as general secretary. This was an attempt to achieve a compromise. Dange represented the rightist faction of the party and E.M.S. the leftist faction.

At a CPI National Council meeting held on 11 April 1964, 32 Council members walked out in protest, accusing Dange and his followers of "anti-unity and anti-Communist policies".

The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council members belonged, organised a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh 7 to 11 July. In this convention the issues of the internal disputes in the party were discussed. 146 delegates, claiming to represent 100,000 CPI members, took part in the proceedings. The convention decided to convene the 7th Party Congress of CPI in Calcutta later the same year.

Marking a difference from the Dangeite sector of CPI, the Tenali convention was marked by the display of a large portrait of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong.

At the Tenali convention a Bengal-based pro-Chinese group, representing one of the most radical streams of the CPI left wing, presented a draft programme proposal of their own. These radicals criticised the draft programme proposal prepared by M. Basavapunniah for undermining class struggle and failing to take a clear pro-Chinese position in the ideological conflict between the CPSU and CPC.

After the Tenali convention the CPI left wing organised party district and state conferences. In West Bengal, a few of these meetings became battlegrounds between the most radical elements and the more moderate leadership. At the Calcutta Party District Conference an alternative draft programme was presented to the leadership by Parimal Das Gupta (a leading figure amongst far-left intellectuals in the party). Another alternative proposal was brought forward to the Calcutta Party District Conference by Aziz ul Haq, but Haq was initially banned from presenting it by the conference organisers. At the Calcutta Party District Conference 42 delegates opposed M. Basavapunniah's official draft programme proposal.

At the Siliguri Party District Conference, the main draft proposal for a party programme was accepted, but with some additional points suggested by the far-left North Bengal cadre Charu Majumdar. However, Harekrishna Konar (representing the leadership of the CPI left wing) forbade the raising of the slogan Mao Tse-Tung Zindabad (Long live Mao Tse-Tung) at the conference.

Parimal Das Gupta's document was also presented to the leadership at the West Bengal State Conference of the CPI leftwing. Das Gupta and a few other spoke at the conference, demanding the party ought to adopt the class analysis of the Indian state of the 1951 CPI conference. His proposal was, however, voted down.

The Calcutta Congress was held between 31 October and 7 November, at Tyagraja Hall in southern Calcutta. Simultaneously, the Dange group convened a Party Congress of CPI in Bombay. Thus, the CPI divided into two separate parties. The group which assembled in Calcutta would later adopt the name 'Communist Party of India (Marxist)', to differentiate themselves from the Dange group. The CPI(M) also adopted its own political programme. P. Sundarayya was elected general secretary of the party.

[Ravi: The above makes it clear that Soviet Union supported Nehru (leader of the Indian National Congress) and so the CPI backed Nehru. Then it mentions souring of relations between Chinese and Soviet Union communist parties in the early 1960s. This is the background that in India's war with China in 1962, led to Chinese style communist supporters in CPI breaking away from 1962 onwards and forming the CPI(M) in 1964. This new group was supportive of China's leader Mao Zedong, was more supportive of radical type revolution, and the group had a lot of its leaders from Bengal (and nearby states) which is close to China geographically!

Note that USSR did not militarily support India in its 1962 war against China. Nehru, Indian PM then, sought military assistance from USA under President Kennedy then to help fight Chinese armed forces, and got some military assistance from the USA then. USA helped India diplomatically and seems to have played a vital role in China calling off its aggression and withdrawing its forces from some but not all of the territory it had invaded. For more, see "The Untold Story: How Kennedy came to India's aid in 1962",, Dec. 2012.]
The CPI (M) was born into a hostile political climate. At the time of the holding of its Calcutta Congress, large sections of its leaders and cadres were jailed without trial. Again on 29–30 December [Ravi: 1964], over a thousand CPI (M) cadres were arrested and detained, and held in jail without trial. In 1965 new waves of arrests of CPI(M) cadres took place in West Bengal, as the party launched agitations against the rise in fares in the Calcutta Tramways and against the then prevailing food crisis. Statewide general strikes and hartals were observed on 5 August 1965, 10–11 March 1966 and 6 April 1966. The March 1966 general strike results in several deaths in confrontations with police forces.

Also in Kerala, mass arrests of CPI(M) cadres were carried out during 1965. In Bihar, the party called for a Bandh (general strike) in Patna on 9 August 1965 in protest against the Congress state government. During the strike, police resorted to violent actions against the organisers of the strike. The strike was followed by agitations in other parts of the state.

P. Sundaraiah, after being released from jail, spent the period of September 1965 – February 1966 in Moscow for medical treatment. In Moscow he also held talks with the CPSU.

The Central Committee of CPI(M) held its first meeting on 12–19 June 1966. The reason for delaying the holding of a regular CC meeting was the fact that several of the persons elected as CC members at the Calcutta Congress were jailed at the time. A CC meeting had been scheduled to have been held in Trichur during the last days of 1964, but had been cancelled due to the wave of arrests against the party. The meeting discussed tactics for electoral alliances, and concluded that the party should seek to form a broad electoral alliances with all non-reactionary opposition parties in West Bengal (i.e. all parties except Jan Sangh and Swatantra Party). This decision was strongly criticised by the Communist Party of China, the Party of Labour of Albania, the Communist Party of New Zealand and the radicals within the party itself. The line was changed at a National Council meeting in Jullunder in October 1966, where it was decided that the party should only form alliances with selected left parties.

Naxalbari uprising

At this point the party stood at crossroads. There were radical sections of the party who were wary of the increasing parliamentary focus of the party leadership, especially after the electoral victories in West Bengal and Kerala. Developments in China also affected the situation inside the party. In West Bengal two separate internal dissident tendencies emerged, which both could be identified as supporting the Chinese line. In 1967 a peasant uprising broke out in Naxalbari, in northern West Bengal. The insurgency was led by hardline district-level CPI(M) leaders Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal. The hardliners within CPI(M) saw the Naxalbari uprising as the spark that would ignite the Indian revolution. The Communist Party of China hailed the Naxalbari movement, causing an abrupt break in CPI(M)-CPC relations. The Naxalbari movement was violently repressed by the West Bengal government, of which CPI(M) was a major partner. Within the party, the hardliners rallied around an All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries. Following the 1968 Burdwan plenum of CPI(M) (held on 5–12 April 1968), the AICCCR separated themselves from CPI(M). This split divided the party throughout the country. But notably in West Bengal, which was the centre of the violent radicalist stream, no prominent leading figure left the party. The party and the Naxalites (as the rebels were called) were soon to get into a bloody feud.

In Andhra Pradesh another revolt was taking place. There the pro-Naxalbari dissidents had not established any presence. But in the party organisation there were many veterans from the Telangana armed struggle, who rallied against the central party leadership. In Andhra Pradesh the radicals had a strong base even amongst the state-level leadership. The main leader of the radical tendency was T. Nagi Reddy, a member of the state legislative assembly. On 15 June 1968 the leaders of the radical tendency published a press statement outlining the critique of the development of CPI(M). It was signed by T. Nagi Reddy, D.V. Rao, Kolla Venkaiah and Chandra Pulla Reddy. In total around 50% of the party cadres in Andhra Pradesh left the party to form the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, under the leadership of T. Nagi Reddy.

----- end extracts from wiki page of CPM ---

Ravi: The Naxalbari uprising is considered to be the founding of the Naxalite (Maoist communist party armed revolution) groups in India, which is banned by the Indian government! So the above extracts give vital historical background of the Naxalite groups in India. More on Naxalites is available here:

Another interesting aspect of the above extracts is CPM's move away from Communist Party of China due to the latter's support of the Naxalites (in late 1960s).

CPM seems to be close to China now. This article, ‘Communist Party of China values ties with CPI(M)’,, dated Oct. 2015, has a photograph of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, then and now General Secretary of the CPM, with Chinese president Xi Jinping. A small extract from it, "Mr. Yechury said that President Xi conveyed to him that the Communist Party of China (CPC) highly valued its relations with the CPI (M). Mr. Xi added that the CPI (M) was a strong votary for driving the relationship between China and India, including people-to-people ties."

So India has had a lot of communist influence even during my adult lifetime and that continues to this day in some parts of the country. Note that I am not talking about socialism. Socialism has been a popular word for quite a few political parties in India in the past. These socialism loving parties were NOT into armed revolution like the Maoist communist parties mentioned earlier. Also the CPM and CPI, have not been reported as far as my knowledge goes, in the past three to four decades, to be into any armed revolution stuff, though violence involving CPM and other political party followers was not uncommon, and happens even today, especially in Kerala which has also seen some deaths in such violence recently. The recent Kerala violence seems to be between the (left-wing) communist party followers and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followers. I think the left and the right blame each other for this sad violence.

I do not recall seeing anything like today's Communist Party of China's embrace of capitalism and Chinese billionaires in the above mentioned Indian communist parties. Perhaps they are more loyal, in these wealth and income equality/inequality aspects, to their Marxist-Leninist and Maoist tenets than the Communist Party of China is today in 2017.

But, from the world stage perspective, China is portrayed and accepted as a Communist ("with Chinese characteristics") success story! And so even if the Communist Party of China is not really a communist party going by Marx and Lenin political philosophy, they are viewed as communists today! I guess that Sitaram Yechury (, Prakash Karat ( and Brinda Karat (, three top political leaders of CPM India and who are intellectually capable people, would project China as a communist success story that India can learn from! Russia is no longer communist. Cuba, Vietnam and Laos are too small. North Korea is weird. Perhaps Indian communists today only have China to look up to as a 21st century 'communist state' success story!

So in my social media writings I have to view China as a communist state, and the Communist Party of China as a communist party. I mean, that's what the word, communist, has come to be understood as today, especially in countries like India which are neighbours to China. Mind you, Nepal which is between China and India, also has a big communist party presence.

What do the words 'communism' and 'communist' mean in today's early 21st century?

From my experience as a social media writer for these past six years, what I have realized is that for such words like communism there are multiple interpretations. There would be the scholarly interpretation which would perhaps mention that there are multiple forms of communism which would be named after the main writers/proponents of it. I think the wikipedia approach where it gives prominence to Marx, Lenin and Mao, as three separate interpretations of communism, may be based on such scholarly (political science scholars mainly, I guess) approaches. Within these, there would be further differentiation on how each of these three developed their views over time.

And then there is the popular/masses understanding of the word in our times today, which also would vary from region to region. My focus in my current posts on communism is on such popular/masses understanding of the term, communism, in today's context, globally and from an Indian perspective. I repeat that in India, communism is still very much alive as a political term with a noted South Indian state, Kerala, having a communist as its chief minister now. The lesser known Indian North-Eastern state of Tripura also has a communist as its chief minister now. I don't think that would be the case in the USA nor would it be the case in Western Europe, as in the post World War II period it is these countries who under the NATO banner were the chief opponents of the post World War II communists with two of the their dominant and very prominent leaders being Stalin of Russia and Mao of China.

Some readers who have spent most of their life in Western Europe and USA may never have known/experienced real life communists (different from socialists) in the countries where they have lived. In my life, it has been different. I repeat that in my young adult life, communism was a noted force in India. It declined after India's financial crisis of 1991 which also was the time the Soviet Union collapsed. I think till 1991 the Soviet Union seems to have been the major ideological support and inspiration base for well known and accepted as part of Indian legal political life (as against banned Maoist type violent revolution guys) Indian communists.

Jyoti Basu

I think I should also mention the name of (Late) Jyoti Basu, former chief minister of (West) Bengal for 23 years at a stretch from 1977 to 2000 making him the longest serving chief minister of India, who may have even become Indian Prime Minister (serious consideration in some alliances in power then). Jyoti Basu was a very respected figure in Indian political circles, who perhaps could not rise to national leadership position due to opposition to communists rising to such power from other national level leaders.

Given below are some extracts from

Jyotirindra Basu was born 8 July 1914 at 43/1 Harrison Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) in Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) into a very affluent family. His father, Nishikanta Basu, was a doctor settled in Kolkata who hailed from the village of Barudi in Narayanganj District, East Bengal (Bangladesh), while his mother Hemalata Basu was a housewife. Basu grew up in a large Indian-style joint family, consisting of his parents, siblings, paternal uncles, their wives and children. The family, who had lived in a rented house in Kolkata in addition to retaining ancestral properties East Bengal, purchased a spacious mansion at 55-A, Hindustan Road in 1920, and this is where Basu grew up.

Basu's schooling started at Loreto School at Dharmatala in Kolkata in 1920, and he was moved in 1925 to St. Xavier's School. While admitting him to school, Basu's father shortened his name from Jyotirindra Basu to Jyoti Basu, and the shortened name stuck for life. After completing school, Basu took an undergraduate degree in English literature honours from Presidency College, University of Calcutta.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Basu left for England to study law in 1935. In England, he was introduced to politics and became greatly influenced by the Communist Party of Great Britain. He attended lectures by Harold Laski at the London School of Economics and was also influenced by noted Communist ideologue and prolific writer Rajani Palme Dutt, a fellow Bengali. Between 1936 and 1940, Basu involved himself in various political activities, came into contact with several Indian freedom fighters including Nehru, became a member of the India league, and joined the London Majlis. A fuller account of these years is found in a later section. Basu completed his studies in 1939 and was invited to the Middle Temple as a Barrister in 1939. Shortly afterwards, he returned to India by sea, docking at Mumbai and travelling from there to Kolkata by train.
After returning to India, Basu had become an active member of the Communist Party, to his father's chagrin. After Basanti's [Ravi: Basu's first wife] death, he deepened his involvement, virtually giving up the pretense of earning a living as a lawyer. His legal practice was mostly about providing legal services pro bono to the party and its affiliates, in particular to trade unions. He lived as always with his father and extended family (as per Indian custom) and thus had little need to earn a living.
The marriage [Ravi: second marriage with Kamala in 1948], which conformed in every way to Indian tradition and convention, was harmonious and lasted until their deaths more than sixty years later.
In 1952, the couple were blessed with the birth of a son, Subhabrata Basu, fondly known as 'Chandan' by one and all. Chandan, who was to be the couple's only surviving child, was born while Basu was in prison for allegedly seditious activities, having been incarcerated by the Congress-led government of independent India.

Shortly after Chandan was born, Basu's father, Nishikant Basu, wrote a will which disinherited Basu entirely and vested all his property, a considerable fortune which included the massive mansion in Kokata, in the name of his daughter-in-law Kamala, with provision that the property be inherited by Chandan eventually. The elderly bhadralok patrician had been aghast, even distraught, to find that his beloved son had returned from England a communist, and that he had developed over the next decade (the 1940s) into a violent revolutionary. Basu was to say later that the arrangement suited him perfectly, that indeed it had been devised in consultation with him; it ensured that Kamala was always able to feed the family and pay for her son's education, which left Basu free from the tension of having to provide for his wife and son, and enabled him to pursue his political activities exactly as he wanted.

Entry into politics

Jyoti Basu's first track in politics was his effort to organise the Indian students studying in United Kingdom, mostly for the cause of Indian independence. Basu subsequently joined India League and London Majlis, both the organisations being communities of overseas Indian students. Basu was later elected the General Secretary of London Majlish. Basu was given the responsibility for arranging a meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru's visit to London in 1938. The same was done after Subhas Chandra Bose went to England. As a member of London Majlis, Basu introduced the visiting Indian political figures to the leaders of the Labour Party.

Basu was introduced to the Communist Party of Great Britain by another communist leader and Basu's friend in England, Bhupesh Gupta. It is told Basu showed interest to join CPGB but the then Secretary General Harry Pollitt suggested that he should not do so, possibly because CPGB was then banned in India and Pollitt speculated Basu could have difficulties in returning to India as a member of CPGB.

However Basu returned to India in 1940 and immediately contacted the Party leaders. Though he enrolled himself as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, he never practised simply because he was determined to become a wholetimer of the Party.

Basu became the secretary of Friends of Soviet Union and Anti-Fascist Writers' Association in Kolkata. As a member of the Party, his initial task was to maintain liaison with underground Party leaders. He was entrusted with responsibilities on the trade union front from 1944. In that year, Bengal Assam Railroad Workers' Union was formed and Basu became its first secretary. In 1944 Basu became involved in trade union activities when CPI delegated him to work amongst the railway labourers. When B.N. Railway Workers Union and B.D. Rail Road Workers Union merged, Basu became the general secretary of the union. In 1946, Basu was elected to the Bengal Provincial Assembly from the Railway Workers constituency. Ratanlal Bramhan and Rupnarayan Roy were the other two Communists who were elected. From that day on, Basu became one of the most popular and influential legislators for decades to come.

Basu played a very active role in the stormy days of 1946–47 when Bengal witnessed the Tebhaga movement, workers strikes and even communal riots.

In the late 1940s, Basu served as the Vice-President of the All India Railwaymen's Federation until Communists were expelled from the union for attempt to organize strikes after the union had withdrawn its strike notice.

Jyoti Basu was the secretary of the West Bengal Provincial Committee of the Party from 1953 to January 1961. He was elected to the Central Committee of the Party in 1951. He was a member of the Politburo from 1964 onwards. He was elected as a special invitee to PB in 19th Congress of the Party in 2008.

After the country gained independence, he was elected to the assembly from Baranagar in 1952. He was elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1991 and 1996. Though an elected member, Basu was arrested several times during the 1950s and 60s and for certain periods he went underground to evade arrest by the police.

In 1962, Jyoti Basu was one amongst the 32 members of the National Council who walked out of the meeting. When the CPI(M) was formed in 1964 as a result of the ideological struggle within the Communist movement, Basu became a member of the Politburo. He was, in fact, the last surviving member of the "Navaratnas", the nine members of the first Politburo. The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council members belonged, organised a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh 7 to 11 July. It was here where the radical sections of party further showed their pro-Chinese stand. The Tenali convention was marked by the display of a large portrait of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong.

Later political career

Basu was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946, contesting the Railway constituency. He served as the Leader of Opposition for a long time when Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Jyoti Basu led a number of agitations against the State Government and earned enviable popularity as a politician particularly among the students and youth. Beside organising the movements of the Railway Labourers, he led a movement by the teachers demanding a hike in salary. When the Communist Party of India split in 1964, Basu became one of the first nine members of the Politburo of the newly formed Communist Party of India (Marxist). In 1967 and 1969, Basu became Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal in the United Front governments. In 1967, after the defeat of the Congress Government, Jyoti Basu was sworn-in as the Deputy Chief Minister under the Chief Ministership of Ajoy Mukherjee. In 1970, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at the Patna railway station. Though CPI(M) became the single largest party in the assembly elections in 1971, the party was refused the chance to form a ministry and presidents' Rule was imposed in West Bengal.

Through the 1972 elections the Congress returned to power in West Bengal. Jyoti Basu lost the elections from the Baranagar Assembly Constituency. Basu famously declared the new assembly as "assembly of the frauds" and CPI(M) boycotted the assembly for the next five years.

As the Chief Minister of West Bengal

After the sweeping victory of the Left Front in 1977, Jyoti Basu became the Chief Minister of the Left Front government, a position he held continuously for more than 23 years, a record in the country. Under his leadership, the Left Front government embarked on land reforms on a scale unprecedented in the country; it instituted a panchayati raj system which was radical for its times, which gave the poor peasants and small farmers a say in running the panchayati institutions. As per leftists, West Bengal became an oasis of communal harmony and secular values under his leadership as there were always reports of communal clashes in West Bengal[citation needed], while various measures were introduced to promote social and economic development in West Bengal, however these measures never fully gave results expected and West Bengal remains a poverty ridden state. Basic land reform was instituted, while irrigation and rural electrification were extended. In addition, India's first comprehensive system of democratic decentralisation was established. Agricultural production came out of a slump that it had been in for decades before the Left Front came to power, and during the Eighties and Nineties the state showed the highest rates of agricultural growth among the 17 most populous Indian states. As a result of institutional changes and agricultural growth, levels of nutrition improved and rural poverty declined noticeably.

One has to recall how as Chief Minister he dealt with the situation after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 when violence against Sikhs broke out in various parts of the country, but nothing was allowed to happen in West Bengal. Similarly he dealt firmly with efforts to instigate trouble after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

In 1996 Jyoti Basu seemed all set to be the consensus leader of the United Front for the post of Prime Minister of India. However, the CPI(M) Politburo decided not to participate in the government, a decision that Jyoti Basu later termed a historic blunder. H.D. Deve Gowda from the Janata Dal instead became prime minister. Basu resigned from the Chief Ministership of West Bengal in 2000 for health reasons, and was succeeded by fellow CPI(M) politician Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. As of 2014, Basu holds the record for being the longest-serving Chief Minister in Indian political history.
In the course of seven decades of work in the Communist party, Basu spent three and a half years in prison and two years underground. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the setbacks to socialism, he provided the leadership along with his colleagues in the Politburo to make a reappraisal of the experience of building socialism and to pinpoint the errors and to correct wrong notions and understandings while remaining true to Marxism–Leninism. He was a Marxist who was not dogmatic and continued to learn from his vast experience in charting out the course for the Party.

He emerged as the pre-eminent and most popular leader of the Party, but he always worked as a disciplined member of the Party, setting an example for all. In his long career in the Party, he undertook various responsibilities including being the first editor of People's Democracy. He had a lifelong association with the trade union movement and was the Vice-President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions since its inception in 1970.

Some commentators feel Basu was more of a democratic socialist than a traditional Communist. "He made Communism look respectable," according to Sabyasachi Basu Roy Choudhuri, a Calcutta-based political analyst.


Sumon K Chakrabarti, the national affairs correspondent for CNN-IBN, said in his blog that during Basu's tenure as the Chief Minister of West Bengal, the state saw continuous industrial decline. Basu has been criticised for the initial support of trade unions against the use of computers, which affected employment; and the charge that his party members engaged in corruption and rigging of elections.

Death, tribute and legacy

On 1 January 2010, Basu was admitted to AMRI hospital (Bidhannagar, Kolkata) after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. On 16 January 2010, his health condition became extremely critical and he was suffering from multiple organ failure. Seventeen days after being taken ill, he died on 17 January 2010 at 11:47 am IST.

The death was followed by public mourning on an unprecedented scale. Draped in the party flag, Basu's body was driven through the streets of Calcutta on a gun carriage. However, the time schedule went awry in his last moments as thousands of people thronged the streets of central Kolkata to pay their last respects. Police and volunteers wore a helpless look as a sea of people poured in from every possible corner of the city. President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led the nation in mourning.

Tributes poured in from politicians across the country. While Patil said "the nation has lost a veteran and eminent public figure," Manmohan Singh said Basu was a politician to whom he often turned for "sagacious advice". Basu was a leader "who displayed his abilities as a leader of the people, an able administrator and eminent statesman", the president said in a statement. "In the years after he relinquished the Chief Ministry, he continued to be looked upon as an elder statesman, whose advice was sought by many political leaders in the state," the president added.

In a message to Jyoti Basu's son Chandan, Manmohan Singh said: "He was a powerful regional voice in the national political scene and helped to strengthen Indian federalism... He was a man of great integrity with a deep commitment to secular values." He added:"I have personally had a very long association with Basu. On many occasions in my career, I turned to him for his sagacious advice on all matters, whether they related to West Bengal or to issues of national importance". Vice President Hamid Ansari said Basu had left behind a void that would be difficult to fill. "His sagacity and leadership at both the state and the national level have been a source of inspiration and guidance," Ansari said in a statement.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that Basu led for several years expressed "profound grief", saying he was a Marxist who was not dogmatic. "Jyoti Basu was a Marxist who never wavered in his convictions. He was a Marxist who was not dogmatic and continued to learn from his vast experience in charting out the course for the party," the CPI-M politburo said. "There will be none like Jyoti Basu again," was how CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat saluted a man he had prevented from becoming the prime minister in 1996. Karat, who influenced the CPI-M to block Basu from taking charge of the United Front government in 1996, said that the former West Bengal chief minister "was a great leader of the CPI-M, the Left movement and India. With his passing away, an era has passed". Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja paid glowing tributes to the Marxist patriarch, saying he could have proved to be a great prime minister. "He (Basu) proved that the coalition of Left parties would work successfully and serve the people greatly. He could have proved to be a great prime minister also," Raja said.

Former Lok Sabha speaker and Communist leader Somnath Chatterjee said he had lost someone like his father. "When things started to go bad (in Left front), he was sad. He was sad about what happened with me. I used to consult him on all matters. For the second time, I have lost somebody like my father," said an emotional Chatterjee.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he would miss a well-wisher. "In his death, I have lost a great well-wisher, and the country has lost an able administrator, an outstanding parliamentarian and a charismatic political leader," Mukherjee told reporters.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the staunchest anti-Communist force in the country, mourned the death of the Marxist leader, describing him as a "role model for Indian politics". In a moving tribute, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley told reporters here that Basu, who was West Bengal's chief minister for 23 long years, was one of the "tallest leaders" in Indian politics with "high credibility". "He was devoted to his ideology and played the longest innings in Indian politics," Jaitley said. Former prime minister and senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee said Basu's demise had "ended a chapter in the country's politics".

Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in Kolkata: "He was a colossus who straddled India's political scene for many decades. Not only the leader of West Bengal, but of India. He was a great patriot, great democrat, great parliamentarian and great source of inspiration. He served the people of India to the best." he said.

Basu had pledged to donate his body and eyes for medical research on 4 April 2003 at a function organised by Ganadarpan and Susrut Eye Foundation in Kolkata and not to be burned at a crematorium. His eyes are donated to Susrut Eye Foundation. He is survived by his son Chandan, daughter-in-law Rakhi, grand daughters Payel, Doyel and Koyel, offsprings of his first daughter-in-law Dolly (separated with son Chandan in 1998), and grand son Subhojyoti, offspring of daughter-in-law Rakhi. His second wife Kamala Basu had died on 1 October 2003. Basu's body was kept at 'Peace Haven' for those who wanted to pay their respects. His body was handed over to SSKM Hospital, Kolkata for research on 19 January 2010 around 16:50 pm IST after a guard of honour at the nearby Moharkunja park (formerly, citizens' park). The hospital authority is considering preserving his brain.

The Trinamool Congress-run government [Ravi: new political party under Mamata Bannerjee,, that defeated CPM in Bengal and is in power now] has decided not to rename Rajarhat New Town after Jyoti Basu. The renaming proposal was a part of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2010, passed in the assembly during the Left Front regime. A programme was even held at Rajarhat in October 2010 on the township's renaming.

--- end extracts from wiki page of Jyoti Basu ----

Ravi: Perhaps no country in post World War II Western Europe or the USA had any communist comparable to Jyoti Basu, as communism had become a scary thing for post World War II Western Europe or the USA.

Some readers may not know that another communist, Somnath Chatterjee (mentioned in wiki extracts above),, rose to become speaker of the Lok Sabha (Indian lower - and more powerful - house of parliament) from 2004 to 2009 (under UPA I govt. of Manmohan Singh).

Given the significant though never dominant role Indian communist parties and its leaders like Jyoti Basu have played in post-Independence India, understanding communist ideologues', especially Marx and Lenin's, views about religion, is important for me. That is what would have been learned and ruminated upon by Indian communists over the decades, and that would be continuing even today among communists in Indian states like Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

Extraordinary friendship between communist and atheist Jyoti Basu and Christian missionary and charitable service leader Mother Teresa

Jyoti Basu was a contemporary of Mother Teresa who was also based in Bengal. I read that Basu had great respect for the humanitarian work done by Mother Teresa, and his communist party govt. in Bengal provided her good support for her work.

Here's an interesting article about them: Basu and Mother Teresa: a special association,, January 2010

It quotes a personal aide of Mr. Basu as saying, “The special association between Jyoti Basu and Mother Teresa was marked by a mutual admiration that they felt for each other. As far as Mr. Basu was concerned, there were standing instructions that should she ever seek an appointment with him, there was to be no delay”.

Another quote attributed to Mr. Basu in the article is: “She makes me a bad Marxist since she makes me believe in godliness” with 'She' being Mother Teresa.

Here's an article from Navin Chawla, the official biographer of Mother Teresa, who was known to her for a long time, and who is a (former, I guess) bureaucrat who rose to chief election commissioner of India: An unusual friendship,, Jan. 2010.

It states that when Navin Chawla asked Basu about what he, being a communist and atheist, could have in common with Mother Teresa, Basu said, "We both share a love for the poor."

The article mentions how Jyoti Basu would regularly check on Mother Teresa's health when she was hospitalized, and that when Jyoti Basu was unwell, Mother Teresa would visit him and say prayers.

Mother Teresa died in Sept. 1997. Jyoti Basu, then chief minister of West Bengal, was in charge of Mother Teresa's state funeral in West Bengal's capital Kolkata (Calcutta) which Mother Teresa viewed as her home city, which is reported to have been organized very well. A small extract from the article: "During the first part of the actual ceremony, where religious rites were also being administered, Jyoti Basu chose not to be present. Like a good communist, he entered at exactly the moment when these ended, and the civic part of the ceremony began. But I saw his imprint in every last detail."

Could a Mother Teresa phenomenon have happened in communist China, like it happened in partly communist ruled Bengal state of India?

From, we read that Mother Teresa moved to India in 1929 when she would have been around 19 years old. She served in catholic convent schools (e.g. Loreto convent) in Bengal till 1948. She left Loreto covent and started her missionary work for the poor in Kolkata around 1948 at which time she adopted Indian citizenship and started wearing the traditional Indian dress of sari (she wore simple white cotton saris with a blue border).

From her wiki page:

In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which had over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children's- and family-counselling programmes; orphanages, and schools. Members, who take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, also profess a fourth vow: to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor".
--- end wiki extract ---

While Mother Teresa's organization spread over the whole world, the headquarters was and still is, in Kolkata (Calcutta). Further, she had a special love and attachment for Kolkata and Bengal (Kolkata is the capital of Bengal). shows that after Indian independence (in 1947) Bengal was largely ruled by Indian National Congress till April 1977 though there were periods of rule by other alliances that included the communists, as well as president's rule. It seems that from the mid-60s onwards till June 1977 the communists were a significant political force in Bengal with participation in some governments but never being fully in power (in some such governments the Deputy chief minister was a communist). From June 1977 till May 2011, an almost 34 year period, Bengal was under continuous Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) rule!

Jyoti Basu was Bengal's chief minister from 1977 till 2000 (and deputy chief minister in 1967 and 1969 in a 'United Front' alliance government). Mother Teresa died in 1997. So for the last twenty years of her life, Mother Teresa and her charitable missionary organization headquarters were located in a city and state (Kolkata and Bengal) that were under communist party rule! Astonishingly, Mother Teresa and her orgn. not only did not face any persecution or harassment from the communist party state government in Bengal but were supported in their charitable work by it! Perhaps it was in these last two decades of Mother Teresa's life that she rose to the biggest heights of her international fame during her lifetime, including winning the Nobel Peace prize in 1979.

I cannot imagine a communist leader of a state in China allowing a Christian missionary like Mother Teresa to rise to such fame. I mean, it would have been a huge embarrassment to the Communist Party of China! Therefore I don't think a Mother Teresa like phenomenon would have been allowed to happen in any state in communist China, like it happened in partly communist ruled Bengal state of India.

[I thank wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Saiprabha Patnaik suicide case: Satyajit Salian seems to have moved to Mumbai and taken up a job there

Last updated on 13th Nov. 2017

My post: How should Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi ashram system prevent future Saiprabha Patnaik type staff suicide?,, 23rd July 2017, mentioned that I did not come across any report in the local media in the past few days (then), about the Saiprabha Patnaik suicide case that had been transferred to Anantapur CCS police in end June 2017. The suicide happened in a Prasanthi Nilayam ashram project office on June 6th night/June 7th early morning (in) 2017; for more see

Now it is close to mid November 2017. I don't think I have seen any reports in local media about the case from the date of 23rd July 2017 post mentioned above. Further, I think local media's interest in the matter has also gone.

I felt it appropriate to share with readers that I heard that Satyajit Salian has moved to Mumbai and has taken up a job there in some private company. I was told that he moved to Mumbai perhaps a month or so ago.

Perhaps that is the way forward in this very tragic case. I hope that if any persons in the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini project management team had even inadvertently done any injustice to Saiprabha Patnaik, they have the spiritual wisdom to seek (perhaps they have already sought) forgiveness from the soul of Saiprabha Patnaik and from her family, for their actions. From personal experience, I know that seeking forgiveness for even having inadvertently caused unjust pain to others (I had inadvertently caused unjust pain to others and then sought forgiveness from them), goes a long way in spiritually healing the people involved in the matter. [Some pain caused in a just way to protect oneself from harm, and/or to inform the public about bad actions committed by some wrongdoers is a different matter (whistle-blowing). It is unpleasant but not unjust, and has the good effect of helping to prevent such wrongdoing in future.]

I earnestly pray to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to shower His Grace on all people involved in this tragic matter involving his devotees, and provide spiritual healing to all concerned including the family of Saiprabha Patnaik as well as Satyajit Salian and family, thereby helping them to move forward in their spiritual journey by following the Sanathana Dharma values re-inforced by Bhagavan, of Sathya (truth), Dharma (ethical/righteous living), Shanti (peace) and Prema (love). Jai Sairam!

In my Facebook post,, associated with this post, V V Sarachandran made the following comment (and was OK with public sharing; slightly edited):
Thanks for articulating so well a spiritual approach to handling a possible criminal offense.

For me personally, this tragedy is a small indication that even the best among us are fallible at times - being in Puttaparthi not withstanding.

I (Ravi) Facebook-liked the above comment of V V Sarachandran and thanked him for it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Can we say that India is today's, the early 21st century's, topmost multi-religious country?

Last updated on 12th Nov. 2017 is an interesting wiki page. It has a list of countries sorted on importance of religion, based on data from a global Gallup poll in 2009, with least importance at the beginning by default (sort order of columns can be changed). Note that some countries are not listed (perhaps due to the poll not being conducted there).

We are not sure whether the global Gallup poll would have been a thorough effort like a government run census. So there is a possibility that its figures may have significant amount of inaccuracy.

India's percentage of people for whom religion is important, in the Gallup 2009 poll, is 90% (with 9% of people for whom religion is unimportant). Quite a few countries have higher religion-important percentage numbers. Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Niger have the highest numbers of 99%+ (with 0% of people for whom religion is unimportant)! Indonesia, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Yemen have the next highest numbers of 99% (without the +). Saudi Arabia's figures are not provided in the list! If the polling is limited to Saudi citizens, I presume it will be in the 90s and perhaps greater than India.

I tend to think that importance of religion for Indians typically is high and that the real percentage today, in 2017, of Indians for whom religion is important would be 90% (the Gallup poll figure in 2009) or higher (but not lesser).

In terms of declaration of religion by Indians in the 2011 census, here's the data from [note that 1 crore is 10 million]: "Total Population in 2011 is 121.09 crores ; Hindu 96.63 crores (79.8%); Muslim 17.22 crores (14.2%); Christian 2.78 crores (2.3%); Sikh 2.08 crores (1.7%); Buddhist 0.84 crores (0.7%); Jain 0.45 crores (0.4%), Other Religions & Persuasions (ORP) 0.79 crores (0.7%) and Religion Not Stated 0.29 crores (0.2%)." The .xls spreadsheet giving the exact numbers from the Govt. of India 2011 census can be downloaded here (choose the India link):

The spreadsheet specifies that the 'Religion Not Stated' number of people is 2867303 from a total population of 1210854977, which comes to 0.2368 (rounded) percent of the total population. That makes the percentage of Indians (in 2011 census) who have stated some religion (or 'persuasion') as 99.7632% [I am presuming that 'Other Religions and Persuasions' (0.7%) does not include atheists & agnostics].

Going back to the Gallup 2009 poll data in this wiki page,, demographics wise, India tops as the country having the largest number of highly religious people in the world (estimated to be over 1 billion). Further, India has almost all the major world religions practiced today in 2017. That includes Christianity (various sects including Catholics and Protestants), Islam (various sects including Sunni and Shia), Hinduism (various sects), Buddhism (various sects), Jainism, Sikhism and Judaism (Jewish faith) [See for more].

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution of India.

Further, there is no state sponsored persecution (social stigma is a different matter related to groups of people) of open atheists and agnostics. As an example of India's tolerance of those propagating atheism, a few years ago (in 2013) a professor of Physics in an Indian educational institution wrote an article titled, "Let’s aim for a post-theistic society" with a sub-heading/summary: "Religion is founded on FEAR, the fear of the unknown. But modern science has been able to explain almost all natural phenomena." This article was published by a mainstream English language South Indian newspaper, The Hindu,

Of course, his article received criticism in the form of comments (which don't seem to be shown now in the article link above) and article responses which were published later by The Hindu. My comments and some of the article response links can be read/accessed in my blog post here:, dated Sept. 2013. But the point is that the Indian Physics professor was allowed to articulate his anti-religion and atheist views freely.

So I think it is safe to say that today in 2017 (early 21st century), India can be considered to be the world's topmost multi-religious country, with a multi-religious society which allows for various religions as well as no-religion ideologies to be openly professed and practiced, and which largely co-exist peacefully, within the laws and constitution of democratic India.

But it must be said that having 90% of people who claim that religion is important for them, does not mean that these 90% of people follow all, or even most, of the teachings and exhortations of their religion seriously. I should also say that the other 10% for whom religion is not important, may have significant number of/many people who follow high level of ethical/moral code. So whether religion is important or unimportant should not be viewed as an indication of whether the person concerned leads an ethical life or not.

Crime, including heinous crimes like rape and murder (different from killing in self-defense), and more common crimes like robbery and extortion, does happen on a significant scale in India, with official crime figures being lower than the reality as many crimes simply do not get reported officially. This wiki page,, gives some info. about officially reported crime in India.

But even with fair amount of crime, untruth and unethical behaviour, 90% of Indians are very religious. Perhaps those that indulge in untruthful and unethical behaviour, and crime, even when they are very religious, do so under some periods of ethical weakness or perhaps out of desperate need.

I think one can conclude that even with significant amount of crime, untruth and unethical behaviour, India today is the world's topmost multi-religious country, which indicates a great amount of faith in God, as understood through various religious traditions, that an overwhelming majority of Indians totaling over 1 billion, have.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

USA Senator Elizabeth Warren says Yes to question whether USA Democratic party primary in 2016 USA presidential election was rigged

This post is copy-pasted from

Last updated on 8th Nov. 2017

How one word from Elizabeth Warren exposed the massive split in the Democratic Party,, 3rd Nov. 2017.

Given below is a remark I made on my Facebook post,, on this matter, to a Facebook friend who was a public supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 USA presidential campaign:
--Name-snipped--, Your allegations in 2016 (or perhaps from 2015 itself), in this regard, seem to have been true. [Please see update below where I have changed my opinion.] In my considered opinion, I think it will be best for the Democratic party to have a transparent and thorough inquiry into the matter, paving the way for rules and norms that will prevent such rigging, if true and which seems to be true given that Sen. Warren says so publicly, of future presidential nominee primary elections within the Democratic party.

Update on 5th Nov. 2017

I think both Donna Brazile and Warren are referring to unethical BUT LEGAL ways in which the Clinton campaign got extraordinary power (through funding as the Democratic party was in heavy financial trouble) over the Democratic party well before the nomination was decided.

While I don't want to delve into the details, I think there was outrage even in 2016 over what was seen as an unfairly tilted to Clinton Democratic party nomination from a lot of people in the USA. That perception must be removed in the Democratic party now. It is an inner party democracy and transparency matter (and not a legal or criminal matter), the way I see it. And that cleanup and reform should be done well before 2020, perhaps in time for 2018.

USA politics is overwhelmingly dominated by just two political parties. In other words, for all intents and purposes, it is a two party system as of now. It is important for USA democracy to keep both the Republican and Democratic parties in good health and run their affairs in such a way as to earn the trust of the American public.


Donna Brazile is being criticized in this article: Donna Brazile Needs to Back Up Her Self-Serving Claims, by Josh Marshall,, 3rd Nov. 2017.

My (Ravi) thoughts:
I was forced to do a lot of learning about community leadership, community level politics and even state and national level politics when I went through the horrific trauma, confusion and chaos in Puttaparthi after Sathya Sai passed away bodily in April 2011, which situ took upto nearly upto mid 2017 (6 years) for things to settle down now as two clear factions - the Sathya Sai Puttaparthi based group which doesn't believe in mediums who claim to communicate with Sathya Sai, and the Sathya Sai Muddenahalli based group which is heavily into mediums in general, and two in particular who are the joint leaders of that group. I think now the Sathya Sai fraternity in general, including me, have come to accept the reality that, unless there is some extraordinary development, we will have these two factions/sects/groups in the Sathya Sai movement for at least some years, perhaps even a decade or two, down the road.

Note that some top political leaders of the states of Andhra Pradesh (where Puttaparthi lies) and Karnataka (where Muddenahalli (and Bangalore) lie), as well as a few top national level Indian political leaders kept an eye on what was going on in this matter during this period. So I came to know, through some contacts, about how they viewed this matter and how much influence and power political leaders in India have. I mean, they can cut off state facilities like longer duration in the day (almost full 24 hours typically now but with some unscheduled outages for few minutes every day) electric power to Puttaparthi, and make it like it is in the surrounding villages (at least a few years ago they had power cuts lasting hours, on a regular basis), thereby crippling the institutions like hospitals, schools and even a deemed university! The ministers in India have ***enormous leverage*** in such matters and so spiritual groups/movements ensure that they do not offend them in any way.

One key learning that I got from these traumatic years was that a lot of unpleasant stuff that happened is kept hidden from the public/group. Bringing all that info. into the public domain would hurt the public/group as one would come to know about unpleasant aspects of leaders not only in political field but also in spiritual groups. Enemies of the spiritual group/political party would take that info. and use it as very powerful ammunition to greatly damage the spiritual group/political party by exaggerating it and publicizing it endlessly.

So, in India, one has to read the situ by seeing actions taken by the group leaders (e.g. removal of a tainted person from position of authority) and sometimes, a few words critical of the tainted persons/process, without any/significant evidence to back them.

I also have to say that to some extent I understand Donna Brazile's position as both she and I share the commonality of being whistle-blowers (she through her book and op-ed, me through my blog and Facebook posts), about inner workings in our community in the recent past. I did my main whistle-blowing in 2015 and 2016 about events that happened from June 2011 to Nov. 2014 when the Sai university was completely in the hands of the Muddenahalli medium group as the Vice-chancellor was a staunch believer in the key medium; Brazile is doing it in end 2017 about 2016 events. Of course, there are orders of magnitude scale differences between the large and powerful USA Democratic party and the Sathya Sai fraternity. But even then I think the human issues involved have striking similarities.

I could not reveal all as there were certain things whose revelation would have been very harmful to our Puttaparthi group but I broadly hinted about it. Perhaps Brazile is in a similar position. Brazile has been attacked as being self-serving. I too was attacked, rather viciously, by Muddenahalli group supporters (the vicious stuff being done via Facebook fake Ids with one Id being traced to Melbourne, Australia and suggestions that there are more of such fake Id fellows based in Melbourne, Australia), as self-serving and worse (corrupt). Perhaps some of what Brazile has written is self-serving. Perhaps some of what I have written can be viewed as self-serving. But I have not made one single Rupee or paisa (equivalent to cent) from my whistle-blowing. I have only spent time and money from my side for it, and earned enemies, especially those who I exposed in my whistle-blowing. Brazile surely would have earned the enmity of the Clintons and their major supporters. These are realities of inter-personal relations that get entwined with the ideology/beliefs of the political group/spiritual group involved. That is another significant learning for me from my challenging period from June 2011 to around mid 2017.

I am finding that Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders' response to Donna Brazile's op-ed in Politico (and book too, I guess), is similar to how Indian political leaders handle such issues within their party! So I read it as Brazile, Warren and Sanders holding the view that the 2016 Democratic primaries were unfairly tilted in favour of Clinton. Warren and Sanders don't want to get deeper into the matter and expose any details as that would give more ammunition to Trump. Warren has publicly stated her view that it was unfairly tilted in favour of Clinton, stuck to that view in her tweets, but not said anything about them being illegal. She does not want to give more political oxygen to this, and instead wants to focus on fighting USA President Trump on his tax plan. Sanders too put up a Facebook post referencing one of Trump's tweets on this matter, where Sanders said nothing about Brazile's words, but asked Trump to stop diverting the attention (or something like that) from Tax and other issues, and Sanders asked Trump to do his job of governing as President.

As I think about it, I think this is sensible. Earlier, in this post (above), I had written: "In my considered opinion, I think it will be best for the Democratic party to have a transparent and thorough inquiry into the matter, paving the way for rules and norms that will prevent such rigging, if true and which seems to be true given that Sen. Warren says so publicly, of future presidential nominee primary elections within the Democratic party."

At that time I thought that in the USA, transparency for such matters involving one of its two main political parties is best. But as what I have expressed above has begun to sink in, in my mind, I think that even in USA perhaps some inner-party matters are best left hidden as exposing them fully to the public may hurt the party. What should be done is to prevent or reduce the possibility of it happening again in the political party.

Political parties and spiritual groups share a lot of similarities, I was rather surprised to learn! Donation money is the oxygen that is vital for running the show in both. And for that, public perception is a vital factor. So, like in private small and medium scale business companies, both these groups market the positives and try to suppress the negatives.

From what little I have seen, I tend to agree with the view that the Democratic party is moving towards the views of Senator Sanders. Sanders has emerged as a very important opposition voice to Trump, even though he is now an Independent. With what Warren said, I think one can assume that Warren is aligning with Sanders, and is heavily in favour of doing changes in the Democratic party to attract supporters of Sanders to it.

Sanders has emerged as the champion of the poor and lower middle class, and seems to have found some favour in the middle class as a whole. That he ran a campaign which came close to defeating Clinton in the Democratic party primary ***without a Super-PAC*** and so, as per his claims, without BIG MONEY support, perhaps is a game-changer for USA politics in the foreseeable future.

Update on 6th Nov. 2017

One-on-one with former DNC chair Donna Brazile,, published on 5th Nov. 2017.

Around 8:20 in the above video, George Stephanopoulus asks Donna Brazile, "Do you think this joint fundraising agreement was anything illegal at all?"

Brazile: "As I said at the time George, I did not like the fact that there was an additional memorandum that spelled out what the Clinton campaign could do in exchange for bailing the Democratic party out. I give Secretary Clinton credit for bailing the Democratic party out because we were in debt."
At around 9:52, George Stephanopoulos asks Donna Brazile whether she agreed with Elizabeth Warren that the primaries were rigged.

Donna Brazile says, "I don't think she meant the word 'rigged' because what I said George, as you well know, after I left this show back on July 24th, I said, I will get to the bottom of everything and that's what I did. I called Senator Sanders to say - you know I wanted to make sure there is no rigging in the process. I am on the rules and bylaws committee. I found no evidence, none whatsoever. The only thing I found which I said, I found the cancer but I am not killing the patient, was this memorandum that prevented the DNC from running its own operation."

Ravi: So Donna Brazile clarifies here that she does not say that Hillary Clinton benefited from any unfair non-compliance of the rules and bylaws for the primary election. What she was talking about was the extra influence that Hillary Clinton campaign had over the DNC due to a special arrangement (the memorandum) which came about due to Hillary Clinton campaign providing funds to the funds-starved DNC, thereby bailing out the DNC.

Further, Donna Brazile clarifies that she does not consider 'rigged' to be the correct word to describe this additional influence the Clinton campaign had over the DNC.

Ravi: My understanding of the above is that Donna Brazile sticks to her stand that Hillary Clinton campaign had more influence over the DNC than the Bernie Sanders campaign but she rules out any improprieties (rigging) in following rules and bylaws of the primary election.

A USA based correspondent wrote in response to the above (and was OK with public sharing): "Money speaks and rules these days in politics!"

I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited):
Actually, I think money has been speaking and ruling not only in politics but also in war, over the ages. War, many times, is an extension of political disputes to military battles to decide the winner of the dispute by military battles!

Today the difference is that people write books, give interviews and/or write social media posts exposing the role of money in politics and war. I think even half a century ago - the 1960s, the same things would have been going on in USA politics at a time when, in the post World War II world, USA was viewed as the most powerful and most prosperous country in the world. But at that time, even in the USA, the people in the know would not have dared to write or give tell-all interviews about such matters.

This early 21st century which has to now, in 2017, be viewed as an Internet powered age I think, has brought a very high level of whistle-blowing and sharing of inside info with the public in societies that enjoy freedom of speech which includes India, which was unimaginable in the past history of human society.

Please note that I have a PUBLICLY NEUTRAL informal-student-observer role in these posts that I put up about USA politics. Of course, as I am an Indian citizen living in India, there is no question of me having voted in USA elections.