Comrade Shiv Verma: Revolutionary to the Core
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
WITH the passing away of Comrade Shiv Verma, on January 10, a sad day for all of us, one of the last figures of the national revolutionary movement led by martyrs Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh has left us. With his death we are now bereft of a dedicated revolutionary who not only fought for national independence but, after freedom too, struggled till the last for the rights of the working people, for people's democracy and socialism.
The quality of the stuff Comrade Shiv Verma was made up of, can be gauged from the fact that he remained active even in his old age, till about one year before he left us at the ripe age of 93.
IN AFTERMATH OF NON-COOPERATION
Born on February 9, 1904 in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh, Shiv Verma plunged into the non-cooperation movement (1921-22) at the call of Gandhi, when he was barely 17. However, when Gandhi withdrew the movement on a spurious plea after the Chauri Chaura incident, the whole nation plunged into a gloom. The earlier generations of national revolutionaries, who had suspended their own movement in order to take part in the Gandhi's experiment of "Swaraj in One Year" with great hopes, now began to reorganize. In Uttar Pradesh too, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, who had been earlier transported for life in the first Lahore conspiracy case (1915-17), and had come out only in a general amnesty follwoing the First World War, assembled a small group of youth and formed the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) in 1925.
However, the HRA was soon shattered following the Kakori train hold-up of 1925 and the resulting conspiracy case. Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Roshan Singh and Rajen Lahiri were sentenced to death, many including Sachin Sanyal were transported for life, many others got jail sentences of three to 14 years, while Chandrashekhar Azad and Mukundi Lal were declared absconding.
It was in those days that Shiv Verma and Jaidev Kapoor, then studying at Kanpur, met Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. These meetings and those with others soon led to a secret meet at Ferozshah Kotla ground in Delhi in September 1927 where the HRA was resurrected with a new name, viz, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), which was a new type of organization quite different from those operating in Bengal and Maharashtra, two other main areas of revolutionary activity. The HSRA operated in whole of North India from Punjab to Bihar and upto central India in the southward direction. Shiv Verma was elected to its Central Committee as representative of the United Provinces unit. He was also sent as an HSRA, emissary to Bengal to contact the revolutionary groups there though, due to certain reasons, they did not agree to merger with the HSRA.
The inclusion of the world "Socialist" in the name of the party did symbolize the new orientation that these youth had just started undergoing.
What followed next -- death of Lal Lajpat Rai following a police lathicharge, Saminders' murder in a bid to avenge Lalaji's death dropping of bombs in Central Assembly (now the Sansad Bhavan), the second Lahore conspiracy case and over a dozen supplementary cases, and execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev -- is all part of history, and every Indian can justifiably take pride in this part of history.
The second Lahore conspiracy case also led to life transportation for Shiv Verma, Jaidev Kapoor, Mahavir Singh, Dr.Gaya Prasad, Pandit Kishori Lal and some others. Shiv Verma was first sent to Rajamundari Jail, now in Andhra Pradesh, and from there to the notorious Andaman Cellular Jail from where, the Britishers hoped nobody would be able to return alive to the mainland.
Before the conclusion of the Lahore case, the accused also waged protracted hunger strikes on the demands of jail reforms, but in fact to continue the anti-imperialist struggle in new forms in the conditions of jail life. It was in such a hunger strike that Jatin Das became a martyr on the 63rd day. Shiv Verma too had reached quite closed to death in one such hunger strike.
However, in various Indian jails as well as in Andamans, these young revolutionaries underwent a veritable intellectual revolution as well. Though this process had started outside and was initiated and led by Bhagat Singh, constant studies, discussions, introspection and review of the revolutionary movement that went on inside the jails, saw the final conversion of a large number of Indian revlutionaries to Marxism-Leninism. This process has been well captured by several writings of Comrade Shiv Verma himself, by Vijay KUmar Sinha's In Andaman The Indian Bastille, Manmath Nath Gupta's They Lived Dangerously, Yashpal's three-volume Simhavalokan (Hindi) and a number of other writings by other revolutionaries.
This process reached its height in the Andamans where the prisoners formed a new organisation named Communist Consolidation, which more than 500 inmates, barring barely a dozen, joined. Shiv Verma played a key role in the formation of the consolidation and editing its hand-written organ The Call. The Consolidation immediately declared adherence to the Communist Party of India.
In Andamans too, Shiv Verma again reached on the verge of death during another hunger strike that claimed the lives of Mahavir Singh, Mohit Maitra and Mohan Kishore.
After the formation of Congress governments in a number of provinces in 1937, when the demand to bring the Andaman inmates to the mainland threatened to develop into a mass movement, and the British Raj had had to vow before this demand, Shiv Verma too was shifted to Naini Jail in Allahabad. His earliest extant writings belong to this very period.
Though a number of revolutionary prisoners were released by 1945, Shiv Verma, Jaidev Kapoor, Dr.Gaya Prasad and Pandit Kishori Lal were not allowed to come out till after independence.
AGAIN IN MIDST OF STRUGGLE
One out of jail, Shiv Verma plunged into mass movements with full vigour and put himself totally at the disposal of the party. In 1948, he was elected secretary of the Uttar Pradesh state committee of the united party.
This was the time when the glorious Telangana peasant armed struggle was at its peak and the party all over the country was facing a very severe bout of repression unleashed by the Nehru government. In those days, UP had had a comparatively strong unit of the party. It was here that two conspiracy cases had been launched by the British, at Kanpur and Meerut, with a view to nip the communist movement in the bud. While Kanpur had been a strong bastion of the labour movement, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, etc., had emerged as centres of a militant peasant movement which was led by many outstanding leaders like the late Sarju Pandey.
It was, therefore, natural that the UP unit of the party too became a target of attack of the government. But the way Comrade Shiv Verma led the party in the state under those most trying circumstances, proved beyond doubt his organizational skills and abilities.
This was the first time Shiv Verma was imprisoned by a government of independent India. He was imprisoned subsequently in 1962 and 1965 also when the government launched an offensive against the Marxists.
After the inner-party struggle erupted in 1951 on the question of party programme and on the questions of strategy of Indian revolution etc., Shiv Verma was removed from the secretaryship of the UP state committee. However, he never grudged it and willingly overtook whatever responsibilities were entrusted to him by the party. It was during this period in mid-fifties that he edited Naya Path, a progressive Hindi literacy journal of repute, and rallied a number of progressive writers on its platform.
At different times he had five also edited Naya Savera and Lok Lahar, central Hindi organs of the party.
Despite all the bitterness created during the inner-party struggle, Shiv Verma continued his activities in the party, on the trade union front and in literary circles etc. After we reorganised the party in November 1964, he took side with the CPI(M). He was elected to the UP state committee of the party and its secretariat. Soon afterward, in 1967 and later, when the party faced a severe challenge from the adventurist disrupters, Shiv Verma fought this trend as resolutely as he had fought revisionists earlier.
LOYAL TO IDEALS OF BHAGAT SINGH
However, during the last one decade or so when his health had started deteriorating, he was relieved of his party responsibilities at his request. Yet he continued his work in other fields. He had founded a Shaheed Smarak at Lucknow which also undertook research and publication works. Now he devoted himself fully to it, and widely travelled all over the country to collect articles, photographs, etc., of the revolutionaries; he even went to the British Museum, London, in this very connection. In fact, he continued his search with the same zeal with which he had earlier retrieved Bhagat Singh's articles, speeches, letters, etc., from oblivion and had rifted the genuine documents from a mass of spurious ones.
This way, till his very end Shiv Verma continued to follow the bequeath made by Bhagat Singh in his "To The Young Political Workers", his virtually last letter that was smuggled out of prison.
In his glorious career as a revolutionary Marxist, Shiv Verma also continued to propagate the tenets of Marxism-Leninism, using his powerful pen and enviable command over Hindi language. The five small pamphlets in his Marxvad Parichay Mala series have by now run into millions of copies and also translated into other languages. His Sansmritiyan (Memoirs) and Maut Ke Intezar Mein not only depicted te hard but dedicated lives of our revolutionaries but also proved a mighty source of inspiration for younger generations.
Then the volume he edited, entitled Selected Writings of Bhagat Singh, has a great importance of its on as it amounted to a rediscovery of Bhagat Singh, bringing out to the people his ideas and ideals that were long suppressed by vested interests. Only on March 23 last, the second edition of the book had come out for which he virtually compelled me to write a second Foreword, in addition to one written by late Comrade B.T. Ranadive for the first edition.
Truly the life of Comrade Shiv Verma was a glorious life which he utilized to the hilt for the cause of our toiling masses. A man gets only one life, but not all make virtuous use of it, Shiv Verma fell in a different category altogether, and served the movement without any ambition or grudge, with utmost dedication, courage and identification with the masses. Even though he is now no more with us, his life will continue to inspire all our comrades, supporters and the people at large for a long long time.
With these words, I pay my humble and respectful homage to this dedicated revolutionary. His memories will ever be cherished.