Ramswaroop Verma and Jagdeo Prasad were the co-founders of Shoshit Samaj Dal. It was a political outfit. Arjak Sangh was another joint initiative of theirs through which they challenged the hegemony of the upper castes. Arjak Sangh and Shoshit Samaj Dal are still in existence but their influence and reach has waned considerably following the demise of Verma and Prasad. Recently, Ramchandra Katiyar was elected the new national president of Shoshit Samaj Dal. He succeeded Raghuram Shastri, who passed away on 23 April 2021. Katiyar has been a close associate of Ramswaroop Verma. Forward Press Hindi Editor Nawal Kishore Kumar interviewed Katiyar over the phone:
When did you first come in contact with Ramswaroop Verma?
Ramswaroop Verma hailed from a village neighbouring mine. During his political tours, he used to visit our place. Verma’s village was called Gaurikaran and mine was called Tutai Chaal. Both were in the Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh. My father was the village “pradhan”. I first met Verma ji on one of his visits to our place. After I had completed my education, he told me that serving the nation was the best thing one could do and asked me to join him. That was around 1970. After Jagdeo Babu’s murder in Bihar, it was a difficult time. A national convention was to be held. Verma gave me the responsibility of organizing the convention. The three-day convention was held under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal (SSD) in Pukhrayan (Kanpur Dehat, UP) in June 1975. It was a big success. Lakhs of people attended. This was followed by my appointment as general secretary of the SSD’s UP unit. I began working as a full-time worker for the party.
Please share some of your memories of Ramswaroop Verma and of the Arjak Sangh. How is Arjak Singh important and how will it transform society?
When Verma ji founded the SSD, many things were on his mind. Why is the country hurtling down the path to ruin? Why are the political parties so unprincipled? He used to say that all political parties were being funded by the capitalists and that the upper varnas were the upper class in our country. He would say that the peasants and the workers were like grass and the capitalists like horses. If the horse becomes weak, there will be grass all around and if grass is in short supply, the horse will die. When all political parties are dependent on capitalists for their funding, the ruin of the workers and the peasants is a foregone conclusion. That is happening. Today, two per cent of the people own 90 per cent of the assets. He could foresee this outcome. He believed that no nation could progress if its political parties were funded by capitalists. Today, the country’s economy is in the doldrums, foreign debt is burgeoning, rupee is sinking and the peasants and the workers are unable to recover even the cost of agricultural inputs. They are on the verge of starvation. When Verma ji was finance minister (in the Uttar Pradesh Government) he had fought to fix the government price of wheat at Rs 85 per quintal. At the time, a bag of cement cost Rs 7 and diesel was 40 paise a litre. A bag of Urea could be bought for Rs 36 and a kilogramme of iron for Re 1. Since then, the prices of all these things have skyrocketed 100 to 250 times. The price of seeds has shot through the roof. Unprincipled politics has broken the back of the farmers and the workers. Unless political parties are funded by the people, the parties won’t be of any good to them. Keeping all these things in mind – what the problems facing the nation are and how they can be resolved – he placed a set of principles, policies and programmes before the people. The day SSD’s principles and the programmes are adopted all of the country’s problems will disappear. Unemployment will vanish, farmers will be saved from ruin, peasants and workers will become prosperous and the country’s production will boom. India will really become a golden bird.
Immortal martyr Jagdeo Prasad and Ramswaroop Verma had merged their respective parties to form the Shoshit Samaj Dal. How did this come about?
Verma ji used to say that brahmanical values ruled the roost in all the four spheres of life – cultural, social, economic and political; and that until they were replaced by humanistic values, we couldn’t hope for social or economic equity. On 1 June 1968, he published “Arjak Sangh’s Principles and Programmes” for a socio-cultural revolution. He wanted to stage a socio-cultural revolution, leaving revolution in the political and economic spheres to the others. But then he discovered that the Arjak Sangh was being opposed by the political parties of the Dalits and Backwards. He felt that the tree wouldn’t be safe unless it was protected by a fence. Otherwise, animals would finish it off. If we were to initiate a revolution in all the four spheres of life, we would need a party to ignite a revolution in the fields of politics and economy. This work was going on in both the places (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). When Jagdeo Babu came to know that Verma ji was planning a revolution in all the four spheres, Jagdeo Babu contacted Verma ji. After talks between them, Jagdeo Babu’s Shoshit Dal and Verma ji’s Samaj Dal merged in Patna on 7 August 1972. Verma ji accepted the programme of Shoshit Samaj Dal. Thus, SSD started its work in earnest.
Did you happen to be present in any of the talks between Ramswaroop Verma and Jagdeo Babu? If yes, please share your reminiscences.
Verma ji used to live in Bungalow No 312 in Darul Shafa locality of Lucknow. At the time, Jagdeo Babu had visited him. We had organized a big public meeting at Pukhrayan. I accompanied them to Pukhrayan and we talked for hours.
Something about Jagdeo Babu that impressed you?
Jagdeo Babu was a man of revolutionary ideas and a great leader. In his conversations with Verma ji he said that there could be no better policy than SSD’s, whose principles and programmes for banishing poverty and misery from this land were unmatched; the casteist parties misleading the people were the stumbling blocks for us. He said that the world over, three “isms” had been destructive of democracy – casteism, communalism and capitalism; democracy and these “isms” couldn’t co-exist; wherever in the world these grew, democracy was extinguished; India had all the three of them and therefore, preserving the country’s democratic character was a big challenge; unprincipled politics would sound the death knell for democracy. So, he said, to protect our democracy we needed to work vigorously and throttle the growth of casteism, communalism and capitalism.
SSD lost steam in Bihar after the murder of Jagdeo Babu? Why did it happen?
Emotions overwhelm thinking. Shoshit Samaj Dal had revolutionary thinking. The capitalist and brahmanical forces knew very well that the day this party comes of age would be their last day. So, day and night they would devise stratagems to stymie the growth of ideological politics. That was why communalism was fanned. When Hindu-Muslim communalism takes root, a Muslim candidate, no matter how capable he is, cannot get Hindu votes. Similarly, Muslims don’t vote even for competent and capable Hindus. This happens because of the politics of emotions.
Similarly, when the capitalists or the media launch a publicity blitzkrieg, indulge in hero worship, talk of miracles or abuse others, the thinking man runs for cover. Likewise, when casteism grows strong, people start preferring their own castes. Castes were created so that the workers can be divided and ruled upon. Now, you cannot buy a caste. So the capitalists have started constituting political parties for every caste. Due to this, the already-present social disunity is leading to political disunity. SSD’s ideological campaign was hit by casteism and communal politics. That was why we could not reach out to the people. But now the people have realized the truth. Many people are rejecting casteism and communalism. The influence of SSD is growing. Those who did not like to hear a word from us earlier are coming to us, becoming members. They say that they had lost their way but now have realized that SSD’s path is the right one.
Why nothing was done to fill the vacuum created by Jagdeo Babu’s murder?
No, no. It is being done now. I am just back from a tour of Bihar. We celebrated SSD’s foundation day on 7 August. The hall where we held the programme was the one in which we used to celebrate the day every year. In the past, it was never even half-full. But this time, there was no place to sit. Even the hall on the side was also overflowing with people. Then, people were standing on the road. So, we feel that the people are being drawn to us. They realize that they had taken the wrong path. Three-four former MLAs also attended the function. People are now realizing that casteism and communalism are evils. They now accept that the path shown by Jagdeo Babu and Ramswaroop Verma ji is the right one. They are coming back. Our caravan is moving forward.
(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil Varghese)
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