At about 9 am on a damp, sultry morning in front of the port of chennai, the march against new imperialism was to begin. As always, the Red Flags lent majesty to the air. Sadly, the crowd was so sparse that it could have been numbered within minutes.
None other than Karat was to lead the march. Chennai has a huge chunk of CITU members. It looked like the comrades were asked to work for their families and not for the nation. For now.
A couple of spirited Communist cadre were shouting anti-imperialist slogans. As Manmohan Singh thinks, the voice of the proletariat sounded shrill and meek.
Only a stern-looking Karat and the resolutness of CPI national secretary Raja gave some sort of credibility to this historical march for sovereignty through mass mobilisation. Raja explained why chose the city that had hosted the US flagship carrier Nimitz that bombarded Iraq not so long ago.
Chennai was one of the cradles for communist movement in the nation. In fact, the first May Day parade was marched on the streets of this very city. Till the 1980s, soviet literature was part of the reading habit.
We have conveniently forgotten all of it. The new generation will not even know. Times have changed. This is the New Age. People are no more idealists. They have turned to commercialism in a big way.
For once, it looked the Left was not without allies. The State Agriculture Minister, the DMK strongman, Veerapandi Arumugam and PMK president G K Mani were at the venue. Not to lend solidarity to the Communist struggle but to pay tributes to VOC, a true swadeshi who sailed ships on his own fighting the old-world (British) imperialism. While Arumugam arrived before the Left leaders, Mani came after the march had left. It looked deliberate as the DMK and PMK, share power with the Congress at UPA. They want more money.
Moving on, the Left leaders were accorded warm reception at several points enroute Vizagapattinam. It was off the coast of Vizag, the joint naval exercise was taking place.
It was evident that the Tamils had not cared about the Left's fight against imperialism or they did not care to come out in support. The convoy led by Karat in a Tempo Traveller, a few vans and comrades in motor-cycles, stopped at Sulurpet, Gummidipoondi and at few roadside points.
A dhoti-clad Karat, sweating profusely and shying away from the crowd, spoke as sternly as he could, warning the UPA Government not to take the Left for granted. ``The UPA's commitment is to the people. Not for George W Bush,'' he remarked.
Raja warned the UPA not to deviate from the common minimum programme or face the consequences. ``We mean what we say,'' Raja kept reiterating at all the points.
Into Andhra Pradesh, the Left leaders were happy to see more crowd. At the same time, their hearts must have been gripped with melancholy at the sight of poor peasantry gathering around them. To see if the socialist leaders can give them a cent or two to be sheltered in a hut.
There were many farm women as the landownership was a issue in those parts of the state. The children with thin legs and vacant eyes were there. They are there like that in the rural countryside all through this nation. Not many notice nor care.
When the educated Chennaiites could not comprehend the Left's zeal for sovereignty, the poor women folk visibly had no clue as to what the leaders meant by joint naval exercises or nuclear agreement or even 1.2.3. It was a sad commentary on the times we live in.
The march went on.