Communism may be losing support across the world and in India, but Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara is still holding the fort in Shimla.
From the picture of Che Guevara hanging on the rusty wall of the state headquarters of the Communist Party-Marxist at Bawa Building, Shimla, to the streets, where students carry banners bearing his images, the popularity of the legendary rebel has grown immensely of late.
The celebrated figure is no longer confined to the precincts of the CPM headquarters. With elections to the Student Central Associations of colleges and universities drawing near, the demand for T-shirts bearing images of guerrilla warrior Ernesto (Che) Guevara has gone up dramatically.
To cash in on his popularity, the Left-oriented Student Federation of India has placed an order for Che Guevara T-shirts.
The demand for badges bearing the beret-sporting Che has grown. "We have placed orders for 10,000 posters and badges," SFI state secretary Vijender Mehra told Hindustan Times, even as he fails to give a specific reason behind the revolutionary leader's popularity in the state.
"I think amid imperialistic policies of developed countries, Che Guevara is the most important figure that symbolises the global revolution," says Mehra.
The young Leftists, however, ascribe different reasons to the growing popularity of the Argentine revolutionary. "Bhagat Singh's ideology is limited to India and few other countries, but Che Guevara represents global revolution," says Shikha Chauhan, a former president of HPU's Student Central Association.
She sees a different reason behind the sudden rise in Che's popularity. "Freshers in the college easily get attracted to icons. Even as many of them may not know much about him, they wear Che Guevara T-shirts under peer influence."
The young activists agitating on the campus and on streets of the towns can be seen carrying flexes with the images of Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara. The senior ideologues of the Left parties admit that Che Guevara is the new icon for youngsters. Bhagat Singh had pan-Indian character, whereas Che Guevara is more appealing because of his global struggle, said Tikender Panwar, member CPM state secretariat.
Born in 1928, Che Guevara travelled widely through Latin America and was moved by what he saw. Later, he participated in the Cuban revolution and led a military campaign in Bolivia where he was executed in 1965.