Quite contrary to Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh’s claims that two AAP MPs “have links with Naxalites” known for armed struggle against the Indian state, both the leaders are primarily known for their work among the masses in Punjab.
According to old-timers who have closely studied and remained associated with the Left radical movement in Punjab, Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi started his political career from Government Medical College in Amritsar as a student. “There, he led several agitations. One of these was very popular, for seeking the right to speak Punjabi in classrooms,” said Mukhtiar Singh Poohla, an old associate of Dr Gandhi, who is also editor of Punjabi magazine Lal Parcham (Red Flag), which Dr Gandhi also remained associated with.
However, his contemporaries say his real political work for the masses started in 1978, when he was elected founder general secretary of the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab. Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, a renowned freedom fighter and leader of Ghadar Party, was elected its first president. “After Emergency imposed by PM Indira Gandhi, everybody was shattered and worried that democratic rights were at the mercy of governments. He was at the forefront of the movement,” said Prof Jagmohan Singh, the present general secretary, who was also part of the founder team. Dr Gandhi remained in jail during Emergency.
Indeed, Dr Gandhi developed proximity to a pro-Naxalite group named Revolutionary Communist Party, which was known for its magazine Jaikara (War Bugle).
The group never indulged into armed activities, though, and mainly worked among peasants and industrial workers. “Dr Gandhi’s work was a humanist and gave a true alternative of people-centric healthcare system,” said Satnam, a Patialabased radical Left commentator. Interestingly, the pro-Naxal group with which Dr Gandhi allegedly had links does not even endorse the politics of AAP or the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi. The group still believes in election boycott.
Similarly, Faridkot AAP MP Prof Sadhu Singh, who was a teacher of English at Government College, Faridkot, was known for his work of inspiring students to indulge in various social and cultural activities and being known as a liberal Left-leaning teacher. The extreme of Leftist activity that he indulged in was that he was active in the union of government college lecturers.
“I wonder from where Captain Amarinder got such enlightenment! Nobody has ever heard about Sadhu Singh’s association with any radical groups,” said Bawa Singh, former vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, who also remained active in the union of college lecturers.