Communism digs in, with much memorabilia, in Punjab town

ZIRAKPUR(MOHALI), 18th March, 2010: Marx, Lenin and Che are certainly alive and kicking if one is to go by the accessories, posters, books and magazines on Communist ideology that have suddenly flooded this town, 10 km from Chandigarh.

The red flag is flying high, thanks to vendors who have filled up even the roadside in Jyoti Basu Nagar - the venue for the 13th conference of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Some of the vendors have come from far off places like Tamil Nadu and Kerala for the love of Communist ideology.

They sell key chains, badges, emblems, T-shirts, caps, bandanas, stickers and posters carrying photographs of Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara and even of Indian Communist veterans like Jyoti Basu and Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

'Whenever Communist leaders hold their conventions or organise events anywhere in the country, I reach there on my own expense and set up my stall,' 67-year-old A. Basha, who has come all the way from the Tamil Nadu temple town of Madurai to set up a stall here, told IANS.
The five-day conference of CITU, which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), began Wednesday and is on till March 21.

'I am not doing this to earn money, but it is the passion for Communist ideology that drives me. It is my way to serve the party and I have been doing this since the early 1960s,' Basha said.
His entire family is involved in the business and manufacture of accessories and prints of Communist leaders' photos.

But he has already noted that the response in Punjab is nothing compared to Tamil Nadu or West Bengal.

'The response in Punjab is somewhat lukewarm as compared to Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. We have a great fan following there and people are mad about the accessories there,' he said.

Jansakthi Natarajan, who has also come from Madurai, said: 'I have been selling these accessories for the last many years. Besides selling, I also explain the history of the Communist struggle to people coming here.'

'Youths are specifically attracted towards accessories with photos of Guevara and Lenin,' said Natarajan who claimed he had attended all the conferences of the Communist party since 1963.

A hardcore fan of the late Jyoti Basu, Natarajan also brings out a daily newspaper, Janshakti, and a monthly magazine, Semmalar, in Madurai to spread the principles of communism and socialism.

'I am spending all my earnings in the publishing of the newspaper and magazine and I pedal at least 30 km every day to distribute free copies of my newspaper,' stated Natarajan.

There are also vendors selling the translated versions of books by Lenin and Marx at subsidised prices to local people.

'I have religiously followed Lenin and Marx since I was 11 years old. At that time it was easier to find people following their ideology, but these days it has become very rare,' said 59-year-old Pritam Singh, who runs a book shop named Lenin Kitab Ghar in Barnala town of Punjab.

'In an attempt to save their legacy, I started the book shop. I have Punjabi versions of over 500 different books of Lenin and Marx and they are gradually becoming quite famous among Punjabi youth,' said Singh.

Vishal C.P., marketing executive of Delhi-based Left Word Books, said: 'Wherever we go in the country, the response is overwhelming, especially for the books written by Karl Marx and Lenin. We are also expecting the same response in Punjab.'

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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