Founder, National Movement Front
Dr. Saurabh Bajpai
I was born in Lakhimpur Kheri in UP, on the border of India and Nepal. My father passed away when I was very young. I studied in a Govt. Hindi medium school. However, it was almost a RSS school. Some of our teachers were Swayamsevaks & RSS drills were conducted regularly.
Growing up, I saw my own eyes how people start behaving differently when they are communalised. I distinctly recall that during the ‘84 riots, a Sikh person was beaten up by people as I watched from my rooftop. In 1986, the Kalash Yatra happened in which many of my distant relatives participated. I was very young & impressionable. I even ended up writing poems in favour of Kar Sevaks & the Ram Mandir issue.
Fortunately, my older brother made me understand how big a threat communalism was. My mother, who was deeply religious & a devout Hindu, was firmly secular & said that Muslims were very loyal. Together, they changed my perspective & eventually, I started writing against communalism!
My political journey began when I was 16. Because of Naxalism, the communist movement emerged in my district. I became an AISA member but left within a year because I was skeptical about their methods. After that, I joined SFI & worked there for 2.5 years. At the age of 17, I became the Sub-Editor of their Hindi mouthpiece. However, I decided to leave because I realised that their perspective of Indian society & communal politics was flawed. By then, I was very deeply influenced by Gandhi ji & the values of the freedom struggle. And so, I started a forum called Abhivyakti, which was a cultural organisation. I managed to assemble 40 people around the ideology of Gandhi & Nehru and it eventually became a very influential unit.
After I came to JNU, I started the National Movement Front to defend secular & democratic values by reviving the freedom movement. I wanted to focus on grassroots issues & not formal politics. Some students started gathering around the idea & within 3 years, we had spread to 12 states across India! We even inaugurated our students wing-the National Movement Students Front, which now has units in 33 universities.
People ask us why we speak about the freedom struggle. They advise us to focus on contemporary issues. But I know that popular consciousness is shaped by history. Today history is being successfully distorted by the RSS. It is important for everyone to know why Gandhi is important, what Sardar Patel achieved & how Nehru thought. For example, Gandhi ji’s biggest contribution was combining mainstream politics & seva. He brought these two completely different elements together & created a hegemonic presence in society. He created an army of volunteers who worked against untouchability & communalism. Common people were mobilised for nation building. This is missing today.
Something different had to be done. That’s why I formed a non electoral political party which is involved in social work as well. Our cadre is present everywhere, from the Bihar floods to Kerala floods. Our ideology is to uphold the legacy of the freedom struggle & create a cadre based political movement.