Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It is not new with the communist parties to expel its members, including senior leaders. But then it is, perhaps, unheard of for a member of a communist party for long years to kill himself after being axed from party committees. W.R.Varadarajan’s end, in the manner it happened, was indeed sad. And even raises some concerns over the manner in which the communist parties deal with people.

Well. Varadarajan did not belong to the working class. But then that was not his fault. Men do not chose the time, space and the family that they are born into in the same way as men do not have the choice of the caste, religion and nation that they are born into. Having said that, men do end up a casteist or a religious begot. It is also possible that men manage to rise up in the economic sense by way of hard work or by chance. But then, there are some who manage to transcend their class moorings.

If the history of mankind is to be seen from the point of view of the society and the changes that were brought about, it is evident that epochal changes were brought about by living men and women who gathered together and also being led by individuals who transcended from their own moorings and located themselves in the midst of the oppressed and the struggle. And W.R.Varadarajan did belong to that league.

It was not unusual for him to go to school and then to college. And he followed the charted course after that. He thus became an officer with the Reserve Bank of India. He could have remained there, like the several hundreds like him, earned a few promotions. And in that case, he would have retired from service some three years ago. By that time, he would have gathered the ``skills'' to study the stock market, invested some of his money there (and even lost some of it in one of the moments when the markets crashed); he could have also bought the membership in one of the clubs.

In the event, he would have engaged himself with some such activities as organising eye donation camps or visiting one of the homes for old-aged destitutes or orphan children. It is also possible that he lived a self-centred person, cynical about anything and everything and refusing to see the goodness in such activities as being part of an eye-donation camp or such activities as distributing sweets to the slum dwellers on festive days.

Well. WRV opted for another path. He chose a path that many from his social background refused to chart. He decided to join the trade union movement and in the process ended up in the communist party. It was, indeed, a conscious decision and WRV was aware of what lay in waiting in the event he steered in that path. He was not catapulted into the position in the CITU by quirk of fate. In other words, unlike many others in public life today, WRV did not arrive in the CPI(M) because his father was there. And WRV’s association with the CPI(M) did not begin with the party’s decision to field him as a candidate from the Villivakkam assembly constituency.

Instead, WRV belonged to a league in the communist movement who were prepared to give up a cosy job and tread the rough and tumble of a trade unionist. He knew the difficult life of a trade unionist even when he decided to be there. WRV, with many others from middle class homes like him, were exposed to such a reality in the course of the strike they organised and conducted in the Seventies in Chennai. The most important of them all was the strike in the B&C Mills. V.P.Chintan was the leader and WRV was among the young enthusiasts who became the foot-soldiers of the struggle then.

It was by sheer dedication that he rose to be a member of the party’s committees in the state and the national level. Unlike in the other political parties, it is uncommon in the CPI(M) to anoint members to the committees for reasons other than experience and commitment. This is not to say that it does not happen in the party. In any case, WRV’s rise in the party was by way of hard work.

All these are indeed relevant in the context of the tragic end to his life. If the party’s decision to remove him from all positions in the set up was a cause for WRV deciding to end his life, it is indeed sad. After all, WRV has been in the party for too long and had been a part of similar decisions in case of many others. The CPI(M) has expelled many, suspended more and imposed different kinds of punishments in many for what the party considered behaviour unbecoming of a communist. WRV had been in the party all these years when such things happened. And for him to take the extreme step of ending his life was indeed sad.

And this is where the CPI(M) too can learn a lesson. Its leaders will serve the party’s cause better by agreeing to see human beings as consisting of all kinds and then recognise its task as having to work with them and transform the world. It is no use condemning people.