On March 31 1997 , Chandrashekar Prasad and Shyam Narain Yadav were shot dead in the north Bihar district town of Siwan while addressing street corner meetings to build a strike called by the Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) for April 2.
Shyam Narain Yadav was a leading district level activist of the CPI-ML. He had contested the state assembly twice on a party ticket.
Chandrashekar was a former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students Union and had returned to his home town of Siwan to work as a full-time activist.
An only child, Chandrashekar had left Siwan as a bright student. His widowed mother worked hard to pay for his education. From Sainik school in Talaiya to the National Defence Academy of Pune and the University of Patna to the campus of JNU, Chandrashekar had a promising academic future.
However, Chandrashekar could not separate his politics from academic life, and from early in his student life he was involved in student activism. In the mid-'80s he became vice-president of the Bihar unit of the All India Students' Federation, the youth organisation of the Communist Party of India (CPI).
He very quickly became disillusioned with the reformist and parliamentarist politics of the CPI and wanted to become involved in a revolutionary organisation. In his home town of Siwan, he saw the changes that were happening in the lives of people, the discontent and the voice that it was being given in the work of the CPI-ML.
The late '80s marked a crucial juncture for the student movement. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent anticommunist backlash created a difficult ideological climate for left and progressive activists all over the world.
In this period of right reaction, particularly strong on campus, the CPI-ML founded the All India Students Association in JNU. Chandrashekar played a very important role in the building of AISA on JNU and was elected to the JNU Students Union three times in a row, first as vice-president in 1993-94, then as president for successive terms in 1994-95 and 1995-96.
As leader of JNUSU, Chandrashekar led a number of different campaigns for students' rights. The old admission policy of affirmative action for students from backward areas was restored. Students thwarted the JNU administration's bid to bring up privatisation in academic council meetings. Chandrashekar made serious attempts to forge close ties with student movements in other universities and institutions.
In 1995 he represented India in the UN-sponsored youth conference in Seoul, where he formed a group of third world representatives inside the conference and moved several resolutions against US imperialism, eventually staging a walkout in protest.
Risking the wrath of Korean authorities, he contacted many outlawed left-wing student leaders and even addressed a huge rally of students on the issue of Korean unification.
At the end of his stint in JNU, Chandrashekar opted to return to Siwan as a full-time party activist. The Janata Dal, which rules the state, has been waging a campaign against leading activists of the CPI-ML. More than 70 people, including leaders of the district committee, had been killed between 1990 and 1996.
The CPI-ML has stated that it the henchmen and local hit men of Janata Dal MP - the notorious parliamentary terrorist Mohammed Shahabuddin are responsible for the latest killings.
Since the death of Chandrashekar, there has been a student uprising, with protests of thousands of students in Delhi as well as in Bihar. A march is planned of students and teachers from JNU to the district of Siwan.
They are demanding the arrest of those involved with the murders. (Rather than arresting those responsible for the killings, the police lodged cases against some of the activists.) Attacks have also been launched on these peaceful protests, with the brother-in-law of the chief minister, Sadhu Yadav, himself firing indiscriminately on a group of protesters at Bihar Bhavan.
Comrade Chandrashekar believed in parliamentary democracy
and paid a heavy price for it.
Notorious parliamentary terrorist Mohammed Shabuddin whose
goons killed Comrade Chandrashekar still terrorises Siwan unmolested.
Let us hope that our comrades in the CPI(M-L)Liberation who renounced armed struggle in the 1990's and came overground will one day abandon the path of parliamentary democracy, once they have formed a mass base and will come back to the path of armed struggle.
Let us all learn a lesson from Comrade Chandrashekar sacrifice and let us not repeat his mistakes(his belief in parliamentary democracy).