The April 2022 Insaf Bulletin carried obituaries of Sudheer Bedekar who passed away in late March of this year. We carry below some comments on one of the obituaries by a close comrade of Sudheer-Editors

Sudheer Bedekar, ‘Magowa’ and Shramik Sanghatana- Other dimensions

Anant Phadke

It was good to see the English version of the obituary on Sudheer Bedekar in the April 2022 issue of INSAF by Com Uday Narkar. It’s some solace that the sad demise of Sudheer has led to a sharing in the wider circle outside Maharashtra, India, about the contribution of the “Magowa” group, the Magowa magazine and Sudheer Bedekar, to the development of neo-Marxian and broader Left awareness in Maharashtra in the 1970s. As somebody based in the same city, Pune, and who was part of the Magowa group from its inception, as well as somebody who was Sudheer’s close friend for more than 50 years, I feel that a couple of important inaccuracies in this piece and some other dimensions need to be pointed out.

The piece says – “It was mainly Sudheer who kept providing ideological ammunition to these youngsters in ‘Magowa’ and Shramik Sanghatana, who proudly kept alive grand dreams of toppling the system in their eyes: Prafulla Bidwai, Kumar Shiralkar, Suhas Paranjape, Kumar Ketkar, eminent Painter Sudheer Patwardhan, novelist Dinanath Manohar, Public Health activist Dr. Anant Phadke, trade Unionist Ashok Manohar, the tribal poet activist Vahru Sonawane, Dr. Bharat Patankar, Achyut Godbole, Prof Sharad Navare, Ravindra Mokashi and several others”.

A number of the people mentioned here were not part of the Magowa group founded on 5th of May (Marx’s Birthday) 1972. Kumar Ketkar was senior to all of us and was part of the Lal Nishan group, later Party, a non-CPM non-ML formation, whereas Sharad Navare, Ravindra Mokashi and others came much later and were not part of the group, though they were definitely part of the larger social current spawned by Magowa. As mentioned by Suhas Paranjape in his Obituary, published in the same issue of INSAF, the members of Magowa group came from different sources. “Those who had gathered around Praful Bidwai in IIT, Bombay, those around Vinod Mubayi and Mukul Sinha in TIFR including Waheed Mukaddam, those who had gone to Shahada with Kumar Shiralkar, those around you (i.e. Sudheer) in Pune, those around Subhash Kane in Nagpur, Bharat Patankar and Dilip Naik and Kamat from Belgaum – let me stop, I know there are many left out. We all came together and formed the Magowa Group and we began to publish the Magowa monthly under your editorship.” I would add that Dr. Bharat Patankar was from a small village, Kasegaon, in South Maharashtra. He drew his inspiration from the revolutionary freedom fighters turned communists in the nineteen forties, of which his martyred father – Baburao Patankar, was a shining example. .

Com Uday Narkar has further said “Magowa gave birth to Kumar Shiralkar led Shramik Sanghatana of Shahada in the Adivasi belt of Dhule district, known as Dhulia then.”

Magowa did not give birth to Shramik Sanghatana. It was founded together by Ambar Singh Maharaj (who was a popular, peaceful but resolute, militant, educated local tribal leader) and Waharu Sonawane from Gram Swarajya Samiti and along with Kumar Shiralkar, Dinanath Manohar, Vijay and Vikram Kanhere, other local and non-local activists also played a very important role in the founding of the Shramik Sanghatana and its work during the Magowa period.

Other things mentioned by Com Uday Narkar give us a good idea of the Magowa phenomenon, which was a reflection of a broader social process in which Sudheer Bedekar was a key player. Many of the Mumbai based Magowa activists mostly read the new Marxist literature in English. But it was Magowa that made a lot ideas, and analyses from it, accessible to Marathi readers. The Magowa group dissolved itself a few days before the emergency was imposed on the 25thof June 1975 and the Magowa magazine closed down soon after. However, the Magowa magazine and later, for a decade, the ‘Tatparya’ magazine edited by Sudheer, especially his brilliant, insightful articles in apt Marathi in these magazines, introduced Marx’s ideas, analyses from its roots to young minds in Maharashtra in the seventies and eighties. He was also instrumental in guiding two-three generations of a section of Leftist activists in Maharashtra towards holistic Marxism.

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