Jagmati Sangwan, 56, the central committee member who quit the CPM Monday and was subsequently expelled, is no stranger to battle. She has represented India in volleyball and recalls being part of a team that won bronze at the Asian Volleyball Championships, has taken on khap panchayats in Haryana and been fighting for enactment of a law against honour killings.
In 1985, Sangwan formed the All India Democratic Women’s Association, an outfit loosely attached to the CPM. On Monday, she said she wants to continue as AIDWA’s national general secretary.
Hours after she walked out of a central committee meeting that held that the understanding with the Congress in West Bengal had not violated the party line, Sangwan insisted it was so. She told The Indian Express the party was forced to drop the word ‘violation’ from its report because of a threat of resignation by senior leaders from Bengal.
She said the political tactical line is the “lifeline” of any communist party. And the CPM’s political tactical line, revised in 2015, forbids an electoral alliance or understanding with the Congress.
“I felt it was a violation of the political tactical line of our party… They were not ready to accept that… I wanted action… whatever according to the constitution and the programme,” she said.
Sangwan said the politburo’s report at the beginning of the three-day meeting of the central committee had been different. The central committee discussion was based on the politburo’s report and that of the West Bengal unit.
“This meeting started on June 18. And on the 18th the note presented by the politburo… it had this term that it was a violation of the political tactical line by the Bengal committee. And a huge majority said it was a violation,” she said. “But today, when it concluded on the basis of the discussion… they said we will be deleting this violation word because Bengal secretary Surjya Kanta Misra and senior leaders like Bimanda [Bose] said we will resign if you keep this term. Even the general secretary [Sitaram Yechury] was against it. I said no, it is not acceptable, at least to me. I said I resign from the central committee and party membership and I walked out,” Sangwan said.
Sangwan got involved in politics during her college days in the Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar. But her worldview changed after she travelled abroad as a member of the Indian volleyball team. “While I was playing and I went abroad I got a different vision about women’s lives and concerns. After completing my studies we decided to form a women’s organisation. Haryana is such a patriarchal society and women are subjugated. We formed this organisation and started working for women’s equality,” she said.
She hails from Butana village in Sonepat. A Bachelor of Sports Humanities and Physical Education from Sports College in Haryana, she did her Masters in rural sociology from the same university. She is a recipient of a Bhim Award for achievement in sports. An activist of the SFI, she is married to Inderjit Singh who was state secretary of the party for decades.
She joined Maharshi Dayanand University as assistant director of sports and went on to help raise a women’s studies centre in the university and became it director. She quit in 2012. “I was doing need-based work because of family commitments. I thought I will leave my job and do the work of my interest,” she said.
She said the decision to walk out of the central committee was taken on the spur of the moment. She said she did not even consult her husband before taking the decision.
“If things are not going according to our wish… then what is the use of continuing,” she said.
“Because the earlier politburo document was OK, I also participated in the discussion,” she said. “When they concluded, they said the term ‘violation’ will be appropriately worded and deleted because the Bengal secretary, leaders like Bimanda and the general secretary were against it. But what about the huge majority, their feelings and concerns and their investment for the cause?”