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Diego Rivera and the Indian

2 December 2014


It’s considered retro to use the word “Indian” when speaking of indigenous American people, and one asssumes that were he alive today, Rivera would speak of “indigenos” and not “indios”… unless he was talking about the central figure in his “people’s communion” panel in the murals that fill the Secretariat of Public Instruction.

The man serving the masses… or the celebrant of the ‘people’s Mass” perhaps… is Doctor Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje, a Brahman from Maharashtra, India, who took a very different path from that of Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle to free India from the British. I don’t so much mean that he had no time for Gandhi’s passive resistance movement (Khankoje, although a Communist, was supported by the Kaiser’s government during World War I, raising an Indian revolutionary army in Turkey, to overthrow the British… among other less than passive means), but that, unlike the Mahatma, he saw no future for India in its traditionalist agriculture. One of the first modern plant geneticists, Khankoje … like Trotsky, found refuge in Mexico where no one found anything particular ennobling in the idea of inefficient rural labor.

With “land and liberty” the driving force of revolutionary peasants not just in India, but in Mexico… and just about everywhere else in the last century… his organizing skills as a revolutionary leader, and his scientific knowledge as a geneticist, were particularly welcome. One of the founders of the rural agricultural schools (the ones our government has been trying to close, which is what recently got a bunch of students killed, and has led to the massive demonstrations in our streets), Khankoje saw freeing the masses from their back.breaking labor through the development of better corn varieties, and a better educated peasantry as the path to liberty. Radical indeed!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Maya Khankhoje permalink
    12 September 2015 8:49 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful, well written and accurate article about my father Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje (2 December 2014). It was Dr. Sun Yat Sen who told my father that feeding the people was as important as freeing them, so when my father was no longer able to help free India, he made it his mission to feed Mexican peasants. Gracias de nuevo. Maya Khankhoje, Montreal, Canada.

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