Communist Youth Politics in India: The All Indian Youth Federation and the Global Cold War, 1965- 1975

Thomas Wilkinson, London

This presentation will examine the rise of the All-Indian Youth Federation (AIYF) during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This youth wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI) launched three interrelated cycles of left-wing youth activism and they reveal the far-reaching mobilizations of youth that occurred in the context of south Asia’s Cold War. These include activism in support of the i) Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 ii) protests against the governing Indian National Congress and for the left-wing agenda of Indira Gandhi’s breakaway party and iii) the Pakistani military’s persecution of students in East Pakistan. All these interrelated struggles involved Indian youths confronting the dominant narrative with one about US imperialism and the alleged bourgeoise “congress system”. These left-wing youth movements did not always align directly with the adult actors within the CPI or with the left-leaning youth movements in other countries. They had a life of their own and they bring to light the role of youth agitation, protest and counterculture in 1960s and 1970’s India. The CPI’s successful efforts to take control of AIYF, and its relationship with the global network of communist movements, remains hitherto unexplored by historians.

See paper

 Presented in Session 187. Youth Activism