The 11th National Conference of JSM was held at Kheoli-Rameshwar (Varanasi) on 9-10 November 2008, with the main slogan of 'Against Imperialism: for Democracy'. Kheoli-Rameshwar is the village of revolutionary poet Dhumil whose birth anniversary falls on November 9. Prior to the conference, the President and all other office bearers of JSM along with many litterateurs of Varanasi visited Dhumil's home, where a meeting was held to pay respects to the poet. Prof Manager Pandey said that Dhumil developed the sharpest political critique of Indian bourgeois democracy in his poetry. He was the first in Hindi poetry to celebrate the Naxalbari movement in the '70s, at a time when state terror ensured that nobody had the courage even to speak of Naxalism, let alone celebrate it. Dhumil changed the diction of poetry. His poems articulate the perspective of the common people in their own language. Dhumil hoped and aspired for a radical change in the character of
Bangla poet Nabarun Bhattacharya inaugurated the conference. He criticised the official left in Bengal for pursuing the same pro-imperialist development policies and the same kind of state terror on people's movements as other non-left bourgeois parties. He hailed the fighting spirit of the people of Singur and Nandigram and appealed to intellectuals and cultural activists to always actively side with the people's struggle. He said that we have a great tradition behind us of cultural resistance. Neruda, Mayakovsky and Eisenstein are with us. Later Nabarun also recited 2 of his most well known revolutionary poems in Hindi translation in the poetry session which followed the inaugural session. Hindi poet Asad Zaidi was the special guest at conference. He spoke of the challenges of fascism, and its Indian variety namely Hindutva and lamented that the political system which we inherited from the colonial rulers and the also the oppositional political culture
that prevails, in fact strengthens the logic of fascism in our country. He urged that organisation alone can lead to a radical anti imperialist anti fascist cultural practice. No individual effort can be a substitute. Zaidi also narrated his most hotly debated poem on 1857 which criticizes the derogatory stance of the so-called Indian renaissance on our first war of independence. State secretary of Progressive Writers' association Jaya Prakash Dhumketu hailed the initiative of Jan Sanskriti Manch for choosing Dhumil's village as a venue of the conference. Prof Manager Pandey concluded the inaugural session outlining the challenges of imperialism and fascism and the ways to confront them. He dwelt on the anti-national and anti-people surrender of our interests to U.S. imperialism by the Indian ruling classes. The poetry session in memory of naxal poet Venugopal followed the inaugural session. More than 20 poets including Viren Dangwal, Manglesh Dabral,
Ashtabhuja Shukla, Asad Zaidi, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Rajendra Kumar, Ramesh Ali, Basant, Pankaj Chaturvedi, Shambhu Badal, Hari Om, Vyomesh, Shobha Singh, Mukul Saral, and Achyutanand recited their poems. A delegation of Paschim Banga Jatiya Gana Parishad represented by Amit Das Gupta and Com. Nitish and a three member delegation from Orissa including Poet Ramesh Ali Basant whose house was ransacked by the RSS also participated and spoke at the conference. PWA General Secretary Kamla Prasad's letter of greetings for the conference was read. Noted documentary filmmaker Meghnad also addressed the conference. On November 10, the General Secretary's report was debated by delegates from U.P, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Delhi. The conveners/secretaries of every state and other national level bodies of the organisation such as Sanskritica Sankul, and theatre and film divisions of JSM also submitted their reports. A 95-member
council and 27-member executive was elected with Manager Pandey as National President and Pranay Krishna as General Secretary. The Conference adopted resolutions demanding ban on Bajrang Dal and other RSS outfits involved in terror activities, condemned the Jamia Nagar encounter as well as that of Rahul Raj in Mumbai and demanded highest level enquiries in both, condemned the harassment of youth in the name of terrorism at Azamgarh and elsewhere, condemned the false cases registered in U.P. against human rights' activists and demanded immediate release of Dr. Binayak Sen. The conference paid rich tributes to Palestinian poet Mahmood Darvesh, Pakistani progressive poet Ahmad Faraz and feminist writer Prabha Khetan among others who died recently. A book of poetry by Comrade Vijendra Anil was released in his memory at the conference.