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Saroj Dutta: The Portrait of a Leninist 'Martyr'

Bhaskar Sur

Among Naxalites of Bengal, Saroj Dutta remains an icon, close to their heart; for the multitude, the proletariat, a forgotten name. Dutta (1914 -1971) followed a trajectory which was rather common for his generation - Marxism, Leninism, Maoism ending in jail or unmarked grave. His life also shows how Marxism - Leninism is Bengal grew out of Swadeshi extremism, inheriting, among other things, a heedless counter factualism and to view revolution as act of sacrifice in a cosmic rite for a rebirth.

Dutta was a social elite - an upper caste- middle class background graced with higher education. He graduated from Scottish Church College and completed his MA in English Literature from Calcutta University, considered the best in Asia at that time. A voracious reader, he was a good poet and a literary critic, albeit of the most tasteless ' socialist realism ' variety. Dutta served a stint as a journalist in The Amrita Bazar Patrika but was fired for his ultra-Left connection. It was a tumultuous period with discontent breaking out in acts of violence and subversion. The memories of the Bengal Famine, Communal holocaust and Partition were still fresh and the city was crowded with hapless Hindu refugees, coming in an endless stream across the border. It was an ideal condition for an apocalyptic religious or political faith to flourish. Dutta as a communist favoured the Randive Line which rejected parliamentary democracy and insisted on continuing with a "Peoples War" to overthrow, what they saw a ' comprador bourgeois - feudal state'. They failed to see there could be no revolution in a democratic state even when it was a disguised plutocracy. The Indian Government banned the party which, for a brief period faced state repression. The communists now gave up their " peoples war " as a temporary measure and participated in the first Parliamentary election of 1952, more out of compulsion than any real conviction in democracy. Dutta, like so many of his generation, was unhappy with it but had not yet lost faith in the party. Revolution was inevitable but the party was not ready for it. He knew why - it had turned " revisionist ". As the ideology is a modern equivalent of revealed religion, it can never be changed. When trouble broke out in Naxalbari area, he wholeheartedly supported it. The revolution was at last happening as expected. He was one of the founders of the new party CPI(ML) and one of its ideologues. Such a party cannot do without " the Correct Line " which Charu Majumdar and other true revolutionaries knew through the "Dialectical Process " of knowing and doing. They decided Mao was their Chairman.

The new party started the war by targeting small land owners, ill paid policemen, suspected police informers and obviously, the revisionists - the members of the parent CPIM and other Left parties. Taking the lead from the Cultural Revolution in China, a similar revolution was launched by pulling down some iconic figures as Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, the great educationist and social reformer of the nineteenth century. Maoists like Dutta argued that as a collaborator of British imperialism, they must go. They were also blowing up ' bourgeois' educational institutions wherever they could. Dutta was the brain behind this revolutionary orgy of violence. As the movement spread, the army was deployed to contain it. Dutta went underground and under the stress of the situation became febrile, paranoid and almost demented. I was shocked at the intemperate language and sheer barbarism of some of pieces written during this period. It reminded me of Lenin in a similar situation:
" His outward manner became vulgar and coarse. It was hard to believe that this a cultivated man. He mocked his opponents, both inside and outside the party in crude and violent language. They were 'blockheads', 'bastards', 'dirty scum', ' prostitutes', ' cunts', ' shits', 'cretins', 'Russian fools'. This manic alteration of mood was characteristic of Lenin's psychological make up"[Orlando Fuges: A Peoples Tragedy (1996) page 391]

Dutta was arrested from the house of Debiprasad Chatterjee and murdered the next day early in the morning, when people had started taking their morning stroll. They found Dutta's bullet ridden body in a city park. There were thousands of others, much younger and more promising, who were silenced by the police or army bullets. Charu Majumdar, the leader, would be arrested next year, only to be tortured to death. The man who masterminded it all was a "refined" person - Siddhartha Sankar Ray who was later sent to Punjab to tackle Khalistani terrorism. His performance there was so "good" that he would be made Indian ambassador to USA. The post-colonial Indian state has been more violent than the colonial one in dealing with armed resistance. The naïve revolutionary violence is fated to lose out to the systematic violence of the state.

Frontier
Mar 26, 2017


Bhaskar Sur bhaskar_radical@yahoo.com

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