‘Naxalbari 50’

Birth of a Naxalite

Subhendu Dasgupta

I lived in a suburb. The locality had particular characteristics. It was a mixed social space. People speaking different languages—Hindi, Punjabi, Oriya, Bangla, different dialects of Bangla, lived here. Together. People of varied religions—Musalman, Hindu, Sikh, Baishnab, Brahmo stayed here. Together. People of West Bengal—ghati, and people who had migrated from East Bengal—bangal. Together. Orthodox and liberals. Together.

It was a mixed economic space. People of different economic stratum—middle, lower-middle, poor earning from organized and unorganized, formal and informal sectors. It was close to a large industrial area and a dock. There were old settlements—para, newly built settlements—colony, settlements of the poor—bustee.

It was a vibrant cultural space. There were schools of different levels, separate for boys and girls, public libraries, cinema halls, clubs, play grounds, religious places. There were cultural programmes spread over the year, in different paras, in schools, on different occasions. Religious and non-religious.

I lived here. I was growing up with these social, cultural, economic elements.

I belonged to a bangal family. Lived in a refugee colony. Studied in an ordinary local school. Was a member of local clubs. Had a large number of friends, all male. They belonged to varied spaces—social, cultural and economic.

I was marked as a 'good' student in my school, and as I also belonged to a low-income family, I did not have to pay fees. To support my family I earned from tutoring students of junior classes. This was the case for all the members of our family. We were forced by circumstances to become responsible.

Our family consisted of a large number of members. My mother, I lost my father at the age of one, three elder sisters, one of them married lived with her in-laws, three elder brothers, to be joined later by four cousins. We were prepared to share.

I, with my friends, participated in different social, cultural, institutional activities, programmes. Attending to, especially at nights, relatives of friends at hospitals.

Funerals at crematoriums. Serving food at weddings and other ceremonies. Relief for flood-affected people of nearby areas. Running public libraries, free coaching centres. Collection, for an organization, funds and old books that had to be distributed among poor students. Organised Pujas, Rabindra and Nazrul jayanti, Sports, Football Tournaments. So many other purposes. We were prepared to become organisers.

We showed respect towards our teachers. Even when we met them outside school. Some of them took special care of us. We were helped to become knowledgable students.

I got my introduction to politics from my schoolteacher. I still remember his surname 'Piplai'. He was a member of the RCPI, the Revolutionary Communist Party of India. He left the school suddenly. We heard he had gone 'underground'. I heard the word 'underground' for the first time. Piplai Sir had given me introductory books by Marx, Engels, Lenin and some Indian authors, mostly in Bangla. He talked about the Soviet and Chinese Revolutions. Piplai Sir extended my horizon of knowledge. Knowledge of Politics.

My geographical space was political. Elections were major expressions of politics. School Managing Committee. Municipal Election. Vidhan Sabha Nirbachan. Lok Sabha Nirbachan. Major parties in my political space were the Indian National Congress, the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist). And Independents.

I participated in the political activities of the CPI(M). Arranging meetings, processions, shouting slogans, distributing leaflets, writing and pasting of posters, writing on the walls.

Some of us had special interest in a particular political activity. I had in poster and wall writing. I felt excitement. A kind of political excitement.

In my family my eldest brother was an active Congress worker. He knew I was with a political belief that was opposite his. He never argued with me. Nor did I. Tolerance. Political tolerance.

My mother was political, though not a supporter of any political party. She was political in her understanding, her judgment, I learnt a lot from her. My mother used to tell me stories of revolutionary groups and persons of Chattogram, where she had stayed with my father. She was nice and firm to all she met. Political. Political lesson for me. She once kept a Communist friend of my elder brother in our house. The Police was in search for him. My first encounter with the concept of 'underground shelter'. We ourselves had No fixed and proper place to sleep. My experience of sharing.

Those were the days of political movements, struggles, strikes. Protest against the rise of tramways fare. Khadyo Andolon [Food Movement]. Movements by refugees. Of students. Against increase in prices of daily necessities. Several others. My schooldays were politically vibrant.

I left school and joined a college near our locality. I continued to be in a suburb. The political scenario had been changing fundamentally.

We, the youth, were getting dissatisfied with the CPI(M). The party had gradually become a political organisation interested only in elections. All types of elections. From school managing committees to Lok Sabha. They prepared all the forces towards programmes that were linked only to Elections. From Students to Factory Workers. From Cycle-rickshaw pullers to Municipality Clerks. From unemployed youths to small shop owners. The entire support base. Political actions only geared for winning Elections. There were no other thoughts or programmes challenging the Power. The Ruling Class.

Discontinuation of Study Circles. Disinterest in reading political writings. Disallowment of raising questions. This dissatisfaction rising out of unfulfilled political urge was brewing amongst this committed left youth. I, like a group of comrades, also became frustrated. I disassociated myself from the CPI(M). We became non-participants.

I, my political friends, were in search of a Politics that denied the then 'Left' programmes.

We got what we wanted at that political juncture. Naxalbari Andolon (Naxalbari Movement). The propositions, the analysis, the questions, the answers, the programmes were different, new, thought-provoking, demanding, activity oriented.

I participated. We got new literature to read, to discuss. We had questions. We searched for answers. Study Circles, Group Meetings. Debates. Again. We started writing posters on newspaper's with colours that were cheap and handmade brushes. Writing on walls. Shouting slogans. The subjects of posters, wall writing, slogans were different. Were new. Were exciting. Were Political. Political Themes. Political Declarations. Programmes. Hope. Journey.

New Questions were raised. What is the character of the Indian State. Whether the Indian Bourgeoisie is Comprador or Independent. Is Indian Agriculture Feudal, Semi-feudal or Capitalist. What is the stage of Revolution. What is the principal contradiction? There were Discussions, Debates, Writing on these issues. On related issues. There were Political Calls not raised before. Grame Cholo, Gram Diya Shohor Ghero, Sottorer Doshok Muktir Doshok. And others.

Our paras were supportive, neutral. The families were supportive, neutral. Non-political friends were supportive, neutral. There were uncertainties, because this was never before. There was hope, because this was never before.

There were challenges. Something had to be done. The Communist Movement could not be what was going on.

Communism always is a new creation. I joined the Naxalbari Andolon.

My social, economic, cultural, political surroundings in the past and in the then present created within Me a participant for the emerging Communist Movement.

I participated in the Naxalbari Andolan. We participated in the Naxalbari Andolon.

Naxalbari Andolon created a new space for experimenting with a newly visioned Communist Movement.
We participated. I participated.

Vol. 50, No.24, Dec 17 - 23, 2017