Remembering Khokan Majumdar

Anirban Biswas

Khokan Majumdar, one of the architects of the historic Naxalbari peasant uprising, passed away on 29 May at the North Bengal Medical College Hospital at the age of eighty-six. As per reports from his colleagues, the doctors had made their best efforts to save his life, but failed. Majumdar's original name was Abdul Hamid, and since the mid-fifties of the last century, he became known as Khokan Majumdar. His phenomenally long political life started when he was only a boy of fiteen. While in jail, he first came into contact with the Communist Party of India. He was imprisoned several times before the outbreak of the Naxalbari uprising. What was significant about the uprising was that alongside the struggle for the seizure of landlords' land, the peasant activists and leaders of the region decided to resist the police, if necessary. On 24 May, 1967, a large posse of policemen tried to enter the area and peasants, led by Khokan Majumdar, resisted, killing one inspector. On the very next day, the police fired upon a group of peasant women, killing seven along with the children they had been carrying in their laps. The uprising was hailed by the then Communist Party of China as 'spring thunder over India', and led to a serious split inside the CPI(M). The breakaways came to be known as Naxalites.

In September of the same year, he secretly went to China, along with Kanu Sanyal and some others, and met Mao Ze-dong and other leaders of the CPC. After the formation of the CPI (ML) in 1969, he joined it. It is not necessary here to enter into a discussion of his subsequent political career and alignments. One point may however be noted. He was one of the small number of important Naxalites who successfully eluded the police during the entire period from 1969-1977,the period which witnessed the severest police repression on anyone suspected to be a Naxalite.

It is in the fitnees of things that a convention was held in Moulali Yuba Kendra, Kolkata, on 18 July in order to remember him. It was an impressively well-attended meeting—the hall was packed up—and many speakers spoke on him, while deploring the fragmented nature of the movement and emphasizing the need for united work. The meeting was attended by two women colleagues of Majumdar as well as a woman leader of the CPI. A well known personality of the theatre movement and a poet-activist of the 1960s, now endowed with some international recognition, were also present. Persons from south India as well as Orissa were also present. The meeting was presided over by Khudan Mallik, a prominent activist of the Naxalbari uprising and a companion of Khokan Majumdar during the secret visit to Mao's China. The proceedings were conducted by Aloke Mukherjee and the inaugural songs were sung by Prithi Ranjan Dasgupta.

Vol. 50, No.6, Aug 13 - 19, 2017