A Tribute

Sankar Roy–a Man of Many Traits

Nityananda Ghosh

Veteran journalist, once the card holder of Communist Party of India (CPI) and a man of many traits Sankarda (Roy) died on 21st February–the international mother tongue day at a private hospital near eastern metropolitan bypass in Kolkata after prolonged sufferings from a undiagnosed disease. This correspondent embraced deep grief during the month of January and February 2023 with the demise of international Marx scholar professor Paresh Chattopa-dhyay who had contributed to Frontier for nearly about five decades, Debashis Bhattacharya (one of the pioneer activists in the field of human rights movement in Bengal and a noted journalist both in print and electronic media), Ashoktaru Chakra-borty (a documentary filmmaker working in All India Radio as a political correspondent), Sankarda and lastly Nilmoni, this correspon-dent's youngest brother. All these personal losses are irreparable. Frontier readers are very much acquainted with the writings of Paresh Chattopadhyay and of Sankarda and also of Debashisda (who had contributed occasionally). Is it a coincidence that all of them departed within a short span of one month? Whatever it may be, the readers recollect them for their contribution in their own field. Pareshda came to Kolkata (his native place) last time in the year 2012 when senior friends like Sankarda and Prof Sovanlal Dutta Gupta had arranged two lectures of Pareshda, one in Conclave hotel near Park Circus and the other at Presidency College. Before 2022 Sankarda and his close associates did not meet Pareshda face to face although he was very much familiar with his in-depth writings on Marx which had been published either in the Autumn Number of Frontier or in the regular issues and also in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). Sankarda too contributed to Frontier on various issues both in regular issues and Autumn Numbers.

In true sense Sankarda was a Calcuttan born in Bhabanipur of south Kolkata. Completing matriculation from South Suburban School he got admitted to St Xavier's College to obtain I Sc Certificate. Then he got admitted to Indian Statistical Institute and obtained diploma from this Institute of excellence. He joined Communist Party in the sixties, became a whole-timer and acted as personal secretary of Dr Ranen Sen, once the secretary of CPI, Bengal Provincial Committee, and an ex Member of Parliament. In the mid-sixties his carrier took a turn and he joined the 'Kalantar', the CPI organ, as a reporter. Once he also started his carrier working in the Government of West Bengal Agricultural Planning Department as a statistician, but that was short lived. He worked at Kapoxil too and from there he joined Capital in which the legendary communist leader Jolly Mohan Kaul was the editor. More or less six decades he continued his carrier as a journalist associated with so many national dailies, including 'Business and Political Observer' of Ambani group (which later on changed into only 'The Observer'), 'New Indian Express', 'The Hindu', 'The Statesman', 'The Telegraph', 'The Deccan Herald', The 'Sakal Times' and to name a few. Besides, he contributed in weekly, fortnightly and monthly journals viz. 'Frontier', the 'Mainstream', 'Darpane Muktamon', 'Saptaha', 'Janaswartha Barta', 'Ajker Desobrati', 'the Liberation' the 'Parliamentarian', 'Techno junction's', 'Muktaneswsa' (published from Bangladesh) etc. His write-ups had been referred either or reprinted in neighbouring countries' journals. He was a living encyclopedia and generous in helping the young journalists, politicians, NGO's. Anybody can gauge his prodigious knowledge on so many subjects e.g. politics, communist movements, history, political history, political economy, music, sports, art and culture, Marx thoughts, environment, climate change, agriculture, poetry etc. His lineage with D L Roy, the great man of the 19th century Bengal, was never being exposed. Once he contributed the assigned news items of late Baren Bhattacharya for six months while he was seriously ill suffering from liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis. He least bothered about maintaining his family and boudi (Sankarda's wife) had to take the family burden while his life was dedicated for other's benevolence.

Several times this correspondent had requested Sankarda to write books to share his vast experiences he had gathered during his long journey of 82 years but he was not interested. Albeit he had edited five books in his life e.g. 'Bipanna Paribesh' (endangered environment) published from Nagarik Mancha, 'Marx, Paris Commune O Leninbad' (Marx, Paris Commune and Leninism) published from Calcutta Marx Circle, 'Anya Ek Marx' (Other Marx written by Marcello Musto of York University, Canada and translated it in Bengali by Sankarda) published by Aakhar, a North 24 Parganas based publication, 'Marx, Marxbad O Anyanyo' (Marx, Marxism and Others) Published by Anustup, a Kolkata based periodical and 'Probings and Re-probings' essays in Marxian reawakening–published by Aakar, Delhi (jointly edited by Sankar Roy and Saibal Gupta). Except the last book (published in the year 2022 and in English) all other books are written in Bengali. Sankarda's experiences and knowledge were vast but all those were untapped.

Once this correspondent had interviewed Pareshda (Chattopadhyay) on 'The Unexplored Marx' which was published in the Frontier (April 8-14 2012, pg. 6-7) and Sankarda took the cudgel to translate it from Bengali to English. In this interview a question was put before Pareshda how he had tried to bring together Marx's theorisation–workers' self authority or self activity–and world famous poet Rabindranath Tagore's 'Sammilito Atmokortritwa' ('Self-governing society'). His answer was–"The momentary goal of Marx's 'self-activity' is self earned liberation of workers–male and female. The perspective of Rabindranath Tagore's ‘Sammilito Atmokortritwa' is apparently greater. No particular class, but common men and women were in his mind. For one thing Rabindranath's idea stated in his "Swadeshi Samaj" (patriotic society) took shape in an environment of British imperialist rule in early twentieth century if read attentively. It will be evident that ultimately, the two ideations are essentially the same in subsequent years, Rabindranath told of self-activity to the dwellers of Santiniketan without class array. To mention this particular part of Pareshda 's interview is to make apprise the readers of Frontier that Sankarda along with Pareshda mooted an idea to write a book on Marx and Rabindranath's ideations about human being's emancipation but the work remains unfinished.

Sankarda generously helped so many young and old friends who are familiar to him even in the era of social media; he was very much net savvy and very often put anybody's article in the face book which had pro-people contents. He lived in a family just like a bachelor. Such a big hearted and open-minded man's demise left a huge vacuum. He is survived by his only son Yudhajit, daughter-in-law Amrita, wife, daughter like Savitri, granddaughter Mahi, beloved ones, friends, comrades and many persons who are used to like his forte and fortitude.


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Vol 55, No. 39, Mar 26 - April 1, 2023