Answers For Unanswered Questions

Gopal Sen: the Murder of a Vice-Chancellor

Amit Bhattacharya

The Context: The year 1970 was coming to a close. The ‘peal of spring thunder’ has already crashed over India. The message of the agrarian revolution along the path charted by Mao Tse-tung had spread far and wide. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was born on 22 April 1969. Urban actions had started in the city of Kolkata from March 1970. On 2 March, 1970, students of Presidency College ransacked the room of the Principal, and decorated the wall with slogans and stenciled portrait of Mao. They demonstrated against the bureaucratic system of education at the nearby Calcutta University campus on the same day. On 16 March, President’s Rule was declared in West Bengal which put an end to the United Front government of West Bengal. On 24 March, the offices of the Vice-Chancellors of both Jadavpur and Calcutta universities were ransacked and slogans such as “All reactionaries are paper-tigers’’, “Under this educational system, the more you read, the more foolish you become’’, ‘Down with the rotten Yankee culture’ were written on the walls. On April 10, the students of Jadavpur University invaded Gandhi Bhawan, an auditorium in JU, pulled down and destroyed a life-size portrait of Gandhiji, made a bonfire of a large number of books written by him as also books written on him kept preserved in the library. Prof Hemchandra Guha, the then Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University resigned from the post taking moral responsibility. In his place, Prof Pratul Chandra Gupta, the Dean of Arts Faculty, joined as the Acting Vice-Chancellor. Later, Dr Gopal Chandra Sen, a Professor of the Mechanical Engineering Department, JU, was made the interim Vice Chancellor on August 7, 1970.

Situation within the JU campus
Clashes among groups of students—mainly between the Student Federation of the CPI (M) and the Naxalites leading to the suspension of classes became a regular feature. It was a period of pitched battles with hand-made bombs (known as ‘peto’) being used by both sides. Prof Uma Dasgupta, who taught history in JU, wrote: “Indeed, window panes did break as we sat in class learning and others were busy throwing bombs from the roof top. The bombs were not thrown at us, we had faith but at their opponents below(‘Memories’, Re-union Department of History 1978 Jadavpur University Souvenir).

Meanwhile, on 29 April, 1970, one CPM activist was assaulted within the campus. The University closed the campus sine die on 30 April. On that very night, Manik Das Mahapatra, a student of the Pharmacy Department and supporter of the Naxalite cause, was killed at the dining hall of the STP hostel allegedly by the CPI (M)-backed goondas. What was the role of the university authorities? The Registrar simply expressed his grief over the death, commenting that it was the inevitable consequence of party clashes.

Meanwhile, the date for the commencement of the Engineering Faculty was announced to be started from 2 September. Anticipating resistance from the side of the Naxalite students to the holding of examinations, the JU authority decided to depend on the CPI (M)-linked students union for the peaceful holding of examinations. In protest, students giving the call for boycott ransacked the office of the Controller of Examinations and made a bonfire of examination papers. The situation inside the campus was very tense, classes were frequently suspended and curriculum could not be covered. But the holding of examinations in proper time had to take place in the interest of students’ career. Under such circumstances , the University had two options: either postpone the examination, or take it by allowing students with open license to copy. The authority opted for the second option—the only one feasible at that time (Telephonic conversation with Prof Pranab Banerjee, Retired Professor of Electrical Telecommunication Department, dt. 17.5.23).

Frontier carried an article captioned “Copy Book Examinations” By a Correspondent (September 26, 1970) parts of which are as follows: “Jadavpur University has been conducting its examinations in remarkable circumstances. Threatened by Naxalites who emphasised their point with an armed raid on the administrative block, this year’s belated engineering examinations seem to be taking place under an open general license or corruption. Examinees openly claimed and obtained the right to copy from books. In other rooms, students who walked out under Naxalite pressure, walked in again to finish their papers on the same terms. Even some leaders of the walk-out sat down with them…Many students took advantage of the unsettled atmosphere caused by repeated postponements of examinations and closure of hostels. The university authorities, anxious to get the examinations over in a crisis year, anticipated and connived at this”.

What was the role of the SF workers? The Correspondent wrote: “Activists of the CPM in the university complete this peculiar parallelogram of forces. Bent on a prestige victory over the Naxalites, the CPM-led union not only failed to take a stand against corruption in examination halls, but almost certainly encouraged it”. Anticipating that the Naxalites might create trouble during the examination, CPM students and sections of teachers and non-teaching staff affiliated to the CPM brought in rowdies from outside to ensure the holding of the examination. According to the Correspondent, when a teacher asked his student—a CPM worker—to keep outsiders outside, he politely refused. The Correspondent wrote: “He need not be blamed for following Mr Promode Dasgupta who stated more than once that his party’s private army is ready to handle the Naxalites provided the police retire…No normal person on the campus relishes the dose of Dasgupta doctrine…” This was the situation inside the JU campus in late 1970. The completion of the examination process was followed by the Puja vacation which continued till October end.

The Murder and its Aftermath
The date was December 30, 1970. Prof Gopal Chandra Sen, the interim Vice-Chancellor, was returning home in the evening all alone after handing over charge to the Registrar along the campus. He was to rejoin the Mechanical Engineering Department next day. As he passed the central library and proceeded to the quarter in which he lived, he was suddenly attacked by five unknown assailants with iron rods and daggers and struck on the head with the rods and stabbed in the abdomen and fell down within 20 yards of his house in a pool of blood. His assailants escaped after scaling the boundary walls through the space between the jheel and the Faculty Club Guest House. The time of the incident was 6.30 PM. The darwan’s cry drew the attention of some students who were playing games in the indoor stadium nearby. He was first taken to his home and then to Ramkrishna Seva Pratisthhan in a taxi. There he was pronounced dead.

The senior officials of the 24-Parganas Police including Mr Rathin Sengupta, District Magistrate, Mr Asok Chakravorty, Superintendent of Police, Mr Kalyan Chakravarty, DIG, Presidency Range, visited the place. A police dog was taken to the spot, but no clue could be found. Police sources said that the assailants appeared to be Naxalites (‘Jadavpur University Vice-Chancellor Stabbed to Death Campus Incident: Police Search for Assailants’ The Statesman, December 31, 1970; ‘Jadavpur VC Stabbed to Death’, Hindusthan Standard, December 31, 1970; ‘Jadavpur Varsity V-C knifed to death Assailants escape Campus Tragedy’ By a Staff Reporter, Amrita Bazar Patrika, December 31, 1970). The university officials told the reporters that they could not understand why such a popular teacher like Dr Sen should have been attacked. He did not have any personal enemy (The Statesman, ibid). One student told one reporter at the hospital gate that Mr Sen was very affectionate and before his death he had one day said that he would not die at the hands of students (Hindusthan Standard, ibid). The incident was condemned by many people and organizations. On December 31, the mortal remains of Prof Sen were taken from the Mominpur morgue to the university campus and from there a mile-long funeral procession carrying the body walked along different streets of south Calcutta on way to Keoratala burning ghat for cremation.

A condolence meeting was held in the university campus on January 1, 1971, at which Prof Triguna Sen, the first Rector of JU and the then Union Petroleum Minister, presided. Prof Sen stated that his firm belief was that the assailants of Prof Gopal Sen were branded criminals and they had been engaged by some men to commit the murder (‘Meeting Mourns death of Prof Gopal Sen’, Hindusthan Standard, January 2, 1971). Dr Triguna Sen remarked that those who committed his murder could never be students (‘Profound Shock over Prof Sen’s Death’, Amrita Bazar Patrika, January 2, 1971).

Arrest of a Student and Driver
Two persons were arrested by the police on January 1 morning by the Calcutta police. One of them was Rana Bose, a third year Chemical Engineering student of JU; the other was Prabhat Barik, a car driver. Rana Bose was the son of Dr Amiyo Bose, a renowned cardiologist, and Mrs Chameli Bose, a resident of Ballyganj in South Calcutta. Rana Bose was arrested from the house of his relative at Alipur and Barik from his house at Jheel Road in Santoshpur adjacent to Jadavpur.

It was also reported in the press that the police circles in Calcutta and 24-Parganas noted with regret what they thought to be “the indiscretion of the AIR’s shown by broadcasting the names of the arrested men in the evening news bulletin in Bengali and thereby giving an opportunity to their associates to escape”. (ABP, January 2, 1971, op.cit.)

Some Established Facts, Comments and Related Questions
1.    The total number of assailants involved in the murder of Prof Gopal Sen was 5. According to the version of the darwan, all of them wearing trousers and shirts were running towards the railway track on the eastern side of the university compound (ABP, December 31 op,cit).

2.    For the commission of the crime, they used iron rods and daggers.

3.    The time of the commission of crime was 6.30 PM. The place of occurrence was only a few minutes’ walk from the Arabinda Bhawan towards Gate No.4 just after Central Library near a pond on the left. That place remains under darkness throughout the year from the evening.

4.    As that walking path was the natural path to go from the main building to his quarter and the distance was very short, the assailants chose that particular dark spot for the commission of the crime. They must have made a thorough recce before, secretly kept the weapons somewhere inside the campus and the path to be taken for quick escape. Quite likely, there must have been some internal accomplice. No doubt, the whole operation was pre-planned

5.    The assailants did not use any facial cover or mask. The darwan, in his statement, did not mention any such thing.

Some Pertinent Questions and Comments

  1. Rana Bose, a student of Jadavpur University, was arrested by the Calcutta Police from the house of one of his relatives on the charge of the murder of Prof Gopal Sen. The important question is: Was it at all possible for a student of JU wearing no face cover or mask to be directly involved in the commission of such a crime and escape without getting identified inside the campus?
  2. It is pertinent to refer to the observation made by Prof Triguna Sen, the first Rector of JU: “My firm belief is that the assailants of Prof Sen were branded criminals and they had been engaged by some men to commit the murder” (‘Meeting mourns death of Prof Gopal Sen’, Hindusthan Standard, January 2, 1971). According to another report, “Dr Sen believed that those who committed his murder could never be students. The assailants must be outsiders and hired criminals, he said” (‘V.C’s Murder: student, driver held’, Amrita Bazar Patrika, January 2, 1971).

3. The report of the arrest of Rana Bose and Prabhat Barik was broadcast by the All India Radio. This was described by the police as “indiscretion of the AIR” shown “by broadcasting the names of the two arrested men in the evening news bulletin in Bengali and thereby giving an opportunity to their associates to escape” (Amrita Bazar Patrika, January 2, 1971, Reel 167, National Library). Such a statement is rather surprising. The names of the arrested persons were given to the AIR by the police themselves. Had they been so serious about keeping the names secret, they would have just mentioned the arrest of two persons without divulging their names. What the police force had done was done deliberately. It goes to the credit of the police force, until and unless the arrested men were not at all connected with the murder.

Police Raids and the arrest of Rana Bose
On 31 July the police raided the houses of two students of JU. One can get vivid accounts of the raids from the book “Footprints of Foot Soldiers–Experiences and Reflections of the Naxalite Movement in Eastern India 1960s and ‘70s” by Abhijit Das (pp.167-177). The first house to be raided was that of Abhijit Das at Fern Road. It was conducted by Debi Roy (DC, DD) and Inspector Ranajit Guha Neogy—the “two demonic names” who earned notoriety for their custodial torture and fake encounter killings. Abhijit had been working underground in the Malda district and was not at home. On the same night, another police force raided the house of Dr Amiyo Bose, the father of Rana Bose at Ballygunj Place. Rana Bose was not at home then. Later he was picked up from one of his relative’s house at Alipur that night. The usual interrogation and physical torture at Ballygunj Police Station, and later at Lalbazar, by the Detective Department was followed by further questioning and at Lord Sinha Road by the Special Branch of the Calcutta Police. We are reproducing part of the interrogation-torture session from Das’s book:

P.O.:    Who murdered Gopal Sen?
Rana:   I do not know.

P.O.:    Aren’t you ashamed that you murdered a teacher who is like your father?
Rana:   I have not murdered him.

P.O.:    Who else were with you?
Rana:   When?

P.O.:    Yesterday afternoon.
Rana:   I was at my aunt’s place, the place from where you have picked me.

P.O.:    You are involved deeply with the activities of CPI (ML). What are the things that you have done?
Rana:   Put up posters.

P.O.:    In which areas?
Rana:   Mainly in Tiljala.

P.O.:    What about Jadavpur University?
Rana:   I have not been much involved in JU students’ front.

P.O.:    Who are the leaders in JU”
Rana:   Earlier it was Abhijit Das. Now I do not know.

P.O.:    But you are a student of JU…How come you don’t know?
Rana:   No I’m no more a student of JU. I quit studies more than a year ago.

P.O.:    Where is Abhijit Das?
Rana:   I don’t know. The little I know is that he has quit CPI (ML)…

P.O.:    You have been spotted in the main hostel of JU even a few days back.
Rana:   Yes I went to meet my old friends.
[Rana was already in terrible pain because of the frequent beatings throughout this period…]

P.O.:    You have been spotted frequently in the Tiljala slums.
Rana: I go to organise the tram workers…

P.O.:    Are they not affiliated to CITU?
Rana:   They were, but now they are getting converted to our politics.

P.O.:    What is your politics? Annihilation?
Rana:   No, People’s Democratic Revolution.

P.O.:    Who murdered Gopal Sen?
Rana:   I do not know…

These repetitive questions were inevitably followed by rounds of torture. They hung Rana’s body, and endlessly hit on the soles of his feet with an iron rod—called kachua dholai. Such ordeals went on for several days and ultimately he was sent to Presidency Jail. As he could not stand on his own feet, he had to be carried to the jail hospital by his comrades and admitted in Ward No, 5(Surgical Ward) where Dr. Gupta was in charge.

During those years of captivity in Presidency Jail Rana Bose took an active part in all the struggles waged by Naxalite prisoners. Swapan Guha@ Master—a resident of Belghoria—and a Naxalite prisoner undergoing treatment in the surgical ward later related the positive role played by him.

There were about 30 odd charges against him including the murder of Gopal Sen. He was formally released from prison since none of the charges could be proved. On the day of release after he came out of the main jail gate, he was again arrested under the Prevention of Violent Activity Act. Finally he was released in July 1971 probably due the intervention of Bhupesh Gupta, an MP of the CPI, who was familiar with Rana’s parents and was also very close to Indira Gandhi. Rana was released on a condition; he would not be permitted to reside in West Bengal for one year.

Rana Bose was in need of an identity and a shelter away from home. He got it at Jamshedpur in the house of a relative. A year later he came back to Calcutta and sought to relocate himself and reorganise the tram workers’ cell. But he was told by the workers that although they thought well of him, they did not want to get into trouble again. Rana then wanted to get readmission into JU. However, the Controller of Examinations refused to allow him readmission. One can quite understand that his application for readmission must have created a sensation in the Arabinda Bhawan. How could a person, even though released from charges of the murder of the Vice-Chancellor, be re-admitted as a student? He then tried to get admission in other Indian universities such as IIT, Delhi and IIT, Mumbai; for that he needed a transcript from JU. But P C V Mullick, the Controller refused to give it. (Based on my telephonic conversation with him dated May 4, 2023).

His sister had been living in the USA. She arranged for his admission there in St. Louis University. His belief in revolution remained unaltered. Along with Hari Prasad Sharma and others, he was involved in the formation of Indian People’s Association (IPANA). Later he settled down in Montreal, Canada.

Popular beliefs about the connection of Rana Bose with the Murder of Gopal Chandra Sen: How far are those tenable?

A student of Chemical Engineering Department, Rana Bose got involved in Naxalbari politics. His father Dr Amiyo Bose was then one of the leading cardiologists of the country. A former member of the Jugantar Samiti, he was closely associated with Bhupesh Gupta, Jyoti Bose and others. Rana’s mother, Chameli Bose was, as he told me, the first woman in the world to have got a BSc in Mathematics from the University College, London—a degree that was equivalent to MSc in Statistics. She did her research under Professors RAV Fisher and RW Deming. After the completion of research, she joined the Presidency College Baker Laboratory as a teacher and Dr Amiyo Bose joined as a teacher in the Calcutta Medical College.

In those tumultuous days, many young men and women from well-placed educated families joined revolutionary politics. Rana Bose involved himself in the work among the tram workers in the Tiljala slum area.

After the murder of Prof Gopal Sen on December 30, 1970, the Calcutta police first raided the house of Abhijit Das. He was not in his house. Then they went to Rana Bose’s place and arrested him from one of his relative’s place. Had they been able to nab Abhijit, he would undoubtedly have also been charged with the murder of the Vice-Chancellor. After Bose’s arrest, the belief gained ground that he must have been involved in the murder. Subsequent developments—his release due apparently to his family’s high social position and high-level connections, departure for abroad for the completion of study and subsequent permanent settlement abroad—strengthened this belief.

The present writer begs to differ from such a view as it is factually, circumstantially and legally untenable. Let us explain the basis of my disagreement.

Firstly, at the initial part of our discussion we have explained that it was impossible for a student of JU to enter the campus with iron rods and daggers without drawing attention of anyone, kill the teacher and escape from the campus. None of the five assailants had his face covered.

Secondly, a number of persons including Dr Triguna Sen asserted that this was the handiwork of professional killers; it could never be work of any student. The selection of the head and the abdomen and injury marks imprinted on those parts bore the mark not of amateurs, but of professional hands.

Thirdly, the fact is that at one point of time, Rana Bose sought re-admission at Jadavpur University. Had the charge of murder of the Vice-Chancellor against Rana Bose been true, would he by any stretch of imagination be in a position to seek admission in the same institution? He can apply only when he is innocent.

Fourthly, Prof Gopal Sen was a very popular teacher who endeared himself to the students. He had enmity with none. As the head of the institution he was duty-bound to hold examinations on time. One cannot allow copying during normal times. However, during those times when classes were frequently suspended, campus was kept closed sine die, campus hostels were kept closed and examinations were deferred or suspended affecting the career of the students, the Vice-Chancellor could hardly be blamed for allowing license during examinations. Is it possible for a student to kill the VC as a natural reaction?

Fifthly, the belief that has been in circulation among a section of the Jadavpurians is that Rana’s family background and high-level connections played a role in his early release from prison. Such a view is undesirable. Rana Bose can hardly be blamed for his social position. On the contrary, he, like many others of the younger generation, left that path of self-promotion and took to the revolutionary path. His social position did not prevent the custodial torture he had undergone. While in prison, he took a positive stand befitting a revolutionary, stood by the side of his comrades-in-arms and waged struggles against injustice and oppression.
Sixthly, the most important fact—an irrefutable proof—of Rana Bose’s non-involvement in the crime is that he was out of Calcutta at the time of its occurrence. During my recent telephonic conversation with him held on May 4, 2023, he told me: “In late December 1970, I was in Delhi along with my father, who went there to attend a conference at St. Stephens College. On that fateful day (30 December 1970) we were returning from Delhi by train. I had been suffering from asthma. Father told me to meet Dr Bhar and get a chest-x-ray done in his chamber. ‘Come to me with the x-ray report. Do not stay here; stay with your aunt’”.

Seventhly, Arun Mukherjee, the Special Branch officer who interrogated Rana Bose, disclosed the reasons of his arrest. Let me quote Rana Bose: “Arun Mukherjee told me, ‘‘Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has given me 24 hours’ time to arrest someone and make an announcement’’. He smiled at me and remarked: ‘The reason for attaching you to this case is that you are the safest’.

West Bengal was then under President’s rule. The occurrence of such a crime had put the credibility of the central government in question. Some immediate arrests were to be made to undo the damage done. It was this compulsion that explains this arrest of Rana Bose. However, all said, the present writer could not understand why Rana Bose was treated as the ‘safest’.

Rana Bose wanted to study at home; he did not wish to go abroad. It was the adverse situation that forced him to leave. He was never connected with the murder of Gopal Chandra Sen. He told me over phone: “During that period Prof Gopal Sen was in favour of holding examinations by fair means or foul. I was not connected with the event of his murder, except that I got an intuition that something like that was going to happen”. Those among retired teachers and ex-students of JU who still hold this belief are hereby requested to rethink the whole affair deeply in a new light.

Then why was the VC murdered and by whom?
Frontier, the leftist weekly edited by Samar Sen, carried an editorial captioned ‘Murder’ :

“A brilliant economist teaching at a university has been warned thrice, in posters, that he would be killed. Though a bit uneasy, he laughed it off—until Wednesday, Dec 30, when the news broke of the brutal murder of the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur University. The professor, a leftist far from unsympathetic to the Naxalites, does not quite believe that they can be after him. But there is no knowing who is doing what and to whom and why. The general tendency, fed by newspaper reporting, is to associate the CPI (ML) with almost every such attack….

“…The propaganda organ of the party, before it went underground, had created a climate in which almost anything can be said of the CPI (ML). It seldom disclaimed the things ascribed to the party…

“One can understand the impatience and anger of young men who know they can be attacked and betrayed any day by the crusading Marxists to the police, arrested, tortured or shot dead. The times and the partisans are murderous, but in the mutual murder game, what is being forgotten is the opinion of the uncommitted, the battle for the minds of men. There is good deal of revulsion at what is happening. The revulsion is turning into apathy. The apathy and the hideous interparty vendettas are responsible for the way the police and other people are getting away with everything. The CPI (ML), deprived of regular publications, cannot fight all the way the propaganda of much bigger and more organised parties. However, whatever the hurdles, the CPI(ML) leaders and cadres owe it to themselves, their ideology, their cause to do everything possible to preserve their image… With so many agent-provocateurs around, decentralization—a necessity at times—can lead to dangerous developments if the strictest ideological discipline is not maintained” (Vol 3, No 40, January 9, 1971).

The editorial shows quite clearly and sharply how complicated the situation was during those troubled times. The responsibility for any murder—except those perpetrated by the police—fell on the Naxalites even if they were not at all connected with it. And hardly did they disclaim responsibility for it. The lumpen elements associated with the opposition parties took advantage of it. Except on one or two occasions did the CPI(ML) leadership condemn such indiscriminate killings. One can mention one or two such instances. An owner of an oil-mill was annihilated at Belgachhia. Charu Mazumdar criticised it stating that during the stage of New Democratic Revolution, oil-mill owners were not our class enemies. The other such case was the annihilation of Sucharukanti Ghosh associated with the Amrita Bazar Patrika. On hearing the news, Saroj Datta was said to have remarked: “How could they kill a person like Sucharukanti who was close to us. He was not our enemy”. During those times of utmost political uncertainty accompanied by total decentralisation of urban guerrilla activity, the responsibility of the CPI(ML) leadership was to exercise control over urban actions. Only one single statement from the top leadership was needed to get the desired result and that from none other than Charu Mazumdar. However, no such statement was issued.

The CPI(M) Bengali mouthpiece, Ganashakti Sandhya Dainik dated January 1, 1971, in its editorial remarked: “According to police sources, ‘the assailants appear to be Naxalites’. Do the police not know who the assailants are? …What about the promise of investigation into it as declared by the Prime Minister? Whatever the case, the police can never disown responsibility. The possibility of involvement of foreign agencies in it cannot be ruled out…One must find out who stood behind this murder…” It is interesting that the CPI(M) had not put the blame on the Naxalites with whom they are engaged in regular bloody conflicts. Instead, they have highlighted the possible role of foreign agencies in it.

In the period following the murder, at least two statements came out from the CPI(ML)—one leaflet probably distributed by the JU’s party unit, and the other by the CPI(ML) WB State Committee as published in Deshabrati, their party organ. It is notable that the content of the one is just the opposite of that of the other.

The present writer could know recently about the distribution of a leaflet from the Facebook wall of Mini Ghosh, then a student of the Comparative Literature Department. She noted in her post: “…next day morning I got the news of the death of the Vice Chancellor of the university at the hands of assailants—after seven days, we could get a leaflet in our desk in which the accused political party disclaimed responsibility for the commission of the crime…”Mini Ghosh did not elaborate in her post whether it was circulated on behalf of any specific party committee or not. However, since it was circulated inside the campus, it was probably issued on behalf of the JU unit.

The second document was Deshabrati, the organ of the WB State Committee of the CPI(ML). The report bore the caption ‘Class struggle surges ahead in the urban areas’. We are reproducing the relevant portion of it: “…as the youth and students have been directing their attacks on the colonial educational institutions and the idols of stooges of imperialism, guerrilla squads of the workers have been carrying on annihilations of IB officers, police officers, police constables, Border Security Force officers, police informers in the guise of common people, members of anti-Naxal squads… besides, they are annihilating government bureaucrats actively assisting the fascist government… annihilated too was Gopal Chandra Sen, Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University, who created an armed fascist band with CPM cadres inside the campus by removing the CRP from the campus and at the same time had been strengthening this bastion of espionage on behalf of US imperialism…” (Deshabrati, 15 February 1971. Deshabrati Sankalan 8 Ebong Jalark, Year 8, Nos. 3, 4, January-June 2004).

In response to the two charges, we would like to make some observations. The mobilisation of CPM student- cadres including outsiders to ensure the smooth holding of examinations in September 1970 was criticised by students and teachers alike. That part has been dealt with earlier. Regarding US connections, there were departments in three faculties who had academic connections with US universities. From the US side it was part of their policy of cultural penetration into other countries. But to maintain that it was aimed at converting Jadavpur University into a base for US espionage is too far-fetched. Besides these, Prof Gopal Sen was very popular among all sections of the students and staff.

It is difficult to judge the veracity of the CPI(ML) statement. However, as it came out in the WB State Committee organ of the party, it implies that they had formally accepted responsibility for the murder. Such a statement is at variance with the content of the leaflet that Mini Ghosh mentioned.

There are some other points that need consideration. While going through the report, one gets the impression that the middle-class youth and students were involved in acts of iconoclasm and attacks on bourgeois educational system while working class squads were engaged in the annihilation of state forces, stooges and government officials. And the murder in question was done by a working class squad. That naturally implies that no student of JU was involved in the murder of Prof Gopal Sen. The leaflet that Mini Ghosh has mentioned—which most probably was circulated by the JU party unit—also gave credence to that statement. When Meena Sengupta, the then librarian of the Department of International Relations asked Dilip Banerjee, an Engineering Faculty Naxalite student about it, Dilip replied that they were not involved in it. Meenadi asked him: “But everybody inside the campus is blaming your party; why not make an investigation?” Dilip replied : ‘‘Why should we? It has to be done by the university”. (Interview with Meena Sengupta dated March 5, 2023 taken at her residence)

It is pertinent to point out also that in all cases of Naxalite political actions, slogans were raised justifying the actions. In the present case, it was done silently without raising any slogans.

It will not be irrelevant to make certain observations on the role of working-class squads at this stage.

First, had the question been a conflict between the students and the Vice-Chancellor, then why at all should there be an intervention by the workers? Why should it be done by a working-class squad?

Second, there had been, within the CPI(ML) then, a clear dislike for trade union activity. Hence the number of working-class participation was less. Due to erroneous notion about working class movement, the CPI(ML) leadership could not develop any major working-class movement. However, in the Behala Hyde Road working class belt and the Belgachhia Milk Dairy, the working class could maintain the continuity of working-class movement spontaneously. Despite this weakness, in the party organs news highlighting working class participation in political actions—that had nothing to do with concrete reality-- was widely published. In many cases, the news was published without proper verification. Similarly, in many cases regarding the annihilation of jotedars in the countryside, the participation of poor and landless peasant squads was reported in the party journal while, in reality, those actions were done by petty bourgeois youth squads.

Let us turn to another relevant factor. We do know whether any statement was issued by the Dhakuria-Jadavpur-Haltu local committee of the CPI(ML) after the incident. Ashu Mazumdar, a former student of the International Relations Department of JU was in charge of the area. He was alive at that time. One of the party members of that area was Sankar Ray Choudhury whom the present writer interviewed in 1990 while working on the Naxalbari movement. Many events were reported; however, I did not hear anything about the death of the VC. It appears that the said committee did not have anything to do with the murder (See: Amit Bhattacharyya, Spring Thunder and Kolkata An Epic Story of Courage and Sacrifice 1965-72, Setu, Kolkata, 2018, pp.122-140.).The most important question is: Could any outside party unit carry out such an operation inside the university campus without the knowledge of the local party committee?

But the reality is that this news came out in Deshabrati. Could it imply that the report was published without verifying whether that action was a CPI(ML) action or not. Quite correctly did Frontier hold that the CPI(ML) “seldom disclaimed the things ascribed to the party”. That opens up another possibility. Does it mean that it was handiwork of agent-provocateurs around who consciously sought to malign Naxalbari politics. Frontier was quite aware of this possibility: “With so many agent-provocateurs around, decentralization of party activities—a necessity at times—can lead to dangerous developments if the Strictest ideological discipline is not maintained”(op.cit).

Rana Bose, falsely implicated in that case, was released from prison. No news of Probodh Barik is available to us. The case was probably withdrawn after some time. It could not be done without the approval of the state. Why did the government withdraw this case? Does it indicate any fresh possibility?

On May 13, the present writer got the news of the demise of Rana Bose in Montreal. He died of Multiple Myeloma cancer after prolonged illness. Right from the day of his arrest till my last telephonic conversation with him on May 4, 2023, he had all along denied his involvement in the murder of Prof Gopal Chandra Sen. Incidentally, that interview that I could have with him was his last interview. In the eyes of the law, that constituted his “Dying Declaration”, and this declaration is true in the eyes of the law. The false stigma that he bore for so many decades would, hopefully, now be removed. Rana Bose can now rest in peace. Let me pay my homage to the departed soul.

[Acknowledgement: Rana Bose, who replied to my queries from his death bed in Montreal; Mini Ghosh, former student of Comparative Literature Department, JU for her Facebook post; Pranab Banerjee, Rtd. Professor, Electrical Telecommunication Department; Swapan Dasadhikari for the Ebong Jalark volumes; Partha Sarathi Pathhak who helped enrich my understanding of that tumultuous period.]
[Amit Bhattacharyya (Retired Professor, Department of History, Jadavpur University]



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Vol 56, No. 17-20, Oct 22 - Nov 18, 2023