Samar Sen revisited

Asok Chattopadhyay

Come October 10 and history shall seal on the date as hundred and one-year after Samar Sen, the renowned journalist and esteemed editor of Frontier, was born. His birth centenary year had passed almost unceremoniously. August 23 last was his 30th death anniversary which has gone lost in the abyss of oblivion. It’s more painful than surprising to have seen the so-called left-wingers’ apathy towards a daring, conscientious and uncompromising left intellectual of West Bengal like him.

History had recorded the dots of a famous and unbending rural journalist who, in the seventies of the nineteenth century Bengal, taught the lesson how to wage war against both the tyrant zaminder and the profiteering ruling class in the general interest of the peasantry of Bengal. And just a century latter we found another one who had held his head high in spite of state-terror and heinous political goons in West Bengal. Of the two, first one was Kangal Harinath Majumder, the renowned editor of Grambartaprakashika, a Bengali weekly published from Kumarkhali, and the other one was no other than Samar Sen himself.

Despite trotting a long journey as a conscious, undaunted left intellectual, Samar Sen was not at all satisfied with the role of the intelligentsia especially in the seventies of the twentieth century Bengal. He admitted that most of the intelligentsia was dissociated from the greater masses of people of the country. Their feelings were more superfluous than condor. He believed in the concept that the intelligentsia should go to villages and share the labor and distress of the working people there, though he knew very well that it was much of a reverie.

Actually he considered revolution and intelligentsia to have been a complete oneness of the whole. And from this point of view he expected the vivid role of the revolutionary intelligentsia acting forth on the fore. But he himself confined himself within the periphery of Calcutta itself and pleaded for his crude limitations. And as such he did never opt to identify himself to be a revolutionary one.

He appeared not to be ignited with the fiery logical arms in face of sharp debate lodged by his friend Saroj Datta in the forties of his youthful days. Rather he somehow got indifferent. After the lapse of a long three decade, and in the days of flaming seventies, when Samar Sen referred to that debate and found out a pitting  justification of his friend’s anger, his indifference stalked tall. When a great numbers of pen-armed intellectuals of Bengal were much fond of applause in the late thirties and early forties citing revolutionary phrases, Saroj Datta, the young firebrand left intellectual, assayed dragging their masks open in public. In the days of flaming seventies, Samar Sen did have the reminiscences of the time and reasserted that he never considered himself a ‘revolutionary.’ To feign a revolutionary was all he disliked most. And thus perhaps he tried to lead the concept that he was not the target of his friend Saroj Datta.

Owing to his social and class-oriented limitations Samar Sen consciously distanced himself from being a Party-insider in the days of his youth and he maintained it till the fag end of his life. He was a devout Marxist and as such took up his life boating on the shore of it and unhesitatingly accepted poverty-struck life, strolled a long thorny way befriended with almost none beside him. And in spite of such a laborious job he was averse to be heightened a revolutionary. Samar Sen and the Frontier were generally considered the same and inseparable. He did never dwindle acceding to. But he thought it something possible to run a ‘revolutionary’ journal like Frontier without being a ‘revolutionary’ himself. He openly confessed that he failed to get over the middle class prejudices and stood far from the madding crowd of the country. And herein lays his unquestionable honesty that he flagged high in the winds of the tower of life.  

In an article on ‘role of intelligentsia under the emergency’ Samar Sen wrote that almost two hundred intellectuals published an ‘anti-fascist’ statement much ahead of the mid-night of June 25, 1975 when emergency was declared. All these intellectuals discovered unparalleled anti-fascist quality in the facet of Indira Gandhi and kowtowed to her anti-people draconian measures in name of emergency! A great number of these intellectuals belonged to CPI. They found Indira siding with Moscow and as such she was ‘anti-fascist’! What she did during the black days of emergency were called ‘progressive’ and the then anti-Indira movement was branded blatant right-wingers’ job!

Horrid massacres, under the dark days of emergency, occurred inside and outside the Jails of the country. Samar Sen hardly found out any such instance even in the days of the Raj. The blue eagle nailed the country having a gory experience all through that we witnessed in the regime of Indira Gandhi. But the afore-stated intellectuals hailed this chapter heartily! Samar Sen wanted to live more in order to witness the consequences of bragging of ‘the cow and the calf’ staged awkwardly on the scene. Under the state-led terror Naxalites had to face dire consequences of their ideological war waged against the state. Corpses assembled inside the jails and in the open space in even broad daylight. Samar Sen kept his pledge to the newly born CPI (ML) and found their futility, division and helpless prey of state terror, got disheartened.

But this disheartenment didn’t entice him thinking otherwise. Rather he, in an article published on August 24, 1977, bantered bitterly the possibility of constructing a new Bengal under the leadership of CPI (M), which exposed his complete disbelief with their art of politics. On December 28 (1977), Samar Sen wrote that it’s nothing hard to stave the intelligentsia down to earth especially when going to bar reaches to an art of impossible. But he asked how many of them suffered this experience in those bloody black days of emergency? Sen denounced those who, with their supportive stand to Indira-regime, jeopardized their age-old colleagues. He knew it very well that these intellectuals would obviously change their allegiance with the changing regime; the old guards   would be pet again in the other to come. Only the honest ones would be degenerated. And his inferences came true in the post 1977 period. The emergence of the ‘left’ intellectual in the post 1977 period tried to draw the sketch of a new firmament where no cloud of other hues assembled. And now at the behest of ‘morality’ a few of the said ‘left’ intellectuals have recharged their loyalty to Mamata Banerjee. History at times is jealous and never patron to loafers.

Within the periphery of socialistic concept in the fifties and sixties Samar Sen was upbeat to have the perfection of life and philosophy. And in the domain of the Naxalite upsurge he was over expectant of having more light onwards. While he was in Moscow in the late fifties he failed to hide his love for Stalin. But the downfall of moral ethics in Soviet Russia in the post-Stalin era agonized him bitterly. The great leap forwarded by Mao encouraged  him further on to the shore to sail on. The anti-American war waged by Vietnam furthered his hope to the full swing. But latter he could not but be down to earth with the negative developments erupting  both  in  China and Vietnam in the socio-political arena. Again in India the collapse and pitiable decay of the spirit of Naxalite movement, assassination of his age-old friend Saroj Dutta, mysterious death of Charu Majumder in the police custody, sharp difference within the Naxalite ranks and the mass killings by the police and party goons befriended with state terror dejected him worse.

But despite being an urban intellectual of the middle class commumity Samar Sen reminded Karl Marx’s teachings and dared initiating sharp criticism of the existing order keeping himself off from the consequences come what may. And thus his Frontier came to be on the fore.  The rise of Naxalite movements got him up with intellectual arms but its downfall failed to disarm him to find out the reality in light of Marxism. Never did he slipped from his left ideological tower. But for his solemn  sympathy with the Naxalite views he was not a less critical of their misdoings. And this he did valiantly.  Away from the close touch of the communist party  a middle class intellectual cannot but be a rubbish, he thought. And still he remained outside the party with the Marxist ideology as  usuable arms to fight out the state autocracy and reprression.

Never did he opt to bow down to hedonism. He earned only eighty rupees from his Frontier  as monthly salary which was his only and all to meet the pecunier devil. He had almost nothing for his own pleasure. A full cigarette had to pieces for a thrice smoke. A second class monthly ticket was his passport to journey from his home to his Frontier  office. He was satisfied enough to have his life running  at the meagre income of  the independent journalism of his rebel Frontier.  

In the year 1964, he thought it wise enough to get out of the  ‘Hindustan Standard’ in protest of anti-muslim tirade lodged by the authority. He could not avoid conflift with Humayun Kabir and left ‘Now’. And then he took up his arm with  Frontier which now runs through the weal and woes of fifty years when Samar Sen is no more. And it is the year of golden jubilee of Naxalite movement and at the same time November (October) revolution completes its century this year. All these appear walking hand in hand onwards!

Bidding good bye to the hedonistic life, taking up all the risks of dark and tedious troubles all though, Samar Sen remained an uncompromising Marxist in both of his life style and ideology and trotted the way ahead in the sunny and rainy days and flagged high his dreams of tomorrow.

Who but  this man can be a revolutionary?

September 19, 2017

Oct 11, 2017

Asok Chattopadhyay

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