by Ismail Chaudhury
Frontier | Vol. 52, No. 6, Aug 11 – 17, 2019
A K Roy is no more. A long-time associate of Frontier lost his CPM-party card, ironically though, due to publication of an innocuous article in Frontier. That is a different story with a different political perspective.
The veteran trade union leader from Dhanbad passed away in the 3rd week of July, 2019, because of multiple organ failures. He was 84. Roy’s Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union (BCKU), affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), was a force to reckon with in the politician-mafia dominated Dhanbad colliery belt in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. His politically advanced treade union was a moving spirit behind the raging Jharkhand movement in those days. In truth he was even ready to float the idea of Lal Jharkhand (Red Jharkhand), albeit principal movement leaders like Sibu Soren and others were opposed to it. He was so popular among labouring masses, particularly among tribals, that despite being in prison in 1977, he contested the Dhanbad parliamentary seat and defeated his Congress rival convincingly. Also, he represented the constituency later twice, in 1980 and 1989 and made many a positive contribution to parliamentary proceedings. In 1967, he was an MLA from Sindri.
An engineer by profession at Sindri Fertiliser, Roy was shown the door in 1966 when he supported the Bihar Bandh.
Roy was a CPM whole-timer while engaging himself fulltime in labour organsing. The party he belonged to faced severe political and ideological crisis in 1967 when ‘Naxalbari peasant uprising’ changed the status quo in Indian communist movement. After the ‘Spring Thunder over Darjeeling’ the party faced the immediate prospect of vertical split. Many leaders and active members left the party and challenged the age-old revisionist leadership of the party. Roy too had doubt about the future of the party vis-a-vis Indian People’s Democratic Revolution. Those were the days when dissidents supporting the ‘Naxalbari revolt’ were hotly discussing the issue of ‘Election Boycott’. The boycott slogan was polarising the political spectrum sharply. One day Nirmal Sengupta of A N Sinha Institute of Patna came to Frontier office with a special request to Samar Sen. In view of the political turmoil Roy wanted to publish an article in Frontier. Nirmal handed over the piece to Samar Sen. The title of the article was somewhat provocating—’Vote and Revolution’. The very essence of the piece was how to utilise ‘vote’ to further Indian revolution. Most naxalites, barring a limited few were in favour of ‘boycott’ and hardliners were ready to resort to active ‘boycott’. Frontier published Roy’s polemical piece only to make things more difficult for A K Roy. After publication of the article and that too in Frontier, CPM parriarch Promode Dasgupta at Alimuddin Street was furious and he did not waste time to expel Roy from the party. For A K Roy it was a blessing in disguise as he was now free, not mandated by party strictures. Surprisingly he never dissociated his BKCU—Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union—from central affiliation of CITU—the central trade union with of CPM. Once a mainstream journalist described him as a madman of Dhanbad—a symbol of ‘anachronism’.