On 28th July we commemorate the 50th death anniversary of Charu Mazumdar,who was tortured to death in police custody. It ranks amongst the worst abuse of human rights of a political prisoner or leader in India or the world. Today history is repeating itself in with Custodial deaths being a routine occurrence in prisons.Charu’s assassination illustrated the neo-fascist nature of the Congress regime in West Bengal. The Civil Rights groups undertook extensive research on the fascist nature of the execution of not only Mazumdar but thousands of cadres of C.P.I. (M.L).In 1997 a judicial inquiry was initiated 25 years after the murder by son Abhijit and other comrades, but the petition was dismissed by the high court and Supreme Court.
Charu Mazumdar must be credited for igniting the spark of ‘Naxalbari ‘by giving it a political shape, through, his Eight documents. He planted the seeds of the Indian Communist Movement demarcation from revisionism by formulating path of New Democratic Revolution. Whatever serious errors or dogmatic thinking,Charu Mazumdar formulated a path of agrarian revolution based on teachings of the Chinese Revolution. He stitched the base for re-building an All-India Revolutionary Party by delivering a striking blow to revisionism and parliamentary dogmatism. Naxalbari and Charu Mazumdar are inseparable.
Bhagat Singh (1907–1931), the subject of Chris Moffat’s India’s Revolutionary Inheritance and Chaman Lal’s (edited and introduced) The Bhagat Singh Reader, is an iconic figure of the radical left tradition in India. In a trial by a special tribunal that chose to violate basic principles of law and criminal procedure for colonial-political ends, he was convicted of murdering an assistant superintendent of police in 1928. Singh, along with his comrades Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru, was executed in Lahore (now in Pakistan) on March 23, 1931, when he was just 23 years old, in the prime of his life.
Having come from the revolutionary strand of India’s struggle for independence, the elite nationalist leadership, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, remained ambivalent about Singh, and nationalist historiography has marginalized his political contributions. His substitution of the slogan “Vande Mataram!” (Salutations to Mother India!) with the rallying cries “Inquilab Zindabad!” (Long Live the Revolution!) and “Samrajyawad Ka Nash Ho!” (Death to Imperialism!) was alien to the political sense of India’s elite nationalist leaders. They were apprehensive of Singh’s brand of revolutionary politics appealing to the masses and displacing their own variety of a reformist nationalist mass movement. Indeed, “a confidential Intelligence Bureau account, Terrorism in India (1917–1936) went so far as to declare that ‘for a time, he [Bhagat Singh] bade fair to oust Mr. Gandhi as the foremost political figure of the day.’”1
The book ‘India after Naxalbari, unfinished History’ written by Bernard D’Mellow and published by Aakar Books [28E Pocket IV, Maryu Vihar Phase I, Delhi-110091, Price : Rs 995] is a classic.
The book is divided into 10 chapters like an epic novel with each chapter a logical sequel to the previous one. Chapter—1 on ‘Naxalite Spring Thunder phase’ where he recounts the history of the naxalbari uprising. In Chapter—2 ‘1968 India as history’ he recounts the brutal state repression unleashed. Chapter 3—’Unequal Development and evolution of the ruling bloc’ describes the principal undeveloped capitalism highlighting the state-corporate nexus. Chapter 4—’Naxalite Spring thunder phase narrating the events from 1978-2003 and describing the mass movements of the Maoists in light of worker-peasant alliance and women liberation. Chapter—5 ‘India 1989’ which sums up the financial autocracy and phenomenal disparity prevailing in total contrast to progressive capitalism. Chapter—6 ‘The far and near’—India’s rotten liberal democracy narrates how fundamental rights are violated and how it is an integral part of the bourgeois Indian state and how parliamentary democracy only protected the vested interests. Chapter—7 ‘Maoist Spring Thunder phase 3’ studies the movement after the formation of the CPI (Maoist) throwing light on the guerrilla army. Chapter—8 ‘Rotten at the heart-Secular state’ vividly describes how essentially the state violates the rights of minorities being responsible for some of the bloodiest communal riots ever perpetrating violence on Sikhs and Muslims. Chapter 9—’Little man, What now’ sums up the semi-fascist nature of the Modi regime and the aspect of sub-imperialism. Here he draws an analogy of the Nazi regime of 1930’s with the Hindu fascist agenda. Chapter—10 In ‘History memory and dreams’ he elaborates the concept of New Democracy in term of it’s workability.Read More »
The Jan Manch (people’s gathering) organised by the banned CPI (Maoists) group on November 4 to protest the elections in Potali village in Dantewada.
Nilawaya (Dantewada, Chhattisgarh): Under the blazing sun, a group of 35 boys, between the ages of six and 11, march on foot in a singular, almost regimented line. They are returning home from their residential school, 20 km away, after three months, for a week-long Diwali vacation. These children are from Nilawaya and nine other neighbouring villages, deep inside the forest, 49 km west of Dantewada district. The eldest of them leads the pack, cautiously inspecting the stony pathway and looking out for any ambush material laid down by the armed rebels. The others follow in his footsteps, meticulously.
Frontier| Autumn Number 2018 | Vol. 51, No.14 – 17, Oct 7 – Nov 3, 2018
I grew up in a house in North Calcutta in the Shyambazar locality, on what was then called Upper Circular Road. The address was 158/A. It was an apartment building with eight flats that were rented out by the owners. It was a six storied building quite tall by the standards of those times. The building was constructed in 1939. This building was well known to people involved with the Communist Party of India, since Ajoy Ghosh used to live there for a while. Later another left intellectual associated with the CPI, Chin Mohan Sehanavis lived there until 1959. My parents, who lived in the same building, were both connected with the communist movement in the 1940s and 1950s. I grew up in a politically charged atmosphere and had the opportunity to see many stalwarts of the early left movement in India. I was too young to understand politics at that time but most of the CPI leaders were “uncles” or “aunts” to me. On the opposite side of the main road was a sprawling slum where migrant workers lived—mainly from Bihar—who worked in the large number of flour mills and oil mills in the neighbourhood. Skirting the slum were about half a dozen tea stalls which hardly did much business. My father told me that most of them had been set up by the Intelligence Bureau of the police to keep a tab on the happenings at 158/A.Read More »
[Kasturi Basu, Mitali Biswas (dir) and Scripted by Kasturi Basu, Mitali Biswas and Dwaipayan Banerjee]
This is a film about the life of the Communist poet Saroj Dutta, and the turbulent days of the Naxal movement in Bengal in the sixties and seventies, where the poet and his context become inseparable from each other.Read More »
Conceptualising women’s experiences of violence is at the same time difficult and necessary. Credit: Youtube
Let me begin with the ‘parable of elephant hunt’, popular among Naxalites of the 1960s. The parable was lucidly elaborated as the revolutionary strategy in Utpal Dutt’s play on Naxalbari, Teer (Arrow) (1967). Dutt points out through this parable the distinction between the bookish knowledge of metropolitan Naxalites about guerrilla warfare and the interpretation of Maoist guerrilla tactics in everyday language by the tribal guerrillas. In one scene, Devidas, the urban Naxalite leader, tries to explain the strategy of ‘people’s war’ by reading from party booklets, but his peasant comrades fail to comprehend such grandiloquent language. Finally, Gangee Orain stands up and starts speaking. Let me quote an excerpt from this scene:
The First Public Cracks in the CPI(M-L) appeared with the start of the 1970s. Satyanarayan Singh, the party’s secretary in Bihar, denounced the annihilation line, and formed a parallel central committee that “expelled” Charu Majumder. Majumder retaliated by expelling Singh from the CPI(M-L). Some party leaders broke ranks to join Singh’s splinter group. Other leaders who began to criticise Majumder, including Ashim Chattopa-dhyay, were expelled too.
Charu Majumder was arrested from a hideout in Kolkata on 16 July 1972, on information from a comrade who cracked under police torture. By then he was suffering from acute cardiac asthma and needed constant medical supervision. The police interrogated him for 12 days. It is widely believed that his medication and treatment were stopped in custody, leading to his death from cardiac arrest on 28 July.Read More »
The time of Naxalbari calls back to us the past narratives of how Bengalees became radicalised. Historians of Bengal agree that one of the characteristic ways in which Bengalees were radicalised was through the adoption of a critical, interrogative mode. In the process it may have gone at times to extreme length, but time does all the corrections in life. In the long run, the interrogations became part of the common sense of the people. Yet this is not all. Since interrogation and questioning imply acceptance of no final truth, the critical mode has meant a permanent workshop of ideas and a permanently dialogic mode. Once again, dialogues at times became quarrels, inter-sect strife, and battles over ideas to the point of death. But in this case also, time has been the healer. It is an irony thus that the time of Naxalbari with its extremely critical attitude to the period of what is called the Bengal Renaissance resembled in many ways the latter and exhibited the same critical attitude that latter had shown through figures like Akshay Dutta, Vidyasagar, and others.Read More »