Let Us Discover the Road Ahead
(This article was written by Comrade VM on a request from the editor of Deshabrati for its October 1994 issue. Originally written in Bengali, it has been translated to English by Shankar Mitra.)
It was the morning of 20 May 1972. Even when the main gates of the Behrampur Central Jail were being opened for us, we didnt believe we were actually being released. True, this was the date when our one-year term of detention without trial under PVA Act had come to an end. But it was equally true that a jungle rule was prevailing then in the state of West Bengal.
Rearresting immediately after being released was quite common those days. This apprehension was further strengthened, when we saw a black police van standing in front of the gate. Getting out of the gate, we moved away from there along the jail wall. We looked back and checked that no one was following us. We redoubled our steps. On the other side of the huge wall, a few months back, many a youth had lost their life in their bid to scale the wall. Throughout our spell in jail, we were kept in a 24-hour lock-up in cell number 25, reserved for convicts to be hanged. We felt sad for our jailmates whom we had left behind.
Though we could never see them face to face, still by the dint of our voice, slogans, songs and political discussions, and above all, through the tea-cart at nights sending glasses of tea in a bowl tied with a rope we were bound in a living relationship. Those days there was hardly any feeling of groupism. All of us were comrades of one single party we were Naxalite prisoners.
Perhaps, it was for the first time that there were such political prisoners in the prisons of post-independent India. In the jails of West Bengal they were imprisoned in thousands and suffered maximum torture.
They had turned jails into centres of rebellion and set a unique example of jail-breaking, one after another. The future poets may have to pen epics on the saga of their heroism and sacrifice.
After spending a few hours in Behrampur, we set out for Durgapur the same night. Here, by we I mean Kali and me. I knew Kali by this name only. He had spent his entire jail term under this name. Despite their best efforts, the police could not find out his real name or address. I came into Kalis contact in December 1970 on the day of our arrest. He worked in the countryside of Burdwan district and like me, he too was taken into the Burdwan district committee. On that day itself, the first meeting of the district committee was to be held. Others who were arrested with us got scattered. Kali and I lay side by side in an Asansol hospital, after our limbs were broken during the police torture. We had been kept under the same handcuff while going to and coming back from the Durgapur court. We shouted slogans together and spent our jail term in adjacent cells. And today we were heading together for the same destination after our release.
The situation outside had undergone considerable change. Those inspiring days of the high tide of student movement had suddenly receded. One could hardly get any news of expanding guerilla warfare or the battle of annihilation of class enemies. Leaders were being arrested and martyred one by one. There was an atmosphere of confusion and frustration in the Party, and the incidents of desertion from and betrayal to the Party were on the increase.
From the worker comrades of old acquaintance and their families, I received the same sincere love. But however, none of my colleagues who were then the leaders of the Burdwan regional committee, came to see me. The area under the Burdwan regional committee extended right upto the Dhanbad district in Bihar. Even at that phase of setback nearly hundred wholetimers were working there.
Meanwhile, one day like a thunderbolt, the news of the arrest and death of CM reached us. We were stunned. Kali went to Bankura for work and I, under the instruction of the regional committee, set out for Nabadwip with a tin box containing my belongings and from there to a village in Agradwip. A new phase of my revolutionary career unfolded from that point.
The incharge of the regional committee in our area was one Ashok Mullick, who is nowadays with the COI(ML). He was popularly known by the name of Khoka. I went to see him at Nabadwip town where he was supposed to come to attend a meeting of middle-class sympathisers. I had to return from the doorsteps of the house itself after I heard that he was unable to see me due to preoccupations. However, this gentleman saw me a few days later and gave me a long lecture.
In the Bhatar region of Burdwan district bordering Birbhum, the peasant struggle had advanced to a stage in 1971. Then in the face of a setback, some comrades got scattered here and there due to a police crackdown. One of them, Kartik, was trying to organise the work afresh in Purbasthali area. Here I got acquainted with him. Soon our acquaintance grew into a deep friendship.
We tried to rebuild the disintegrated organisation and to revive the peasant movement in the vast area between Bhatar and Kalna. Bikash was already there. Paresh and Tapas joined us from Durgapur. However, despite unleashing some new initiatives in a few villages, we could not achieve much success in the region due to extreme Congress terror. In the entire district, perhaps, it was our area alone, where a hard struggle was being carried on with a new spirit.
The leadership of the regional committee was engaged in abstract and aimless debates. There was one such strange debate whether CM (Charu Majumdar) should be addressed as respected leader or respected and beloved leader. There was a two line struggle over this question in the regional committee. I could not get the head or tail of this. In fact, in one of the meetings, Khoka babu got highly furious at me for calling
CM as just CM. The committee secretary explained at great length why I should say respected and beloved leader Charu Majumdar. I could understand nothing and I was condemned for blasphemy. What I could understand was that they were taking refuge behind all this left phrasemongering only to get away from the hard and painstaking efforts for reorganising the movement.
I could realise that the essence of such formulations was that In the present phase, two line struggles are class struggles. Gradually, grievances against the regional committee were brewing among the rank and file and on the other hand, our sincere efforts were drawing attention of all concerned. Right at this juncture, Gautam Sen and Kaushik Banerjee, two members of the regional committee, were expelled on the ground that they had complicity in the conspiracy from within the Party, of murdering two leading comrades, Agni and Kamal of Calcutta. They could not accept this decision and formed a parallel centre using Maos saying Truth often lies with the minority, as an excuse.
Now for the first time, Gautam, a classmate of mine, came to me, of course, with the expectation of mobilising support in his favour. I told him that I didnt know anything about the event and that you should accept the committees decision and place your arguments. Such rebellions were against the organisational principles of the party. He tried to convince me that minority is under majority had become obsolete. The Cultural revolution had established that truth lies with the minority and to rebel was justified. I said that these organisational principles were all in the Red Book, with which in hand the cultural revolution was carried on, and above all, if all such rules and principles were set aside, how long could any organisation function. I told Gautam even in the organisation he was building, one day there might arise difference of opinion, and if people rose in rebellion on the same ground, how could he prevent them. To him my words sounded old-fashioned. I feel sorry about Gautam, but despite the many capabilities that he had, he could never build an organisation whatsoever.
Kaushik babu also paid a visit. He said that he too had a lot of grievances against the regional committee. That apart, personally too he had been neglected and insulted. He egged on me to lead the rebellion and assured me that the entire rank and file would stand by me, and moreover, he too was behind me. I politely told him to excuse me as I was not a rebel like him. From whatever party education I had received, I believed in principled struggle within the organisation itself.
I related this incident because I think in the name of Cultural Revolution, many such ideas had been floated in our party. And that had smashed the party system altogether. Subsequently, I think such ideas contributed a lot to the existence of innumerable groups and to the splits one after another based on petty differences.
Much the same time, the Sharma-Mahadev centre arose after CMs death. But that split into two. Claiming to be the heir of CM, Mahadev babu started spreading idealist concepts. Our regional leadership was unable to wage any ideological-political struggle. From our area committee we prepared a document against the Mahadev line and sent it to the regional committee. They didnt even distribute it. Perhaps that was the first political document in the struggle for Partys reorganisation. Nadia comrades who kept a close relationship with us, were not at one with us in this struggle. Even Kalida of Nabadwip, whose house was my shelter and whose meagre income from tailoring supported us two, came under the influence of Mahadev line, became a wholetimer and later became a martyr.
In the meanwhile, the secretary of the regional committee wanted to resolve the crisis of confidence regarding himself, by inducting me and Kartik into the regional committee. We joined the regional committee and very soon I had to shoulder the responsibility of secretaryship, for everyone had lost confidence in the old secretary and by that time he himself had lost confidence in the respected and beloved leader Comrade Charu Majumdar. Anyway, the process of party reorganisation went ahead. Soon the state leading team was formed combining the organisations of Burdwan, Bankura, Nadia, Birbhum, Calcutta and North Bengal. In search of a centre, we set out for contacting Sharma. The meeting was arranged in a village in the Ghazipur district of UP. At the appointed time, there appeared Sharma ji in coat, pant and tie. Ramnath carried out all the talks on his behalf. He later on became the leader of the CLI. He spoke all sorts of rubbish against CM. We protested. Finally, the meeting broke-up. We left and caught a train at midnight.
On our return, against Sharma line our second political document was prepared.
In this document, we mentioned the need of mass organisation and mass struggles. I welcomed Shanto (Somen Guha) of state leading team when he planned to build the brave sisters organisation with Archana and others. This thought process was hindered in the context of the call for developing the guerilla struggles to the stage of mobile warfare. Perhaps, there was a need of examining the new prospects of emerging struggles of Bihar at this stage.
It became clearer in the process of struggle against Sharma line that the search of a readymade centre was in vain. Centre had to be built afresh. Exactly in this process, just after 2 years of CMs death, a new Central Committee was formed under Comrade Johars leadership on 28 July 1974. In retrospect, our firm decision in those days seems to be a historic step. Comrade Johar was a true communist, firm by nature but very modest. He visited our areas of work in West Bengal many a time. He encouraged us by saying that Bihar struggles were still in the first stage but in West Bengal we had crossed that stage and now after an overall setback we had started reorganizing. In such circumstances, the peasant struggles we were building up afresh, although limited, were of immense significance. He had an extraordinary analytical power and he appeared to us as the new source of inspiration.
Gradually the focus of our work shifted from South Bengal to North Bengal. In Naxalbari, the entire Shanti Pal group, whose former leader was Deepak Biswas who got CM arrested, had shifted to Purnea under police pressure and taking this opportunity we infiltrated in Naxalbari. We devoted all our energies there to the challenge of reviving Naxalbari. Right after the setback, the intelligence agency had spread its thorough network with their agents in the villages. As a result, we had to suffer losses at every step and had to pay a very heavy price. However, in the process we could establish contacts with the poor peasants in general and with the tea workers in particular over an extensive area. We even formed womens armed guerilla squads of Rajbanshis and tribals. There were some daring actions like rifle-snatching from police camps.
When I reminisce about Naxalbari, two outstanding characters come to my mind. One was Patal, a youth of 18-19 years, an extraordinary guerilla fighter and a perpetual terror for the police. After great efforts and with help of an elaborate trap, the police killed him. The BSF constable who did the job received the President medal. Another was the veteran Comrade Buddhuwa Oraon. All of us respectfully called him Pitaji. Without his deep going connections with the tribal people, it was totally impossible for us to continue in those areas.
After the Barpathujoth incident, we had to drop curtains on the work of concentrating in North Bengal and gradually the focus of the work again shifted to South Bengal. Nevertheless, Naxalbari is still waiting a revival.
In short this was the history of reorganisation of the Party and the movement during 1972-77 period. The post-1977 rectification movement was waged on the basis of the summing up of the experience of this phase.
There was a time when there was darkness all around. Some people said that they would chart out the path first and only then could proceed along that. In the course of history, they themselves have lost their path. Others said, they would discover the path while they moved ahead, and they strode out confidently. Their inspiration was the sense of responsibility of repaying the blood-debt of martyr comrades and the dream of building a higher society. And their weapon was a unified and a disciplined party organisation. They are the ones who finally discovered the path. They revived the movement and accomplished the task of party reorganisation. In the hope that new comrades will take lessons from these experiences, I recollected these experiences on the request from the editor of Deshabrati.