Spring Thunder: Naxalbari—42 years after

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  It was 25th May 1967.Fierce clash took place between West Bengal police and Naxalbari poor people. Chief Minister in United Front ministry was Ajay Mukhrjee and home minister Jyoti Basu. The revolt was led by none else than CPM Darjeeling area committee, led by Charu Majumdar. But the heroes of organizing poor of the area were Kanu Sanyal and Jungal Santhal, as described by Charu Majumdar himself on 22nd April 1969, while addressing massive Calcutta public rally. Announcement of formation of Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) was made in this perhaps only public rally addressed by Charu Majumdar. Beijing Radio in May 1967, hailed the revolt in Naxalbari as ‘Spring Thunder’ in India. China thought India will make revolution in next few years, as Charu Majumdar also thought. But how Naxalbari or exactly spelled as ‘Naksalbari’ looks after 42 years of the ‘Spring Thunder’?
  There was curiosity to visit the place which evoked world wide attention and the word itself with changed spellings became part of the dictionaries. Today Naksalbari does not look that far away. It is just 10-12 miles drive from Bagdogra airport with good road connectivity. Small town of about 30 thousand population is close to Nepal border town of Panitanki. No incident actually took place in Naksalbari on 25th May. The firing on rural poor took place in Prasad Jot, a small village further towards Panitanki. There were clashes and tensions in the area since March and Police fired upon poor people, who were unarmed. Fact that this firing killed eight women, two kids of about six months each in these killed women’s laps and one young man. No memorial was built in the memory of these poor people for many years, however few years ago, Mahadeb Mukhrejee faction of Naxalites built Charu Majumdar Sarani or India’s Tienmein square at Bengai Jot village, adjoining Govt. Primary School of the village. A small plot of land was occupied by the group and statues of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Charu Majumdar( No Marx or Engles) were installed. Two more pillars stand there in the name of Saroj Dutt and Mahadeb Mukhrjee, but without busts. In this area a pillar has been put up in Bengali language, listing the names of eleven martyrs of 25th May 1967 police firing in Prasad Jot. All other statues have English and Bengali both versions on them, but only the martyr’s memorial statue has names in Bengali. Translated as ‘Our Brave Martyrs’, the names include—Comrade Dhaneshwari Sek, Simashwari Mallik,Nayanshwari Mallik, Surubasa Bayani, Sonamati Singh, Shayamati singh, Shyamsari Saibani, Parijau Saibani and the only young boy Shar Singh Mallik. The two kids have been mentioned as ‘and two kids’. Incidentally Pawan Singh son of Dhaneshwari Sek is now CPI(ML-Sangrami Morcha) activist of the area and his son in law Ratan Dey is leader of this Charuite group either at national or regional level. It is difficult to know the reach of different Naxalite groups these days. Pawan Singh told one interesting thing that they would not allow the bust of Mahadeb Mukhrjee on the pillar erected in his memory, but approved to put the bust of Saroj Dutt at bare pillar. Having a little talk with Pawan Singh and school teachers and cliquing some photographs, I moved to Hatigashi village, from where Jungal santhal came and Kanu Sanyal lives these days, having his group’s office there. I crossed Naksalbari town, could not locate a single flag or office of any ML group, however the office and flag of CPM and flags of Congress and BJP were flowing, election being held few days before. Town looked to be quite clean, both Central and state Govts. seems to have paid special attention for development work. There was famous Nandlal Bengali High school, Naxalbari Hindi High school also came up few years ago, and now a Govt. degree college is being built. There are three mosques also in town with reasonable Muslim population. Some Hindu fundamentalist demolished a part of Idgah during 1992 Babri demolition frenzy, but state Govt. built the idgah and communal violence was not allowed to be erupted. The area is full of tea gardens and greenery. Everybody knows Kanu sanyal in Hatigashi village and per chance we met his grand daughter while searching his house, at the fag end of village. The office in kutcha hut of Kanu sanyal is adjoining the hut of Jungal santhal’s widow. I could meet her; she is old and can’t communicate. However her daughter’s two daughters were there, who are studying in convent school in Siliguri. Both their mother and father are working hard to get good education for their daughters. Kanu sanyal, now 81 and sick, narrated the tragic end of Jungal santhal,the Naxal hero’s life. After coming out of jail in 1979 or so, two years prior to the release of Kanu himself, he became addict to drinking. By the time kanu sanyal came out, he was not able to disciple his drinking habits and he was hospitalized in Siliguri, from where he took discharge despite doctors warning that he could die. He came to village and drank himself to death, perhaps that very night. I was told that one of his wives died one we met and another lived in another corner of village. Jungal Santhal had contested 1967 elections on CPM ticket but was defeated.
  Charu Majumdar lived in Siliguri,he came from rich background, his father Gajender Narayan Majumdar was big land holder. Many of the shopping areas in siliguri belonged to him, he himself was kind hearted, so kept on distributing land to needy. Charu was also indifferent to his ancestral land holding, he gave it to poor people. His wife could build a house in her own name from her own savings, which survives now; the remaining property was confiscated by government. Charu was praised by a completely non political business man from Haryana, for whom Charu’s doors were always open. He was the one, who perhaps translated charu’s articles in the beginning. But he was not allowed by his parents to join Charu’s funeral, because of police terror. Charu Majumdar’s family still lives in their Siliguri house.All three siblings-one brother and two sisters together. Charu’s son, a lecturer in English at a Siliguri college is now with CPI(ML-Liberation) group. His two daughters Anita and Madhumita Majumdar are perhaps in medical profession, trying to serve the poor, rather than making money.
  Forty two year later, Naxalite movement has gone through many phases, and as in Mohan Rao’s words, perhaps the earliest chronologist of the movement, and the first to be denied admission to JNU in 1975 emergency despite being selected in SIS, has gone through ‘Split within Split’. Revolution perhaps has succeeded more in Nepal and Venezuela like countries, but India is yet on waiting list. Whether or when it will catch the train, is uncertain.