"This was our Comrade Raju "
(For the past many years Bhojpur has been the battleground of the fiercest struggle against the upper-caste feudal dominance. This was also VMs battleground. Not only he was a primary member of the Party from Bhojpur, he also directly coordinated and guided the work here. Shyam Sunder Chowdhary, until recently the secretary of the Bhojpur district committee, remembers his comrade-in-arms, Comrade Raju.)
I became the Secretary of the Bhojpur district committee in 1990. That was the phase when we were waging a battle with the notorious landlord, Jwala Singh. A year before that the Bihta massacre had taken place and later there was an attack on Rameshwar Prasad. It was a tough phase for us and we were in a position of setback. The only task on everybodys mind was to finish off Jwala Singh. Mass initiative was very low. The position of the organisation was also not very encouraging.
From that time till I left Bhojpur in April 1998, in my work with Raju ji, I saw how the class struggle waged by the Party was creatively undertaken incorporating the complexities of the stratified caste composition that dominates the politics in our countryside. And at the same time, his consistent effort was also to increase the initiative of the masses.
According to the decision of the CC that all its members should be primary members of the district committee, he was a member of our committee. But more than that, his involvement was complete, supervising the work of the entire district in all its aspects and in great detail. He was familiar with every inch of Bhojpur and knew each and every party worker in every village by name. It was as if the entire socio-political picture of Bhojpur was clearly laid out in front of him. With this comprehensive understanding he led the entire team of party workers.
The struggle against Jwala Singh was also a struggle within our Party against the tendencies of guerillaism. Earlier in the 80s we were working with the concept of base area. It was thought that with the creation of the base areas we would be able to challenge the political power of the feudal forces. However, for various reasons this could not materialise. We were only successful in posing a challenge to their economic clout (through land capture movements) and their social dominance (through retaliation against attacks on dalits, rape of dalit women etc.). Our attack was only a partial one, the sharpness was lacking. Our victory in the parliamentary polls in 1989 was a direct attack on the feudal political might. This took the class struggle against the feudal forces to a new plane and the battle could no longer be waged just by guerilla war. It was his vision and guidance at that crucial transition period which helped us win the grim battle.
This was also the background to another bloody chapter of our struggle here, that against the Ranvir Sena. I feel it would not have been possible to take on this latter challenge without being correctly led in the fight against Jwala Singh. With the poor and landless labourers (as a class) getting organised as a political force under the banner of Maley, we became the common enemy for both the upper-caste feudal and the neo-rich kulak forces. So at the political level this fight was quite complex. It was the political foundation we built under the leadership of VM in the fight against Jwala Singh that we were successful in combating the menace of Ranvir Sena. The features coming up today in our struggle against the Ranvir Sena, i.e., the BJP coming to the fore in support of the Ranvir Sena, the Senas shrewd calculations in generally not attacking the social forces of the RJD, are all indicators to a direct political battle in which the landless labourers form our basic class force. Side by side their political mobilisation, the common masses were also armed. In this process our armed strength has also increased.
One important role of Raju ji during this grim battle was to handle the sharp debates that had arisen within our district committee. As the fight with Jwala Singh became sharper, debates with in the committee also got sharpened. There was an impatience among many as to somehow wipe out Jwala Singh by means of guerilla action. But VM pointed out that Jwala Singh was not just a notorious landlord, he was the political representative of forward caste landlord forces. The debate was finally resolved in favour of effecting a broadbased mass mobilisation of the landless peasants, dalits etc.,arming them and then taking actions against Jwala Singh.
In this grim battle many times we faced situations where we were caught in complexities. Whenever any movement gets prolonged and protracted, new forms of struggle need to be devised. At such times VM would always try and experiment with new forms of struggle and protest to overcome the situation. "Let us try it out", used to be his common refrain. For example, after the Bathe massacre we had a month-long fast-unto-death which evoked massive response all over the state. This form was new to us but proved extremely helpful at that given situation.
Just before the parliamentary election in 1989 he had given the call for throwing away the savarna (forward caste) feudal dominance. We had used this word for the first time in the party. Meanwhile, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the growth of BJP, the change in the national political situation also got reflected in Bhojpur. The class struggle against the feudal forces that we were waging under the specific conditions of Bhojpur also had to adapt to the changed political scenario. Once again he gave the call to throw away the communal-feudal dominance. In essence, what he meant behind the slogans was to turn the grassroots struggle that we wage in the direction of the political changes taking place, or else any such struggle would be reduced down to grassrootism.
In the midst of the grim struggle against Jwala Singh, one of our MLA from Bhojpur left the Party. At that time he gave the call for a movement to recall the MLA. This too was a new movement for us as well as for the masses there. There was a massive mass mobilisation for demanding his resignation and preventing him from entering the constituency. Peoples belief in the Party was further reinforced.
In yet another case after the killing of Jwala Singh, a phase of demoralisation had set in for the feudal forces and at many places landlords were surrendering. At that time, the police took the role of the oppressive landlords and launched an operation against our people. In reply to it, Raju ji gave the call for Operation Jan Pratirodh (mass resistance) in early 1994. Bhojpur had never seen anything like that before. The Operation caught on immense popularity and in village after village people chased away the police.
In all these movements his central concern was how to involve the masses and unleash their initiatives. He would insist that no mass initiatives should be blocked due to small mistakes that might occur in its course. Mistakes did occur but unless they were of a serious nature he wouldnt intervene. He would let the comrades realise these mistakes on their own.
Comrades often commit mistakes and often they might get disillusioned. Raju ji had the tremendous capacity to still integrate any disillusioned comrade back into the fold. It was the contribution of his largeness of heart and remarkable patience that we saw many disgruntled comrades who had become inactive, again coming back to assume the role they were in. For the last one decade, our struggle in Bhojpur has gone through stiff challenges and sharp battles. Correct tactical line has also emerged out of sharp debates. In these debates comrades might have opposed Raju ji many a times but never did I see him harbour any rancour against these comrades. While remaining firm and resolute to his position, there was never any gap in his comradely behaviour.
I found in him the perfect example of what a comrade and a communist leader should be. He never had readymade solutions to each and every problem that we were faced with. He was always in full discussion with the comrades around him and his thought process used to progress along with ours. Any solution of his used to emerge in the process of discussion. This is practical leadership unlike in bourgeois parties where exemplary leaders are projected as miracle men providing instant solutions just at the mention of the problem. At least, I havent seen that type of a leader in Raju ji. We always felt he was a comrade-in-arm.
This was our Comrade Raju.
His original thinking was remarkable...
I have interacted with many communist leaders. What I found in VM was that this man was very fresh and positive, and very clear in his thinking. He was firm about his views. A man who has built such a party in underground situations with great repression and also overcoming wide differences within the party, must be made of true communist qualities. And I saw it in him.
I remember, once we were discussing about Kashmir. Our party did not have much clarity on the problem specially on Article 370. I found that not only was he very clear on that issue but he also provided me distinct and fresh outlook in looking at the problem from a class angle. His capacity for original thinking, as a true communist thinker, was remarkable.
His humbleness was also amazing. He would often candidily confess that he didnt know much about what was happening in Maharashtra and would ask me to tell him more. I was quite flattered that such a great leader should ask me so. And he would listen patiently to me, sometimes for hours, without ever pretending that he knew a lot.
There were some points over which our two parties had differences, essentially because of different angles in looking at some contemporary problem. I found that whenever we were in discussion he would always try to understand the difference in opinion that existed between us, rather pushing through his own point of view.
When we broke away from the LNP in the eighties we were just a Maharashtra based party. It wasnt possible for us then to open units in other states. We started meeting various other left parties across the country. I found that it was only the Naxalite stream which was committed to revolution. Revolution has disappeared from the agenda of the two bigger communist parties, CPI and CPI(M). What we found in CPI(ML) and its leaders was the freshness in their approach and their commitment to the people. They were also very open-minded in their discussions with us which I found sadly missing in my interactions with other CR organsiations.
In the coming days we will further strengthen our relationship with the CPI(ML) and we are also committed to preserve the legacy of Vinod Mishra.
Lal Nishan Party (Leninist)
He lead every aspect of Party work...
My first meeting with VM was a short one at the Calcutta congress. Since then I had numerous occasions to travel with him on many long journeys and to many places in India.
I was older than him and despite being the General Secretary he would do all during our journeys to make me comfortable, often even carrying my baggage along with his own.
He lead and took interest in each and every aspect of Party work. Publication of party literature, usually considered a sideline activity, was accorded great importance by him. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a crisis for the left oriented publications all over India. Comrade VM used to always insist on bringing out our own publications. Whenever we requested him to contribute an article in the form of an introduction, a booklet etc. he woulld always comply, despite his hectic schedule. And each and every publication carrying his writings was always a sell-out.
Incharge of Samkalin Prakashan
He was integrated with ordinary workers...
I am an alloy steel worker at Durgapur. It was in 1972 that I met VM. He was by then a well established and popular leader among the workers in Durgapur. I was in the local team in Durgapur during the entire process of reorganisation of the Party under the leadership of Comrades Johar and VM. The reorganisation of the CC took place in Durgapur when VM was secretary of West Bengal.
I was an ordinary worker with little knowledge of politics. He had just stepped out of the student life and I along with a few other workers, were the first to be groomed by him in politics. Even at that early age, we could see in him the maturity of an expeienced leader.
He used to say that the leadership of the party should be given to those who have came up from the lower ranks, and were truly integrated with the struggles of the working class. I first met him in the workers quarters. I didnt know that he was VM. I was present on the scene when he was arrested in Durgapur while traveling in a car. We on part of the local committee tried hard to get him out of jail but all efforts proved futile as he was kept under heavy survellience.
I was arrested in 1976. I was brutally tortured by the police because they had found out that I was close to him and they wanted some information about VM from me. VM came to know of this and sent me a message in which he saluted the defiance I had put up.
He would prefer to take shelter in workers quarters. There he would integrate with the ordinary workers. It was under his influence that 17 of us left our jobs to become wholetimers.
He had a wide, flexible vision...
About five or six years before the assembly elections of 1991, I had dropped out of active politics. I was quite disillusioned with the left. I came to know more about IPF as it was growing from strength to strength in Bihar. It was with the assembly elections of 97 that my interest in the Left revived. Through one of my patients I got in touch with IPF and then the Pragatisheel Mahila Association. Then the party came overground and we started to hear more about Comrade VM.
It was sometime in early 1993 that I and my husband were thinking of joining the Party though we were still hesitant since we still had lot of questions and doubts about the left movement. On getting the news of our intention to join the party, Comrede VM himself came down to meet us. What moved me particularly was that he was taking the trouble to come down to convince just one person to join the party.. And in that first meeting that went on for few hours, I poured out all the questions I had in my mind. From what I heard of him I expected to meet a firebrand Naxalite leader with an answer for everything. But as it turned out, he was very soft spoken and to my pleasant surprise he was very honest. Hardly an inch of arrogance.
I had the occasion of meeting him many times and discussing many a thing. To me he seemed a visionery and a dreamer. He had a wide, flexible vision that would embrace and encompass so many other things even if outside the communist movement.
I remember it was after the Bathe carnage. Every political party wanted to appropriate the victims. Every party claimed that the victims were their supporters, even the BJP. But in an interview to The Times of India, when asked whether the victims were CPI (ML) members, VM said no, they were not. But, he said he was flattered that everybody was attributing the victims to CPI (ML). That meant that the CPI (ML) stood for the poor and oppressed. I was quite moved by this candid admission.
Looking back, I think that such was his freshness and open-mindedness in looking at things that those who have stereotyped ideas of CPI(ML) as a regimented and rigid party should have met him only once to change their views.
He was a selfless true communist...
The death of a stalwart like Comrade Mishra is a great loss for the party and people at large.
It was a sunny morning in 1971 when Comrade Mishra came limping to our house, supporting himself with a hand on the shoulder of my son. He had been in the jail, and after his arrest those people had tried to cripple him by hitting continuously on the soles of his feet. That, however, did not deter from his ideology.
A true communist should be a selfless man, and Comrade VM was an example of that. In winters he would take out his sweater and shawl and give them to the comrades who did not have any wollen clothes.
His stubborn attitude towards a job to be done is what we know. When all the copies of Comrade Charu Majumdars collected works were seized by police from a press in Bankura in 1976, he got it reprinted in a very short time. ... It was this stubborn attitude coupled with intelligence and organising capacity that he built up the party to its present form.
Hirendra Nath Chatterjee