The Continuing Long March for a New India
May 25, 2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the great Naxalbari peasant uprising, the uprising that had blazed a bold new trail for a new democratic India with agrarian revolution as its core. Today as rural India reels under a deepening agrarian crisis, as peasants and agrarian labourers fighting for their land and livelihood face the brutal onslaught of the state, and students and intellectuals express their open and active solidarity with the fighting peasants, Naxalbari once again evokes a powerful resonance in the public mind. And the resonance gets stronger when we once again hear the CPI(M) cry foul against the Naxalites!
Back in those stormy years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Indian state tried all the means at its command to crush the uprising and suppress the new Communist Party – the CPI(ML) – that had emerged in its wake. Illegal detention and third-degree torture, fake encounters and organised massacres – every method of repression was freely practised by the state in its war on Naxalism. With the custodial killing of Comrade Charu Mazumdar in Kolkata’s Lalbazar lock-up (28 July, 1972), the Indian state heaved a huge sigh of relief and triumphantly claimed to have eliminated the ‘scourge of Naxalism’.
This military war was of course coupled with an aggressive political strategy. The Congress led by Indira Gandhi, and backed by sections of old communists, went all-out to whip up a triumphant nationalist frenzy following India’s victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh war (young Rahul Gandhi has recalled this as his family’s historic contribution to the breaking up of Pakistan) and spread socialistic illusions with slogans like ‘Garibi Hataao’ and measures like bank nationalisation and abolition of ‘privy purse’. By June 1975, this politico-military strategy of the Congress had culminated in a full-scale reign of Emergency.
The myth that Naxalbari had been buried for good was however soon exploded when the iron curtain of Emergency was lifted and the whole country came to know about the rebirth of Naxalbari in Bihar. Since then the revival and reassertion of the CPI(ML) has been a growing and undeniable political reality, especially in the Hindi belt where the CPI and CPI(M) have steadily been reduced to pale shadows of their past. But in West Bengal, the original land of Naxalbari, the CPI(ML) is admittedly yet to regain its lost ground while the CPI(M) has been in power for a record uninterrupted period of thirty years.
In fact, till the other day, a smiling Buddhadeb could often be heard saying that there was no Naxalite left in Naxalbari! When a well-known retired Naxalite leader began hobnobbing with the Left Front in the late 1990s, the CPI(M) fielded him as a Left Front candidate from a losing constituency in Kolkata and claimed that all right-thinking and enlightened Naxalites of yesteryears had sided with the CPI(M). But after Singur and Nandigram, the CPI(M) has once again started blaming Naxalites for all its troubles. Even after thirty years of uninterrupted rule, the CPI(M) clearly has no respite from the spectre of Naxalbari!
The reason why the CPI(M) is harping on the ‘Naxalite’ refrain is quite clear. This is the basis on which it can hope to mobilise the support of most bourgeois parties and cover up the true dimensions of the Nandigram carnage, if not ‘legitimise’ the carnage itself. This is how it can try and divert the whole debate, paint the whole thing as a conspiracy to defame and destabilise the CPI(M)’s ‘Bengal citadel’ and thus suppress the internal dissent within the CPI(M) and the Left Front. But in the process the CPI(M) actually exposes its mortal fear of any kind of mass movement against its government, especially of the ‘danger’ that such struggles could give a fresh fillip to the revolutionary Left and unsettle the CPI(M)’s ‘settled leadership’ over the Indian Left movement.
This streak of paranoia is not new to the CPI(M). In the early 1990s when agricultural labourers in certain pockets of Bardhaman district in West Bengal began opposing the CPI(M)’s corrupt and pro-kulak local leadership and turning to the CPI(ML), the CPI(M) responded with a brutal massacre of six agricultural labourer comrades – Manik Hajra, Som Kora, Hiru Malik, Dilip Pakre, Ratan Mol, Sadhan Roy Khoira – within hours of the 1993 panchayat poll (May 31, 1993). In protest against the massacre several more CPI(M) activists joined the CPI(ML) under the leadership of Comrade Abdul Halim of Kalna, a popular SFI leader. He too was attacked by CPI(M) goons and gunned down right inside the Kalna sub-divisional hospital (March 27, 1994). As protests continued and the CPI(ML) went on expanding its influence, the CPI(M) struck again and this time four agricultural labourer comrades were crucified at Nadanghat block of Bardhaman district (22 December, 1994).
As activists and well-wishers of the Indian Left movement try to find answers to the questions raised by the Nandigram carnage, it is important to grasp the real contention between the CPI(M)’s so-called ‘Bengal model’ and the revolutionary legacy of Naxalbari. With this aim, we invite our readers’ attention to the following translated excerpts from some of Comrade Vinod Mishra’s Bengali writings and speeches dating back to the period between 1990 and 1995, followed by a call issued by the CPI(ML) Central Committee on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the party’s foundation.