Ten years before the Left Front stormed to power, Kanu Sanyal had sown the roots of the Left movement by leading peasants against “imperialist” forces. Today, the Naxalite leader is opposing his comrades of 40 years ago, among whom were Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for the same reasons that he had opposed the Congress government then.
Sanyal’s movement, which catapulted the Left Front to power, had been built around the objective of uplifting the poor. Instead, he says, the government has joined hands with capitalists, just as the Congress government had done.
Sanyal, now 79, lives at Hathisingha, a remote village close to Naxalbari, which had given his movement its name. His home is the headquarters of his party, the CPI(Marxist-Leninist), of which he is general secretary.
What offends him most is the U-turn on land reforms, the Left Front’s biggest achievement. The same government that distributed land among the poor, he says, is now snatching farmers’ land and giving it to the rich.
Listing other failures, he accuses the government of promoting the wrong kind of industries (big ones for the rich rather than small, crops-based ones involving the poor), supporting the SEZ Act aimed at curbing workers’ rights, and failing to punish tea garden owners who are oppressing workers.
He draws a striking parallel between the government and the one he helped overthrow: “In 1967, the Congress government had massacred 11 women in a revenge attack on a village in Naxalbari, Darjeeling. This year, the present government killed 14 people in Nandigram.”
His fight for the poor continues. In a message posted on his party website, he condemns the continuing violence in Nandigram and says, “I appeal to all our comrades, sympathisers and friends to collect food-cloth-medicine-money for the struggling people of Nandigram and send them immediately. Drafts and cheques can also be sent directly.” The website carries the address where the aid can be sent.