Charu Majumdar -- The Father of Naxalism
Father of Naxalism Comrade Charu Majumdar's life is a story of "riches to rags".
Comrade Charu Majumdar's life is a story of "riches to rags".
Born in a progressive landlord family in Siliguri in 1918, he not only dedicated his entire life to peasants' cause but also authored the historic 1968 Naxalbari uprising, the ideology behind which guides red radicals even today.
Son of an active freedom fighter, Charu Majumdar or CM rebelled against social inequalities even as a teenager. Later, impressed by "petty-bourgeois" national revolutionaries, he joined All Bengal Students Association affiliated to Anusilan group.
Dropping out of college in 1937-38 he joined Congress and tried to organise bidi workers. He later crossed over to CPI to work in its peasant front and soon won respect of the poor of Jalpaiguri.
Soon an arrest-warrant forced him to go underground for the first time as a Left activist. Although CPI was banned at the outbreak of World War II, he continued CPI activities among peasants and was made a member of CPI Jalpaiguri district committee in 1942.
The promotion emboldened him to organise a 'seizure of crops' campaign in Jalpaiguri during the Great Famine of 1943, more or less successfully.
In 1946, he joined Tebhaga movement and embarked on a proletariat militant struggle in North Bengal. The stir shaped his vision of a revolutionary struggle. Later he worked among tea garden workers in Darjeeling.
The CPI was banned in 1948 and he spent the next three years in jail. He tied the nuptial knot with a fellow CPI member from Jalpaiguri - Lila Mazumdar Sengupta in January 1954.
The couple shifted to Siliguri, which remained the centre of his activities for a few years. His ailing father and unmarried sister lived there in abject poverty. But even erosion of peasant movement and personal financial crisis did not dampen his revolutionary spirits and he continued efforts to unite labourers, tea garden workers and rickshaw-pullers there.
CM's growing ideological rift with CPI came to fore after the party's Palghat Congress in 1956. The 'Great Debate' across the communist world in the late 50s propelled him to mull a revolutionary philosophy suiting Indian conditions.
He was again jailed during 1962 Indo-China war as part of curbs on all Left activities in India.
The CPI split in 1964 over ideological differences among the cadres. CM joined the breakaway CPI (M) but could not go with its decision to participate in polls postponing 'armed struggle' to a day when revolutionary situation prevailed in India.
He kept a bad health during 1964-65 and was advised rest. But he devoted this time, even in jail, to study and write about Mao's thoughts. The exercise shaped his vision and ideas of a mass struggle, which were recorded in his writing and speeches of 1965-67. These were later called 'Historic Eight Documents' and subsequently formed the basis of Naxalism.
The CPM formed a coalition United Front government with Bangla Congress in West Bengal in 1967 but CM and other 'purist' elements in the party charged the party with betraying the revolution.
On May 25 the same year, the CM-led "rebels" launched the historic peasant uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It was "brutally" suppressed by the state government but the ideology of "naxalism" not only survived but also spread.
With the upsurge of naxalism, comrades from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal set up All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in CPI (M) on Nov 12-13, 1967. It was renamed as All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, which launched CPI (ML) on April 2, 1969 with Charu Majumdar as its General Secretary.
Authorities mounted a fierce crackdown on ultra-Leftist movement across the country, particularly in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which climaxed during and after 1971 Bangladesh war with the killings of many key ultra-Leftist leaders. An ailing CM again went underground. By 1972 he was India's most wanted man. As per the CPI (ML) records, CM was arrested from a Calcutta hideout on July 16, 1972 following torture of a courier.
"During his ten days in police custody in Lal Bazar lock-up no one was allowed to see him -- not even his lawyer, family members or a doctor. The Lal Bazar lock-up had achieved a reputation throughout the country for the most horrifying and cruel tortures. He died at 4 am on July 28, 1972 in the same lock-up," the CPI (ML) records say.
"Even the dead body was not given to his family. Police, accompanied with immediate family members carried the body to crematorium... The whole area was cordoned off and no other relatives were allowed in as his body was consigned to flames," CPI (ML) records say.
Death of CM closed a vigorous chapter of Indian "revolutionary movement". CPI (ML)'s central authority collapsed and the "peasants struggle" suffered a serious debacle.
Though ultra-Leftist movement has seen many ideological splits since late 70s, naxalism continues to inspire a number of ultra-Red groups across the country.