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Naxal icon finds no logic in violence

Kanu Sanyal is disillusioned with the violence triggered by the MCC and the PWG, writes Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 01:36 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis

Light is slowly fading in Naxalbari, a lush green village from where the Naxal movement spread like wild fire to the rest of West Bengal and across the country. But there is little difficulty in locating the mud hut we are headed for. Villagers throng with directions, "Aage jaan (Go a little farther)", when we ask about Naxal leader Kanu Sanyal.

In front of a hut, a frail, bespectacled man is sipping black tea. He is Sanyal, 77. The man who, along with Charu Majumdar, spearheaded the revolutionary peasants' movement that influenced the political thought of 1960s and '70s and radicalised the imagination of a generation. Today, however, Sanyal is disillusioned with the kind of violence triggered by the Maoists Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War Group (PWG) - which merged last year -- in Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Their uprising did not have popular support, he says.

"An armed struggle is a must to overcome the system. But that struggle must have the support of the masses, especially peasants and workers,'' says Sanyal. "One can hijack a train, loot a police station, kidnap someone. It doesn't help the movement." Sanyal doesn't rise from his plastic chair or clench his fist or raise his voice. But the anger is palpable. "In Kalinga Nagar and elsewhere in Orissa, the Maoists and the PWG did not take up the cause of peasants. Otherwise, they would have had an army by now," says Sanyal. "If the PWG and the Maoists were with the people, they should have stood by those peasants.''

Sanyal is also disgusted with the Left politics that is being played at the national and state levels. He says the CPM leaders are no longer communists but "social democrats who are serving the cause of India's big capitalists''. "The CPM leaders are those who have returned from foreign countries. They have betrayed the cause of workers and peasants,'' says Sanyal. "With the Congress, the Left has adopted the new economic policy and is collaborating with imperialist forces."

Sanyal is in no mood to call an end to his struggle. As general secretary of the CPI(ML), he plans to field eight candidates in the coming assembly elections in West Bengal. "I know we will not be able to make a dent but it is a beginning,'' he says.

Night has fallen as Sanyal rises, leaving the dregs of the tea in the steel cup. He shuts his right eye with one hand and says it is difficult to see. His left retina is damaged and his eyesight is failing. Sanyal's vision of Left politics, however, is as clear as it was almost 40 years ago.

"Movements have begun in France and parts of Latin America," he smiles. "Maybe we will not be there to see it, but socialism will come back."

First Published: Apr 10, 2006 01:36 IST