[This is the first instalment of the English translation of the speech delivered by Comrade Provash Ghosh, General Secretary, SUCI(C), in Bengali at the memorial meeting of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar, Polit Bureau member, SUCI (C), held at Sachin Banerjee-Subodh Banerjee memorial maidan in Jaynagar, South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, on 11 July 2022. Responsibility of translation error and inadequate expression, if any, lies with the Editorial Board, Proletarian Era]
I never thought I would have to come to Jaynagar on such an occasion. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar spoke to me over the phone on 25 April last. He asked me why did I, at this old age, speak for such a long time in the scorching sun at the Party Foundation Day meeting in Kolkata on 24 April. But then he hastened to add that this was, of course, necessary. I told him that we had not met for a long time. He said– please come once to Jaynagar. Now I have come here at his memorial meeting. This is immensely painful for me. We consider all our leaders and workers as invaluable assets. Particularly when we lose any front-ranking leader, it is a big loss for the Party. However painful it may be, this is inevitable and hence we have to accept this. It would look astonishing to many how he, by conducting an arduous life-struggle, could rise to such a height of popularity and earn high respect from one to all. Most of you may not be knowing, save and except those few of my age present here, that in his early life, Comrade Sarkar was a calm, quiet, guileless, soft spoken, gentle and ideal school teacher. He never spoke a word more than what was necessary, both at home and outside. He also did not mix with others that much. But local people, students, other teachers and guardians of the students held him in high esteem. We must understand how such an unassuming person after accepting Comrade Shibdas Ghosh Thought as life philosophy, could wholeheartedly engage himself in the cherished struggle for bringing about revolutionary transformation of the society.
Ability, competency are fruits of correct struggle
Many of us think that we are not capable of handling this or that work; it is not possible for us. Those who think so obstruct their own initiative. Ability, competency, talent do not develop automatically. One has to acquire these qualities through struggle. These are all products of a proper struggle. Not just any kind of struggle. It ought to be an all-embracing uncompromising continuous life struggle guided by a correct revolutionary ideology. Then only the required qualities can be acquired. I know that myself, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar and those of our age had seen a different India, had been in a different social milieu in our childhood, adolescence and youth. That period has gone to the abyss of oblivion. Many of my age could then acquire some qualities, some values of that period from our families. At that time, mothers used to sing with tears the song composed on Kshudiram’s martyrdom. In the houses of educated middle-class families, luminaries like Rammohan, Vidyasagar, Vivekananda, Rabindranath, Netaji Subhash, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan, Saratchandra and Nazrul were revered as ideal characters worth emulating. Many of the school teachers were freedom fighters. In between the classes, they used to tell the students about the nobility of freedom struggle. All the elders, whether in the villages or towns, were then guardians of the younger generation. The young boys and girls also used to obey them. At that time, no one could dream of breaking the family, not taking responsibility of old parents, not looking after poor brothers, sisters as well as relatives. Our childhood and teenage passed in such a period. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar is also a product of that period.
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had taught us that in order to acquire proletarian revolutionary character, we must first assimilate and exhaust humanist values. He wanted us to learn from the life and struggle of the great freedom fighters, particularly those belonging to the uncompromising revolutionary trend and the Renaissance stalwarts. He advised us to start out from that. Then, he said, we should try to acquire higher proletarian culture and character by conducting struggle for applying Marxism-Leninism covering all aspects of life and building up the movements of the workers-peasants and other sections of the toiling masses against injustice and oppression. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar also initiated his struggle based on humanist values at the fag-end of the freedom movement.
Secondly, I would like to point out one more thing. The founding convention of the SUCI(C) was held at Rup Arup Hall in this very Jaynagar town. The hall was then in a dilapidated condition. Now it is renovated. Only a few people were delegates of the convention. Today, the Party workers are holding aloft the banner of revolution based on Comrade Shibdas Ghosh Thought in 23 states of India. During the formative days of the Party, there was only a handful of people. The prime initiative for organizing the founding convention was taken by Comrade Sachin Banerjee, who earlier had been associated with Jugantar, a revolutionary organization of the uncompromising trend of freedom movement, and then became a Marxist revolutionary soldier imbued with the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Comrade Sachin Banerjee had established many clubs and organizations in this town and inspired many youths with revolutionary ideology. After a few days, he had by his side another revolutionary organizer, Comrade Subodh Banerjee. There was marked influence of Comrades Sachin Banerjee and Subodh Banerjee in various localities of this town. It was Comrade Prafulla Sarkar, elder brother of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar, who was highly inspired by that. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar respected him like his father. We also hold Comrade Prafulla Sarkar in high esteem. He was like the right hand of Comrade Sachin Banerjee. Another one was Comrade Sudhir Banerjee. Comrades Sachin Banerjee and Subodh Banerjee frequently visited the residence of Comrade Prafulla Sarkar. Later Comrade Shibdas Ghosh also went and stayed there. Association of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh and other leaders mentioned above, the valued discussion they used to have, had gradually created immense impact on Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar and he slowly became close to the Party. Departed leader Comrade Yakub Pailan also had a role in his initiation to the Party. Comrade Pailan did not get much opportunity to receive formal education. He accepted Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar as a teacher for Bengali translation of our English organ and literatures so that he could understand the contents. In this way, both of them developed closeness and comradeship. Later, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar began to develop as a Party activist. He joined the teachers’ movement. As you have heard, he played an important role in developing and leading that movement.
Why do we take part in election?
You all know that ours is a revolutionary Party. We believe and also firmly tell the people that whoever comes to power through election—even if we are also voted to power-oppression and repression would not be abolished. Till the time exploitative capitalist state and system is overthrown by revolution, oppression-repression-deprivation-injustice would not be eradicated. We always say this. Yet, we take part in election. Why? Because that is the teaching of great Lenin and Marxism. So long people have illusion about election and legislature and they, willingly or unwillingly, get entangled in the process of election, we need to be with them to convey the message of futility of the bourgeois parliamentary democracy. We participate in the election to show that desired emancipation would never be achieved through vote. It can be achieved only through revolution. If we can win any seat, our elected members, whether in the assembly or parliament, play a valiant and formidable role as true representatives of the oppressed workers-peasants and common people. When the government enacts one after another law subservient to the class interest of the ruling bourgeoisie, our elected members boldly oppose those legislations and expose their anti-people character. They pointedly bring to the notice of all that none of the burning problems of life can be solved by this assembly, parliament or government. That is the role our representatives perform if they are elected. At the same time, we develop many movements of the workers-peasants -middle class outside the House. This process would continue till the time the toiling people consciously and positively boycott election and prepare for revolutionary upsurge.
Our first member in the state assembly was Comrade Subodh Banerjee. Many of you have not seen him but have only heard his name. Some of you might have seen him. In Indian politics, Comrade Subodh Banerjee was the first revolutionary representative of the working class movement who, based on Comrade Shibdas Ghosh Thought, had fought alone inside the assembly from 1952 to 1966. The impact of his courageous role was felt not only in West Bengal but also outside the state. Many of you are aware that United Front governments were in power in the state twice, in 1967 and 1969. We were constituent of both the governments. The CPI (M), CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, Bangla Congress were running the government in the interest of the bourgeoisie whereas we alone were fighting to run the government in the interest of the workers and peasants. On this issue, there was a big difference of opinion between us and others. Based on the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Comrade Subodh Banerjee as our representative in the assembly and labour minister declared that the police would not interfere in the legitimate movements of the workers and peasants. This declaration visibly unnerved the ruling capitalist class of the country who then started exerting pressure that the SUCI (C) was to be kept out of the ministry and Comrade Subodh Banerjee was to be removed from the cabinet. Under pressure of the bourgeoisie, the CPI (M), CPI and Bangla Congress dropped Comrade Subodh Banerjee from the labour ministry in 1969. But our struggle continued. Later, because of increasing pressure from the ruling bourgeoisie, the CPI (M) broke unity with us. From 1977, the CPI (M) ruled the state uninterrupted for 34 long years. Against their anti-people, anti-left policies, our movement also went on without relent. The police and criminal brigade of the CPI (M) jointly mounted brutal attack on our movements and killed so many of our leaders and activists. Several hundreds of our comrades were murdered by the CPI (M) government. Earlier, the Congress had done the same thing. Just a few days back, one of our leaders was murdered in Maipith (in Kultali) by the TMC. The only reason is that the SUCI(C) is feared by all. Because, the SUCI(C) is the representative of the working class, the oppressed masses and a party of struggle. But despite all such murderous attacks, they have not been able to obstruct our growth.
Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar played
an important role inside the assembly
After untimely and sad demise of Comrade Subodh Banerjee in 1974, we faced a problem as to who was to be nominated from Jaynagar as our candidate in the election. Some names came up. We were discussing those names at the Party office. At that time, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh entered the room and proposed the name of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar. Everyone was taken aback. He said—‘Yes, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar would be the fittest candidate from here’. Great Marxist thinker Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had a unique sense of recognizing the worth of a person. The Party accepted his proposal and finalized the name of Comrade Debaprasad Sakar. Before the election, Comrade Sachin Banerjee called Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar and informed him of the decision. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was startled and asked on what basis Comrade Sachin Banerjee was suggesting his name. ‘Am I fit for the job’, he asked. Comrade Sachin Banerjee then told him that his name was proposed by no other a person than Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar had no reply to offer when he came to know that this was the decision of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Thereafter he began waging a hard arduous struggle. At that time, there was no one in the assembly to introduce him. He also did not know the rules and regulations of functioning as an MLA. From the day he was elected, he began to study in depth by collecting relevant books. The people too elected him by reposing immense faith on the SUCI(C). Even at that time, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was not widely known in both rural and urban belts of the Jaynagar constituency. But people had confidence in the Party. Wherever he had gone, the people were highly appreciative of his simple, transparent and faultless character as if a bright living embodiment of impeccable honesty was standing in front of them. His very presence evoked respect and faith. It was not that he could deliver a fiery speech. His speeches were very brief. But the power of logic and appeal of his speeches touched everyone’s heart. He and Comrade Prabodh Purakait were our two representatives in the assembly. He used to function as the leader of our legislative group. After some days, Comrade Prabodh Purakait was implicated in a false case and sent to jail. You all know this. Earlier we had two representatives in the assembly. Then it was reduced to just one. In the assembly, the time allocated to the members to speak are determined based on the number of MLAs the concerned party has. So, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkaras our lone MLA could hardly get one or two minutes to speak. That little time slot had also to be obtained with great difficulty. The CPI (M) was then in power and both the Congress and TMC were in opposition. But all were opposed to us. Amidst such a tough situation, he, guided by Marxist outlook doggedly used to expose within one minute and a half the anti-people, pro-capitalist character of the bills tabled by the government. He had performed this difficult job exemplarily. The others used to raise hue and cry, passed taunting remarks. But he ignored all this and never retorted. Firmly he placed his views in the House. You now come to know from the media what is the spectacle of the assembly now. Comrade Subodh Banerjee did not see such sordid state of affairs inside the assembly. Later the assembly turned into a murky place with exchange of filthy language, dirty remarks, scuffles, brawls, ugliness and defilement. In such a gloomy environment, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was a glowing star illumined by higher proletarian culture based on Marxism-Leninism-Shibdas Ghosh Thought.
In the eyes of the journalists
Some of you are aware that after his demise, quite a number of journalists spontaneously paid deep respect to him in the social media. Some of them are retired while the others are in service. We had not asked any of them to post homage in social media. We even did not know that their tributes have been circulated in social media. After we came to know, we compiled some of these observations and published it in Ganadabi, our Bengali organ. What profound a respect they have for him! It is evident that these journalists have been suffering from conscience-pricking. Because, they had seen how Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar had struggled undauntedly both inside and outside the House to uphold people’s cause. But when they reported about this exemplary struggle of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar, the owners of the media house did not allow publication of that coverage. You know that if we organize a meeting or rally of lakhs of people, the media do not publish any photo or report of that. Because our Party is the class enemy of the monopolist owners of the media houses. All these mainstream media houses are now representatives of Tata-Birla-Ambani-Adani and their ilk. The monopoly-controlled media give publicity to the leaders and programmes of the parties who are servitors of the ruling bourgeoisie. If they hold a meeting of one hundred people, the media inflate the number to a thousand or even more. But if we hold a meeting of ten thousand people, neither print nor electronic media give any coverage of that. A section of the journalists is also pained and aggrieved over this. So, they have voluntarily posted such respectful tributes in the social media. Some of them have written that Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was alone, but he was equivalent to a hundred persons. He used to stand firmly with the strength and boldness of hundred persons. Some others have observed that he had conducted relentless struggle as a living emblem of ideological commitment. He took no heed of taunts and derisions. He never cared to see if his speeches had been covered by the newspaper or TV. He had no fascination about self-projection. Another journalist has written that by seeing him, one could understand how boldness and courage could be ingrained in the character if one who was committed to an ideology and principle. ‘He was not rare but rarest of the rare’-commented one columnist. Another columnist has written that they felt bad about their own self-centeredness and rotten life when they saw the ideological commitment, struggle and sense of responsibility of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar. Such have been the tributes of the journalists. Spontaneously such appreciations and respect have erupted from their heart out of conscience-biting. The feeling that they could not give vent to in the media is now expressed in their social media posts after his death. For a long time, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar emboldened by the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, boldly highlighted the cause of the oppressed millions inside the assembly within the limited time slot granted to him. At that time, his face and posture assumed a different nature. It was not the calm and quiet Debaprasad Sarkar that you had normally seen. Inside the assembly, his was a spirited and courageous voice. This is what is meant by revolutionary boldness. Those who tried to ridicule him also had to bend their head in shame when they saw his glowing and determined eyes. Others used to scoff at them.
In this connection, I would like to narrate one incident. One day, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar inadvertently brought a wrong amendment to a proposal in the assembly. Later he repented it and told us in the Party office that he would admit his mistake in the assembly. We all agreed to that. Next day, when he mentioned that to the speaker of the assembly, the speaker was dumbfounded. He asked Comrade Sarkar whether he was serious about admitting his mistake in the House. Later, he said that such was not necessary and hence Comrade Sarkar need not do so. In a firm voice, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar insisted on doing so. Because the teaching of our Party is to admit a mistake openly. In front of an astonished assembly, he boldly admitted his mistake.
As representative of our Party in the legislature, first Comrade Subodh Banerjee and then Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar for a long period had played this role inside the assembly. Later, Comrade Tarun Naskar also conducted struggle to play a similar role as our MLA. In Parliament, Comrade Tarun Mandal as a student of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh and representative of a revolutionary party performed a similar role during his tenure as MP. This is altogether a different politics, different culture. Hence its tuning is also different which stuns everyone. Comrade Tarun Mandal was also alone in Parliament. But his singular voice also reverberated inside the House with a different tune and connotation. Everyone was amazed. This noble teaching was of Marxism-Leninism-Comrade Shibdas Ghosh Thought.
In the forefront of democratic movement
As Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar fought inside the assembly, he also, as you have heard, was actively involved in all democratic movements. You know that a historic language movement was organized by our Party in the early 1980s. After sustained struggle for 19 long years, we compelled the CPI (M) government to re-introduce English at the primary school level. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was at the forefront of this movement. Later our Party developed many mass struggles. Our comrades repeatedly sustained grievous injury because of police atrocity. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was also in the forefront of the movement in which Comrade Madhai Halder fell to the bullet of the police and embraced martyrdom. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar as a leader of the Party also played a notable role in the Singur-Nandigram movement. I want to mention in this connection that in Nandigram women were mercilessly gang-raped and many others were seriously injured by the criminal brigade of the CPI (M). These rape victims and injured were not getting medical treatment. At that time, the first medical team went there on behalf of our Party. Comrades Ashok Samanta, Tarun Mandal and others were in that team. As a leader of the Party, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar was also in that team. At that time, armed goons and police were deployed on both sides of the road towards Nandigram. But ignoring all, Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar rushed to the spot.
The Singur movement was also repeatedly misdirected by the TMC leadership. I would not go into the details about that here. The people of Singur and Nandigram, the journalists, the leaders of all parties including the CPI (M), the top police officers are all aware about the role of our Party in the historic movements conducted there. Without our initiative, neither in Singur nor in Nandigram, could such heroic movements have surged forth. This I can say without any ambiguity. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar also had an important role in developing these movements. How could Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar earn so much of respect, confidence even among the honest bureaucrats and police officers in the administration? Because they all were attracted by his honest character and selfless pro-people role. If our Party workers went to any government department, they were asked whether they belonged to the Party of Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar. Such was the level of respect. The person who was so much revered and praised by one and all had not an iota of self-conceit or pride. Even after ascending to such a height of popularity, he had no tendency of making name or earning fame, no inclination towards self-projection. Thus, he has left an indelible mark as an ardent student of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh’s teachings. Culture is not reflected in one’s speech or writing. Culture is manifested in one’s public and private conduct, in one’s behaviour, in one’s mode of life, in one’s ability to remain calm and behave ethically even at a moment of severe excitement or adversity. Such was reflected in his character as per the teachings of the Party. This attracted everyone.
He had nothing personal
He gave away his entire earning, both as salary from his school or allowances as an MLA, to the Party fund. If one conducts a search, one might get one or two dhotis, kurtas, towels, shoes or wrappers as his personal belongings. He has an ancestral house. But everyone staying there are Party comrades. So, it could not be called his private property. The same was true for Comrade Subodh Banerjee. He too had nothing personal. Now, becoming an MLA or MP means scope for earning huge sum of money. When the MLAs or MPs submit the details of their personal property during filing of nomination, it is found that their wealth has increased gallopingly with the passage of time. And if one can become a minister, there is a windfall of fortunes. Except us, all other parties are in the same bracket. Yet they claim that they are people’s servants.
In our Party, nothing of such kind has ever been there. Till 1972, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to travel on public transport. Sometimes he went by taxi. After his serious ailment, we managed to buy a car for him by collecting donations. Comrade Subodh Banerjee travelled in crowded trains to come to Kolkata for attending the assembly session or other works. The co-passengers used to arrange for a seat for him out of deep respect. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar also followed suit. Out of admiration and respect, the co-passengers also stood up and vacated their seats for him. When he was staying at our centre, he was regularly travelling by bus. Only when he had to reach assembly house early in the morning for submitting his questions, he out of compulsion had to travel by taxi. Because, if questions were not filed very early, the opportunity to raise those on the floor of the House would have been lost. Now the Party has a couple of cars. Earning comrades have donated the cars to the Party. Comrade Debaprasad Sarkar even did not get the opportunity to travel by car for a long time. Such was his life style. For a substantial period of time, he stayed at the centre where I live. I have seen that he never asked for anything. Whatever food was available, good or bad, he had shared with others with pleasure. In every respect, his was a very simple life. Earlier when he was staying at his residence, he used to wash his own clothes in a nearby pond named ‘ganga pukur’. He continued that even when he was an MLA. If any poor person went to him near that pond for obtaining a signature, he immediately kept his washing of clothes pending, cleaned his hand and gave the signature. He never kept anyone waiting. Wherever he went, he worked for the people irrespective of their political affiliations. In this respect also, it was a very rare example.
In our Party, there is a practice. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh taught us to win people not by falsehood or bluffing but with affection, caring attitude, logic, decent behaviour and higher ethical and moral character. Long back, Saratchandra, the great humanist litterateur, had said that truth cannot be established by propagating misleading falsehood. Truth has to be conveyed candidly. In that case, people can understand the truth as per their respective levels of consciousness. If he one fails to understand today, another one will understand. Even if everyone fails to realize the truth, it is an unpardonable crime to deceive people by dishing out falsehood palatably and hypocritically. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had taught us like this.
(To be continued)