— Rubul Sarma
When comrade D P Bakshi came to Assam as a central committee member of our party, then party was underground. At that time -1978 – the party was undergoing the rectification movement – which emphasised building class and mass organisations and mass movements rather than a dogmatic and one-sided emphasis on armed struggle. and eventually turned against the dogmatism and metaphysical ideas that prevailed in our party. Pranab da helped young comrades, teachers and employees grasp the principles and orientation of the movement. At that time, the number of whole-time party cadres was very small. The first state-level discussion on the rectification movement was held in a temple in North Guwahati of Assam, where the head priest was the father of one of our comrades Ganesh Sarma.
After that, the party expanded quickly in Assam. Many students, youth, teachers and employees from Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat and Sonitpur joined the party. The party developed strong roots in Karbi Anglong, and among organized sector workers: bank, rail, electricity board, oil sectors, Namrup’s fertiliser, Chandrapur’s chemicals, BRPL, Bongaigaon’s rail etc. In all these sectors and areas, Comrade Pranab led the way in developing party cadres and giving a new direction to the Trade Union movement.
That was the time when the Assam movement gradually intensified. In 1979, during the Durga Puja festival, an underground conference of selected comrades from Tripura and Assam was organised in the home of Comrade Dharma Kanta Haloi of Jinjia in Sonitpur district Assam. At that conference, separate state committees of Assam and Tripura were formed for the first time. Comrade VM was also present at that conference. After that in 25th February of 1980 comrade Gobind Teli, Khitipoti Das and 5 other comrades were murdered cold bloodedly in the CPI(M) governed state Tripura. Most of these martyr comrades had been present in the Jinjia conference.
In November that year, the party’s central committee issued an ‘Appeal to the Students and Youth of Assam’. Our position on the Assam Movement, outlined in that appeal, was distinct from that of all other ruling and opposition political parties, including the official left parties. That helped the party engage positively in the Assam Movement and encouraged us to increase our independent work. Pranab da at that time published a leaflet on the Assam Movement which was distributed widely among people involved in the Assam Movement. Pranab da inspired us to publish Notun Bahi (New Flute), a magazine to carry progressive ideas to a broader audience. The late Kamal Sarma of Kharghuli, Guwahati, of the RCPI movement, was the editor of that magazine, and his home in Guwahati was one of Pranab da’s main shelters. Pranab da integrated himself with Assam and Assamese culture, eventually speaking fluent Assamese.
Till that time, no regional and national organization had come forward to publish the ‘Soinik Silpi’ (artist warrior) Bishnu Rabha’s writings. CPI(ML) which was then underground, formed the Bishnu Rabha Memorial Study Circle, which with great efforts over the period of a year, published a collection of Bishnu Rabha’s writings for the very first time.
Under the leadership of Comrade Pranab da the main orientation of party was: 1) to firmly stand with the Assamese people against exploitation and discrimination and state repression by the the Indian state; as a result we opposed the illegal election of 1983, at a time when other left parties and national political parties were participating in the election; 2) to develop independent class-mass organisations among workers, peasants, students and women. 3) To develop and highlight the tradition of Assamese Progressive culture we formed the ‘All Assam Janasanakriti Parisad’. With this platform we were able to organise a wide section of democratic, progressive, cultural and literary persons.
The Indian People’s Front (IPF) was launched by the party at this time. For some time, Pranab da led the party group formed for this united front initiative in Assam and Karbi Anglong.
Pranab da later took on various national responsibilities on behalf of the central committee though his bond with Assam remained, as he visited Assam often on behalf of the central working class department. Assam comrades will, with great affection and respect, always remember the role Pranab da played in establishing the party and movement in the state.