“… Naxalbari is alive and will remain alive because this is built on the foundation of Marxism-Leninism and that of Mao. We know there are many barriers before us, many difficulties, treason, upheavals but Naxalbari shall live on. … Naxalbari is not over and will not be over.
– Charu Mazumdar, 1969
(Marking the 50th anniversary year of the Naxalbari movement, the CPI(ML) Liberation held a People’s Awakening March on 19-21 November through Naxalbari, Kharibari, Phansidewa. Below is the campaign leaflet issued on the occasion, followed by a brief report of the March.)
A small town on the banks of the Mechi river at the eastern edge of India along the Indo-Nepal border.
Birthplace of class consciousness of workers, landless peasants and tea plantation workers. Rearing ground for the collective struggle of people of this area against exploitation and oppression.
Naxalbari is the name of the politics of struggle that rejected the parliamentary Left path and showed a revolutionary path.
On the foothills of the Himalayas is this Terai region. Most people are peasants. But in the books of the local landlords, large farmers, and moneylenders, these people were bonded labour tied to them over generations. Despite this, these people started organising themselves since before India’s independence. During the Tebhaga movement they demanded two-thirds of the produce of the land they tilled. The united call of the peasantry for “Land to the tiller” shook the newly independent nation and forced the stooge of landowners, rich and merchant class, the Congress party, to quickly amend the constitution to abolish the Zamindari system in 1953 but also shrewdly ensured the non-implementation of this abolition.
In 1955, the undivided Communist Party of India called for land reform – claiming from landowners the land in excess of the ceiling. Poor landless peasants joined the call in large numbers in a militant struggle for land. Fearing this will spiral into a militant uncontainable struggle, the state Peasant Sabha of the undivided CPI withdrew this call.
The Darjeeling District committee of the communist party began to diverge and develop its own parallel path from this point. The 1964 split in the party and the development of the party programme and tactics of the newly formed Communist Party of India (Marxist) reflected opportunism and revisionism. From this evolved, through a deep study of theory and agrarian struggle, the revolutionary alternate path of emancipation.
At the same time, in 1967, the united front government was formed in Bengal in political coalition with the Bengal Congress, a breakaway from the Congress.
On this 7 March 1967, at Rambhola Jot in Buraganj area of Kharibari Block, an all day and night conference was held of the ‘Terai Peasant Sabha’. This was presided over by Jangal Santhal, Manilal Singh and Khokan Mazumdar. The decisions were to organize peasants is large numbers against the oppression of large peasants, landlords, ruling parties and the state along with radical land reform and peoples’ armed revolution for achieving a worker-peasant state.
The 1966 famine had set the stage for this people’s uprising across the state of Bengal. The continuous strike of tea plantation workers in Darjeeling district for wages and bonus at the same time also fuelled the objective condition. The forcible loot of crops amidst this crisis by the armed landlord militia paved the ground for the long drawn campaign by the ‘Terai Peasant Sabha’ culminating in the conference.
The state unleashed its ruthless police force to crush this peasant revolt. But Naxalbari was then fired by the ‘Ulgulan movement’. Infamous police officer, Sonam Wangdi, lost his life in the united resistance by workers and peasants. The next day, on 25 May, state forces open fired on an assembly at Prasadu Jot of unarmed women and killed 2 infants along with 11 people from the toiling class.
This breakthrough at a remote area spread like wild fire across the countryside. Spring Thunder echoed in the hearts of all oppressed.
Leaders like Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Souren Bose, Jangal Santhal, Khokan Mazumdar, Kadamlal Mallik, Khudanlal Mallik, Panjab Rao, Shanti Munda were joined by a sea of bright educated young inspired by the Naxalbari movement. The revolutionary spirit inflamed working class leadership like Nemu Singh, Khemu Singh, Kuru Munda, Joseph Munda. Middle class young leaders like Pabitrapani Saha, Ranjit Bhowmik, Bakul Sen became martyrs along with fearless fighters like Tribeni Kanu, Shobhan Ali, Barka Majhi, Agnu Toppo and Patal Singh.
On 8 September 1968, at Hochai Mallik Jot, after 8 hours of intense gun battle with the armed police force, young revolutionary Babulal Biswakarma, the first martyr of the Naxalbari movement, lost his life.
The leadership of the armed revolution line were expelled from the CPI(M). After this, 22 April 1969 saw the birth of CPI (ML), an autonomous revolutionary party. In November, the terrified and alarmed state banned this revolutionary party and let loose, at all levels, a repressive state machinery aimed at eliminating the party. Every day and every night, in cities and in the countryside, the state unleashed mayhem killing over five thousand revolutionary students-youth-workers-peasants.
The party State Secretary, Saroj Datta was killed at the Maidan in Kolkata and General Secretary, Charu Mazumdar, in police lock up. For a decade, the front line leadership of the party remained incarcerated without recourse to law.
Albeit this, the wild fire of Naxalbari spread across every state in the country. It spread beyond the border in the region to the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Along with China, Vietnam, Laos, struggling people from different countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America extended their solidarity for the movement.
Annihilation of communist revolutionaries by the state failed to decimate the revolutionary programme of the peasant uprising of Naxalbari.
Thus, in the struggle of peasants against corporate landowners, of workers for a just wage; against imperialism, feudalism, hunger, corruption, of undaunted students and youth, the air reverberates with the slogans of Naxalbari movement.
In the struggle against communalism, Brahminism, for equal rights of Adivasi, Dalit and people from religious minorities, the core of the Naxalbari movement is embedded. Hope swells across the country. The ruling class feels the tremor.
Let 2016-17 feel this reverberation. Let the celebration of 50 years of the Naxalbari peasant uprising of the 20th century pave the determined path for a peoples’ movement in the 21st century.
Darjeeling District Committee
A Jana Jagaran Yatra, to commemorate 50 years of Naxalbari movement began from School Dangi, in Naxalbari block on November 19, 2016. The Yatra started by felicitating 15 comrades who had actively participated in the Naxalbari movement in the early years. Amongst the comrades felicitated were Khokan Mazumdar, Mujibur Rahman, Shanti Munda, Khudan Mullick, Khemu singh, Dulal Chanda, Thadu Munda, Suniti Biswakarmakar, Nemu Singh, Nathuram Biswas, Kandra Murmu, Shiril Ekka, Amulya Das of PCC CPIML, Govind Chhetri of CPRM and others.
A big gathering that included local residents of Jhoru Jote, of Naxalbari block, that had seen the beginning of the movement with the killing of the notorious police officer Sonam Wangdi by the peasants and locals, was present to begin the Yatra. The gathering was addressed by veteran Com. Khudan Mullick and Com. Khemu Singh as well as by CPI(ML) leaders Kartick Pal, Partha Ghosh and Abhijit Mazumdar. The programme began with revolutionary songs sung by the revolutionary cultural organisation under the leadership of Com. Nitish Roy. The speakers highlighted:
• The need to resist land grab by corporates and their mafia nexus.
• The condition of tea garden workers who are living in abject poverty with low wages coupled with starvation on account of closures and non-payment of wages.
• The demonitization that has hit the poor section of the society the hardest while adversely affecting the low income, middle class and small traders. The rural poor is affected especially in the peak agricultural season where people not only do not have money to buy seeds but are also forced to stand in long queues to get their own hard earned money out from the bank.
• The failure to provide irrigation facility to the farmers of the terai region despite crores being spent on the Teesta barrage irrigation project. The Yatra travelled through the various villages of the three blocks of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansidewa where the Naxalbari movement began, and culminated at Chotopothu Jote on November 21, 2016.