Monday, March 29, 2010

The Suicide Of A Dream : Comrade Kanu Sanyal

(Kanu Sanyal with background photos of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin & Mao)

The last of the trinity passed away by committing suicide. Comrade Kanu Sanyal hung himself with a nylon rope in the hut last week, where he was living in a village, in the vicinity of the historic Naxalbari village, which is near Siliguri in West Bengal. He was one of the three important founders of the Naxalite Movement in India. The other two were : Charu Mazumdar and Jangal Santhal. Charu Mazumdar died in police custody in 1972. Jangal Santhal had spent more than a decade in jail, became a chronic alcoholic after his release in 1979 and drunk himself to death in 1982. Kanu Sanyal was released from prison in 1977 and he started to live permanently in his beloved village, near Siliguri where he had chosen to have his last breath in the summer of March 2010.

A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India and the spark is going to cause priarie fire and a great storm of revolutionary armed struggle will eventually sweep across the length and breadth of India, was the oracular prophecy of People's Daily of China, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China after a peasant revolt broke out in Bengal during the summer of 1967. It happened in a small village called Naxalbari which is located near Siliguri in Darjeeling District of West Bengal during the last week of May 1967. A peasant youth got a judicial order in his favour to plough a piece of land under litigation. The local landlords ganged up and attacked the peasant. A socio-political unrest followed in that entire Terai region at the foothills of the Himalayas having many tea estates in between the forests. The peasants were organised by two grassroot level leaders namely Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. The ideological shape to the resistance was given by Charu Mazumdar, who termed it as a movement for the seizure of power through agrarian revolution. All the three of them belonged to the Communist Part of India (Marxist), which won the largest number of seats in the state elections during 1967, thus forming a United Front Government in West Bengal with other coalition partners. The three leaders revolted against their own party, namely the CPI(M), which was part of the ruling coalition at that time. They organised the peasants to retaliate against the local landlords and started capturing back some of the lands by violent means. And the ruling state government, with CPI(M) at the helm of affairs, treated it more as a law and order problem and the entire uprising was controlled from spreading by the state police force.

No incident actually took place at the legendary village of Naxalbari on May 25, 1967. A firing on rural poor took place in Prasadujot, another nearby small village in the Siliguri division. There were clashes and tensions in the area on the land question and a police official was killed. Next day a huge number of police fired on poor peasants, who were unarmed. Eight peasant women were killed, two children of about six months were killed in the women’s laps and one young man was also shot dead. The entire uprising came to a grinding halt in and around the Naxalbari village within a few months. Although defeated, it unleashed a flow of events which escalated over the years into various extreme left-wing political movements of different hues and colours with deeper ramifications in India's socio-political landscape. All such extreme left-wing political movements of India got their appellation as Naxalism, named after the village of Naxalbari.
Subsequently in 1969, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the CPI(ML), was formed under the leadership of their ideologue, Charu Mazumdar. They formulated their strategy as the elimination of the feudal order in the Indian countryside by freeing the poor from the clutches of the oppressive landlords and replace the old order with an alternative one that would implement land reforms. Accordingly, they devised their tactics to achieve it through violent guerilla warfare by the peasants to eliminate the landlords and build up resistance against the state's police force which, according to them, came to help the ruling class of the landlords. They then aimed to gradually set up 'liberated zones' in different parts of the country that would eventually coalesce into a territorial unit under Naxalite hegemony, ultimately leading to a classless, communist India, with the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The fundamentals of all such adventurist extreme left-wing political enterprises are essentially flawed. Their philosophical understanding was inadequate and skewed-up as they did not completely comprehend the writings of the two Germans, namely, Karl Heinrich Marx and Friedrich Engels, who wrote interesting philosophical treatises in the 19th century, based on the conditions of the world as existed then. The extreme left-wing political movements of India took its inspiration from the disastrous experiments upon humanity conducted by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Joseph Stalin in USSR, Mao Tse-tung in China, Saloth Sar Pol Pot in Cambodia and many others in every possible nook and corner of the world. Such political experiments of historic philosophies had only contributed to make the history of 20th century to become one of the most brutal and most cruel centuries in the history of human civilisation. Together with Adolf Hitler's Nazism and the Benito Mussolini's Fascism, the communist dictatorships under Stalin, Mao and others should be condemned as totalitarian excesses which wrecked more havoc to humanity than any iota of good which they professed to usher in. By equating all the totalitarian dictatorships as crimes against humanity, one should not fall into the traps of either the laissez-faire capitalism with its dogmatic liberalism or right-wing fascism with its religious fanaticism of any kind. What requires to be comprehended is the insightful writings of the Younger Karl Marx which were published in German in 1932 and for which the English translations were available only after 1959. The Frankfurt School of Critical Theorists like Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin and Erich Fromm took inspiration from the writings of younger Marx and have given important theoretical inputs to understand the complexities of advanced capitalism and the commodification of life, which are the realities we face in the 21st century. The writings of a present-day philosopher like Slavoj Zizeck is more insightful than any of the pamphlets published and distributed by the Naxal theoreticians and political practitioners in India to understand post-modern life and the complexities we face in contemporary world.
Comrade Kanu Sanyal committed suicide not because he was old and ailing. But because he got totally disillusioned with the ways and means in which the current day extreme left-wing Maoists are spelling disasters to the livelihood of hundreds of poor marginalised tribals, peasants and agricultrual labourers across the country. In a way, it was a Frankenstein Monster which murdered his soul. In an interview before his suicide, he was asked to comment on the Maoist or Naxalite insurgency that have become active in many parts of the country. He said that they would vanish with time unless they strengthen their mass base immediately and trust in the parliamentary democracy of the country. The peasantry in the areas controlled by these Maoist insurgents prefers to approach the police camp, to save themselves from the Maoists and from the goons controlled by the landlords, said Kanu Sanyal.
Can there be any other horrifyingly tragic end to a magnificently grand dream?!


  1. The life of this Naxalite founder is a sad lesson of all the Maoists in India. One cannot fight the injustices of the society with their failed methodologies. Violence begets more violence. Ends can never justify the means. That is why Gandhian philosophy needs to be seriously analysed and revisited.

  2. Your comrade in the photograph seems to have already hung himself, with a long rope of the ghosts of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, when he was seemingly alive! Marxism is a good theory. In fact, one of the deeper ones around. No doubt. But when such theories are put into practice, it becomes worse. I agree with u when u have rightly equated these experiments with other totalitarian dictatorships. Though u seem to be against capitalism and liberalism, i think that is a better philosophy.

  3. We keep creating Frankenstein Monsters every now and then. This is primarily because either we want to seek justice for ourselves and our brethren. Or we want to administer justice. I think the whole concept of justice need to be revisited. The GOD has not done any injustice in the world he created. The state in which we are is only beacuse of our accumulated Karmas of thousands of lives. Despite that, HE is residing in our hearts. And we do not have to do anything to feel HIM there. Just call HIM any time. HE is more than eager to reciprocate. That feeling takes away the perceived feeling of injustice, if any.

    If we seek to dissolve ourselves rather than giving wings to our grand dreams, the world would be much more peaceful and full of love. Not witnessing daily ambushes and the brutality perpetrated by both sides.

  4. All this talk of Maoism, Marxism, Leninism, , Stalinism, PolPotism, Dengism (term will come one day after PolPot & Deng Xiaoping] immediately creates a negative feeling inside you bordering on sickness. And this is not only after Dantewada massacre. Even before this was the case always. A Maoist/Leftist would immediately conclude that the writer is either a votary of Capitalism or subscribes to rightist agenda. None of them. The writer does not subscribe to any ideology now. All ideologies are divisive by nature and can only bring death & destruction to mankind. But maoism & its brothers of various hues, are special. The way they have treated human beings across the world, despite being the most vocal supporters of the oppressed is horrifying. Plain butchery. Infact Mass butchery. Masses also, not in hundreds or thousands, but in millions. You even treat animals who are to be sacrificed on the Altar with more respect. Everywhere they have installed only despots/authoritarianism. Human being which is the most beautiful creation of GOD, gets the least importance in their scheme of things. Do they have anything worthwhile to give to the mankind. No. I do not think so. What should be done to them. If Mukesh Ambanis of the world start living in two floor houses rather than a 27 floor one and Mittals of the world do not spend Rs. 250 crores on wedding of theirs daughters, may be we will see an end to their horrifying deeds. Till then Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, MudhMate.