THE NAXALBARI UPRISING
A new dawn was breaking…………..
Throughout 1966 itself the groundwork had been laid. In 1965/66 the ‘Siliguri Group’ [(of the newly formed CPI (M)] brought out as many as six cyclostyled leaflets calling for the immediate commencement of armed revolution. One of these leaflets gave a call to initiate partisan warfare in the Terai region within six months. Throughout 1966 revolutionaries organised peasant cells in every part of Siliguri sub-division; bow and arrows, and even a few rifles were gathered and liaison established with the Nepalese Maoists active just a few miles away. In late 1966 a Revolutionary Kisan meeting was organised in Siliguri. On March 3, 1967 the seeds of struggle began to sprout………. A group of peasants surrounded a plot of land in Naxalbari region; marking the boundaries with red flags, they began harvesting the crop.
Then….. the March 18 Convention was the signal for the peasant upsurge, which engulfed the entire area for four months. The U.F. government in West Bengal sought to diffuse the movement by announcing token land reforms. The revolutionary peasants replied to the revisionist rulers by setting up peasant committees to take over the land of the jotedars. Huge processions and demonstrations were organised by Kisan committee members, many of whom were armed with lathis, spears, bows and arrows. A sea of red flags struck terror into the hearts of the landlords and the countryside reverberated with the slogan “March forward along the path of armed peasant revolution.”
The first clash was ignited when a share-cropper, Bigul Kisan, was beaten by armed agents of a local jotedar. This was followed by violent clashes and the forcible seizure of land and confiscation of food grains, by armed units of the Kisan committee. Any resistance by the landlords and their gangs was smashed and a few killed. By end May the situation reached the level of an armed peasant uprising. The CPI (M) leaders, who were now in power, first tried to pacify the leaders of the movement……having failed, Jyoti Basu, the then home minister of West Bengal, ordered in the police. On 23rd May the peasantry retaliated killing an inspector at Jharugaon village. On May 25, in Naxalbari, the police went berserk killing nine women and children. In June the struggle intensified further, particularly in the areas of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansidewa. Firearms and ammunition were snatched from the jotedars by raiding their houses. People’s courts were established and judgments passed. The upheaval in the villages continued till July. The tea garden workers struck work a number of times in support of the peasants. Then on July 19, a large number of para-military forces were deployed in the region. In ruthless cordon and search operations, hundreds were beaten and over one thousand arrested. Some leaders like Jangal Santal were arrested, others like Charu Mazumdar went underground, yet others like Tribheni Kanu, Sobhan, Ali Gorkha Majhi and Tilka Majhi became martyrs. A few weeks later, Charu Mazumdar wrote “Hundreds of Naxalbaris are smoldering in India……. Naxalbari has not died and will never die.”
Naxalbari gets recognition
The Communist Party of China, then the centre for world revolution, hailed the uprising. On June 28, 1967 Radio Peking broadcast : “A phase of peasants’ armed struggle led by the revolutionaries of the Indian Communist Party has been set up in the countryside in Darjeeling district of West Bengal state of India. This is the front paw of the revolutionary armed struggle launched by the Indian people……”. Within a week, the July 5th edition of People’s Daily carried an article entitled ‘Spring Thunder over India’ which said : “A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India. Revolutionary peasants in Darjeeling area have risen in rebellion. Under the leadership of a revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party, a red area of rural revolutionary armed struggle has been established in India….. The Chinese people joyfully applaud this revolutionary storm of the Indian peasants in the Darjeeling area as do all the Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary people of the world.”
Meanwhile, revolutionaries in Calcutta, who had also been running a campaign against revisionism, took up a massive campaign in support of the Naxalbari uprising. The walls of college streets were plastered with posters saying : “Murderer Ajoy Mukherjee (the Chief minister) must resign.” The revolutionaries [still within the CPI (M)] held a meeting in Ram Mohan Library Hall in Calcutta and formed the ‘Naxalbari Peasants Struggle Aid Committee’, which was to become the nucleus of the Party of the future.
Simultaneous to the police action, the CPI (M) expelled a large number of their members. Sushital Roy Chowdhary, a member of the West Bengal state committee and editor of their Bengali party organ was expelled. So were other leading members like Ashim Chatterjee, Parimal Das Gupta, Asit Sen, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, Saroj Datta and Mahadev Mukherjee. The Darjeeling district committee and Siliguri sub-divisional committee were dissolved.
The spark of Naxalbari set aflame the fires of revolution in Srikakulam, Birbhum, Debra-Gopiballavpur, Mushahari and Lakhimpur-Kheri. The states of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, U.P and Tamil Nadu saw a big spurt in Naxalbari-inspired struggles and Maoist formations sprouted in nearly every state of India.