People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 13

March 26, 2006

Surjeet Turns Ninety




Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury greeting Surjeet


Veteran leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Harkishan Singh Surjeet turned ninety today. CPI(M) gneral secretary, Prakash Karat and Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury visited Surjeet at his residence in New Delhi and greeted him with a bouquet of flowers.


Born at village Ropowal in the district of Jullunder, Punjab, Com. Surjeet joined the national movement at the age of 15. At a young age he was imprisoned for hoisting the tricolour over the Hoshiarpur district courts. Fired with anti-British sentiments, the young Harkishan Singh Bassi, when asked to give his name in the court told that he was 'London Thod Singh' (one who breaks London). It was the first anniversary of the martydom of Bhagat Singh and the Hoshiarpur Congress Committee had given a call to hoist the tricolour over the Hoshiarpur Courts. The district administration having issued shoot at sight orders the local Congress leaders developed cold feet and abandoned the programme. Young Bassi, then an enthusiastic Congress worker who had been thrown out from his village school had moved to Jallandhar. He was on a visit to his aunt in Hoshiarpur when the announcement of the Congress programme came. The Congress having abandoned the programme Surjeet picked a small flag from the Congress committee?s office and proceeded towards the Hoshiarpur Courts. The armed police were caught off the guard when this young boy climbed on top of the building and hoisted the flag. Two shots rented the air but missed him. The then Dy. Commissioner, Bhakale ordered the firing to be stopped and saved young Surjeet's life.


Thus began a chequered and illustrious journey that saw Surjeet spending ten years behind prison and eight years underground. There were several occasions on which Surjeet was nearly caught, but he managed to escape either through deceit or disguise. There was an arrest warrant against him after the outbreak of the Second World War. This time he could not evade the police dragnet for long. When he was finally arrested after fifteen months he was sent to the jail in the Red Fort at Lahore. He was put in solitary confinement in a dark cell and lived for months together without seeing light.


Surjeet joined the then illegal Communist Party in 1934. He was one of the pioneers of the All India Kisan Sabha in Punjab. Surjeet was one of the 32 members of the National Council of the CPI who broke away to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He was elected to the to the Polit Bureau in 1954 at the third Party Congress. He was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1992 at the 14th Party congress and continued in that position till the 18th congress in 2004.