People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 36

September 03, 2006

Comrade Subodh Roy Passes Away


Prakash Karat paying homage to Comrade Subodh Roy at Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan, Kolkata


B Prasant


VETERAN Communist revolutionary and freedom fighter, Comrade Subodh Roy passed away deep into the night of August 27 in a Kolkata hospital. He had not been keeping well for some time. He was 91.


State secretary of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) Biman Basu, veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu, and Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have expressed their deep sorrow at the passing away of Comrade Subodh Roy.


The rush of emotions that welled up into tears of grief in the eyes of thousands of men and women as they paid their last respects to their comrade and friend, Comrade Subodh Roy, was a manifestation of the kind of influence he had had amongst Party members as well as Party supporters and sympathisers who came in touch with him over the years and the decades. 


Homage was paid to the memory of Comrade Subodhda by, amongst others, the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and by Polit Bureau members Biman Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Chittabrata Majumdar at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan as the departed comrade lay in state. 


Jyoti Basu, himself ailing with a mild foot injury, sent in his homage in the shape of a garland of flowers and so did the Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. The leadership of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) were all present as were the leaders representing the district units of the Party, and the Left mass organisations.


Jyoti Basu later said that a freedom fighter and an armed revolutionary of one time, Comrade Subodh Roy dedicated himself to Party work throughout his life in a notable manner.


Later his last remains were taken in a procession to the crematorium where the body was consigned to flames amidst strains of the Internationale. At the crematorium, Prakash Karat said that the late Comrade Subodh Roy was our Party’s pride; he was an exceptional revolutionary. Comrade Subodh Roy’s life, said Karat, would remain an example to be emulated by the Party workers.




Born in 1916 of a rich bourgeois family at Chitagong in erstwhile-undivided Bengal, Comrade Subodh Roy was the youngest participant in the Chitagong armoury raid in 1930-31 under the direction of the legendary revolutionary leader Surya Sen (Masterda). 


Comrade Subodh Roy would later relate scintillating stories, and only under hard persuasion, since he was sternly unwilling to come out with personal anecdotes, how he had purloined and made off with a .303 gun and a cache of bullets from his father’s locker after suitably procuring duplicate keys. The gun was used repeatedly till the revolutionaries ran out of bullets on the hills and rolling lands around Chitagong town.


A young legend in the making, young ‘Jhunku,’ all of 13 years, fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Masterda’s group of armed revolutionaries in the tracts of Chitagong and it was he who succeeded in warding off the pursuing army platoons by fierce rear-guard action, allowing his comrades to live and fight British colonialism for another day.


Later apprehended and inhumanly tortured by the British police (‘they would kick my small body across the interrogation room, and repeatedly, to extract confession, and I would repeatedly disappoint them’ was how Subodhda would later put it laconically), Comrade Subodh Roy was initially sentenced to be hanged but was later sent to the Andamans as the youngest detenue.


Among the hard and brutal life that the island prison offered, the revolutionaries would bunch together and start to form a Communist Group, reading smudged, handwritten and smuggled copies of Lenin’s State and Revolution and the Communist Manifesto, and then dialectically arguing and counter-arguing the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism. ‘I grew up to become a communist in the islands, and as a communist, life has been a welcome learning process for me ever since,’ said Comrade Subodhda who was the last to leave the Andaman prisons; he had been in the first batch to be sent there.


Joining the Communist Party as far back as 1940, Comrade Subodh Roy dedicated himself to Party work; and he remained a Party wholetimer till the last. Comrade Subodh Roy had rich cache of experience as a Communist Party worker. He was among the first to be sent to the Aarakan hill in what is now Myanmar to find out the prospect of a Communist-led mass resistance to the onslaught of Japanese imperialism. 


There he witnessed his first sight of widespread and ritualistic communal violence as the Arakanese and the Rohangi groups fought each other to death in the hills and valleys, giving little chance to the Aarakan Communist Party to build anti-colonial resistance. 


Coming back to Bengal, Comrade Subodh Roy started to function as the office secretary of the then Provincial Council (PC) office of the undivided Communist Party, a task he continued with fierce discipline and dedication in the CPI(M) which he, like his former revolutionary comrades, joined when the communist movement in India split in 1964.


Assigned by communist pioneers like Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad to look for communist documents in the archives, Comrade Subodh Roy spent two years of intense work, often in uncomfortable, even hostile circumstances, in the National Archives to produce his three-volume Communism in India: Unpublished Documents. He later went to work in the Soviet archives as well, the first Indian communist to have done so, getting access to files and documents that were otherwise out-of-bounds for research work. 


A member of the state committee of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) in 1995, Comrade Subodh Roy had a sparse and frugal lifestyle. Those of the CPI(M) workers functioning out of the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan in Kolkata came to know of his meticulous and rigorous office work, misplacing not a single scrap of important information, and retrieving documents instantaneously for use. 


Comrade Subodhda would run his office as a very tight ship, working for ten hours a day with great regularity and would be very critical albeit in a constructive fashion of those who would not match his exacting standards of work. Optimistic to the last, Comrade Subodh Roy who was felicitated during the 2005 Party Congress in Delhi was seldom seen falling ill. Full of years and full of experience, Comrade Subodh Roy leaves behind a rich legacy of struggle and dedication as a communist.