(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 24, 2010
Lal Salam Comrade Founder Editor
Jyoti Basu is no more. The spontaneous outpouring of grief and
truly unprecedented. The sea of humanity
that flooded the streets of Kolkata was the most moving homage that
emerged as a legend in his own lifetime.
He remains the longest serving chief minister of any state in
He is also, probably, the longest serving MLA in the country. He entered the undivided Bengal Provincial Assembly in 1946. This was at a time when Mahatma Gandhi was alive and there was a widespread anti-Communist propaganda campaign distorting their role in the Quit India movement. Since then, till he voluntarily retired from parliamentary politics in 2000, he had won continuously in all elections except for one term – 1972-77. 1972 election is now widely recognised as having been universally rigged. Both his terms as the CM and MLA could have been much longer, but for his personal decision to relinquish.
Apart from these and many other formidable personal achievements, the empathy for Jyoti Basu amongst the people can only be understood by the fact that his own political evolution during the last seven decades – since 1940 when he returned from England to become a Communist wholetimer – is contempraneous with the evolution of modern India. These initial years in the freedom struggle transformed into the struggle to covert the political freedom of the country into the economic freedom of its people. This was a reflection of his own self declared mission of working for human emancipation and liberation. This commitment was thoroughly internalised by Jyoti Basu in his entire life.
political evolution converged with the
evolution of modern
firm commitment to our country’s secular democratic character and
administrative structures remained a
constant feature of his work and activities.
There was this famous spat with
Atal Behari Vajpayee when Jyoti Basu described the destruction of Babri
and the activities of the communal forces
as a barbarity. When Vajpayee
questioned him as to why he uses such strong language, he famously
there was nothing else more appropriate in English language. The firmness with which his administration
tackled the anti-Sikh riots following
Indira Gandhi’s assassination or the
prevention of communal riots in Bengal, that engulfed other parts of
country following the demolition of
Babri Masjid, was a reflection of his
deep commitment to this concept of modern
his entire concentration was on carrying
forward the struggle to convert
In his first
speech after taking oath for the first time as the chief minister in
Jyoti Basu declared the nature of his government by stating that the
has not assumed power but has assumed office to serve the people. He declared that the government will not
function only from the
It is on the
basis of such an understanding that the government under his leadership
initiated land reforms, widely regarded today as having laid the
for the transformation of rural
The championing of centre-state relations initiated by the CPI(M) and Jyoti Basu by mobilising all the non-Congress chief ministers in the 1970s and 80s had resulted in the expansion of political space for regional parties, devolution of finances to the states and decentralisation. Needless to add, the struggle on a proper restructuring of centre-state relations strengthening the federal character of the Indian constitution continues to remain a very major issue today. Apart from these three major issues that Jyoti Basu championed, there are many initiatives that the government, under his stewardship, undertook. For instance, he was one of the first to constitute a separate ministry for environment and science and technology.
all these, the main facet of Jyoti Basu’s personality that attracted
towards him was his unassailable faith in them.
He would always urge the Party and its cadre to go to the people
explain to them what we are doing. Take
them into confidence as to why we are unable to do what
we want to
due to the limitations of
There are other features that endeared Jyoti Basu to the people. One of these was his fearless personal courage. During the first United Front government of 1967, sections of the state police, with their arms, marched into the state assembly on some demands. The speaker, all ministers and MLAs fled in mortal fear. Jyoti Basu was the only one who remained in his chamber. When some policemen entered his chamber looking aghast at his continuing to work so normally, Jyoti Basu told them that if they wish to do such activities, they should first remove their uniforms. Further, he warned them that they may do what they wish inside the assembly premises with their arms, but they should remember that there are people waiting outside who will answer them for what they did here. It was the turn of the armed policemen to flee!
occasion, March 31, 1970, an assassin shot at Jyoti Basu at the
The complete internalisation of his theoretical commitment to Marxism and the translation of this into practice was the hallmark of his life. Nothing more epitomises this than the following observation he made when he pledged, on April 4, 2003, his body to medical science: “As a Communist, I am pledged to serve humanity till my last breath. I am happy that now I will continue to serve even after my death.”
Jyoti Basu’s indomitable fighting spirit that he displayed all his life was there to be seen in death as well. Running his 96th year when he was brought to the hospital with pneumonia, medical science and doctors, naturally, saw not much hope. Jyoti Basu, as always, was to surprise everybody. For 17 days, the fight continued and his body refused to say, “I give up”. `Never say give up’, in fact, sums up the spirit of his life.
As an Urdu poet said:
“Ask not how many moments constitute your life,
Ask how much life is there in every moment.”
People’s Democracy pays its heartfelt homage to its founder editor, renewing our pledge to carry forward “Our mission”.