People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 26, 2010



A Dedicated & Versatile Marxist Leader


Ashok Dhawale


WITH the demise of Comrade Krishna Khopkar on September 15, 2010, the CPI(M) in Maharashtra has lost a dedicated and versatile Marxist leader. Khopkar was the senior most member of our Party state secretariat, editor of the state Party weekly Jeevanmarg, former member of the Party Central Control Commission, vice president of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha and former CKC member of the All India Kisan Sabha. He was a prominent leader of both the working class and the peasantry in Thane district and a close associate of Comrades Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar.


During his long life span of 86 years, 68 years were devoted to the Left movement, of which 58 years were devoted to serving the Communist Party. From British rule to the Indo-US nuclear deal, from the Samyukta Maharashtra movement to the Emergency, from the demands of industrial workers to the forest rights of adivasi peasants, from peasant suicides to special economic zones, from the defence of secularism to the fight for social justice – there was practically no major struggle during the last seven decades in which he was not in the forefront.   


Khopkar combined these struggles in action with the ideological struggle. Through his prolific writing and his effective conduct of Party classes, he made a valuable contribution to grooming a phalanx of dedicated communist cadres all over Maharashtra. In the setting up of the Comrade B T Ranadive Smarak Bhavan at Belapur in New Mumbai and its enormous library of over 20,000 books – most of them on Marxism and the Left movement - his was undoubtedly the lion’s share. Krishna Khopkar’s extraordinary contribution in all these spheres will always be fondly remembered and cherished.




Krishna Khopkar was born on March 25, 1924 at Peth in Nashik district. He began his political life by plunging into the struggle for freedom from British colonial rule. He participated in the Quit India movement of 1942 and was jailed for a brief period. That was his first brush with imperialism and anti-imperialism remained an article of faith with him till the end. Through the ‘August 9 Group’ Krishna Khopkar and Narendra Malusare began organising workers and peasants in Nashik district. At that time, both of them were under socialist, not communist, influence.


Khopkar shifted to Mumbai in 1946 and began work in the Rashtra Seva Dal. In 1948, he joined the Socialist Party. But by that time many of the youth in the ‘August 9 Group’ had begun the study of Marxism-Leninism and they began to clash with the reformist leadership of the Socialist Party. In 1950, the Ashok Mehta leadership expelled around 50 of these young rebels. They promptly formed the Left Socialist Group and declared that they would work in political co-operation with the CPI and the PWP. The group was led by Marutikumar (who was martyred), Krishna Khopkar, Narendra Malusare, Shantaram Garud and Madhavrao Gaikwad. The Left Socialist Group merged into the CPI in 1952. Khopkar was elected to the CPI Maharashtra state council in 1953.




Krishna Khopkar then began work amongst the woollen workers and engineering workers of Thane district. Through several successful strikes and other struggles, over the next three decades, Khopkar emerged as one of the prominent leaders of the AITUC and later the CITU. At the same time, under the guidance of the legendary leaders of the Adivasi Revolt - Comrades Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar – he made important contributions to the AIKS in Thane district.


The Samyukta Maharashtra movement for a linguistic state began in the fifties under the leadership of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti comprising the CPI, PWP, PSP and RPI. The Nehru regime in Delhi and the Morarji Desai regime in Mumbai opposed the movement tooth and nail. Under pressure of the big bourgeoisie, they were especially opposed to handing over Mumbai to Maharashtra. 106 workers and peasants were killed in brutal police firing during this struggle. Along with other leaders of the CPI, Khopkar plunged into this movement and was jailed for five months in 1956. The struggle achieved victory on May 1, 1960 when Maharashtra was born.


In the early sixties, ideological differences in the communist movement reached a climax, leading to the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964. This struggle was particularly bitter in Maharashtra due to the disruptive tactics of the Dange leadership. Under the leadership of the Parulekars, and with the active efforts of comrades like Krishna Khopkar, L B Dhangar and Lahanu Kom, practically the entire Party membership in Thane district joined the CPI(M).


Taking advantage of the India-China border conflict in 1962, the Congress regime put hundreds of communists – most of whom were to later join the CPI(M) – behind bars under the Defence of India rules. Around 200 communists were detained for varying periods in Maharashtra, and of these 63 were from Thane district alone – most of them militant adivasi cadres. Khopkar was among the handful of top Party leaders in Maharashtra who were detained continuously for three and a half years, from November 7, 1962 to April 30, 1966. But during his jail term, he studied law and obtained his LL B degree. It was while he was in jail that he was elected to the first Maharashtra state committee of the CPI(M) in 1964. Later in 1985, he was elected to the Party’s state secretariat.


On June 26, 1975, the Indira Gandhi Congress regime imposed the hated Emergency and democratic rights of the people were trampled underfoot. Thousands of opposition leaders were arrested under MISA. Along with other CPI(M) leaders in Maharashtra, Khopkar was detained for 19 months and was released only in January 1977. He spent altogether six and a half years of his life in jail.




In the eighties, Khopkar changed his field of work and began working in the AIKS. His contribution to the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra for three decades was immense and it was during this period that he and I developed an extremely close and lasting relationship. He provided valuable ideological inputs on various peasant issues in the state, ranging from the impact of neoliberal policies in agriculture, peasant suicides, forest rights of adivasi peasants, the danger of the SEZ policy, irrigation and so on.  


For ten years from 1995 to 2005, Krishna Khopkar, L B Dhangar, Narendra Malusare and I, along with other AIKS state office bearers, toured the entire state several times for AIKS struggles, conventions, conferences, study camps and meetings. It was as a result of these tours and the resultant struggles on manifold peasant issues that the AIKS organisation reached 25 districts of Maharashtra and a united team of hundreds of dedicated cadres was formed. On the basis of this collective effort, the 31st national conference of the AIKS was successfully held at Nashik in January 2006 with a massive one lakh strong rally. AIKS membership in Maharashtra crossed the two lakh mark for the first time.


It was in this conference that Khopkar voluntarily stepped down from the AIKS CKC and AIKC, of which he had been a member for many years, so that younger comrades could be promoted. But all of us insisted that he remain state vice president of the AIKS, which he did to the end. In the eighties, Khopkar was also one of the founders of the AIAWU in Maharashtra. The remarkable thing was that, for a few years during that time, he was simultaneously a state office bearer of all three class organisations – CITU, AIKS and AIAWU. This has no parallel in the Left movement in the state.




Khopkar was a prolific writer and was one of the most effective Party teachers in Maharashtra. Many of the pamphlets that he wrote were published by the CPI(M) state committee, the Party publishing house Janashakti Prakashan and the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha. All of them sold by the thousands. His latest pamphlet written earlier this year on the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in the golden jubilee year of the formation of Maharashtra state sold 10,000 copies. His other pamphlets were on the neoliberal agricultural policies, on special economic zones, on the historic Adivasi revolt and on 50 years of the AIKS in Maharashtra. For the last two decades, he was on the editorial board of the state Party weekly Jeevanmarg and in 2008, the state committee elected him as its editor. Even at the age of 85, he did justice to this responsibility.


Khopkar literally took hundreds of study camps all over Maharashtra, and especially in the adivasi belts of Thane and Nashik districts. Through these classes, he moulded thousands of Party activists in the tenets of Marxism, the history of the freedom struggle and of the Communist Party and the current challenges before the Left movement. It was as part of this effort that he took the lead in building the Comrade BTR Smarak Bhavan and its huge library in New Mumbai, both of which were inaugurated in 1995 by CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet.


Khopkar had his first heart attack in 2002. But by sheer dint of will power, in spite of his serious heart condition, he remained active for the next eight years till the very end. His wife and Party comrade Sumatitai, and his three sons and their families always remained very supportive.


A simple lifestyle, tremendous capacity for work and study, an extraordinary sense of responsibility, strict discipline, a free, frank and loving nature, concern for cadres and a dedicated commitment to serve the Party till his last breath – these were the hallmarks of Comrade Krishna Khopkar. On behalf of the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee, the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, the editorial board of Jeevanmarg, and all Party comrades in Maharashtra, I pay heartfelt homage to his memory.


In the last three years, the Party and the Left movement has lost two outstanding national leaders – Comrades Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Jyoti Basu. In Maharashtra during the same period, we have lost six of our stalwarts – Comrades Prabhakar Sanzgiri, Ahilya Rangnekar, P B Rangnekar, Gangadhar Appa Burande, Madan Phadnis and now Krishna Khopkar. This increases the responsibility on all of us manifold, especially in a time of political adversity. But I have no doubt that, nevertheless, we shall overcome!