Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Santosh Rana, the firebrand Naxal leader of the sixties, led the people in a large part of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa to "liberation"

After Irom Sharmila last year, Anna Hazare wins IIPM's 2011 Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of Rs. 1cr. To be handed over on 9th May

Critical of current-day Maoists, he expresses how people's revolt is at times inevitabl...

As we move through the narrow besmirched lane of Kalitala in the eastern fringe of Kolkata, a dhoti-clad bespectacled man waves his hand towards us. He is none other than Santosh Rana, who was the firebrand leader of CPI(ML) or Naxalites in the late sixties. He was the key leader behind ‘virtually liberating’ Debra, Gopiballabhpur, Nayagram, Lodhasuli blocks of Midnapore, Baharagora of the then Bihar and some parts of Orissa like Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj. He is now leading a separate party CPI(ML)-PCC. “About a hundred people were killed during our movement in the late 60s, but none of them were Adivasi, Dalit or poor. I consider even that a mistake. Today, Maoists are killing poor Adivasis and villagers alleging they are police spies,” he begins, having made us comfortable in his modest house.

Santosh Rana was a research student and supporter of CPI(M) while CPI(ML) was formed. He was preparing for his PhD in Physics at Rajabazar Science College of Calcutta University. The wild call of revolution by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and others inspired Rana. He left his PhD midway, returned to his village at Gopiballabhpur and dedicated himself to the agrarian revolution on the lines of Charu Majumdar. Today he recollects, “During my time, a mass of about 15,000 to 20,000 people, armed with lathis, stormed into the houses of the landlords who possessed firearms, and seized the arms. That was a big blow for the landlords or jotdars and they failed to resist our move to grab ceiling-excess land and distribute it among the landless bargadars. This was not violence, it was people’s revolt. Such pressure is always required in remote villages where landlords maintain personal armies.”

Four decades after the Naxalite uprising, Santosh Rana considers that the path of annihilation was as wrong as damaging statues or insulting opponents. His stand is “diametrically opposite” to what the Maoists are preaching today at Jungalmahal. “If this trend continues, it may happen that Maoists find a ‘natural ally’ among the terrorist groups… If such a thing happens, it would be disastrous for India,” says Rana.

“Communists should review the basics,” he believes, “because neither the Soviet nor the Chinese model would lead us to Socialism. Even Marx was not in favour of boycotting elections, he was in favour of ‘Right to recall’, which is still a distant dream for Indian democracy. Comrade Mao Tse Tung had also hinted once for multi-party democracy.” He finds the root of failure of the Soviet and Chinese model in the one-party rule system. However, he is “not ready to accept” Parliamentary democracy as the last word. “I am for extension of democracy by the people’s participation, like what we have seen at Gopiballabhpur in the late 60s, Nandigram in 2007 or Lalgarh in 2009.”

Advocating “necessary” violence and condemning the “unnecessary”, Rana has mixed opinion on Gandhian philosophies. He is all praise of Gandhi’s programme against untouchability and communal amity, but is totally against Gandhi’s firm beliefs on Barnashram. “Bapu wrote that each person’s role in the society is determined by his birth. He was not against education to all, but warned that this education should not be treated as a yardstick for job or placement. Bapu said that then indiscipline would prevail in the society. I cannot and will never support Gandhi’s stand on this.”

Gandhiji once said, “we have enough to fulfill everyone’s need, but very little to meet one’s greed.” Santosh Rana is ready to support Gandhi’s stand against consumerism. “I may agree with Gandhiji on a self-reliant India and on rural development, but cannot stand by preservation of cast-based society or advocacy of zamindari system.” As like any other communist, Rana too believes, “individual ownership on means of production is detrimental to the nation.”

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