Most of the Communists had never quite owed allegiance to India as a Nation. They had started off with their primary allegiance to the Soviet Union and converting more states into clones of USSR. IN FACT, they had first started with supporting the Quit India movement only cos USSR was against Imperial Britain, but they soon became muted during WWI as the Soviet Union started getting bashed by Germany and they had to depend on the West for survival. Post-WWII, they rode the coattails of others into an ‘independence’ of the Nation.
1947- 1950: Post-independence, CPI, which had mostly been factional, was being led by Ajoy Ghosh, a ‘Centrist’, who held the mean between the socialist and radical Left ‘revolutionaries’, became the chief leader of CPI. He helped grow the party and its membership. In this era, they looked up to both USSR and China.
1950 – 1955: In 1950 China invaded Tibet. The Communist party wholeheartedly supported China’s move. Around this time China realised that it needed its own foothold in India as India was becoming the basecamp to create a Tibetan revolution, in collusion with the US. China got CPI to supply its troops occupying Tibet with rice via Sikkim. Why? Cos Tibet doesn’t grow rice and the PLA troops ONLY had rice. This established the primary relationship between CPI and China.
In the meantime, the Soviet Union and China developed a rift in the mid-50s as Mao fell out with Russia in 1958. I’ll not go into it here, cos that is a separate chapter onto itself.
1955 – 1960: By 1957 CPI, under Ajoy Ghosh, had been able to garner 10% of the total national votes. Thus becoming the main opposition party to Congress. It had even won the state of Kerala under EMS Namboodripad. Their participation in the democratic process though had a clear objective. They were to maintain a ‘facade’ of Democracy, while they prepared for an armed revolution which would overthrow the ‘Democracy’ and help them institute a Socialist state, like Cuba, Libya etc. Once the ‘armed revolution’ reached a critical mass, they could abandon the facade of democracy and seize power.
In Feb 1958 an official of the Soviet Embassy contacted CPI Leaders to renew the request to set up an underground organization which would go on to be the basis of an armed struggle against the State. Ajoy Ghosh refused to indulge in that. Harkishen Singh Surjit, however, decided to start the underground movement.
Around this time, the Soviet Union was seeking to build bridges with India, which was drifting very close to the US. India had not only facilitated CIA setting up listening stations, U2 flights, Tibetan Guerilla camp, US was also offering to facilitate India’s entry to the Security Council, not to mention even facilitate a nuclear device. Were the CPI to launch a ‘half baked’ revolution, India would land plumb in the lap of the US. USSR didn’t want to shake the boat, thus they instructed CPI to start supporting Nehru.
In 1959, with USSR wooing him, Nehru dismissed the Left Front Govt of EMS Namboodripad. However, the Soviet Union wasn’t keen on rocking the bridge which was needed to be built. The CPI was incensed and were wanting to take on a more militant form against the Centre, but they’d get no help from USSR. Peking, however, was taking an anti-Nehru stand and reached out to the Left in India.
By beginning 1959, Communist leaders, frustrated with USSR’s stand, had started stating that the ‘source of inspiration for the CPI should be Communist China not Soviet’. A faction of CPI thus reached out to Mao and sought guidance and direction from him.
China thus established contact with the CPI members of Bengal. Chinese Financial Subsidies were provided to sections of the CPI. Particularly the left faction strongholds in WB from 1959. Makinen Basavapunnaiah, who used to be a Politburo member, reported to CPI Leaders later on that: “A foreign supply base was now available for the underground organizations with the Chinese occupation of Tibet and other frontier areas.”
In February 1959, Ajoy Ghosh presented a report to the Central Executive Committee that China primarily insisted that the CPI should develop a standby apparatus capable of armed resistance, by intensifying penetration in Indian Military.
CPI set up a separate body to try and penetrate the Indian Army by winning over some of their personnel to the Left’s way of thinking. Strains of that influencing attempts still remain.
In August, evidence of the hard Left seeking Chinese support is found in the form of a written letter:“..asking for collaboration in Indian underground organization work aimed at an eventual revolution, because China has a border with India and can provide arms and supplies.”
While Ajoy Ghosh had met with Kruschev in Crimea, and had been instructed to ‘desist from armed struggle or such initiatives‘, many in the Communist Party were not so inclined.
On 13 Sept 1959 Basavapunniah, Ranadive, Jaipal Singh, the head of secret illegal apparatus, posited “with the PLA now present along the Indian Border the Indian Party had a channel of support for Armed Operations and a potential liberator in the event of mass uprisings.”
The Chinese started providing Financial Subsidies to sections of the CPI in WB from 1959.
1960-1965: In 1960 the Soviet and Chinese parties came into open and repeated conflict, and this conflict was transformed into a struggle for supremacy of the world Communist movement.
In Sept 1960, a new Chinese Party consul comes to Calcutta and holds several meetings with members of the WB party. They provided 4 powerful radio sets had been installed in the office of China Review, in Calcutta, to listen to broadcasts from Peking. They could thus get instructions and coordination from China.
In Sept 1960, the first evidence of a vertical split in the CPI became evident with the principal leftists comprising Jyoti Basu, Harikishen Singh Surjit, Basavapunniah, Sundarayya and Ranadive supported the Chinese position on the Indo-Sino border dispute.
The WB faction of the CPI passed a resolution criticizing the conduct of the Soviet Communist Party while supporting the Chinese Communist Party. China had a strong influence on Communist Party of West Bengal.
1962 onwards: In 1962, China attacked India. During the Chinese attack, while the Communist Party maintained an ambiguous stance or tried to project that they held Country over ideology, when the former Chief Minister of Kerala, V S Achuthanandan, who was a CPM politburo member at that time, suggested that they should organise a blood donation camp for the Indian Army soldiers, he was hauled up and was sacked from Communist Party.
When Z.A. Ahmed, a communist leader from UP, suggest that the CPI should take a nationalist stand on Chinese incursions to India, he was severely berated by the West Bengal faction.
While Bhawani Sen‘s faction (which had originally wanted to align with Nehru) prevailed over the Politburo, the majority of WB CPI stood against the Nationalism. This rift grew. The West Bengal faction was faced with State scrutiny and was also jailed. This didn’t faze them and they maintained an anti-State stand.
In 1964 the WB CPI split from the mother party and formed the CPI-M, with its primal allegiance to China and Maoism. However, even CPI-M split up further into CPM (Communist Party Marxists) and CPI-ML (Communist Party Marxist-Leninist). CPI-ML didn’t want to wait to start an armed rebellion. ALL of CPI wanted to start a rebellion against the State. Just the degree and level of violence each prescribed was different.
In 1967 the Left Front created the first non-Congress Government in Bengal.
But it didn’t last long. Within 3 months it fell due to fierce infighting within the Left Front. Factional fights led to a more virulent streak forming, in Naxalbari, at the foothills of Darjeeling.
In 1967, four communists, Sanyal, Dipak Biswas, Khudan Mullick and Abdul Hamid (who went in the name of Khokan Majumdar) went to meet Mao in Bejing. Mao suggested that they start a revolutionary war in India. Mao had his reasons. He was looking at the same chicken neck of India, which Sharjeel mentioned last year during the anti-CAA riots. The Siliguri corridor. IF a revolt was started there, it could be a major disruptor.
The CPI (Communist Party of India) Darjeeling County Committee started dispatching trainees to China in turn. The Chinese embassy in Nepal advised them on the route to China. At Changping Military School, on outskirts of Beijing, they were taught guerrilla warfare. They also learnt to manufacture ammunition and handle explosives.
Charu Mazumdar, the pioneer of the Naxalite movement had said: “China’s Chairman is our Chairman and China’s path is our path”. The Naxalbari movement grew rapidly between 1969 and 1971.
MEANWHILE IN INDIA ’62-’69
While all this was going on, another drama was unfolding at the Centre.
We have already covered that the Soviet Union was wanting to establish a close relationship with India. Post the 1962 border conflict between India and China, which ended with a decisive Chinese victory, the United States and the United Kingdom were motivated to provide military supplies to the Indian Army. While US & UK were arming Pakistan, as it had already become a part of CENTO, India wasn’t in anyone’s ‘pocket’. US & UK sent in a lot of arms to India, but no major weapon systems. Before ’65, there was no great enmity between India and Pakistan (as it exists now) and Pakistan was fulfilling the ‘Martial Race’ theory for which it was created, for UK&US.
There’s no report of Lal Bahadur Sashtri having any specific inclination towards the Soviet Union. But then, he ‘died mysteriously‘ and Indira Gandhi could occupy the seat. India at once started moving towards the Soviet Union. ALL the requests for rearming now went through. ALL the planning Soviets had been doing since the 1950s had finally borne fruit.
In 1967 Indira Gandhi led Congress to a weak victory. She at once started following Soviet policies. This set her up at odds to many of her colleagues. Then, in 1969, wrt the Presidential election, she went at odds with her party (who still looked upon her as tyro) and was expelled. She split the party. The Communist parties were told to stand by her, with this she came to power.
Meanwhile, back in West Bengal, after the failed 1967 Govt formation, the Left continued with its mobilisation drive. They decided to now rely on legal and extra-legal measures to achieve their goals. They realised that it was difficult to start ANY form of revolution in India until they could penetrate the education systems. They formed Teacher’s association in West Bengal.
As a part of their bargain, they sought the ‘education’ portfolio from Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi, of course, wasn’t thinking all that forward. ‘Education was a very low hanging fruit to give to the Left, as long as she maintained important portfolios such as Defence, Finance etc. Thus ‘Humanities’ education passed on to the Left! The result is now there for all to see.
In 1976, as a concession to the Soviets for their help during ’71 war, Indira Gandhi included ‘Socialist’ as a part of the Indian constitution, along with ‘Secular’ (which was put in to smoke-screen the ‘Socialist’) in the Indian constitution, in the hope of firmly tying India to the Soviet’s apron strings.
The story of the Left, its impact on India, and its romance with China continues…
The Naxalites have maintained a studied silence even as the Pakistan Army committed genocide in Bangladesh because China was an ally of Pakistan, during 1971.
They never condemned the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
They have, like the Maoists in Nepal, never criticized the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Recently, Maoist leader Kishanji in an interview unequivocally said that he supported the cause of independence of Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam and others. He has no qualms about India being splintered in the process.
The above has been the same streak of logic and belief system which has continued to run through the likes of Binayak Sen, Navlakha and their ilk.
CPI-M is now mostly dead in Bengal. They seek to re-emerge by their cadres joining BJP. Bengal, which used to be the crucible of nationalism, now champions anti-nationalism as a new fad amongst the urban erudite. The cumulative control of Left, earlier, and now ‘Secularism’ on education, shows.
A FEW QUESTIONS
Each of the points suggested above can be researched and explored further in greater depth. However, the facts presented leaves a few questions which all Indians must answer:
– What place do ideologies which inherently are obliged to pay allegiance to external Masters? How and why should they be allowed to exist in our system?
– Pluralism can’t mean democidal also need to be accommodated?
– All inimical ideas accept the garb of benignity and accept the idea of democracy until they can reach critical mass. Does one think of closing the barn door AFTER the horse has bolted?
– All inimical ideas first start off as ‘conformers to democratic values’ and continue to deny their non-democratic intentions, while trying to grow the same in stealth. Does it need to be challenged? If so, how?
– Each inimical force attempts to subvert education. How would anyone make education unassailable?
– At the end of the day, what is ‘Indic’ value and what is the ‘democratic’ value which needs to be enshrined? How is it to be enshrined? How can it be enshrined if it isn’t defined? Is the definition possible when those who will fall out of its definition will continue to apply obscurantism and negationism?
The above write, which had earlier been put up as a Facebook post, was prompted by a thread which Aabhas Maldhaiyar had brought up. But he didn’t connect the dots and timeline. one can visit the thread here. He’s going to bring out a book on this topic soon.
Some other links and references:
Left Radicalism in India By Bidyut Chakrabarty
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