I got in touch with party leaders in Calcutta in 1940. Following party directives I did not go underground but Keeping in touch with the organization at that level was one of my most important tasks.
I enrolled myself as a barrister at the Calcutta High Court but have never since taken to practice. Simply because some of us like bhupesh and I had already dedicated ourselves to the party. Father was obviously not happy. He wanted that I start a practical and earn my own livelihood. But he was a liberal anyway; what he could not fathom was why I could not practice law and lead a political life at the some time. If Deshbandu Chittranjan Das could have done this, how was I an exception?
I remember one incident. Suddenly one day three leaders, who were under ground Kakababu (Mujaffar Ahmed), Saroj Babu (Saroj Mukherjee) and Panchu Gopal Bhaduri-told us during a meeting at our Hindusthan Park residence that it was imperative that they shift base since they were under watch. I immediately took them to a friend’s house in Dover Lane. (This friend had since been chairman of various central Government under taking). He was woken up from his sleep. He was extremely courteous and treated our leaders as guests. Later, after a shelter was identified, the three leaders were shifted from Dover Lane.
The entire character of the war underwent a sea change in the June of 1941 after Hitlar attacked the Soviet Union. From an imperialistic character, it became a people’s war against Fascism. Those of our leaders who were in jail opined the same. With the change in the character of the war, we had to change tactics also. Outside, I was also among those who relieved that this had become a people’s war.
A Friends of the Soviet Union (FSU) and Anti-Fascist intellectual organisation of writers and artists was established. I was its first secretary. Both the organization were housed at 46, Dharamtalla Street.
Talk of marriage was being discussed. I did not attach much importance to this. I know there was a long and difficult struggle ahead but anyway, I got married. My father-in-law’s name was Shri Amukule Ghosh; Prof. Prafulla Ghosh who tough English at the presidency college was part of that family. Within a few days of my marriage, my wife died. My mother died in 1941. I was sitting at the high court Bar Library when my father called to break the news. The last rites were performed by my elder brother. It was father who told me that there was no need to stick to custom and have vegetarian food. I would’nt have had anyway. But with father beside me, I got that extra bit of strength.
My life as a party whole-timer begun shortly after my return from London. When the Communist Party was banned in India during the British Raj, secret meetings used to be hold at our Hindustan Road residence; Under ground leaders took shelter also. My parents knew about it but did not object. My main task was to keep like with underground leaders and fix shelters for them and also organize secret meetings.
It was basically a communications job. During my last days in London I had established contact with a barrister who had communist leanings. I revived this upon my return to Calcutta. He had taken some risks by organizing the shelter of some underground leaders. A house had been rented in South Calcutta which had been turned into a secret base. But after a few months this a barrister friend developed cold feat; we realized that he did not want to having his head out. He stopped contact with him and discarded the house which had been taken in his name. This friend left policies after this incident.
I also used to collect subscription for the party. It was through me that many party sympathizers, including a few top government officers, donated generously. I also held party classes and was a frequent speaker in various meetings.
Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union marked a qualitative change in the international situation. Pearl Harbour came soon after and the US also got involved. The Soviet Union, Britain and the US become formal allies against Fascist forces. A part of the party leadership was in jails, while another was underground. The party leadership decided that since the character of the war had changed it was time for us to launch an all-out offensive against Fascism. The defeat of Fascism would give a fillip to our freedom struggle. The relative success of the Nazis during the initial stages of the attack on the Soviet Union encouraged the enemies of Socilism no end. They were convinced that the end of Bolshevikism had come. But we were sure that the Soviet Union would win; after all, there is no force which can defeat socialism. That the task would be difficult was known to us. Our party had always stood by the theory that only Independent India could fight Fascism effectively. But the British government was not yet ready to hand over power. The country was going through an economic crisis and even the political scenario was leading confusing signal on the question of Independence. Shortly before the quite India Movement took off on August 9, 1942, the British Raj, for their own were forced to. Some of the under trials at the Andaman Islands issued a leaflet condemning Fascism, despite his, they were not released. But the leaflet was distributed freely by the British rulers. Nationalist leaders like Nehru announced that it was only independent India which could fight the Fascist – Japanese Axis. But the British rulers were in no mood to talk about Independence. On August 9, 1942, Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad and other Congress leaders were arrested. The Quit India Movement had begun. The Communist Party opposed the movement at that time become we fell that this would only weaken the struggle against Fascism.
We demanded the release of the Congress leaders saying that this was absolutely necessary to put up an effective fight against the Fascist -Japanese Axis.
The party was subjected to tremendous opposition and stiff criticism at that time. Many of our party offices were attacked and countless comrades were subjected to physical fortune almost on the lines of Fascist theory. But we continued with the Mass contact programmes and during the 1943 Famine, organised) a lot of relief work in the then undivided Bengal. It was at our initiative, that the Bengal Medical Relief Co-ordination Committee was formed. Its President was Mr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. The scope and work of the writer and artist organisation, later to be re-christioned as the Progressive Writers Forum, where enlarged.
I gave it my all too. Despite the opposition, the party progressed as a political entity and Membership increased. The first open Congress of the CPI was held in Bombay in 1943. Earlier that year, the Bengal chapter had held its maiden open session at the Indian Association Hall in Calcutta. A small provisional committee of seven members was formed. Saroj Babu has told me; as far as he can remember, according to a directives of the party politburo in 1945, all the provinces had appointed a few Provincial Committee Organisers. I was also nominated to be a PCO members.
There were many events between 1942 and 1945. But one of them stands out; the in human member of budding revolutionary writer and the member of Communist Party of Dhaka, Soumen Chanda.
We were on our way in Dhaka to attend an anti-Fascist conference. Bankim Babu (the late party leader Bankim Mukherjee) had already reached the venue ahead of us. Suddenly we noticed a group of people running; in the melee, Snehangshu was injured in the hand – We heard that Somen Chanda had been murdered. The entire conference area had been cordoned off by the police. But the conference was held. We gave speeches. But the inhuman tragedy did cast its sad shadow over the proceedings. Snehangshu and I went to Munshigunj the next day where we participated in a largely attended public meeting. From there, on to Mymensingh. After staying at Snehangshu’s residence for a couple of days, we returned to Calcutta. I have mentioned Martyr Soumen Chandra’s name only to high-light the fact that there were many such casualities during our political struggle between 1942 and 1945.
The National Leadership of the Congress was released from imprisonment at tag end of the war. The situation was volatile. Labour strikes, revolts by farmers, an indefinite strike in support of the E & T employees demands on July 29, 1946, the insurrection of the Indian sailers of the Royal Indian Navy, the police firing on a meeting in Calcutta held to support the calls of the Vietnam Liberation War and the General widespread antipathy against the British imperialists; all these went into making up the immediate history of Post-War India.