A colossus falls
Jyoti Basu (1914-2010)
Monday, 18 January 2010 19:30 Shyamal Sarkar
Jyoti Basu died on Sunday morning at the age of 95 passing into the annals of history. The Marxist icon, who led the Communist movement in the country, died of multi organ failure after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia on January 1. He is survived by son, Chandan, his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. His wife Kamal predeceased him four years ago.
He was among the founders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1964 after the Communist Party of India (CPI) split. In a political career spanning six decades, the longest serving chief minister of the country, and a Communist leader, who towered over the rest of the Marxists, Basu, lived and died as the patriarch of the CPI (M).
Basu’s body draped in the red party flag was moved to Peace Haven a funeral parlour on Sunday. The state went into two-day mourning. On Tuesday the body will be taken to Writers Buildings – the state secretariat and the state assembly for people to pay their respects before being taken to SSKM hospital. Basu has donated his body for medical research. Earlier his eyes were removed for donation.
Basu was the Deputy Chief Minister twice in the United Front Governments of West Bengal in 1967 and 1970. He was first elected MLA in 1952 and then consecutively for 10 terms till 1996. He was the last surviving member of the ‘Navratnas’, the nine members of the first Politbureau of the CPI (M).
He was the only Communist leader, who came close to becoming Prime Minister in 1996, but could not do so given the obduracy of the party. On a rare occasion he let his feelings be known calling it a ‘historical blunder’.
Born into a well to do family, his father being a US-trained doctor, Basu was educated in elite institutions like St Xavier’s School and Presidency College in Calcutta. Given his background few expected him to become a front ranking Communist leader. In UK in 1935 to become a barrister, he was influenced by the Communist movement. He started going to study circles, where he was initiated into Marxism by Communist leaders like Rajani Palme Dutt. His father sent him to England to get into the ICS, but he returned in 1940 as a Communist Party of India card holder.
An outstanding parliamentarian, political leader with a charismatic personality Basu was all for democracy. Mizzima fondly recalls the contribution he made to the cause of democracy in Burma. Mizzima’s Editor In-Chief Soe Myint recalled, in the book “Burma File: A Question of Democracy”, with gratitude Basu’s support for the democracy movement in Burma starting with his own release from prison in Calcutta in 1990. As a Communist Basu saw reason in the movement for democracy in Burma and supported it whole heartedly.
“The democracy movement of Burma in exile would not have been possible without the help and sympathy of the people of West Bengal, the Government of West Bengal and India,” Soe Myint wrote in his book.
Basu continued to support the Burmese in India, even in the present instance of 34 Burmese confined in Presidency Jail.
“Like Jyoti Basu another stalwart in opposite poles of politics in India, who helped me and the democracy movement of Burma is Mr George Fernandes, former Defence Minister of India. George Fernandes is battling for life in a New Delhi hospital now as Basu lost his, at 95 on Sunday.
Without the former Chief Minister of West Bengal’s political support “I would still be in prison,” Mr. Myint adds recalling the towering personality’s immense contribution to his life as a Burmese democracy activist in India, who helped found the Mizzima news agency operating in exile with dedicated colleagues bringing to the world the true picture of what is happening behind the bamboo curtain in military ruled Burma.
“As I grow in India, I feel that slowly many people who had helped and supported us are leaving us one by one and I fervently hope there are new younger generations in India who will continue this tradition of people to people support and friendship between India and Burma,” adds Mr. Myint.
Thank you for posting the remarkable memoir of Comrade Jyoti Basu.
Please post more articles, reminiscences etc. on Com. Basu and his immense contribution to the Left movement in India.
Thank you again.
Yes we regret to him for Indo-Bangladesh Ganges water sharing accord.
You can find articles, speeches, interviews, photos of comrade Jyoti Basu in the blog: http://www.jyotibabu.blogspot.com.
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