CHAPTER V: Organising the Labour

As far as I can remember, the party leadership asked me to work with the labour forces in 1944. Initially, I used to communicate with the Port and Dock labourers since we did not have much of a organisation in this two sectors. We had not been able to penetrate them. After this, I was asked to work with the labour force of the Railways.

In 1944, the party was trying to organize a Trade Union in the B. N. Railways. I was part of the effort. I met leaders like Mohammed Ismail and Nikhil Maitra. Maitra was expelled from the party later. Those who helped in this work – and I can only remember only the names of some of them – were Nityananda Chowdhury, Amulya Ukil, Purnendu Dott Roy, Satyen Ganguly and Satya Gupta. Saroj Mukherjee played a vital role during this time, it was he who introduced me to people like Ukil and others. The Trade Union activity was growing. There were calls from Dhaka. Along with Bankim Mukherjee and Saroj Mukherjee, I had to go places like Parvtipur are sodhpur. Kamania Dasgupta, who later become the Chairman of the Ranigunj Municipality, was a known figure in the labour Movement of Sodhpur. Saroj Babu used to devote a lot of his time to the Provincial Committee as member-Secretary.

It was an extremely difficult task to develop a Union in the Railways. Since there was already an existing one – the B. N. Railway Employees Association. Humayun Kabir was to later become President of the organization.

We had to fan out in areas like Sealdah, Howrah, Kanchapara and the border areas with Assam. Finally, the B. N. Railways Workers Union was established in 1944. I became its General Secretary with Bankim Mukherjee as/its President.

The War had not yet ended. It was too difficult to travel on trains. I had to make do with only a bag during commuting; I never felt any stress or physical discomfort though.

We pursued our aim with unrelenting effort and branches were soon to grow in East Bengal, North Bengal and Assam. The opposition Union did not live any stone interned to spread disinformation against us.

There was a small but recognized Union at Domohari in Jalpaiguri. It was called the B. D. Rail Road Workers Union and its General Secretary was Biren Das Gupta who went as to become a member of our party. The Vice-President of this Union was Parimal Mitra. Hailing from Jalpaiguri, he was to later become the Forest & Tourism Minister of the Left Front Government in West Bengal.

Much later, the B. N. Railway workers Union and B. D. Rail Road Workers Union amalgated. The new President was Mohammad Ismail and Vice President was Parimal Mitra. I was elected the General Secretary and Biren Das Gupta was made the Joint General Secretary. Kamal Sirkar and Krishnamurty from Madras were included in the working committee. A publication, Rail Mazdoor, with Parimal Mitra as its editor, was released but the entire administration devolved on Kamal Sirkar Englishman. We demanded that our Union be recognized officially. There was much dilly-dallying over the matter. But the recognition came anyway; we were further encouraged. There were some perks too; being the General Secretary of the recognized Union, I was entitled to a first class pass or Railway travel. Our influence on the labour force grew from strength to strength.

The All India Railwaymen’s Federation was being run by reformists. We demanded that our Union too should be included in the Federation. They tried their best to ignore us but we were successful in the end. Earlier, the party = led SIR Workers Union had been included in the AIRF. I got involved with some other trade Unions also. Mr. Bhandarkar was General Manger of the east Bengal Railway. His son was sympathetic to the Communist Movement. Having returned after studying in Cambridge, he had joined a Mercantile firm in a responsible post.

He died before his time was due. At the time of his death, he had a savings of Rs. 10,000/-. His father handed over the money to us Saying, at the same time, that he was aware of his son’s political beliefs. He felt that it would only be in the fitness of things it his son’s savings came to the aid of the party. It was not only economic issues which rallied the railway workers. There was a constant effort to build a political philosophy. Their were instances when Railway Labours struck work over political matter. The sailors had revolted. A new history was being written at the Bombay Port by the Indian Armymen. The entire country was being rocked. The admiral of the British Navy served an ultimatum that the surrender should be effected within 24 hours. Otherwise the rebel ships would be sunk.

The BPTUC office was situated at 249, Bowbazar Street. We met there. A counter  Offensive was planned. The British imperialists had to be taught a lesson. A 24  hour Railway Strike was called. No bogey would move. There would be no work. A total bandh. We were septic. Would we be successful? Yes, it was. The Railway labour force had set a new example in the struggle against imperialism.

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CHAPTER VI: In The Legislative Assembly

 It had never ever occurred to me that I would have to become an MLA but the party thought otherwise. And, I had to abide by the Directives. There was some other candidates too; Somnath Lahiri from Calcutta, Bankim Mukherjee from Howrah, Chatur Ali from Barrackpur, Ratanlal Brahman from Darjeeling and Krishna Binod Roy from Jessore. Indrajit Gupta, Moni Singh and Rupnarayan Roy contested from Asansol, Maimansingh had Dinajpur constituencies.

I was a candidate from the Railway constituency which included the entire B. N. Railway area except Assam. An electoral college would be formed by Railway Workers with valid voter papers and this college would elect the MLA.

My rival was Humayun Kabir, President of the Railways Association. I knew the fight would be a tough one. The congress was supporting Kabir with its full strength. Leaders like Moulana Abul Kalam Azad and had come to campaign for him. On the other hand, our union was new and our presence among the labour force had also not been for long.

But our comrades went headlong into the battle. We travelled throughout Bengal in a whistle-stop campaign; contacts were made with Railway workers with a lea to vote for us. Mr. Kabir’s supporters were up to many tricks. Top-shot Bureauirats were fudging voter papers. The rules stipulated that the election office had to send ballots to every voter in a registered envelope./News of fudging was pouring in by the minute; ballots were apparently reaching only false voters.

News reached that one thousand voter slips had reached the Chitpur ward from the post-office. All the voter slips had been accepted strangely by a single officer. There was no way but to take to the streets. It was decided that the strike would continue till all the slips reached their rightful destination. The strike started. Within hours, the Railway Officers assured us that each and every ballot would be deemed valid only if signed by the particular valid voter. The labour strike had forced this decision to come about.

But I was still slightly sceptical. Our election agents fanned out in the Railway colonies. The workers were alerted. The message went loud and clear; rigging would not be allowed. The postal authorities were also warned that it was their responsibility to ensure that the valid slips reached only the voters they were meant for.

Our doubts subsided some what. My very first election as a candidate gave me a taste of what bourgeois elections were all about. It was to baptism by fire. But all’s well that ends well. Mr. Kabir was defeated.

For all practical purpose, Mr. Kabir was a Congress candidate. Behind him was the Congress organisation and top leaders. There was a anscious effort to buy votes.

At another level, I saw what honesty and idealism was all about. Not one person of the electoral college had betrayed us; the dedication, perseverance and loyalty of our comrades ensured my victory. It was their victory, it was a party victory and above all, it was a victory of the Railway workers. Ratan Lal Brahman from Darjeeling and Rupnarayan Roy from Denajpur won. The other candidates of the party lost.

The significance of these victories were far reaching. The norm of the day was disinformation against the party and physical attacks on comrades. Allegations of treachery were being brought against us. In this background, the victory was most important.

This election was also an education. We realized that our critics and rivals could take to any means, open or hidden. During the election in the Barrackpur Constituency, I was sent as a party observer to Kanchapara. I was eye witness to the congress hooliganism.

After the elections, I returned to the State Party Office at 121, Lower Circular Road. Wounded comrades were lying on the ground floor. This was a result of congress Goondaism throughout Calcutta. The 1946 elections taught me that there could be no place for ideals and honesty in such a bourgeois set-up. The end game was to win. At any cost.

I became an MLA. Father was some what happy. That helped me in my work.

For all practical purposes, I started my life as a whole timer only then. I used to give my salary as an MLA to the party. The party used to give me wages.

The political scene at that time needs to be elaborated. In 1946 under the leadership of Suhrawarddi, the Muslim League formed the government in Bengal. The Congress was in the opposition, led by Kiran Shankar Roy. We three Communist MLAs formed a separate group. The Muslim League got a majority in the 1946 elections. Suhrawarddi led the government and kept the home portfolio with him. There were seven other ministers. There were Mohammad Ali, Sayed Mojum Hussain, Ahmed Hussain, Abdul Gafran, Abul Rajar Mohammad, Abdul Rehman, Samsuddin Ahmed and Yogendra Nath Mondal. Mondal was opposed to the congress. Five to eight members of the ministry were Khan Bahadur, a title doled out by the Raj to those that it viewed to be loyal. Khan Bahadur, Khan Saheb, Rai Bahadur and Rai Saheb – these are all part of those old symbols of Prizes for loyalty. In 1946, a new Legislative Assembly was formed on the basis of the India Domicile Rule Act of 1935. The two sessions was held on May 14, 1946. It would not be futile to dwell on the economic situation of the entire nation, particularly Bengal, before going into the deliberations of the session.

Only a year earlier, on May 2, 1945, Berlin had fallen to the Soviets. The red flag had been hoisted there. We organised a victory rally in Calcutta. That year = end, the entire country rose in demand for the release of the imprisoned soldiers of the Indian National Army. There were rallies and meetings everywhere. In Calcutta, this eliminated in a huge procession on November 21.

The police opened fire. Many students were killed or injured. In the January and February of 1946, Calcutta echoed with protests. The war carried on. On Rashid Ali Day, the demand that the INA soldiers would have to be freed. At another procession, voices of support were raise for the anti-imperialist struggle in Vietnam. The police opened fire again. Two young students, Rameshwar and Abdus Salem, became Martyrs in that eventful year. The labour force, particularly those of the Post & Telegraphs, observed a general strike. The student-youth-labour-employee protests were slowly creating a major struggle agianst the imperialist British.

The Communist Party was in the forefront; in Bengal, we were being regarded as a second force after the Congress. However, the League, capitalising on the Communal factor, etched out a place in the Muslim Constituency.

The Tebhaga Movement had begun in right earnest; Lakhs of farmers in the 11 States of Bengal had joined in the Parts affected were the Goro Hill Ijong area of Mymensingh, Denajur and Jalpaiguri in North Bengal, the Adhiyar dominated area of Rangpur, 24 Parganas on this side of the Gorges, Hooghly and Midnapur. The farmers of Bardhaman, Jessore and Comilla also rose again canal and other tax related disparities. Apart from Bengal, the movement also spread to Andhra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharastra. And in this entire chapter of the nation’s history, the party was like a beacon and its role was that of a leader. In the mean tie, the Suhrawarddi government was forced to release the freedom fighters lodged in the Andamans in the face of a Sustained agitation. Niranjan Sengupta was a convenor of the committed set up to ensure the release of the nationalists. The Legislative Assembly session had not yet begun. The food crisis was acute. There was a need to organises a Movement to force the government to take measures on a war-footing. With the people’s support, we also launched a drive against hoarders. Fair price shops were opened is most districts. The Committee which ensured that the process went on smoothly received recognition from the government too.

The food crisis had given rise to hunger deaths. News of such tragedies were pouring in. Calcutta was being choked with hungry villagers there were reports of deaths event from a district like Dinajpur, known to be the crop bowl of Bengal. ‘Give Us Phaan (Starch)’ was the hungry shriek that echoed across the lanes and by lanes of the city of places. Bijon Bhattacharya wrote his famous, ‘Nabana’ play during these times in 1944; On the other land, the tragedy was put to canvas by artists Chitta Prasas and Jainul Abedin. The party’s Gananatya Sangha staged plays to collect money for the hunger = sticken. Great masters like Uday Shankar and Ravi Shankar joined Us in this effort.

As the party grew both in stature and in its role I found myself getting more and more involved in its activities. Trade Union work in the Railway went on simultaneously.

We were preparing for the Railway strike. I remember addressing a rally in Assam’s Laksum area on June 10 that year; the genesis of what I said was that the British had to be thrown out of the country and that the 5 lakh labours who were involved in the Trade Union activity were part of this struggle. There were meetings at Badarpur and Lamding. In the mean time, the Congress has also joined in the struggle. We demanded adjudication; the Congress supported this. My proposal was hat if the Congress joined the interim government at the Centre, then their leaders would put pressure on the Railway Board. In that event, our struggle would get a further impetus. It was possible that are acceptable solution would be found without resorting to a strike.

On September 2, 1946, the Nehru-Liaquat interim government was formed. Kiran Shankar Raj (the leader of the opposition), Bimal Chandra Sinha, Niharendu Dutta Majumdar, Nisha Pati Majhi, Suresh Chandra Banerjee, Charu Candra Bhandari and Bipen Bihari Gunguly were some of the leaders who were elected to the Legislative Assembly as Congress candidates. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was elected from the Calcutta University Constituency. He was a leader of the Hindu Maha Sabha. Krishak Praja Party’s nominee Fazlal Haque joined the Assembly after having been elected from Barishal. There were some other members from his party who became MLA/ s. There were 21 members of the European British Block and 25 from Anglo Indians. All of them were representatives of the British imperialists.

I realized that barring a few, most of the members had been elected due to Communal considerations. Most of the Congress members were Hindus; all the League MLA/s were Muslims. The Maharaja and Bardhaman was also a member representing the Royalty Block.

Thus the British Raj had a major role to play in sowing the seeds of Communal Politics.

We were totally inexperienced about the proceedings of the Assembly; neither did the party prepare Us for this new experience. We prepared our own questions and speeches.

But I always discussed these matters with the party leadership and accepted their directives.

We used to sit in a separate group. The release of prisoners, police torture, agitation by farmers and labourers, the food crisis and communal harmony – it was generally decided that we would raise these issues in the Assembly.

The elections to the Posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker were to be held on May 14, 1946. The Muslims League candidate Nurul Amin was elected Speaker with 137 votes. Rival Syed Mohammed Afzal got 93 votes. He belonged to the Krishak Praja Party.

After the division of Bengal. Amin became the Chief Minister of erstwhile last Pakistan. On the issue of the release of prisoners, a large section of the Congress and the League supported Us. But consensus eluded Us on other questions.

This was the beginning of our education in and initiation to Legislative Politics.

On September 2, 1946, the interim qualition government was formed at the Centre. The Prime Minister was Jawaharlal Nehru and Liquat Ali Khan became the Finance Minister. The British had already made up their mind on partition. The setting up of the interim government was only a first step in this direction. Earlier in July the Constituent Assembly had been formed to formulate and decide on the new constitution of free India. The members of this Assembly were elected on the basis of votes by the MLA/s of various provinces. On July 17 1946, a special session was held by the Legislative Assembly of Bengal to discuss the voting pattern and process.

The then editor of Dainak Swadhinata and Party Leader Somnath Lahiri was made our nominee and he was elected to the Constituent Assembly as Communist Member. The Assembly again met on July 24 1946; it tuned out to be a memorable day. The all Party Committee going into the release of prisoners had launched a massive agitation on the issue; as part of the programme, 15,000 processionists marched towards the Assembly. Once inside the Assembly promises, they shouted slogans asking for an explanation from the government as to why the prisoners had not yet been free.

It was common knowledge with the procession would enter the Assembly premises. I had thus proposed an adjournment notice but it was disallowed. After Question Hour, I stood up and called the speaker’s attention to the fact that he had rejected my proposals. And I wanted to know why he had done so.

Suhrawarddi tried to oppose me on the question of propriety. I had him flatly that I was ready to accept the speaker’s ruling but not that of the Chief Minister. A debate ensued; the Congress Members supported us on the issue. In the meantime I had come out of the chamber and faced the processionist. I told them categorically that we had raised the issue inside and that the things were hotting up.

I reminded the speaker of my queries about the rejection of my notice. I insisted that he explain his ruling. The Speaker said that he would show me under which law he lad ruled me out only if I went to his chamber. I reiterated that this was a very important matter and that at that very moment, there were thousands of people waiting outside, clamouring for the release of the political detenus. The people wanted to know why the government could not take a decision to issue the release orders. The slogans could be heard from inside the chamber. The Chief Minister had told journalists that he would ensure the release of the prisoners. Looking directly at the speaker, I said, “I do not know why he can’t sign the order…… I request a review the matter. There is still time. Please allow a discussion.’

The Congress member Bhirendra Nath Dutt echoed my demand of and asked for a statement from the Chief Minister.” There are countless Hindu and Muslims asking for the release of the prisoners. The Chief Minister has to say why he can not……… we will not wait any longer” the Leader of the opposition and Congress Member Kiren Shankar Roy told the Speaker that while he respected the ruling, emotions were high outside; there was a huge gathering. “I do know with all the political parties, including the Muslim League, are out there….. I repeat almost all Political Parties of this province are waiting for an answer outside. There are both Hindus and Muslims……….” this statement was jeered at by the Treasury Benches.

What followed was a slanging match between me on one/side and some government MLA/s and the Chief Minister or the other. Kiren Shankar Roy and Suhrawarddi left the chamber. The speaker announced that they had gone to meet a team of representatives of the processionist.

On the same day, an all-party team led by Niranjan Sengupta handed over a memorandum to the Chief Minister. Finally, Suhrawarddi was forced to face the gathering outside; I was also present. Suhrawarddi, in his broken Bengali, explained that he had gone through the relevant files many times and that he would do so again. The fathering shot back; ‘we want a deadline, not promises’ At last Suhrawarddi gave in: The prisoners would be released by August 15. The gathering dispersed peacefully.

Sometime before this unprecedented protest gathering, a few of us went to Writers Buildings to hand over a memorandum on the prisoners’ release issue to Chief Minister, Suhrawarddi, Bankim Mukherjee and Bhupesh Gupta were among those who went along with me. The memorandum had demanded immediate release of the prisoners.

Suhrawarddi asked us to sit and called for an English Officer of the Home department (most probably the Home Secretary). His name was Porter. The Officer did not have chair to sit on.

As soon as he entered the room, Suhrawarddi told him, ‘Porter, why don’t you get a chair for yourself?’ Porter went out and soon returned with a chair. Suhrawarddi read out a part of the memorandum and asked him for his for his views.

Porter answered flatly. “Sir, these people (the prisoners) re all killers.” A war of words ensued between Porter and Us. Suhrawarddi then asked Porter to leave and told Us that he would look into the matter. It was then that we realized that Suhrawarddi had already taken the policy decision to release the prisoners. On July 24, he announced the decision.

However, the Committee looking into the release of prisoners did not sit idly after Suhrawarddi’s decision. Between July 25 and August 15, entire Bengal witnessed meetings and processions in which a major part comprised students. Ultimately on August 15, 1946, Suhrawarddi announced the release of all the prisoners and that steps were being taken in this regard. Suhrawarddi added that he was also reviewing the cases of others who had identified as political detenus.

At that point of time, I wanted to raise an issue but the Speaker disallowed all speeches. On August 16, after the tragedy of the fratricidial riots had taken place, the prisoners were released; most of them had been initiated into communism during their incarceration. A few had, however, joined parties like Congress. Among the political detenus who were released were Ganesh Ghosh, Ambika Chakraborty, Ananta Sinha and Probhat Chakraborty. All these communist leaders were felicitated at our state party office, at 8/E Deckers Lane in Calcutta.

Earlier on August 6, I found the Legislative Assembly gates locked and that a few thousands of people who wanted to enter the premises were waiting on the streets. I was accompanied by Ratanlal Brahman. Apart from Us, Dhiren Mukherjee of the Congress and some other members of the Assembly were also left standing on the streets.

The then Deputy Police Commissioner – the Much-hated Samsu Doha – was in charge of operations. All the police sergeants were Anglo Indians. When I started making enquiries, Samsu Doha pushed me aside, so so, that my clothes were torn. Samsu Doha then instructed his police to rough me up. The Congress Member, Dhiren Mukherjee then intervened and told the police that they could not do this and that I was a member of Legislative Assembly. I was then arrested and lodged in the custody of an Assistant Police Commissioner.

When this news reached the Assembly Chamber, the session was adjourned after request from the members.

Suhrawarddi rushed out. The gathering had become extremely restive. “Even The Muslim League supporters/were up in arms against Doha.

Suhrawarddi called me, ‘Jyoti, come here’ I replied, ‘How can I? I am under arrest.’ To this Suhrawarddi said : ‘No body has arrested you – you come here.’

We met on the Assembly Premises. I was joined by many other when I insisted that Doha would have to apologize if any solution had to be reached. Suhrawarddi summoned the English Police Commissioner who, however, did not seen to be agreeable to an apology. These were arguments and counter-arguments after which the Commissioner was asked to leave. The Chief Minister then asked Doha to apologize. Doha said that while he was convinced that he had done no wrong, but since the Chief Minister was insistent, he would follow orders and apologize.

I entered the Assembly Chamber in my torn clothes. Suhrawarddi announced that he was happy to say that a wrong had been corrected, that a honourable member had been arrested but released and the police officer concerned had apologized.

He also said that he would look into the matter further. I asked him for a deadline regarding this. Suhrawarddi said that he would definitely complete the prove into this matter latest by August 17. All members of the Assembly, cutting across party lines deplored the attitude and the action of the police.

I was still in the torn clothes when I reached the party office in the evening and reported the morning’s incident. It was then that I left for home. Father was quite surprise. I told him everything that needed to be told. It was my usual practice to go to the party office every evening and report the day’s events to the leadership, for instructions on various issues. As General Secretary of the Railway Leader Union, I visited at the crossing of college street and Bowbazar Street. During recess of the Assembly, I had to tour the districts; it was always our endeavour to be in close contact with the masses to raise their issues inside the Assembly. On July 25, 1946, the Congress Member, Bimal Chandra Sinha brought an adjournment motion in the Assembly on the acute food crisis throughout Bengal. The motion castigated the Bengal government for the abnormal price rise, of failure to distribute sufficient food grains. As leader of the three= Member Communist group, I had also given notice for a similar motion.

I participated in the discussion, my first speech as member of the legislative Assembly. The Amrita Bazar Patrika and a few other newspaper gave some importance to my speech in the next days edition.

We had already discussed our stand on the food crisis with the party leadership. The district committee had also fed us with information and statistics which helped us in the Assembly debates. The difference in opinion between Us on the one side and the congress and the Muslim League on the other had become apparent on that day itself . It had also been noticed that we had done some significant and constructive work in setting up people’s committees in various districts; There Committee took up cudgels against hoarders and ensured the distribution of food stocks to fair price shops.

At no point did we expect that the Congress and the Muslim League Members would accept or party line. But again there were many leaders of other parties who met me individually and praised my speech. That speech was my first speech; it also proved that the Communist Party was now an organized force. It would not be ignored any longer.

The adjournment motion of Bimal Chandra Sinha was put to vote. We voted for the motion which was defeated 86-126.

It is important to take note of another significant debate of those times. On July 26, the Muslim League Member, Taffazzal Ali, moved a motion, it concerned a request to the Governor. The Governor was requested that he should take up the cases of many Bengali families of the Assam Valley which were facing eviction by the Assam government. It was our lea that the Governor-General be apprised of the situation and that the general feeling of the Bengal Assembly be conveyed to him.

Assam then had a Congress Government while Bengal had a Muslim League regime. Many poor farmers, particularly from Maiman Singh of East Bengal, had settled in the Assam Valley. They had been driven to Assam because of hunger. The earlier government of Assam had promised them citizenship. But Taffazzal Ali maintained that there was a premeditated plan to event them by the congress government.

This was holly contested by the congress. We also apposed the motion but for purely different reasons. Leader like J. C. Gupta and Niharendu Dutta Mujumdar of the Congress raised the question of propriety and said such motions would not be adopted by the Assembly. They could not validate their arguments with political reasoning; most probably, the fact that Assam had a congress government as well as a chances of losing popular support in Bengal made them shy away from a political debate. The Speaker agreed to a discussion. Taffazzal Ali’s speech had communal overtones. He said that Bengalis needed a place of their own. I reputed this by saying that this mirrored Hitter’s Philosophy.

The cross of the matter was simple; on the one hand, the Muslim League was busy trying to resettle the poor farmers in Assam on the plea that Bengal did not have sufficient room for them while, at the same time, the Assam government was busy trying to evict them.

We discussed the matter with the party leadership and spoke accordingly in the Assembly. My first question was why the Bengalis were forced to leave their homes and whether there farmers had been identified as a social group. They were all landless farmers who, because of tack of food and shelter, were being forced to migrate to other parts of the country. It was a matter of shame that we could not provide for them in Bengal. The Zamindari system, established by Lord Cornwallis, was playing havoc with the lives of these farmers. This system, unfortunately is evident even now.

I said that this issue needed serious introspection. I called far a different approach; there was no point, I said, in making representations to the Government and Viceroy with whose approval this system was continuing. This was shameful. Azad and his Morning News was spreading propaganda against the Congress and Hindus in Assam, while some other publication is Assam were disseminating Lathed among the Assamese. I emphasized that we were fully against both there view points and propaganda. Both the Congress and Muslim League Members tried to stop me; Obviously because I had hit them where they did not want to be.

I said there was still time and that we should unite to form a committee and try to solve the problems. Going to the Viceroy would be useless. It was important that the motion be withdrawn and the focus be on Hindu-Muslim Unity. Niharendu Dutta Majumdar tried to stop me from completing my speech. I announced that the there of us in the communist block would vote against the motion. The Congress members also voted against the motion. Needless to say, the motion was adopted.

 

CHAPTER VII: The Riots of 1946

August 16, 1946 will go down in Indias history as a black day; it was on this day that the fratricidial riots Began. The Statesman Newspaper called it ‘The Greet Calcutta Killing.’ While its a fact that the communal elements belongings to both the Hindus and Muslims started the riots, it was equally…..that it could not have happened without the egging of the British imperialist rulers. The British had already decided that would leave a partitioned country in the lands of the Congress and the Muslims League and there could be nothing more to help in this then communal riots.

Soon after the riots started, the police administration of Calcutta collapsed completely. The police force was operated on communal lines. Despite innumerable requests to the then Governor of Bengal, the army was not called out even three days before the Riots began. When the situation went out of control and entire Calcutta city gave itself upto mass killings and boot, only then did the British rulers deploy the army and suddenly try and project themselves as “Peace-loving” and “friends of India.” They did succeed in their mission though; the genesis of the partition was sowed by the riots.

Our party activity opposed partition and with our limited renounces tried hard to keep Congress and League unity and Hindu = Muslim unity.

A majority in the Congress and Muslim League was against partition. The same was true among the Hindus and Muslims. But the reformists, provoked by the British imperialists, started the riots. Riots also took place in the Punjab, the United Provinces and Bihar. It was like a conflagration. The Muslims League called for Direct Action Day throughout India on August 16. The Bengal government announced a State Holiday. The Assembly was in session.

The Speaker had earlier disallowed the congress adjournment motion on the situation. I tried to say a few words but the speaker and the Deputy Speaker did not give me permission.

I had decided that I would ask the government to revoke its holiday notice. I felt that a common man wanted to leave in peace and that there was no need to call for dissect action. It would, I wanted to say, only add to the tension in the air** but I was not given a chance to speak.

The congress also announced its opposition to Direct Action Day. The Muslim League leadership was unsleken**.

Our leadership apprehended disturbances on August 16. Our leaders and comrades were asked to fan** out in the labour = dominated and mixed = population areas of Calcutta. The call for Direct Action was made by the Muslim League leadership at a rally on the Maidan in the second week of August.

Following arty directives, I went to the Labour Lines of Narkeldanga. The then Railway Union Leader, Krishnamurty and Nikhil Mitra, we re with me. We spent the evening of August 16 at the Railway colony there. I was very involved with Railway Union activities at that time.

From inside the colony, we could not make out what was happening outside. We could only see some processionists shouting slogan. The labourers asked us to go, as they felt that we could be attacked. It was they who told us that the entire city was burning. Somehow we made our way to the Sealdah Station and then on foot onto Lower Circular Road. Dead bodies were strewn on pavements. The attackers were moving about freely. We avoided the pavements and walked through the middle of the road. We managed to reach our Calcutta district office at 121, Lower Circular Road near the Loreto School. Even there, the party commander had the same story to narrate. Calcutta was burning. We spent the night there. That area was not safe either; we were expecting attacks any moment. Comrades with Lathis were put on guard. We could not reach news to our provincial party office at Deckers Lane or back home. During our stay at the Lower Circular Road office, me suffered a lot; at times we had to go without meals. News, however, did reach the provincial committee office. Leaders like Nripen Sen, Saroj Babu and another comrade took a Peoples Relief committee Van to out Calcutta district committee office. Sen drove himself. We heard from them that this van had been used to rescue some congress and communist men from danger = prone areas. Infact, they had only sometime back picked up some injured people from Mirzapur crossing and got them admitted to the Medical College.

We reached Deekers Lane. Khoka Ray, Promod Dasgupta and Dinesh Roy were present there. Leaders like Bankim Mukherjee, Nirodh Chakraborty and Abdul Momen and is wife were trapped in a hotel near the Islamia Hospital at Chittaranjan Avenue. The building was already under siege. These lives were in danger. Snehanshu Acharya was all the time doing a lot to help in the rescue work.

R. Gupta, an ICS officer was in charge of the rescue centre which had been set up in the Maidan. The centre had been alerted about our trapped comrade. Even then I was asked to go and ensure that some action was taken immediately.

I took a car to the Maidan. Gupta could not be found. Mohamemad Ismail accompanied me. At the rescue centre, an English youth alongwith another sepoy came to us and heard us out. After this, they summoned for a lorry, I asked the English youth whether he would be able to handle the tens of thousands of emotional people who had gathered at Chittaranjan Avenue. I also asked him pointedly whether he would be able to manage on his own. His simplistic answer was, “Do you know that I have fought in the Second World War?”. I realised that it would be futile to say anything more and both Ismail and I followed him in our car. We did not go upto Islamia Hospital and stopped at the crossing of Bowbazar Street and Chittaranjan Avenue. We waited in our car.

Strangely, as soon as the English youth alighted from the lorry, revolver in hand, the assembled rioters gave way. Bankim Mukherjee, Abul Momin, Nirodh Chakraborty and Promod Dasgupta were rescued and brought out. We could see everything from our vantage point. They were then brought to Deekers Lane. If we have waited for another half an hour, I wonder whether these leaders would have been alive.

Kamal Sarkar said that Snehangshu Acharya had also participated in the rescue mission and that they had gone to Deekers Lane in a military van and we followed them in our car. Earlier we have been asked to stay put on the crossing of Bowbazar Street.

Abdul Momin gave us the full story.

They had been trapped at the hotel. The Muslim janitor had tried to save them till the last moment. The rioters raided Momin’s room many times and asked for the Hindus inside. But the janitor had said that there were no Hindus. The room where Bankim babu had stayed was blocked from outside; however they did not stop the attackers from having doubts that there could be Hindus inside also. This went on for two days. As and when the injured were laid down in front of the hospital, the emotion which were thrown around and the tension were palpables. The janitor was helpless. It was at that point of time that we reached the spot.

Till things normalised, our party had taken the initiative in rescue work. Both Hindus and Muslims had taken shelter in our provincial Committee Office, the District Committee Office and other Units. The peoples relief committee was housed on 249 Bowbazar Street and the volunteers there were ready to give their lives to rescue out comrades.

By contemporary estimates, the causality in the Calcutta killings in 1946 were nothing less than 20,000 or more. There were some significant factors in the riots during 1946. The British Imperialists had divided the common people among communal lines. The communal element, no doubt, had been able to incite a major part of the public. But this is only one side of the story.

In Hindu dominated areas were people who despite the riotous situation had staked their lives to help out Muslims; but this feeling was also reciprocated by the other community. I can give one example. The then party leader Krishna Binod Roy used to live in Park Circus. His landlord was a Muslim who despite danger had whisked Roy to a Police station and saved his life.

The rehabilitation work was now uppermost. Though the riots had stopped the repercussions went on….

The stability and taken the fear psychosis from the minds of the public were among the major task in front of us. A mission for peace was then the top priority. I am proud to say that at that time our party comrades had a major role to play and formations of peace missions was our primary task, The Communist Party had already taken the lead role. This was admitted by no less a person than Chief Minister Suhrawarddi. On September 1946 responding to a No Confidence Motion against his Government, Suhrawarddi said; “I think all those who have helped in our peace efforts and joined our rallies. In particular I would like to thank some members of the Communist Party since it was they who had demanded that peace Committees be set up right from the beginning.”

The party leadership had been trying to set up an all = party Central Peace Committed after the riots started. When Gandhiji was camping at Beliaghata in 1947, representatives of various parties and organisations met him uninterruptedly. I also met Gandhiji alongwith Bhupesh Gupta and asked for his advice. Gandhiji said that the best potion would be to form an all = party central committee and organise and all = party central procession. That, he added, should be the foremost task ahead of us.

We set about our work in right earnest. Almost all political parties met Suhrawarddi at a meeting at his house. Bhupesh Gupta and I represented the Communist Party where some from the Congress party and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee came from the Hindu Maha Sabha while the Chief Minister himself represented the Muslim League. The Sikh community was also there. Even as the talks were on, Suhrawarddi took me and Bhupesh to his bedroom and told us that Shyma Prasadbabu was not willing to work on the same committee with the Communists.

The idea of All Party Central Peace Committee was still-born. But the local Units continued to work.

Confidence was restored amongst the public and there was a general feeling of friendship and amity. A major part of Congress and Muslim League worked for peace. On September 1947, Dhirendra Nath Dutta of the Congress brought a No Trust Motion against the Suhrawarddi Government in the Legislative Assembly. There was a long debate and many speakers spoke on the occasion. I also got an opportunity to make my views known. However the move was defeated with 85 members voting for the motion while Suhrawarddi won with 130 votes.

It was during this debate that it was revealed that both the Congress and Muslim League were divided on communal lines. The Congress speakers blamed the Suhrawarddi Government for the riots while the Muslim League members tried to convey to the Congress that it was the Hindu communalists who started it. However, it must be said that there were some members in both the parties who did not attack any particular community and stressed the importance of keeping harmony. Strangely no leader put the British Imperialists on the dock though it was the rulers who were the main culprits.

I went hammer and tongs against the British rulers and emphasised Hindu-Muslim unity.

CHAPTER VIII: Tebhaga Movement

 The Tebhaga movement was one of the proudest moments in the history of the farmers’ movement in undivided Bengal. Tebhaga, simply put, mean that 2/3rds of the crops tilled by the Baradyas and Adhiyars would have to go to the farmers. The idea was to enact a low to give recognition to this demand. 41% of the farmers, according to the Land & Revenue Commission in 1940 were Baradyas and Adhiyars. In the same year the Commission had agreed that this demand was only in order. A draft bill was been readied and circulated. But this had been swept under the carpet later on. I asked Suhrawarddi as to why this has been done. Suhrawarddi told me that he did not know that we had so many landlords in his party! In other words, he admitted that it was these Zamindars who had forced the Bill to be sabotaged.

The farmers waited for years. When it was realised that the Bill was only a pipedream, it was then decided that the Tebhaga demand would have to take an agitational route. After the Second World War, the farmers took to active struggle. The movement was already taking place in bits and starts in many districts. However in the beginning of 1947, it took the form of an organised movement throughout the State particularly in North Bengal. There was a general awakening in places like Mymensingh, Jalpaiguri, Jessore, Khulna, Rangpur, Dinajpur and 24-parganas. The catchword that went around was; “We want Tebhaga. We will give our lives but not our crop.”

With law and order being the easiest excuse, the Police went on torturing the farmers; firing and lathi charges on peaceful gatherings were the order of the day.

In the early part of 1947, I moved extensively in Mymensingh, Khulna and Jalpaiguri. My report was as an eyewitness.

At least 70 farmers had died because of unjustified police firing,. There was arson by the Police. Even women were not spared.

But this sort of atrocities could not stop the progress of the movement. The movement went ahead even though the police torture grew. I raised the issue four times during the month of March 1947. We had published a number of leaflets about the agitations; detailed repots had also come in from the District Units. My first hand experience during my tours also helped in preparing my speeches.

CHAPTER IX: Independence and Partition

On 15th August 1947 the country was partitioned and two Government were formed in India and Pakistan. Md. Ali Jinnah became the Governor General and Liaqat Ali Khan the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The first Governor General (only for a short time though) of India was Lord Mountbatten. Jawahar Lal nehru became the Prime Minister and Sardar Vallab Vhai Patel the Dy. Prime Minister. The constitution……?. On 26th January 1950, the Constitution of the Independent India was adopted. The first General Election was held during March 1952.

It is important to elucidate the party’s stand on partition. We were against partition nut we did not have the power or the influence to stop it. Though we were regarded as a third force, we were far behind in influence compared to the Congress and the Muslim League. We had no alternative but to accept partition. However the Union Jack have been lowered.

Between 1942 and 1947, our party made major progress and inroads through various agitations. “In 28 Districts, there were 2200 party members in 1942 which grew to 26,000 in 1947 : 14,000 in West Bengal, 12,000 in East Bengal (Source : Saroj Mukherjee in “Three Decades”). Our party wanted to keep the unity of Bengal intact. Suhrawarddi wanted unity too. But he wanted a “Greater Bengal”; we were against this.

Sarat Chandra Basu also raised his voice against partition. As far as I can remember, he was one of those who were the first to sign leaflets against partition. Suhrawarddi and Sarat Basu had together chalked out a formula to avoid partition. But there were differences between then. Even after independence Sarat Babu had continued to speak about a Unified Bengal. The joint formula was rejected by both the Congress and Muslim League.

Suhrawarddi went to live in East Pakistan after partition..

Bengal was partitioned. From 15th August 1947, the Congress took the reins of power in West Bengal. Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh became its first Chief Minister. On 20th June 1947, the last meeting of the Bengal Assembly was held. At this meeting, the partition of Bengal was formalised through voting. It was also decided that Sylhet would be a district in East Pakistan. A referendum was held whether it would be in India of Pakistan. Sylhet went to East Pakistan.

A border commission was set up of to delineate the borders of West Bengal and East Pakistan. The process of partition was complete. Nurul Amin was the first Chief Minister of East Pakistan.

We were forced to accept reality. Both Pakistan and India went wild with the enthusiasm for new found independence. There were festivals and celebrations everywhere. I still remember that on 15th August 1947, the gates of Governor House (now Raj Bhavan) were kept open for all. At the same time at another level, minority refugees were arriving in hordes from East Pakistan. This became a national issue. A total of 35 lakh people came to West Bengal. Subsequently the number increased and the figure went up to around 70 lakhs. Even after 50 years, the Central Government led by the Congress could not solve this problem.

In 1946, shortly after the publication of Dainik Swadhinata, a printing press was set up in our office at Deekers Lane in December. The house has been rented in the name of Snehangshu Acharya.

The party’s 4th conference at the provincial level was held on the roof top of this house. This was after independence. Since the party was growing, a big provincial committee was elected. I was also one of the members. A part of this committee was told to look after the affairs of East Bengal. A part of this committee was asked to look after matters pertaining to East Bengal.

I was still involved in the railway trade union activities and was touring throughout the State. I used to visit the railway union office every day whenever I was in town. After from the railway union, I was also involved with other labour units.

Eight more ministers were taken in by Chief Minister Prafulla Ghosh in his cabinet. They were Dr. S. C. Banerjee, H. C. Naskar, Kamal Krishna Roy, Bhupati Mazumdar. The new legislative assembly had 83 members. Some congress members, who were in the earlier Assembly, had resigned. Their places were taken by new members. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had been earlier elected from the University Centre and was taken into the Central Cabinet. Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was made a member of the assembly. Rupnarayan Roy could not become a member of the new assembly since his constituency fell in East Pakistan. We were left with only two members – Ratanlal Brahman and myself. Those of the Muslim League who remained in West Bengal formed a separate group. While they did not sit in the opposition benches they supported us on many issues. Md. Khuda Bux and Hassam Saheb were two of those. Hassan Saheb was the uncle of our former Stati Law Minister Mansur Habibulla. He was a progressive minded leader. I the new Assembly, there was hardly any presence in the Opposition benches. We, having only two members, were the only active opposition to the Treasury benches.

The first session of the newly formed Legislative assembly sat on 21st November, a full three months after independence. Topmost on the agenda was the selection of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Iswar Das Jalan and Ashutosh Mullick were chosen Speaker and Deputy Speaker without any opposition. Ashutosh Babu continued till 1962 as the Dy. Speaker. He was an extremely lovable man and had a sense of humour.

CHAPTER X: THE WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY

 

On November 21, 1947 before the first session of the legislative assembly, Chief Minister Dr. Profile Chandra Ghosh brought a motion: “The West Bengal Government and the Legislative Assembly, during its inaugural session fecilitate and congratulate all the citizens of the State and pays its respects to those who have given their lives or who have suffered during independent struggle”. The motion was adopted with the consensus and we all stood up to support it. It may be recalled that on the very first day of the session the police of the then Congress government resorted to lathi charge and tear gas. 20 to 25,000 farmers and students at Esplanade East at Calcutta.

Before the elections of the Speaker I said: “Countless farmers from various places were coming to the legislative assembly premises to congratulate us. Unfortunately, the police stopped them at Howrah and Sealdah. The Chief Minister should make a statement on why the police did this?”

We were told that the Police has stopped the farmers rally at Esplanade East near Dacres Lane a place which is now known as Sidu Kanu Dahar. At that the we had not known about the use of tear gas and lathi charge. That gathering had been organised by the Bengal Provincial Krishak Sabha, The Chief Minister’s statement was not at all satisfactory. I walked all the way to Esplanade East. What I say stunned me. The police was arbitrarily using lathi and teargas on thousands of farmers. That was my first experience of what was teargas would like.. I had no idea and my eyes and entire face started burning. I went to Writers Building wiping my face all the way with my handkerchief. Both Chief Minister and Kalibabu were there.

I questioned Prafulla Babu as to why the peaceful gathering was attacked by the police. I also asked them to be present and explain the situation to the fathring. Prafuill babu was a student of chemistry. He gave me a lecture as to how teargas was made.

He also told me that He has to go to Dum Dum and that he can not make it possible to come to Esplanade and he asked Kali Babu to go instead, We moved towards Esplanade in Kalibabu’s car. The atmosphere we tense and everybody around jeered at Kalibabu and rediculed him. I then asked him to return since I thought that the situation may go out of hand. Kalibabu returned. I spoke to the fathering in groups. After sometime they also left. I returned to our Dacres Lane party office, reported the incident and returned home.

I trued to move an adjournment motion on the incident. But could not do so because of lack of quoram.

It was a that on the very first day of assembly started that police attached farmers who came to congratulate the government got lathi-charge and tear-gas in return.

CHAPTER XI: BLACK LAW

In Dr. Ghosh’s chief ministership, the first Black Law that was noticed was that the West Bengal Powers Act which was later rechristened the West Bengal Security Act. Incidently even during the British rule, the Surawardy Government had implemented the Special Powers Ordinance. The purpose behind the law had been to curb the communal powers. But the actual was to subvert the various opposition political parties to put them behind bars and to take away the democratic rights of the people in the name of security. What Shrawardy did in 1946, Dr Ghosh did on 27th November 1947 in the shape of a Bill. This Bill was sent to the Select Committee for consideration.

I opposed this Bill. On 27th November, I told the Assembly that either the Bill should be withdrawn, or our public opinion should be sought. I want “This draconian Bill gives unlimited power to the bureaucracy and the police to check public agitation’s. The Suhrawary Government had also used this Ordinance for the same purpose. The ordinance has stipulated that if the Police feels that if a person or party was acting against the interest of the State’s security that they can be arrested and unlimited powers in the hands of the police in the act.

The Congress Government had also used this ordinance on 8th December 1947. Dr. Ghosh in answer to my query said “Under the ordinance of 1944 Sec, (8) Somendra Nath Tagore had been arrested without trial and he himself has ordered this”. We questioned as to what the charges against them were. The Chief Minister said that according to information with the Government, Tagore and his followers were upset with the security of the State. He also said that this ordinance is in use in various districts and many arrests have already been made or being made. It was this ordinance that the Gosh Government brought forward as a Bill, Despite protests made from Muslim League, Abdul Hassan and others the Bill was sent to the Select Committee. Interestingly Suhrawardy had used the same ordinance the crush the Tebagha movement. The new Bill gave rise to a state wide agitation and all party central team to protect the rights of the citizens we set up by our party. Those who took active part were Sarat Chandra Basu the then Bengal Provincial Marinal Kanti Bose, Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, Congress leader Khitish Prasad Chatterjee and the leadership of our party.

The meetings of these committee were held regularly at either at the house of Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee or Sarat Chand Bose. Meetings and processions were held throughout the city. I still remember it was held at Shradhananda Park. This meeting was presided by ………and the speakers were ……..and others. Perhaps this was the first Black Law initiated in the Independent India. The Congress Government panicked and started acting fearsly to protect the law.

10th December 1947 still remain a Black day in West Bengal’s his troy. A huge -gather including students had gathered outside the legislative assembly asking for withdrawal of the Bill. Police first used lathis and then used teargas, Finally with no way out they resorted to unprovoked firing. A WAC cadet Sisir Mandal died in the firing Manu were hurt in the lathi charge. This was the first police firing on a fathering by the first Congress government in West Bengal in Independent India and the first murder was of Mandal. I was the eye witness. I find the gate on the morning of 10th December.. A student friend of the High Court watched hell that was being established.

The police was carrying not only lathis but revolvers and other lethal weapons. I saw for myself and the gathering faced the lathi charge. I went upto first floor and watched from there. There was tear gas. The mounted police was chasing the people. Two young girls were hurt so were some boys. Not a single minister could be seen around. Everybody knew that it were they who had egged on the police. The situation continued to deteriote. Continuously the people got provoked and started brick batting the police. The police retaliated in the same fashion. I repeat, I was eye witness to this. The people …….helper skeletal. The police then went to a shooting spree. There still remains no doubt in me that this was the unprovoked firing and we all saw how were hurt and how.

One barrister was coming down from the Solicitor’s chamber. He was fired at too.

Mondal was sitting in his WAC car. The police murdered him. incidentally Mondal was sitting in an ambulance, the barbaric police did not even …..the Red Cross. The area was tense till the evening. Later on peaceful protest continued in front of the assembly.

We decided to raise this issue of police atrocities inside the Legislative Assembly. The next day we moved an adjournment motion and the speaker allowed nobody opposed the motion. The debate started after the afternoon recess. However a Congress member Nihanredu Dutta Mazumdar suddenly opposed it and made a total anti communist out of character speech. Dissidents have always taken this sort of an extreme attitude. Abdul Hassan the Muslim League supported my motion and made a forceful speech. The Chief Minister Dr. Ghoush in answer said that such a law was needed to check violence of any kind. Most probably he might have been referring, likes of Sarat Chandra Bose,

There was no votes on the motion. Since the allotted time period of two hours was over.

In December 1947 after an acrimonus debate in the assembly, the bill was passed and made into a law. It was valid till March 1967. When the United Front Government came to power this law was scrapped. When Suhrawardy has introduced this ordinance we were told that it was necessary to bring down the incidents of goondaism and check rioters. However while some goonds were arrested the main idea behind the ordinary the ordinance to stem the agitation by labours, farmers and the middle class workers. The Tebagha movement suffered some because of this ordinance and many of the movement leaders were behind jail which cried hoarse against this. Many Congress as well as Muslim League workers also joined us in ……… against this black law. In the face of this Suhrawady did not have the guts to transform the bill when the ordinance had not withdrawn it either,

Strangely the very same Congress leaders who had agitated against Suhrawardy government was trying to pass on Dr Ghosh’s bill as valid in three months after Dr Ghosh took over this ordinary was used against many of us as well as other political leaders. Dr Ghosh had falsely promised that the ordnance would not be used against justified labour movement. This ordinance was used to arrest Debnath Das (INA) B V Maj. Satya Gupta S Juber and Dwarka Nath Mitra and labour leader Manoranjan Hazra and led an agitation at Brooke Bond factory and Sree Durga Cotton Mill. They were arrested and residences were raided without any warrants. Ladies of the households were also harassed by the police, Hundreds of those goondas who have been arrested by the Suhrawardy government were released by the Congress leadership. The Congress Party Muslim League a part of the Congress and eminent citizens were against the bill. On 27th November 1947 it was introduced in the assembly. Both of us Communist MLAs were left out when Select Committee through the 11 member list proposed by the opposition Muslim Leae member Md Mkhda Buix had my name in it. Naturally the Government did Like this list.

Names that Dr Ghosh proposed had 8 Congress members, one Anglo-Indian and 2 Muslim League nominees. After discussions with the party membersip, I proposed a movement saying that the Bill should be circulated for public opinion on 5th January 1948, despite major opposition from us the Congress government proposed the Bill for consideration and adoption in the Assembly.

Widespread movement throughout not only in Calcutta but entire West Bengal, processions and rallies were routine. Total 92,000 members struck work on the day the Bill came up for discussion. The strike was total in Budrawn and many Congress members and workers also participated. The Congress leadership wanted the strike to fail and it even brought goondas to foil it. Revolvers, Knives and lathis were used freely against the peaceful processions. The Congress volunteers were held by the police everywhere. On the other hand some of our Union offices were subject to arson. According to my estimate more than a lack of farmers and students participate against the bill. In fact the discussions were on in the assembly protest meetings and rallies continued outside. We are proud that the Communist party played a significant role in opposing that bill. The party had asked me to introduce all the amendments to the various clauses of the Bill in the assembly. I proposed many amendments and spoke for them. I made almost 60 speeches and asked fox voting on atlast 60 amendments. There were some amendments against Ratanlal Brahman too. The members of the Muslim League supported many of my proposals did not kept silent too, but on the -whole they opposed the Bill. There were many cases when only two votes were cast on my amendments; Brahmans and mine. Discussions on the bill began on 14th January ending 15th January. On that day the Bill became law with voting pattern of 46-12 The Congress Government had hoped that they would get the bill passed in two days but actually it took 10 full days.

Most to the Congress members did not participate in the debate except…..?Dutta Mazumdar. Nobodyelse spew venom against the Communist Party.

What Dutta Mazumdar had to say went something like this: “The Communist Party were given the anrchy and such a law was necessary to counter that. The Congress member Binod Kumar Sinha did not utter a single word against the Communist. In fact he admitted that the Bill would do more harm than good. But that it was a necessity in the given situation. He did not explain what this abnormal situation could be” On the last day of the debate, Ratanlal Brahman spoke that the Bill was totally against the labour force.

Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel had come to Calcutta a few days before the debate on the Bill started. He was brought to stem the dissidents among some Congress workers against the Bill. Patel addressed many meetings in the city and elsewhere.

The Congress Government could not face the bill down West Bengal’s throat. The Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehtu had said that in places like U.P. and Bombay this sort of law was already enforced.

I have told the assembly “Our party, all the left and democratic forces are against this Bill and I speak for these forces. I am given to understand that Sardar Patel has been brought in to throttle the voices of those dissident forces within the Congress who are against this Bill” It is to the credit of Bengal that this Bill was not passed without protest. Bengal had a pioneer. It was we leftists who were trying to keep the toruch alight/

On the last day of the debate I categorically said the rights of the freedom loving citizens have been murdered today because the Congress Government has stopped advertisements to the Bengal Provincial Committee daily mouthpiece Swadhinata because it has criticised the policies. I added that our struggle against the Black Laws has not ended and that this experience and suffering has only helped to inspirit the people.

Barristers like Bhupesh Gupta and others helped me and others in organising the amendment proposal on the Bill. In fact Bhupesh helped me out on my speeches and made out the various points. That our warnings and apprehensions about the Bill came true was proved later. Between 1948 and 1956 thousands of workers were arrested in the same timn.

After the Bill was passed the Assembly went into recess indefinitely. Soon after this Dr Ghosh’s Government was ousted and Dr B C Roy became the new Chief Minister. The new Home Minister was Kiran Shankar Roy and Finance Portfolio is handled by Nalini Ranjan Sarkar. A new chapter has come in West Bengal’s political history. I was later told that it was Gandhi’s wish that Dr Roy become the new Chief Minister and Dr Ghosh had to go. In February 19481 began the Budget session. I do not remember the exact date. One morning on only Dr Roy suddenly came over to my seat in the Assembly and said: “I know you are Dr N K Basu’s son Dr Basu was a good friend of mine. But let me tell you one thing, these amendments ……..they want ……….”. He was obviously referring to the numerous amendments proposed to the draconian Bill. Another day, another time. I have already said that we were tenants at NRS Sarkar Hindustan Insurance Building for a long time. We had got no difference there. In the Assembly Dr Sarkar attacked on a personal level. I countered by saying:” Entire West Bengal know everything about you”.

Yet another day. Manikuntala Sen and some other leaders came to Writers Building in a procession with some demands that the Women’s defence committee. Police did not allow the procession to come. I was present at that time. The women stood outside and raised slogans. I tried my best that Kiran Shankar Roy talks with the delegation.

When I was searching for Kiran Babu, Dr Sarkar fetched for me. He told me “I; had a fight with the ……other day. I know your family well enough. Don’t think anything to heart”

Kiran Shankar Roy called me. I told him that he should come out and talk to the women. He replied: “It is useless talking to women. They will not understand logic. Ask them to give their demands in writing and I shall look into it” I conveyed this to the delegates and the women left.