Members of the All India Students Association and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) — Liberation (CPIML) gathered in central Kolkata on August 5 to mark 52 years since the party's West Bengal State Secretary Saroj Dutta was murdered.
Dutta was one of the founding members of the CPIML and was part of the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal. He was active in politics until his disappearance at the age of 57, following his arrest. He is presumed to have been killed by police.
Chants of “Inquilab Zindabad!” (Long live revolution!) rang out as attendees placed wreaths beneath a statue of Dutta. Activists paid tribute to him in speeches and songs.
Green Left spoke to Atanu Chakravarty, state committee member of CPIML West Bengal, about Dutta’s legacy.
“Saroj Dutta was brutally annihilated by the state police of West Bengal,” said Chakravarty.
“He was a very famous revolutionary communist poet, a prolific writer, a leader of the CPIML. He was popular among the intellectuals, among the students, the youth and radicals [and] his writings inspired students and youth to join the revolutionary movement."
For this, Dutta was targeted by the state.
Chakravarty said that at the time of his arrest and murder, the CPIML was underground, functioning in secret to avoid repression. The party's website describes how police hunted him “like a hungry wolf”.
“Ultimately, the police nabbed Dutta and took him to Maidan," Chakravarty said. "[He] was shot at point blank range and police beheaded him and his head was buried … Until now, according to police records, Saroj Dutta is ‘missing’.”
After Dutta’s murder, police began a campaign of intense repression of CPIML members and other revolutionary activists.
“Police had a free hand to arrest or murder anyone who was involved in our party or the revolutionary movement," Chakravarty said.
“CPIML was the only party to call for seizure of politcal power and armed struggle, that’s why the state did not tolerate this revolutionary uprising … and began to arrest, torture and kill thousands and thousands of revolutionaries.”
Chakravarty said activists are still inspired by Dutta's dedication and draw lessons from his writings and activism in their struggle against the Narendra Modi government.
"Since Modi came to power, all democratic institutions have been strangulated. There are no democratic rights and those who dare to speak against the central government are arrested on false charges," Chakravarty said.
“Our constitution is also endangered, the concept and idea of India is also endangered, secularism is endangered and they have launched a fascist attack on minorities, especially the Muslim population, the marginalised, workers [and] the common people.
“We must oust Modi at the coming election [in 2024].”