Comrade Ranjit Dhar devoted his entire life to firmly uphold the cause of the working class : Comrade Provash Ghosh at the Memorial Meeting
[This is the text of the speech delivered in Bengali by Comrade Provash Ghosh, General Secretary, SUCI(C), at the Memorial Meeting of Comrade Ranjit Dhar, veteran Polit Bureau Member of the Party, held on 21 June 2019, at Sarat Sadan, Howrah, West Bengal. Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya, Polit Bureau Member, presided over. In his speech, Comrade Provash Ghosh highlighted the various educative aspects of the life struggle of this life-long revolutionary. Before publication, Comrade Provash Ghosh has elaborated a few points. For translation error or incorrect expression, if any, the Editorial Board of Proletarian Era stands responsible.]
Comrade President and Comrades,
You are aware that we organize memorial meetings of our departed leaders and workers with the objective of drawing necessary lessons from their life struggle and qualities and as to how far we can dedicate ourselves in the struggle for filling up the void created by their demise. Our junior comrades naturally desire that I should live for many more number of years to order to carry on the revolutionary activities. I too want that. But a prolonged life has a painful side as well. I am to bear with the pain and grief caused by the death of many leaders, revolutionary compatriots and junior comrades as well as untimely demise of many comrades and those courting martyrdom. This is extremely heart-rending. In this very hall, memorial meetings of Comrades Pranati Bhattacharyya and C K Lukose were organized in recent period. On both the occasions, I had to speak. Again today, I am to speak on a similar occasion.
How was Comrade Ranjit Dhar initiated into the Party
I have worked with Comrade Ranjit Dhar for around 69 years. During this long period, we had to go through many arduous and complex struggles, many adverse situations and faced many obstacles. It is very difficult for me at this moment to place before you in an orderly manner the various lessons from his revolutionary life struggle.
At the outset, I would like to say that whoever among us might have whatsoever qualities, capabilities and competence, it needs to be understood how far of those are our own achievements and how much, for all these, we are indebted to Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, our great leader and teacher. It was he who inspired us to accept the proletarian revolutionary ideology, initiated us into this revolutionary struggle and honourable revolutionary life and reared and steered us with utmost care and affection. This has to be kept in mind. I think all of us would admit that unless we had come in contact with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, we would have been lost in the midst of the crowd.
The first batch of the central leadership of the Party comprised Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, the leader of the leaders and Comrades Nihar Mukherjee, Sachin Banerjee, Subodh Banerjee, Pritish Chanda and Hiren Sarkar. Comrades Ashutosh Banerji, Sukomal Dasgupta, Tapas Dutta, Anil Sen, Amriteswar Chakraborty, Sitesh Dasgupta, Sanat Dutta and Yakub Pailan constituted the second batch of leadership. All of them have passed away. We belong to the third batch. Among us, Comrade Ranjit Dhar was the senior most while Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya is the junior most in age. We are all products of a particular period. That period was the last phase of the glorious freedom struggle of India. In our childhood and during our teenage and youth, the pioneers of Indian Renaissance, the valiant freedom fighters and the great martyrs were remembered with honour and respect in schools, colleges and middle-class families. Their life and struggle were subject matters of discussion. Alongside, we were inspired by the impact of the international communist movement and the names of great Stalin and Mao Zedong. Besides, there was a cultivation of higher values and morality in our family lives as well as the society. We all were schooled in the warmth and fervour of such a social environment. At that time, there was one social trend to take part in active politics. Among the three of us present here (meaning Comrades Provash Ghosh, Manik Mukherjee and Asit Bhattacharyya—Ed. P. Era), I was attracted towards communism before joining the Party. At that point of time, I was not in the stage of any in-depth realization. Still, in course of moving with the desire of being a political activist and carrying a dream of becoming a communist, I became associated with this great Party. When I had contacted Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya, his entire family was connected with the undivided CPI. He was also being influenced by that. Comrade Manik Mukherjee is the cousin of Comrade Nihar Mukherjee. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to visit their house. This left its impact on him. But Comrade Ranjit Dhar belonged to a different stream of life. That stream was one of taking part in social activities with respect for politics. To rush to help others who were in distress, to stand by them in their difficulties and hours of trouble and to nurse the sick—such were the hallmark of that particular stream or trend. Comrade Ranjit Dhar was associated with such social activities. And from there, he came in contact with the Party. The comrade who linked him with the Party could not remain active for long. But, because of the effort of that comrade, the Party could get a valuable comrade with immense potential and possibilities like Comrade Ranjit Dhar.
In this connection, I want to say another thing. Nowadays, many of our leaders and workers lack the self-initiative in finding new contacts. At the time we joined the Party, we all tried utmost to influence our acquaintances, contacts, connections, relatives, friends and even someone we came across in the streets or tea stalls, by the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. We were then a handful in number. We used to consider each and every contact as immensely valuable. Today, many of our workers lose many potential contacts out of negligence. It cannot be said beforehand who would develop in what way and to what extent, if associated with appropriate leadership. That is why, every contact needs to be nurtured with care. For example, the comrade whose name has been mentioned in the condolence resolution could not remain active for long. But he linked Comrade Ranjit Dhar with the Party. I also respectfully remember the comrade who first took me to Comrade Shibdas Ghosh and made me acquainted with him. Otherwise, I would have been carried away by the current of conventional life. This notable endeavour of the then comrades is the first thing I would like to draw your attention to.
Ranjitda had a distinctly different background from us. Right from childhood, we all grew up in a well-disciplined family life under care and affection of our parents and elders. Thereafter, as was the case with me, we left our families for working full time for the Party. My family members were against my participation in politics. But I was determined to join politics. In the family of Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya, there was a conflict centring his association with the SUCI(C). Later he himself left his family for shouldering Party responsibilities. So he was not driven out by his family for joining the Party. Comrade Manik Mukherjee also did not have to face expulsion from the family. He started living in the Party centre from a very young age. But in the life of Comrade Ranjit Dhar, there was a void. His mother was a mental patient. Father was a lawyer and hardly looked after the family. So, Comrade Ranjit Dhar’s life was a kind of disorganized and disorderly one. I have heard from him only that he had no one to look after his food, clothing and education in his family life. In such a condition, his father sent him from his ancestral village in Mymensingh district of the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to Kolkata before partition so that he could somehow fend for himself. More or less, such was his early life. All details are not known to me. Just as one floats in the current of a river in a directionless manner, he wandered about here and there for some period and then finally got settled in the Kalighat area of South Kolkata. But being settled in Kalighat area did not mean he had any permanent place to stay. There was one Kali photo studio by the side of Ujjwala cinema house in Kalighat. I first saw him there. He used to spend his nights on a bench kept outside that photo studio. Sometimes, he used to sleep in this or that room in the slum areas. So disorganized was his life. He found a job in a press. ‘Job’ meant his duty was to carry bundles of papers from one place to another like a porter. He also worked as a waiter in a small restaurant and even cleaned utensils there. Subsequently, he got the job of a tutor in a house. Against giving tuition to the kids, he used to get two meals a day. He used to take bath under a roadside tap near Ujjwala cinema. But he had a wide acquaintance and connections in the locality. Nursing patients, taking the diseased to the hospital, rushing to help anyone in his or her difficulties or distress—such kind of social activities he was engaged in. Most probably, he came in contact with the Party a few months before me. I also used to go to meet him occasionally. Those were the days when I also had to go starving. It was like this that I went to him one morning after starving all through the previous day. He could make that out from my face. There was a canteen inside Ujjwala cinema house. Whatever little food in that canteen remained as surplus on a night was shared by us in the next morning. I was a bit shy. Many a time, even if I was hungry, I avoided going there. But sometimes, driven by extreme hunger, I was compelled to go there.
In the vortex of movement
Those days, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to conduct study classes with 15 or 20 people like us. Ranjitda also used to attend those classes. We were spellbound by the discussions of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Though we did not understand everything with that clarity, we used to feel a warmth. At that time, many mass movements were taking place. Both Ranjitda and I got arrested during the anti-tram fare rise movement in 1953 and were together in the jail. He also participated in the teachers’ movement of 1954. During that time, while being in the Alipore jail of Kolkata, I was down with high fever, became senseless and had to be admitted in the jail hospital. All through, Ranjitda sat by my side and nursed me. This habit of nursing I had noticed in him at that time.
During the historic food movement of West Bengal in 1959, he drafted a handbill on behalf of the Party. That handbill had created a tremendous impact. The police came to our Party office to seize the handbills. Late Comrade Durga Guha, our the then office secretary, was the publisher of that handbill. So the police took him into custody.
While this was one side, he had another side too. Sometimes we were not having any contact with him. He used to go away here and there on some social activity of his locality. We needed to search him out. The trend of his early life used to work in him at times. He had to be found out. Sometimes, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to send Comrade Manik Mukherjee to bring Ranjitda to him.
Shouldering of higher responsibilities
When I was the West Bengal State Secretary of AIDSO, Ranjitda was the first Kolkata District Secretary of AIDSO. But he was not in that responsibility for long. He was given different assignment by the Party. Later, I was inducted in the West Bengal State Committee of the Party. Within a few days, he also became a State Committee member. When I was elected West Bengal State Secretary of the Party, he became a member of the State Secretariat. After a long time, when I was elected as the General Secretary of the Party, he became member of the Central Committee and Polit Bureau. He was six to seven years older than me. The respect he deserved as the eldest member was given to him by me and all of us. Though I was younger to him in age, I had no problem in working with him. He reposed enough confidence in my judgment and style of work. I had seen him performing some extremely difficult tasks earlier. When Comrade Sukomal Dasgupta was the West Bengal State Secretary, he himself used to look after the Party work in Purulia and three North Bengal districts. Sukomalda had to work as a college professor to meet the financial needs of the Party. The salary he got was extremely needed for defraying Party expenses at that time. When Sukomalda could not go to the aforesaid four districts because of his other assignments, Comrade Ranjit Dhar frequently visited Purulia, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar districts, conducted meetings and classes there. I have worked together with Comrades Ranjit Dhar, Krishna Chakraborty, Sitesh Dasgupta, Gayatri Dasgupta and Badsha Khan during the elections in Birbhum district from 1962 to 1972. Each of us was assigned the responsibility of a particular area. None of us had any means to arrange for our food and shelter. Later Comrade Gopal Kundu also joined us. Comrade Sadhana Chowdhury also came there in 1967. Thereafter, in the 1980s, I was in charge of conducting elections in Joynagar and Kultali constituencies of South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal while Comrade Ranjit Dhar was given the task of overseeing election work in adjacent Mathurapur and Mandirbazar assembly segments of the same district. We worked together and exchanged experiences. In course of that, I got the opportunity to know him more intimately and intensely.
A big change took place in the life of Comrade Ranjit Dhar when he came in close contact with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh was immensely impressed by his writing ability. Here, another aspect of Ranjida’s life needs to be mentioned. That time, a community Durga puja organized by a club named ‘Sanghasree’ in Kalighat area became very famous. The club was dominated by the Congressites. But Ranjitda was made the secretary of the puja committee. The Club authorities knew well that Ranjitda was a non-believer. But what prompted the unanimous selection of him as secretary was his impeccable honesty and outstanding organizing capacity. He used to write in the magazine published by that club. From there, he started developing his pen. On being elected in the students’ union of Shyamaprasad College, he was made the magazine secretary. There also, he got scope to sharpen his writing ability. He also occasionally wrote in Ganadabi, the Bengali organ of the Party. When he first contested in the municipality election from Kalighat, he lost by a thin margin. On the one side was the mighty Congress and on the other side the CPI (M). We were the third force. But in the next election, he won comfortably. In both these elections, I was assigned the responsibility of overall supervision. At that time, there was not that much influence of our Party. But Comrade Ranjit Dhar had a tremendous pull among the masses of Kalighat area. Because of that, the youth of the locality actively worked to make him victorious. Apart from that, AIDSO then controlled students’ unions in Ashutosh College, Jogmaya Devi College and Charuchandra College, all located in South Kolkata. We also had work in other colleges. These factors also worked in his election. After winning the municipality election and becoming a councillor, Ranjitda became chairman of the Town Planning Committee of Kolkata. Because of his commendable role as the chairman of that Committee, he earned respect from all. His style of functioning, dedication, honesty, sense of responsibility and such other admirable qualities became a subject matter of discussion among all other parties as well as the independent councillors. In all these fields, he left an indelible imprint of his character and sense of responsibility.
How Comrade Shibdas Ghosh developed the comrades
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, the great Marxist thinker, also had extraordinary organizing ability. Just think, in what adverse a situation he, with firm resolve, founded this Party along with a handful of his revolutionary compatriots. The Party has grown so big today based on his teachings only. He concretely understood the specific qualities and capacities of each comrade and then developed them accordingly. Thus, he showed high level of prudence and extraordinary skill in developing Party organization as well as the individual comrades. The way he nurtured Comrade Manik Mukherjee, was not followed by him in my case. Similarly, he reared Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya in a different manner. Likewise, he developed Comrade Ranjit Dhar through another process. He studied the particular qualities of each of the comrades and applied appropriate process to develop each one. Now, let me talk of myself. At the initial stage, he did not place me under any leader. He himself also never gave me any instruction about work. Initially, I was a bit hurt presuming that he had not that much of interest in me. Later I understood that he was observing everything of my activities. Not only about me, he kept himself informed about almost all the comrades, whether of any distant village or of any different state and guided them suitably. But why was I an exception? Later, I could understand that whatever might have been my standard, I had the ability to work with utmost devotion and I had a habit right from the beginning to work with self-initiative. Comrade Ghosh noticed that and did not want to disturb that. Even he allowed me to commit mistakes so that I could learn from those mistakes. Once I was mentally devastated after committing a serious mistake. But he did not criticize me at all for that. Rather, he drew me near him affectionately and inspired me with his living association. In course of this, I became more active in building up AIDSO. Later, I also learnt certain other things from the experience of undertaking field work. But , on the other hand, because of my poor theoretical knowledge, unknowingly there developed in me a typical practice of taking initiatives based on exclusive individual thinking and acting accordingly which hinders the spirit of collectivism. Being concerned at that, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh tried to free me from my mistakes. He even scolded me. That was the first time I was rebuked by him. Since I was not mature enough to bear with such a reprimand, I burst into tears and told him: “You do not love me anymore.” What he told me in reply is still ingrained in my heart. He said: “You have seen how much I scold Comrades Nihar Mukherjee, Sachin Banerjee or Subodh Banerjee for slightest of mistakes. The day I will not scold you will be the day I would cease to have any confidence in you.” This comment of his haunts me even today. At each and every step of my journey along the path of revolution, I always introspect whether I pay due honour to the confidence he reposed on me. That is why, I was saying that not only me, he used to study each and every comrade concretely and then sought to develop them accordingly. Now, let me come back to the life struggle of Ranjitda.
Ranjitda had a very powerful pen
We used to address Comrade Ranjit Dhar as Ranjitda meaning elder brother. So that is what comes out of my mouth every time I refer to him. He was known in the entire Party as Ranjitda among the juniors. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh could understand that Ranjitda did not receive any care, attention or affection from his family right from his childhood. Besides realizing that Ranjitda carried within himself a feeling of deprivation in that regard, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh was also deeply impressed by his writing skill. Based on these two things, Comrade Ghosh drew him near and developed him with utmost care.
Many of you are not aware of another aspect of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. I had never seen him writing anything. Perhaps the essay Self-criticism of the Communist Camp written way back in 1948 was penned by him. At that time, he himself had to write a few articles or pamphlets. All communist leaders of the world mostly read out written speeches or wrote books themselves. All their speeches and works are invaluable to every communist. But, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh preferred to discuss any subject extempore in the meetings or in the political classes—whether it was a complex philosophical question, a complicated political issue, a difficult organizational problem or art-literature. It was an amazing quality of his. It appears to me that his thoughts moved and developed very fast. We could notice that when he delivered speeches or held discussions. Perhaps that speed would have been hampered in its flow if he tried to express his thoughts in black and white. Writing consumes more time than speaking. To write with the speed that could keep pace with the speed of his thinking might have posed problem to him. Most probably, for that reason, he preferred not to write, but discuss verbally. Only a few of his many important discussions during the earlier days of the Party when we were mostly in the stage of not being able to comprehend everything, are preserved in the form of some written notes. There is no record of most of such discussions. All are lost. A friend of one of our Party comrades from Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal brought a tape recorder from USA. With that, we could record his speech on ‘Marxism and Development of Human Society’ delivered in 1959. Thereafter, we had no means to record his speeches or discussions. In 1967, the Party could afford to buy a tape recorder. Whatever of his speeches and discussions could be recorded were from then onwards only. Many of the veteran comrades who held in their memory the valuable discourses of Comrade Ghosh prior to 1967 are no more alive. There is no record of those either. It has been a great loss to history. I want to specifically recall the highly commendable role played by Ranjitda in editing Comrade Ghosh’s speeches. By editing I mean that Ranjitda used to record the speeches of Comrade Ghosh in cassettes. Then he used to transcribe those speeches from the cassettes and read out to Comrade Ghosh. Comrade Ghosh at times changed some words or sentences. Sometimes, he added new points. Before publication of every edition, he used to revise and improve his writings and works. Saratchandra, the great litterateur, also followed the same practice to make his writings more penetrating and decisive. Comrade Ghosh never gave dictations. He used to speak out the new points or improvements. Ranjitda used to listen or take note. Then he tried to write those down maintaining the spirit and language of Comrade Ghosh. How difficult the task was! Ranjitda’s ability, dedication and patience in this regard was extremely praiseworthy. He used to bring those edited writings and read them out to Comrade Ghosh. Comrade Ghosh examined whether all the points had been correctly brought out or not. Sometimes he suggested further changes or revisions. Again Ranjitda prepared new drafts incorporating those new points and suggestions. Thereafter, Comrade Ghosh approved the drafts for printing. Sometimes, it was done expeditiously. Sometimes, it used to be a lengthy exercise. For example, the celebrated work of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh titled Why SUCI (C) is the only genuine Communist Party in India is an invaluable contribution in the treasurehouse of Marxism. This work is based on a discussion of his in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, in 1967. This speech would have also been lost had not Comrade Krishna Chakraborty been present there. Comrade Chakraborty had a very sharp memory. I delivered a speech on education, culture and morality in 1965. Comrade Krishna Chakraborty noted it down and showed it to me. I edited it and then it was published. There was not much of theory in my speech. But the aforesaid speech of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh contained extremely valuable theoretical inputs and enriched thoughts. How to build up a communist party, what are the characteristics of a revolutionary party, how democratic centralism can be developed, what is collective leadership, what is the concrete expression of collective leadership, what is proletarian culture—all such immensely valuable questions were discussed in that speech. Comrade Krishna Chakraborty gave his notes to Comrade Ghosh. Had he not given those notes, the magnificent work of Comrade Ghosh would have remained unpublished. Then Comrade Ghosh involved Ranjitda in improving that note with addition of many new points based on a series of discussions with him. This exercise of enriching that speech went on for quite a long period. This job of editing Comrade Ghosh’s works could not be accomplished with mere command over language. Along with that command, what was imperative was how one could grasp the essence of the discussion. This arduous task of assimilating the essence of the discussions and then expressing it in an appropriate lingual form was ably shouldered by Ranjitda. And Comrade Ghosh made it more comprehensive and flawless. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to say: “You might have been impressed by my speech delivered yesterday. But I am not satisfied. It needs to be improved further.” Even a word, an expression was so important to him. In this way, Comrade Ranjit Dhar worked with our great leader and teacher. Comrade Ranjit Dhar had performed such a role in publication of all the works of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh from 1967 to 1976. For this commendable role, the entire Party must remember him with due gratitude. Again, once Ranjitda had close association of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, he, to a great extent, could free himself from the same sort of lack of system in life style which grew in him because of the nature of his childhood grooming. On some days, someone might have sent good fish to the commune. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh used to search for Ranjitda and affectionately shared the food with him.
Living association of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh
Many of you might think that Comrade Shibdas Ghosh always used to be immersed in deep thought with a hand on his cheek. He was absolutely not like that. He was a very lively personality in all respects. He used to chat with all, play carrom, chess and cards. Comrades Sachin Banerjee, Moni Chatterjee and Rabi Bose were his partners in the game of cards. Sometimes, Ranjitda also joined. But these were not just games. In course of taking part in such games, he used to change the comrades and develop them. He liked listening to classical music, both vocal and instrumental, and preferred to hear old day songs. He had immense interest in sports, drama and cinema. He was an ardent reader of literature. While reading the works of Saratchandra, his voice used to get choked in emotion. The Marxist interpretations he provided about such literary works attracted one and all. Apart from the great leaders of world communist movement, he used to discuss about the life and struggle of the great men of the past, the founders of various religions, pioneers of renaissance, the leading lights of bourgeois democratic revolution of the west and the revered personalities as well as the brave martyrs of our country. He himself learnt many things from these great men and also inspired us to draw necessary lessons from their lives. He used to say that he learnt from each and everyone, even from a pavement dweller. He also advised us to learn from the qualities of the leaders and cadres of other parties. He thoroughly disliked any offensive or derogatory remark about any leader of any other party. His criticisms of others were totally based on logic and reason. Every evening, he used to come to the Party office, sit with the comrades and discussed various subjects with them. All these informal discussions were enormously valuable and educative. All the comrades who listened to him were so fascinated and involved that they hardly noticed how evening hours rolled into night. I also listened to such discussions on a few occasions, gathered valuable lessons and became invigorated. Many of the comrades including Ranjitda were immensely benefitted by such discussions. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh also considered those who came to meet him from the families of common workers and peasants as his near and dear ones. With that mind, he talked with them and cast deep imprint on them. Similar was the case with the parents of the comrades. He also mixed with the children with ease and loved playing with them. Once a child was crying because he was repeatedly losing in the game of carrom he was playing with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. I requested Comrade Ghosh to make him a winner once. But Comrade Ghosh told me: “No. Let him struggle to win after facing one after another defeat. It would firm up his resolve and persistence.” Likewise, Comrade Ghosh imparted education to us even over small things.
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh made every effort to develop Ranjitda with intimate association and guidance. This played a significant role in the elevation of the standard of Ranjitda. Suppose there was no one in the room but the light was on. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh became vexed at such things. He used to say that such negligence increases Party expenses. When he was sick, Ranjitda was helping him in taking bath with soap. He advised Ranjitda not to rub the soap on his body but to first create enough foam in a pot. In that case, he said, less soap would be consumed and public money would not be wasted. He also rebuked the comrades if he found that water was spilling over from a bucket placed under the tap. He pointed out that by such wastage of water, the labour which the workers were putting in to produce and supply water was being misused. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had a watchful eye even over such small things and imparted necessary education. All these I heard from Ranjitda.
I have already told you that mine was a different life. Comrade Manik Mukherjee lived with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh for a long period. When Comrade Asit Bhattacharyya used to come to Kolkata, he also stayed with him. Only once, I had the opportunity to spend a full day and night with him at Suri in Birbhum district of West Bengal. I used to go to him when I needed his guidance. He also used to call me sometimes , whenever he felt such necessity. In the evening, when I used to go to the Party office, I always found him talking or giving guidance to some comrades. At that time, I was suffering from acute asthma and so I could not stay in a closed room for much time. In spite of that, I tried to listen to what he was saying. That time I was fully absorbed in imbuing any boy or girl student with the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh and build up students’ organization in every school or college based on his thoughts. So, most of the time, I remained outside Kolkata. As a result of that, I missed many of his important discussions. This unremitting pain continues to haunt my mind till today. It does not mean that whatever little I have learnt has been learnt automatically. What little qualities I have been able to acquire are all based on his teachings and thoughts. I have tried to take those teachings within me and still continue to do that. It did not matter whether I stayed away from him or came nearer to him. I always tried to attentively and meticulously observe and learn how he applied Marxist methodology to analyse any issue or phenomenon or subject, how he handled the organizational problems and how he tackled the problem of any individual comrade. If I failed to understand anything, I asked him straightaway. Sometimes, being unable to understand a particular matter, I entered into an argument with him also. But he patiently listened to me and then pointed out my mistake or incorrectness of understanding. It was his practice to allow the comrades to argue freely and with an open mind. This he followed in respect to all comrades. At the same time, if he found that any junior comrade was raising a correct point, he immediately accepted that. However, I have never seen Ranjitda argue with him. But I could make out that he attentively listened to all the discussions of Comrade Ghosh and received necessary education. Once again I say, Ranjitda played a commendable role in the publication of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh’s works. And in one sense, we all are indebted to him for that.
Ranjitda was found on the bedside of every ailing comrade and engaged in nursing them
On another occasion, he played a laudable role. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh fell seriously ill in 1972 due to a viral infection and became paralytic. Except brain, heart and lungs, all other organs were malfunctioning. Comrade Ghosh presumed that he would not live anymore. So, he thought spending money on his treatment would be a wastage of Party fund. He said he would like to breathe his last in the Party commune among the Party comrades. At that time, the Party decided collectively that he would be admitted to a nursing home. He was conveyed that decision of the Party. Here also, I like to mention another invaluable teaching Comrade Ghosh provided to us even at that critical hour. He was the Founder and General Secretary of the Party, leader of all leaders and teacher of all. He thought that since he would not survive, spending more on his treatment would be a wastage of public money. But the moment he heard that it was the decision of the Party to take him to a nursing home, he did not utter a single word anymore. He himself taught us the ethics that Party decision has to be abided by. He himself set an example of that. He told the doctors of the nursing home that, as medical experts, they would understand the criticality of his health condition and hence convince the comrades who were driven by emotion and, hence going for an expensive treatment. The doctors sought from him 72 hours of time to decide on that. Comrade Ghosh was then in such a condition that he could not move even a single finger, could not do anything on his own. He had severe pain all over the body. So serious and worrying was his ailment. At that time, Ranjitda nursed him day and night. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh narrated one incident to us. One day, Comrade Ghosh asked Ranjitda in the nursing home why were we all making so much of effort and wasting so much of Party fund? Ranjitda burst into tears. He told Comrade Ghosh: “If you leave us, how shall we all survive?” Comrade Ghosh later told us that the tears of Ranjitda had prevented him from saying anything further. Then, he was released from the nursing home. Ranjitda did everything from nursing to taking care of all his other requirement even by passing sleepless nights day after day. There was no nurse appointed from outside. The doctors said that he would need three years to recover. Comrade Ghosh decided that he would make endeavour to reduce that time to one year. At that time, the Party had purchased a car for the first time out of donations pooled from the comrades. Ranjitda and Comrade Sunil Pal used to take him to Kolkata Maidan in that car for walking. Comrade Ghosh was unable to even put his feet on the ground. He used to tremble and perspire profusely if he tried to walk even two steps. Ranjitda and Comrade Sunil Pal held him from both the sides so that he did not fall down. Thus Ranjitda made earnest effort to bring him back to normal as early as possible. Despite giving such a tireless service to keep Comrade Ghosh alive and active, no one found any sign of fatigue or exhaustion on Ranjitda’s face. By conducting that unimaginable struggle, Comrade Ghosh had recovered within one year.
5 August of 1976
We all were present at the Party’s Central Commune in Tallah area of North Kolkata on 5 August 1976, the day Comrade Shibdas Ghosh breathed his last. He had several heart attacks at short intervals. He was lying on the bed turned sidewise. Ranjitda was sitting by his side since early morning and slowly massaging his back if that could give him a slight relief. It appeared as if Ranjitda was identified with the body of Comrade Ghosh. When Comrade Ghosh called Comrade Sachin Banerjee and held his hand, Sachinda could not resist his tears. Then he called me. But I did not go near him out of the fear that if I broke down before him, it might cause more harm to a serious heart patient like him. Silently, Comrade Ghosh was bearing the severe pain caused by one after another heart attack and Ranjitda was slowly rubbing his back. In the evening when Comrade Ghosh died, even Ranjitda could not sense it. He continued to rub his back. When everyone in the room burst into tears, Ranjitda was taken aback, I rushed to the empty adjacent room and was crying holding the railing of the window. Suddenly I felt touch of a soft hand on the back. It was of Comrade Nihar Mukherjee. He asked me to stop crying, go to the Party office and inform all. In another room, Ranjitda was crying like a child. I came to the office and did whatever was necessary. Then the last journey was organized.
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh taught us how to face grief
In this connection, I want to say another thing to the comrades. I do not know whether I would get any chance to say this later. While discussing on Ranjitda, I have said a few things about myself also. The last journey of Comrade Subodh Banerjee had stirred the entire city of Kolkata. It was indeed a procession embodying the profound grief the entire Party was immersed in. Later Comrade Shibdas Ghosh told me that when we would organize such a procession next time, we should depute some middle-class volunteers at the positions where there would be peasants from villages. Why did he say so? Because he noticed that there was some lack of discipline at such parts of the procession. You can well understand what he meant by next similar procession. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh wanted that even the mourning procession after his demise should contribute to the cause of the Party and revolution and make a mark on the common people. That indeed happened. What a height of identification he had with revolution as to be able to say like this!
Then we all returned from the crematorium after his mortal remains were consigned to flames. Both I and Ranjitda were then staying at the Hatibagan centre in North Kolkata. Upto cremation, we were under a spell of grief though we had done everything required to the best of our ability. After returning, I was lying on the bed sleepless throughout the night. Each and every aspect of our life was centred around Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Suddenly, it appeared as if everything had turned upside down. Suddenly I recalled what he said in the memorial meeting of Comrade Subodh Banerjee. There was an incident in this regard. When Comrade Subodh Banerjee was in the hospital, a Party school was going on. In the meeting of the West Bengal state secretariat, we could not reach unanimity as to whether the school should be continued or not. I was in favour of continuing the school. Comrade Ghosh then entered the meeting place and was briefed of what was being discussed in the secretariat. Then he asked us: “When you would be in the battlefield of revolution, would you withdraw if you would hear the news of my death? It cannot be.” When he later paid tribute to Comrade Subodh Banerjee from the same dais he was conducting the school and educated us about how the revolutionaries should view grief and where does the true significance of realization of grief lie, then we understood that he was preparing us for withstanding the profound grief on his death with due revolutionary consciousness, steadfastness and purposiveness. That night, I suddenly remembered that valuable teaching of his. I got up and searched out the booklet in which that memorial speech was printed and went to Ranjitda’s room. Sleep had eluded everyone that night. I brought Ranjitda to my room. Ranjitda started crying while reading that speech. I too could not control my tears. He accepted my proposal of printing that speech in Ganadabi. It was a historic message to all the comrades. It is still guiding us and would continue to do so in the days to come as well. Comrade Nihar Mukherjee advised us to distribute among the comrades the recorded version of that particular portion of the speech. On the next very day, Ranjitda with tears in his eyes penned an outstanding memoire of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh titled “The Great leader of the Proletariat”. It was published in Ganadabi. Now it is available in the form of a booklet. It was not exactly a biography of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh but a few glimpses of his revolutionary life struggle. But it gives us an insight into how Ranjitda had understood Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Afterwards, whenever he talked of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, he could not resist tears rolling down his eyes.
Qualities of Ranjitda flourished and developed in association with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh
Comrade Ranjitda had some rare qualities which were further developed and flourished after he came in contact with Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Comrade Ghosh taught us to first acquire, assimilate and exhaust humanist values. Only then, he said, we would be able to reach next higher stage, by acquiring higher proletarian culture. Once humanism reflected very high standard. The entire renaissance movement as well as the freedom movement in our country was based on humanist values, ethics and morality. The foremost humanist thinkers and fighters of that period conducted historic struggles. The question of transition to the higher stage of proletarian values is contingent upon assimilation and exhaustion of humanist values and thereby transcending the confines of humanism and move into the realm of proletarian culture with a continuity and break. I do not want to enter into the discussion as to who among us has been able to achieve that or who could not. At the same time, it is a matter of examination in whom proletarian values have been embodied to what extent as well as who are still having influence of humanist values and culture. I also like to point out that today one cannot even protect humanist values in oneself as earlier unless one is to some extent influenced by proletarian culture. While humanist values have been exhausted following inexorable course of history, one cannot preserve even such values unless one is acquainted with and attracted by higher proletarian culture. All our front-ranking leaders and workers are more or less in this stage. Someone might be more advanced and some are less advanced in this respect. Some of us have acquired proletarian values in many aspects of life, some have acquired a little less. Some others are struggling to acquire proletarian culture. At the same time, some of the comrades who once attained quite a higher standard failed to live upto that and suffered degeneration. Since we all are existing amidst the ceaseless contradiction between the bourgeois and proletarian thoughts in a decadent moribund capitalist society every minute, degraded bourgeois culture even in most subtle form attacks us, openly or hiddenly, to destroy revolutionary vitality and cripple us from within. So, if there is any slackening in relentless vigilant struggle, the standard once acquired might also be lost. The decay occurs slowly and gradually and sometime imperceptibly. These all are the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. That is why, we need to ceaselessly conduct alert and conscious struggle to attain higher to yet higher standard as well as protect ourselves from any slip or degeneration. In this struggle, criticism and cooperation of other comrades are also indispensable. I can say without any hesitation that Ranjitda always cultivated higher values and ethics and gave immense importance to it. This is what Comrade Shibdas Ghosh repeatedly emphasized upon.
Ranjitda mixed with the comrades like a friend
If Ranjitda felt injured by anyone’s behaviour, he never retaliated. This is a rare quality. Very few of our comrades possess this quality. We never found in him a mentality to hit back. As I have been mentioning repeatedly, he had a tender mind right from his childhood. After he came in contact with the enlightened thoughts of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, this tender and affectionate mind of his became more refined, more sensitive and attained further heights.
Comrade Ranjit Dhar held a distinct position in the Party. This was not as leader of any particular committee. Anyone coming in contact with him got a touch of affection. If he found anyone with a pale face—may be due to anxiety or because of some pressing family problems, failure in discharging a responsibility or rude behaviour of any leader—he came forward and tried utmost to give mental solace to that comrade and free him from the gloom. It was immaterial if that comrade came to him of his or her own or if he knew the reason for his or her dejection. It was like a soothing touch of a concerned mind, much like motherly affection. He was a friend of all comrades. One can become leader of a committee. But it is extremely difficult to be more a friend than a leader. He was a friend to the leaders and workers of all levels. Anyone could unhesitatingly open his or her mind to him. If he himself committed any mistake, if anyone had pointed out any of his mistakes to him or if he himself could realize where did he go wrong, he admitted that openly. No one has ever heard him boasting that he had done this or that. He never said that Comrade Shibdas Ghosh depended on his pen for editing his works or how Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had viewed him. I hardly found in him any trace of self-projection, self-conceit or egocentrism. His lifestyle was very simple. He ignored inclemency of weather, if any, while moving from one place to another for Party work. He used to do regular physical exercise even till the date he fell terminally ill. If he heard that a comrade or a family member of any comrade had fallen sick, he immediately rushed to that house and stood by them. He had nursed all the leaders including Comrade Nihar Mukherjee when they were seriously ill. If anyone unknown had come to the Party office, Ranjitda was at ease to sit with him or her and have a long chat on various matters. Likewise, he became a leader endeared to and respected by all.
He was with me in many meetings. He used to speak very less. Sometimes, he opted not to speak also. But whenever he spoke, there was a mark of intellect and in-depth thought in his speech. He had the ability to meticulously examine or analyse any issue or problem. Whenever there arose any problem, may be in regard to Party organization or evaluation of a comrade, I found him sharing the same opinion with me. There was generally a uniformity in our process of thinking. However, on a few occasions, we had difference of opinion. Sometimes, he was right, at other times, it was me who was right and the differences were resolved through mutual exchanges. But he possessed the power of analysing any issue, taking into account even the minutest of details and the causal connections. He was not of the type who makes off-hand comments. He was very calm, composed and restrained in his approach and behaviour. If for any reason the environment became serious, he tried to make it easy through his usual wit-humour, of course taking due care that there was no element of lightness. His smiling face as is seen in the portrait on the dais was the mark of his cheerful character. What is most educative from his revolutionary life is the distinct position he himself carved out in the Party by dint of his own qualities. He loved common people and the comrades from the bosom of his heart. He affectionately drew near any child, whether known or unknown to him, and could mix with the children with child-like simplicity. This particular quality of his also was highly acclaimed and respected by one to all in the Party.
A few more exceptional qualities of Ranjitda
I want to touch upon another aspect. After demise of Comrade Sachin Banerjee, he very efficiently shouldered the responsibility of functioning as the office secretary of the Party. Many comrades could not make out that he was discharging such crucial a responsibility. He did not need any room, chair or table for doing that job. He worked silently. Before deciding the names of the members of the proposed Central Committee before the First Party Congress in 1988, a meeting of the senior comrades was convened. In that meeting, the panel proposed by Comrade Nihar Mukherjee did not have names of Comrades Ranjit Dhar and Manik Mukherjee. When others asked why was the name of Comrade Ranjit Dhar omitted, Comrade Nihar Mukherjee informed that Ranjitda himself requested him not to include his name in the proposed Central Committee. He expressed his desire to remain singularly engaged in the work of editing the unpublished speeches of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. So, he requested that he might be kept free from undertaking any other responsibility. So his name did not figure on the list of the Central Committee members. But he attended all the Central Committee meetings as invited member. One day, in the tone of self-criticism, he himself said in a meeting that it was absolutely correct to keep him out of the Central Committee because he could feel he was aggrieved for not being selected as a CC member though he himself only requested Comrade Nihar Mukherjee to do so and it was only because of that Comrade Nihar Mukherjee did not induct him in the Central Committee. But afterwards, he felt injured and aggrieved for being dropped. That is why, he admitted, he was not competent to be in the Central Committee. He himself said all these things in the meeting. See, what exemplary a character he possessed!
When he was in charge of a particular job, he was never domineering, never directed others on each and every aspect. He involved others in the job and also participated in that work himself. So his was not a commanding approach. The statue of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh was slated to be inaugurated at Ghatsila centre. The date was announced. But still many works remained unfinished. The entire area was filled with bushes and weeds. Many spots were rough and uneven in shape. Junior comrades were making efforts to clean the area and make it plain. Ignoring his age, Comrade Ranjitda also joined them with a digging hoe in hand. He had no hesitation in undertaking even such manual jobs.
He had no demand whatsoever for his own self. He used to wear any dress that others gave him. He led a very simple, down-to-earth life. He never wanted to spend from Party fund for his own requirement. He managed his bare necessities from the financial assistance provided by his admirers. If there was any surplus, he deposited that in the Party Fund. He could not tolerate any wastage of Party Fund. Because, he witnessed the plain and simple lifestyle of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh. Ranjitda hardly asked anyone to give him a glass of water or wash his clothes. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had said in a speech: “Why should you not do all such works yourself if you are not otherwise incapable or incapacitated? Why should you requisition service of other comrades for that?” Ranjitda followed that teaching. Even during the fag end of his life, Ranjitda used to have a tussle over such issues with the junior comrades who lived with him at the Salt Lake centre of Kolkata. Comrades wanted to wash his clothes but he would not agree. He would do that himself. He would not allow others to do that. He was like a guardian to all. He always enquired before taking meal whether all other comrades had their food or not. Whichever centre he stayed in, he got himself involved in sharing the pain, grief or difficulties of others, in resolving their problems.
He was not in AIDSO work for long. Comrades Krishna Chakraborty, Asit Bhattacharyya and Bhabesh Ganguly worked with me during my AIDSO days. A programme was organized to commemorate 50 years of AIDSO. All seniors who were associated with AIDSO earlier were invited and requested to say a few words. Initially, Ranjitda declined to speak. But then others persuaded him to address. In his speech, he only narrated my struggling role in building up AIDSO. I did not know that he had so closely observed my activities in AIDSO. It was not that he worked together with me in AIDSO for a good number of days. But he used to observe how the other comrades were struggling and qualities they reflected. Even if he became angry by noticing some shortcoming in or mistake committed by any comrade and expressed that to me, I found him narrating to me the next day what were the qualities that very comrade possessed.
In the later period of his life, he was given the responsibility of overseeing party activities in a few Hindi-speaking states. There is a slip in the homage of Central Committee. He was also assigned the job of supervising Party work in Maharashtra. Party organization in all these states were disturbed because of anti-party activities of Shankar Singh. At that time, his health had fallen and he was unable to take much strain. Still he made tireless efforts to save as well as develop Party organizations in these states. When in the later period, his deteriorating health did not permit him to undertake much strenuous work, he requested me to conduct the meetings in those states. Comrades must have noticed that I often requested him to say something in those meetings. At that time, he was no more able to speak at length. So he said: “No. You only speak.”After concluding my discussion I wanted him to supplement in case I had missed any point. But he said it was not necessary as all points were covered. This was how he took me to the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and UP for addressing the comrades.
Hard days of Party foundation period and instances of exemplary struggles
Comrades, there are many activists present here who have been newly associated with the Party. They have not seen Comrade Shibdas Ghosh taking study class with 15 to 20 comrades nor have they seen him addressing a public meeting of only 100 to 150 people. They have not witnessed the time when the Party as well as Comrade Shibdas Ghosh was unknown even to the people of Kolkata. I have seen Comrade Ghosh going without food. Comrade Nihar Mukherjee managed to collect a little chira (a kind of flattened rice) from somewhere. Then they mixed that chira in a bowl of water and shared that mixture with all other comrades staying with them. In 1952, I once invited Comrade Shibdas Ghosh to the school I was studying in. Comrade Ghosh was a bit late in coming. Normally, he reached on time everywhere. Then I came to know that Comrade Nihar Mukherjee had gone somewhere wearing the only shirt both of them had. He was late in coming back. So, Comrade Ghosh could not come to my school on time as he had to put on the same shirt. How difficult were those days!
Present day comrades come to know these facts from us. But they fail to realize through what arduous struggle the Party has come to such a stage today when people are profusely appreciating the Party and extending overwhelming support to us. In those days, undivided CPI was backed by great Stalin and great Mao Zedong. CPI workers taunted us by saying: “Is Shibdas Ghosh superior to Lenin and Stalin?” At that time, those who were attracted by the thoughts of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had to conduct an extremely hard and crucial struggle. Those who left their families and career to join the Party saw our leaders struggling inch by inch to build up the Party braving all odds. They did not find the Party where it is today. Now the Party is so well-known, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh is held in so high an esteem. Even I, as a student of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh and present General Secretary of the Party, am known to many. But in those hard days, such was not the situation. The struggle of those who were then at various levels of the Party is indeed memorable. As I have told you at the outset, many of the comrades are passing away because of old age. Some of them left us in the 1960s, some in 1970s, some in 1980s. Even some comrades who joined the Party after that period have also left us. Many of them have courted martyrdom following attacks by the police or the enemies. But all of them held aloft the banner of the Party and revolution. For example, let me refer to Comrade Kushadhwaj Mandal, a primary teacher of Purulia district. Most of you are not familiar with his name. The CPI (M) slapped a false case on him and managed to elicit a verdict of life imprisonment from the lower court. But later, he was acquitted in absence of evidence. He has donated his entire Provident Fund money to the Party. Then he was afflicted with cancer. When confined to the bed, he had the works of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh stacked by his side. When his relatives or friends came to visit him, he gave them those books. Even when he lost his speaking power two days before his death, he indicated with his fingers which book was to be given. Many of you are not acquainted with his name. It is not possible also. There were so many of such comrades who had waged so many exemplary struggles and contributed to the growth and development of the Party in so many ways. All of them have
departed from us.
Present day struggle is even harder given the rotten social environment of moribund capitalism
While speaking in this memorial meeting, I am remembering them all and respectfully recalling their contributions. I know the struggle of the comrades is far more difficult today. I have already told you that the then social environment helped us in being initiated towards the Party. Rammohan, Vidyasagar, Rabindranath, Saratchandra, Nazrul, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan and Netaji Subhas were then household names in Bengal. We were told that they all were legends and hence were to be remembered with reverence every morning. Our life began like that. On the other hand, we were inspired by the names of Lenin-Stalin-Mao Zedong. Our school-teachers, guardians, illiterate mothers, including my own mother, used to sing the song composed on martyr Kshudiram with tears flowing from their eyes. We were groomed in such an environment. Today, the society has undergone a drastic change. We are now living in a rotten, poison-filled capitalist society. Social life, family life, personal life—all are shattered. Entire society has become like a stinking corpse and comrades are coming from such a rotten social environment. So, intense cultivation of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh Thought is much more required to guide their struggle. With immense pain Comrade Ghosh had said that we all have become rootless. We need to establish the link with our glorious past, take necessary lessons from that and then devote ourselves in the struggle for acquiring higher proletarian culture. You must remember that it is much more difficult today to attain communist character by being free from the influence of worst form of individualism. To accept humanist morality in place of religious morality and adopt proletarian morality by exhausting humanist morality is relatively easier if the environment is congenial. But now there is no morality, no values in the society. Even the very necessity of having an ethical-moral base is virtually being negated. In such a harrowing condition, attainment of proletarian culture and morality is extremely difficult a struggle. That is why, Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had taught us to first establish and maintain continuity with high cultural standard attained during the days of renaissance and the uncompromising trend of our freedom movement, cultivate the life and ideology of the then legendary personalities and then proceed to reach the higher stage of proletarian culture. Not tall talks, we need to struggle for attaining higher character. You all who have assembled in this memorial meeting have attended such meetings earlier also. These are not mere ritualistic programmes. Such memorial meetings would have no value unless we understand what we need to learn from such meetings and how we need to change ourselves based on those learnings. Comrade Ranjitda never asked us to remember him. None of our departed comrades said so. These deceased comrades have nothing to receive. Those who are alive can, if they so want, learn from the life struggle of the departed comrades. I hope you would try to learn from Ranjitda’s life struggle with that objective. With this, I end today.
Red Salute Comrade Ranjit Dhar !
Red Salute Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, the Great Leader of the Proletariat