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‘He spoke his mind and expected others to do so too’

Recently,at Howrah station,a group of railway porters surrounded me to ask about the health of Comrade Jyoti Basu.

Recently,at Howrah station,a group of railway porters surrounded me to ask about the health of Comrade Jyoti Basu. I told them that he was better. They smiled and said,“We hope he lives for many more years,he is our man.” A colossus who was inspirational in his unswerving commitment to the interests of the working class and the poor,a true Communist,he cared deeply for people and was loved by them in return.

In Bengal and all over the country,there will be numerous,countless workers and the poor in the villages who grieve today the passing of a man who lived his life to create a world more just for them. They trusted him because Jyoti Basu always spoke the truth to the people. He never exaggerated what he could do for them,he always pointed out the pitfalls. The higher his stature,the sharper his unerring instinct and connection with the grassroots,with the pulse of the people. In his death,the country has lost one of its greatest sons,a man who was born into privilege,who turned his back on it,to fight the fight of the dispossessed.

In the stormy years between 1967 and 1970,under the leadership of Jyoti Basu and Pramod Dasgupta,the party in Bengal first came to power. Jyoti Basu became deputy chief minister. It was also the period of the Naxalite movement. In faraway London,where I was at that time,the echoes of the struggles could be heard in the heated discussions among Indian students. The CPI(M) was referred to as Jyoti Basu’s party and there were two opposing camps,those belonging to Jyoti Basu’s party and the rest. I remember writing in my diary how proud I felt to belong to his camp.

I met Comrade Jyoti Basu at the end of 1970 in the Lake Place residence of veteran communist leader Muzaffar Ahmed. I happened to be there when Comrade Jyoti Basu came,and I was introduced to him. During the semi-fascist terror in Bengal in the early ‘70s,I got a message that Comrade Jyoti Basu wanted to see me. He asked me to arrange for some people to meet him. Since then,he used to keep a watchful tab on what I was doing.

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After the Emergency was declared and I was shifting to Delhi,Comrade Jyoti Basu called me and said,“Your father is very worried about you. I have reassured him. I told him that your daughter is now with us and we are going to look after her.” So many numerous comrades,women comrades in particular,benefitted from his support and encouragement.

The greatness of Jyoti Basu also lay in his absolute lack of rancour against individuals who may have differed with him politically. He spoke his mind and expected others to do so too. He was extremely democratic and though his towering personality could have silenced any differences if he had wanted to,he never imposed his will but always went by the collective.

He taught us the meaning of discipline. Could there be any other example of such a personality coming everyday without fail to the party office before going on to fulfil his heavy responsibilities as chief minister? Once,when he felt that I had acted in an individualist manner,he called me and said: “However important you think your point is,never forget that no individual is above the party,you must always abide by the collective decision of the party.”

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Jyoti Basu himself,in his reach to the world,went far beyond the party he built and loved. He has left us grieving and bereft because there never ever will be a person like him again.

Brinda Karat

First published on: 18-01-2010 at 02:50:22 am
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