January 14, 2009


KOLKATA: It was all a case of whisper and run. G-a-n-a-sh-a-k-ti, we would utter at an undertone, low pitch and lower volume, when we saw a working class or a lower-income urban person hurrying by the College Street-Harrison Road crossing near the Presidency College, and slip him or her a copy of the evening Ganashakti and the person would without looking us in the face, equally covertly slip us an eight-anna or a rupee piece would not wait for any return of ‘change.’ Then we would disappear-- mingling seamlessly into the office-and-factory crowd retuning from work, and hurrying to the Sealdah railway station nearby. There was no flyover here, then. It was the anarchic decade of the 1970s.

Nevertheless, mostly, it was a case of, as we said, whisper and run, and for our lives. In most instances, Congress mastans from the nearby Amherst Street den of the local MLA would roam around waiting for a hawker of Ganashakti to show himself and then pounce on him in their wolfing dozens, and then, beat him until he would fall unconscious-- and who cared whether the fallen comrade was dying from massive internal bleeding?

Alternatively, or sometimes in tandem, it would be the Congress-backed ‘Naxalites,’ of a new generation of violent neo-fascists, emerging from the gully of a ‘road’ called Bhabani Dutta Street who hurled bombs and ran at us, flourishing daggers. The law-keepers would simply look the other way – too frightened to do anything. The corporate newspapers were demonstratively casual in reporting or keeping silent on the death of a CPI (M) sales-person even as everybody in the media knew that we were braving every frighteningly adversarial circumstance determinedly and every evening to sell Ganashakti, the evening newspaper of the Bengal unit of the CPI (M).

Since then, comrades, we have come a long, long way. However, it must be put on record that while there was a qualitative change in the daily lives of people, and in the process of democratisation at the grass-roots level when the CPI (M) and the Left Front came roaring out of the elections of 1977 at the crest of a mighty popular wave, the Ganashakti was never a de novo phenomenon in 1977 and onwards, alone. Through the roughest of times, it has maintained its role unbroken, back held straight, as a Party organ, as an agitator, and as an organiser, as per the Leninist dictum that continues to govern it today.

Changes, yes, have certainly taken place. It is a big broadsheet of a newspaper now, from the two-page tabloid it was, sometimes carrying sixteen pages, and eight pages are the norm. More additional pages are planned in the days to come. Colour and graphics of a superior order have touched the contents. The hand composition, the linotype, and the photo-offset have given way to computer composition, very often than not ‘online.’ The number of subscribers has increased, what, perhaps several thousand folds so that the newspaper, a morninger for decades now, is able to commandeer a niche amongst the cut-throat-everything-sells-including-lies-served-up-with-attractrive-supplements media world of the 21st century.

Prakash Karat, CPI (M) general secretary was the principal speaker at the celebrations held at the Calcutta university centenary hall on 3 January 2009, and he roamed over a large range of subjects. Prakash Karat’s overwhelming and overarching arguments were in the realm of India’s present set of foreign policy imperatives that made it kow-tow in a lowly humbled fashion before the violent tents of US imperialism.

Linking up terrorism with imperialism, the CPI (M) leader said that when one spoke of fighting terrorism and its discontents, one must not at the same time be a running mate of the violence-in-action that was the US military might. The speaker also came down heavily on the linkages now clearly seen between religious fundamentalism of both kinds and terrorism. He also explained the causes of the no-longer-sub-prime financial crises overwhelming the capitalist world, and affecting the developing countries in the process.

Biman Basu, state secretary of the CPI (M) saw the burgeoning of semi-fascist terror of the 1970s in the way the Trinamulis and the lackeys tried their best or worst to disrupt the social fabric through inchoate violence, chaos, and anarchic manoeuvres, and had the corporate media to give them the publicity of the ‘right’ kind.

From the divisive moves of the GJM at Darjeeling, to the vicious plan to snatch away three western districts of Bengal for a ‘merger’ with Jharkhand, to the everyday violence unleashed on the daily lives of the working people – the Trinamulis and their running mates were out to create an atmosphere of instability in Bengal, as the Lok Sabha elections approached fast, and as their desperation grew by leaps and bounds.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Bengal chief minister noted that in every issue touching daily lives from the grievance of the PTTI studentship to the sub judice issue of auto-rickshaw illegality to developmental and urbanisation schemes was being poisoned by the Trinamul Congress with its attitude of innate violence against all pro-people, civil, and civilised manners of existence itself. Buddhadeb narrated the successes of the Left front government over the years and said that every aspect of the lives of people was considered whenever land was acquired for developmental purposes.

Prakash Karat set the tone of the meeting that had become more of a rally held indoors, when he said that the struggle of the Bengal CPI (M) was never of its own alone—the whole party stood by it with the revolutionary earnestness the struggle deserved. The evening also saw a cultural programme. The Party units selling the highest number of the daily were felicitated. Ganashakti editor Narayan Dutta presided.

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