Kanu Sanyal, one of the architects of the naxalite movement and who, in more recent times, was critical of the Maoists, was found dead on Tuesday at his residence in the Naxalbari area of West Bengal's Darjeeling district — the same area from where an armed peasant uprising in May 1967 led by him, among others, had catapulted him into political reckoning.
He was 78 and was stated to have been ill for some time.
“Though it appears to be a case of suicide, we are investigating his death. A case of unnatural death has been registered and our inquiries will determine whether it is a suicide or otherwise,” Inspector-General of Police (North Bengal) K.L. Tamta told The Hindu over phone.
“He was found partially hanging with his feet touching the ground in his party office-cum-residence. He had taken his meal some time before then we were told,” Mr. Tamta said.
At a rally in Kolkata in April 1969, Sanyal announced the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).
The CPI(M-L), with Kanu Sanyal and comrade-in-arms Charu Mazumdar at the helm, had called for a “revolution” through an armed struggle that would create “liberated zones” across the country.
He was arrested a year later and subsequently incarcerated at a jail in Visakhapatnam in connection with the Parvatipuram naxalite conspiracy case. Charu Mazumdar died in police custody in Kolkata in July 1972.
Sanyal was released from jail in 1977 by when he had publicly repudiated the original strategy of the armed struggle of the CPI(M-L).
He formed the Organising Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (OCCR). A faction led by him merged with some other political groups to form, in 1985, the Communist Organisation of India (Marxist-Leninist). Subsequently, he became the general secretary of a revamped CPI (M-L).
In recent times, Sanyal was critical of the Maoists and their cult of violence, including the killing of political opponents.
“I had never agreed with the killings of individuals and I do not support it even today,” Sanyal had told journalists seeking his views on the activities of the Maoists in parts of the State a few months ago.
“Such activities [killing of political opponents] never does any good to the common people,” he had said.