When they were lodged in prison during the Indo-China war in 1962, Communist leaders A.K. Gopalan, M.R. Venkatraman, A. Balasubramaniam, P. Ramamurti, A. Nallasivan and N. Sankaraiah spent their days reading books on Marxist literature and other subjects.

Barring Sankaraiah, all other leaders are no more. Five decades later, the books that kept them company in prison – and containing their signatures – are now part of a new library at the CPI (M) headquarters in Chennai.

The library, which houses over 3,000 books and is named after the party’s former State secretary, A. Nallasivan, was inaugurated on July 20.

It subscribes to magazines such as Economic and Political Weekly, Frontline, Social Scientist, Marxist and important Tamil journals.

“We will add more books and our objective is to provide material to students of sociology and politics,” said CPI (M) State secretary G. Ramakrishnan.

Besides Marxist literature, including the collected works of all ideologues of Communism, the library contains books on the history of the Indian communist movement and documents related to the party’s all-India congress held over the years.

The party has expanded the library’s scope by accommodating books on all subjects. It also has general books on sociology, economics and history. A visitor to the library may be surprised to find volumes of Bhakti literature in Tamil and the works of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, unlikely subjects in a Communist library. Modern Tamil fiction, short stories, the collected works of Dravidar Kazhagam founder E.V.R. Periyar and encyclopaedias also fill the shelves.

“We have digitised the library using Koha, an open source library management software. Its commercial equivalent costs around Rs. 15 lakh in the market. The advantage of the software is that you can locate any book in libraries across the world,” said R. Jawahar, former state committee member, who is in charge of the library.

The party also has plans to produce a Tamil version of the software. Its Hindi version is already available.