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“Basu endeavoured to strengthen democracy”

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Admirers and supporters of Jyoti Basu arrive at the Shahid Minar, the venue of a condolence meeting organised in his memory in Kolkata on Sunday.
Admirers and supporters of Jyoti Basu arrive at the Shahid Minar, the venue of a condolence meeting organised in his memory in Kolkata on Sunday.

Ananya Dutta

Although he was sent to prison, he never sent his political opponents to jail: Buddhadeb

KOLKATA: Thousands of supporters and admirers of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu assembled at the Shahid Minar here on Sunday for a condolence meeting held a week after his death on January 17.

Leaders from a wide spectrum of political parties, including representatives from Nepal and Bangladesh, were present. “While it is said of Communists that they are opposed to democracy, Jyoti Basu, in his life, fulfilled the duty of establishing democracy not just in West Bengal, but also in the country…Although he was sent to prison, he never sent his political opponents to jail; even if a law was unjust he never took the law into his own hands and he never took action against a newspaper for criticising him,” West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.

Basu’s first act as Chief Minister was to free all political prisoners, irrespective of party affiliation. West Bengal was also the first State to have a human rights commission, he said.

“Comrade Jyoti Basu continuously endeavoured to establish and strengthen the system of parliamentary democracy in the State and in the country,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said: “Of the many leaders who have contributed and made sacrifices for the Communist movement in India, Jyoti Basu was exemplary and one of the most distinguished.”

Emphasising the Marxist leader’s contribution in mobilising the peasants and workers’ movements, Mr. Karat said that in his term as Chief Minister, Basu realised the vision of “land to the tiller” — envisaged during the freedom struggle — by providing land to 25-lakh landless labourers.

He supported the anti-racial movements in Vietnam, Cuba, South Africa, while also backing Palestine, thus contributing to the international struggle against fascism and imperialism, Mr. Karat said.

Describing Basu as “a Communist voice of South Asia,” Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) leader Jhala Nath Khanal said Communists in Nepal, representing 60 per cent of the population, needed to emulate the example set by him in bringing different parties together.

Remembering the support extended to the people of Bangladesh by Basu during the 1971 Liberation War, Rashid Khan Menon, a parliamentarian, spoke on the significant role played by him in forging India-Bangladesh ties. Sajjad Zahir Chandan of the Bangladesh Communist Party and Moinuddin Khan Badal of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal echoed his sentiments.

“Though we were opposed to the politics of Jyoti Basu, there was always tremendous respect for him. I have no difficulty in saying that he is perhaps the most important of the mass leaders who have achieved this stature,” said Subrata Mukherjee, Working President of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

There was no representative from the Trinamool Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati had expressed their desire to attend, but could not do so.

CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury, Biman Bose, Mohammed Amin and Nirupam Sen and other senior leaders were present.


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