CPI-ML veteran Santosh Rana dead

Santosh Rana. File  

Santosh Rana, one of the foremost leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and a major thinker on caste, class and tribal politics in West Bengal and winner of a top literary award in the State, passed away in Kolkata on Saturday. He was 76.

Mr. Rana, who grew up in rural Gopibhallavpur, was studying for his PhD in Physics at the Calcutta University when he joined the CPI-ML, led by Charu Majumdar, in the late 1960s. He led an armed peasant uprising in his native Debra-Gopiballavpur region of Bengal.

Mr. Rana was one of the first leaders of the original CPI-ML, along with Satyanarayan Singh of Bihar, to differ with Mr. Majumdar on a number of key political questions like annihilation of class enemies and election boycott. Mr. Rana and Mr. Singh eventually formed a breakaway faction called CPI-ML (Provisional Central Committee). Mr. Rana was subsequently elected its general secretary.

Mr. Rana spent a significant time in prison during the 1970s and was released during the general amnesty for political prisoners at the end of the Emergency, when the Left Front came to power in West Bengal.

CPI-ML (PCC) was one of the very first Naxalite groups to participate in elections. In 1977, while still in prison, Mr. Rana created history by contesting and winning the Assembly elections from Gopibhallavpur, where he had dled an armed uprising only a few years before.

Under his leadership, CPI-ML (PCC) was active in parts of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam. It played a significant role in opposing the CPI-M led government during the Nandigram land agitation, which contributed to the electoral debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal.

Mr. Rana was one of the first Naxalite leaders to theorise the relationship between caste and class. He argued in his award-winning autobiography, Rajnitir Ek Jibon [A Life in Politics], that the Left in India made a huge mistake as they never analysed and responded to the caste question.

“Indian Marxists, especially the Bengal’s Marxists, did not realise the significance of caste system in India,” he wrote in his autobiography, drawing examples from his days as a guerrilla peasant leader. He also critiqued what he called the ‘indiscriminate’ violence by the ultra left, and also the Naxal movement’s failure to “differentiate between the 1930s China and 1970s Indian society.” A major writer on caste question, his autobiography created waves in both political and literary circles in Bengal, going on to win him the much coveted Ananda Purashkar.

In his last years, Mr. Rana opposed the TMC and argued “all parties should work with CPI-M to resist it.” This led to his deep differences with the CPI-ML (PCC), which continued to oppose both the TMC and Left Front, and led to his resignation both as general secretary and party member.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 5:13:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cpi-ml-veteran-santosh-rana-dead/article28229939.ece

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