During the ongoing festive season in Kolkata, when the CPI(M) has been trying to reach out to the masses by putting up book stalls near Puja pandals, a CPI(M) leader’s book on Mahatma Gandhi’s sojourn in Kolkata in August 1947 is the party’s latest offering. Gandhi was at Hyderi Manzil in Beleghata when India got Independence, trying to quell riots in Kolkata. The book, Gandhiji Beleghata Parba: Ghatan-Aghatan Chabbish Din (Gandhiji’s Beleghata Episode: Happenings of 26 days), was released by Left Front chairman and senior CPI(M) leader Biman Bose at the State headquarters of the party on Friday.
Former Left Front Minister and Professor at University of Calcutta Anjan Bera has penned the 159-page book, which he described as a relevant subject particularly in 2022 as it marks 75 years of Gandhi’s stay at Beleghata and 75 years of the Mahatma’s last visit to Bengal .
Admitting that he is a party man, Professor Bera said Gandhi’s political life stretched through six decades, that he had been in West Bengal for 566 days, and that the book traces 26 days of his stay at Beleghata’s Hyderi Mansion, which is now Gandhi Bhawan. “What is really amazing is Gandhi’s fight against communalism... When the country was being divided and Muslims were turning into a minority, Gandhi did not care about the majority opinion. He shunned majoritarianism and stood by ethics and principle,” Professor Bera said. The author, while speaking to The Hindu, also pointed out that Gandhi had the foresight to see that communalism would turn out to be one of the biggest challenges before the country.
Asked about Communists’ views on Gandhi, Professor Bera said even though Gandhi was not a Communist or a Marxist, leaders of the CPI(M) have objectively appreciated his contribution. The author referred to a speech made by former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly on February 10, 1948, where he had said that “Gandhiji because of his exceptional vision had emerged as a unique personality” and emphasised on his call of arousing “fundamental humanity” in every person. Professor Bera also referred to a book by another Communist icon and former Chief Minister of Kerala E.M.S Namboodiripad, The Mahatma and the Ism, which was published in 1959, to highlight that the CPI(M) has always objectively appreciated the father of the nation.
The book traces Gandhi’s stay at Hyderi Manzil during the turbulent times of August and September of 1947 when Kolkata witnessed communal riots. Located in Beleghata, which was known as Miabagan, a prominent Muslim neighbourhood in 1947, Gandhi Bhawan has now been turned into a museum with dozens of panels on different events in Gandhi’s life and his interaction with various personalities. A few old, coarse but sharp weapons that were laid down before the Mahatma are still on display at the fasting room next to his personal belongings, bearing witness to the troubled times.
Professor Bera said the book will be available at the party’s stalls during the Pujas. He also added that a publication of The Hindu Group, Mahatma Gandhi The Last 200 days, had helped him in his endeavour. The Left parties, particularly the CPI(M), had stayed away from Durga Puja festivities which has become a major political opportunity for them to connect with the masses. The party, however, has set up 120 book stalls near the pandals where its publications and related literature are made available. On Friday, and over the next few days, Left Front chairperson Biman Bose and CPI(M) State secretary Md. Salim and other leaders are scheduled to visit the stalls.