Khokan Majumdar, Who Travelled To China, Spoke To Mao, Is No More
Naxalbari: The sun was setting by the time we reached a one storied building that stood on the West side of the Eastern Ghats, about two kilometers away from the Naxalbari bus stand. The driver who came along with us was familiar with the region. With his initiation, we entered the building.
A girl, about 22 years old, welcomed us into the house with a casual gesture. She was not surprised finding us there. It is quite common for her to receive visitors, especially from national media every year on that day: May 25, the day that reminds of Naxalbari movement every year. The day that the movement was born. I went there on the eve of the movement’s anniversary.
The girl looked inside and called for her “dada,” and an old man, in his 90s, came inside the house walking with his sore legs, trying to hold on to his bandages wrapped loosely around his legs using his other leg and making sure the bandages won’t fall or block his way. He is Khokan Majumdar.
The same Majumdar, who went to China by walk under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal, and those were the same legs that had laid path to the revolutionary movement. The air of melancholy suddenly surrounded me with that very thought.
The room was dingy. The girl moved the old window curtain slightly, and I could see the reflection of the twilight in the old man’s eyes. His already red eyes beamed. His glowing face betrayed his anxiety to tell something to us. The girl had been tending him for sometime. She is the daughter of a woman revolutionary.
Khokan Majumdar came with his uncle from Tibet via Taya to Darjeeling, where in 1953 he came in contact with the Revolutionary Leader Charu Majumdar, and Kanu Sanyal, one of the founding members of the Marxist-Leninist Party in India. Later, Khokan led the farmers’ wing in the movement. He is the one who went to China on foot and came back after meeting with Mao Zedong under the leadership of Sanyal.
Khokan began with our utterance of the word Naxalbari. It is not just the name of the town, he said. The four letters have given foundation to the principles of the Indian revolutionary rebellion,liberated the oppressed and made history. These golden letters are not just the history, but also the present and the future, he said. His words were not clear enough. The girl tried in vain to explain his words to me and to our freelance journalist, Suchitra.Finally, she handed us some of his papers, in which Khokan had depicted his ideas.
Those were the days when the name of Mao Zedong was shaking the world. The cultural revolution was at its peak. In 1967, the revolutionary spark that began with the call given by the Naxalbari hero Charu Majumdar in Naxalbari, near Siliguri town in Darjeeling District of West Bengal, was spreading across the country. It was the time the farmers and peasants fought against the land owners and bourgeoisie. On May 25, 1967, the revolutionaries attacked Hatighisa police station and soon the movement became aggressive in Naxalbari, Siliguri and the areas around Darjeeling. At each and every locality, the ordinary people stormed the movement.
The government deployed thousands of policemen in the surrounding areas in response to the attack on the police station. The peasants, aroused by the call given by Charu Majumdar under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal,revolted against the land owners. With police and military presence, the Naxalbari leadership holed up underground.
Exactly at the same time in September 1967, four members of the Naxalbari group began their journey to China. A group of four leaders who headed the Naxalbari movement under the leadership of Kanu Sanyal reached China on foot. Khokan Majumdar, Kundanlal Malik, Deepak Viswas were among the four.
The four wanted to see and understand the cultural revolution shaping up in China under the leadership of Mao Zedong. They were there to learn the strategies used in the revolution, and they got inspired by the country’s long march. Any other mode of transportation would have the risk of getting noticed by the police. Traveling by foot was the only reasonable option for them.
Their journey comprised traveling through Taya Gardens, forests, mountains, and snow mountains. They walked at nights and hid in caves and mountains valleys in the daytime to save their lives. After many nights of walking, they crossed the Hanging Bridge that connected Nepal and Tibet, and from there, they finally reached the Embassy of China.
At first, the Chinese officials didn’t believe them. Two hours after a long inquiry, a young man, not even 25 years old, took them to the People’s Liberation Army, where the group spent until December 22 taking lessons and undergoing training. For two months, the group spent learning politics in the mornings and weapons training in the evenings. Mao Zedong didn’t meet them until the final day. On December 22, they were taken to a place where they found China’s Chairman Mao Zedong and the Prime Minister Zhou Enlai at a distance. The group excitedly reached the leaders with slogans, “Mao Zedong Zindabad.”
Enlai, who joined them in the chorus, introduced them to Zedong and the group held deliberations with the duo for more than four hours, after which they returned to India. The group reached India on December 24.
Just four days after five decades of Naxalbari movement, Khokan Majumdar died. His life was dedicated only to the revolution and nothing else. He was limited to his house only after his legs were festered with wounds and he couldn’t walk.
Even today, On May 25, just like for freedom celebrations,“my dada wakes up early, takes shower and wears the nicest clothes among the ones available and marches in Naxalbari anniversary rallies holding red flag in his hands with the same grace he attained during the long march in China,” the slender girl told. But her words no more fall on my ears.
(By Venkat Kondubhatla as told by Aruna Athaluri who visited Naxalbari recently)