‘The CPM is a tout of Big Capital’Born in 1929, Kanu Sanyal was one of the founding leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) which was formed in 1969. He was one of the key leaders of the Naxalbari uprising by radical communists, including dissenters within the CPM, to initiate an 'Indian revolution' by armed struggle. Sanyal announced the formation of the original CPI(ML) on Lenin's birthday (April 22) in 1969 at a massive public rally in Kolkata. He drafted the the seminal Terai report on the nature of Indian revolution. Sanyal was portrayed as a great revolutionary in the popular narratives of Bengal and the rest of India and he was a superb organiser and charismatic leader. He organised the peasantry, the tribals and the poorest of the poor in Naxalbari, Jalpaiguri, among other places in the interiors of north Bengal. He went underground during the Naxalite uprising. The death of his comrade Charu Majumdar, who was the leader and theoretician of the movement, was followed by fragmentation within the Naxalite movement. Sanyal was known to have announced that he had left the path of armed struggle and apparently accepted parliamentary politics as a form of revolutionary activism. Sanyal was arrested in August 1970. The news of his arrest sparked off violence all over Bengal. Sanyal was by then a legendary revolutionary hero, along with Jangal Santhal and others. He was jailed in Andhra Pradesh for seven years. Hundreds of Naxalite leaders and supporters were jailed for many years, tortured or eliminated in fake encounters. Charu Majumdar died in prison, reportedly after facing intense torture. After his release Sanyal formed the Organising Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (OCCR). In 1985, Sanyal's group, along with five other Naxalite organisations, merged to form the Communist Organisation of India (Marxist-Leninist). Sanyal was declared as the leader of the new outfit. Currently, he is the general secretary of a new outfit — the CPI(ML), formed by merging several splinter groups of the original party. Sanyal has been active in the oppostion to land acquisition in Singur. He was arrested in December 2006. On January 18 , 2006, Sanyal was again arrested along with protestors for disrupting a Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express train at the New Jalpaiguri railway station near Siliguri , protesting against the shut-down of tea gardens in the region, where several hundred starvation deaths have been reported. Here, still passionate about mass movements and 'revolutionary transformation', Kanu Sanyal, a changed man, talks to Hardnews in Kolkata after visiting Nandigram.You have just returned from Nandigram. Why did you go there? Nandigram is the place where the people's resistance has forced the mighty Left Front government to retreat. A fresh wind is blowing in the state. The people are increasingly losing faith in the state government. It is our duty to turn it into a major mass movement against the ruling establishment. That is why I went there. Do you think that the current shift is enough to dislodge the ruling Left Front led by the CPM from power? No. I don't believe that the CPM can be dislodged from power in the next elections. It is not that easy. Especially, when their front partners, particularly the Forward Bloc, RSP and CPI are with them. Unless they come out of the front, there is no way the CPM can be ousted from power. But Nandigram has proved that the people, if determined, can resist even the armed onslaught of the State machinery and the armed gangs of the ruling party. That has boosted the morale of the people. Do you think the fragmented political opposition can avail of this opportunity? What I saw in Nandigram is very depressing. Now that the CPM has created a vaccum there, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is trying to occupy that space. And for that they are adopting the same old tactics of the CPM, attacking opponents, terrorising others and creating an atmosphere where no democratic movement can flourish. Earlier, it was unanimously decided by the constituents of the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee that no party flag would be used there. But the TMC has done just that everywhere; they have hoisted their party flag even on the martyrs' column. How is it going to help them? They are doing everything with an eye on the panchayat elections due next year. The Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Hind leader Siddikulla Choudhury is also supporting them. But people are not happy with this development. In some of the villages I visited, I spoke to at least 500 to 700 people. I could see that they were looking for other options which the mainstream opposition parties are unable to offer. What kind of options? The people are saying that there should be armed fighters to combat the gunmen (bandukbaj) of the CPM. Because, though the government has backed out of the SEZ project, the ruling party is still continuing their attacks from the neighbourhood of Khejuri to recapture Nandigram. You claim that unarmed resistance by the people brought them 'victory', and yet, you are talking of the need for armed fighting units. Is armed struggle still the way out for you? A mass movement is definitely needed, but one should not rule out arms. See, the CPM showed the way. They didn't hesitate to employ armed hirelings to keep their influence intact in the rural areas. Everybody is talking about the police atrocities of March 14 in Nandigram. But police acted in the way it is expected from police, everywhere they act the way they acted. But West Bengal is perhaps the only state in the country where the cadres and armed hirelings of the ruling party and the police operated jointly. This is unprecedented. So, to combat this, people may have to resort to arms: the coming days will witness many more such violent incidents.That means the Maoists are justified in resorting to violence? No. They are indulging in mindless violence. They are not interested in mass movements. This is sheer political gimmickry. By detonating landmines on rural roads they might terrorise the people and hog the headlines; but this is a temporary affair, this won't last long. Maoists are a big no. Mamata Banerjee's TMC is also not acceptable. Then who do you think the people should look forward to? Mind you, the people of Nandigram were not led by the political parties. Rather, the politicians were forced to follow the people. In Singur, a similar movement was developing when Mamata sabotaged it by launching a hunger strike in Kolkata. We can't have any links with the TMC. They are not for the people. We are trying to reach out to the people with our limited strength. In North Bengal, there are occasional news of plantation workers dying of starvation. And yet, we don't see any serious movement developing there. Why? Yes, the condition there is pathetic. But, it is not restricted to north Bengal alone. Throughout the state, in tea, jute and engineering industries, the workers' movement has been stymied. In the last 30 years of CPM-led Left Front rule, the Left trade union leaders have diverted the workers' movement from street agitations to the negotiating table. Thus, they have emasculated the workers and as a result even in the tea gardens that are open, the workers are deprived of the benefits of the Plantation Workers Act, 1951. The growing tendency of alcoholism and absenteeism among the plantation workers is a sign of their feeling of abject helplessness. So the fate of the plantation workers is doomed? No. A new emerging trend should not be missed. In some tea gardens, like the Dalgaon Tea Estate, where the CPM's CITU is controlling the union, the workers have defied their union and pressed for their demands with the management. The task is not easy as the state administration and the Left trade union leaders are hand-in-glove with the planters. For any arbitration of labour disputes, the plantation workers have to file their complaints before the Tribunal. But for the last three years, there is no judge there. Hence the workers cannot go to the Tribunal. I raised this issue in a meeting with Bengal's Labour Minister Mohammad Amin, who himself is a labour leader. But Amin is not willing to listen. That is why the workers should realise that only a trade union movement won't be enough to win their rights, they will have to join the mass movement. What according to you are the reasons that the CPM can so successfully neutralise the radical Left and still continue to hold on to its rural base for such a long time? With land reforms and Operation Barga they started winning the support of the people. But that was not the key to their success. They skilfully manipulated the huge funds for various development projects and leveraged that to expand and strengthen their base. Ration cards, inclusion of names in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) list, recruitment of teachers in primary schools, allocating jobs for projects like the Pradhanmantri Sarak Yojana etc, are all weapons to pulverise the people to bring them under their influence. The CPM successfully employed this strategy and thus marginalised other political forces, including us, in rural Bengal. In today's world, globalisation is the mantra. Where does your idea of Naxalism fit into it? The Naxalbari uprising started with the land question. Now, Nandigram and Singur have proved that even in this era of globalisation the question hasn't lost its relevance. The peoples' resistance at Nandigram is a slap on the face of the CPM. The CPM is openly becoming a tout for 'Big Capital'. It's attempt to grab land has been blocked. But, to continue the peoples' struggle and turn it into a major movement, like we did during the food movement of the 1960s, the youth should come forward. After the initial uprising in Naxalbari, the youth of Bengal got attracted to it, and that gave momentum to the movement. Sadly, today's youth is not interested in politics; they are more interested in their careers. However, after Nandigram, some of the students unions in colleges and universities have gone over to the pro-movement student community. That is a silver-lining. May be, in the days to come, the youth of India will turn its attention to the grim social reality and act accordingly.