When Mao ruled hearts in Delhi University
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
New Delhi : Armed only with idealism and Mao's Red Book, some of the brightest in Delhi's colleges embraced Maoism four decades ago, determined to usher in a communist revolution in India, even at the cost of their career. Many of these 'revolutionaries' wonder today if it was at all worth the pain.
When the peasants of Naxalbari village in West Bengal revolted in May 1967, sparking a violent movement that soon had India in its grips, those who took to the ideology included young men and women from Delhi University.
"It was idealism which made students take to Naxalism. They felt that through this ideology they could bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots," recalled Novy Kapadia, a deputy proctor at Delhi University who studied English at St. Stephens College in the 1970s.
St. Stephens, one of the oldest and best colleges in Delhi, was the hotbed of Naxalites - as the Maoist came to be called after Naxalbari village - in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pushing the students to Naxalism were the revolutionary and mainly anti-American movements around the world, mainly in Vietnam. "The Vietnam war had aroused a hatred towards the Americans and support for the Vietnamese," Kapadia told IANS.
In no time, the little Red Book of Mao - which summarized the saying of the legendary Chinese leader -- became a bible for the young revolutionaries in the colleges of Delhi University.Its popularity exceeded the appeal of even the Naxalite literature - and black and white photographs of Charu Mazumdar, the frail man who wrote the script for the Naxal uprising.
Journalist Swapan Dasgupta said that most students in the Naxalite cause -chiefly from St. Stephens or Miranda House -- even went "underground for a while". But after some time, "they were thoroughly traumatized", Dasgupta told IANS. Miranda House is an all women-college while St. Stephens was then reserved for men.
Describing the Naxalite movement in Delhi University as a "passing cloud", Dasgupta said that by 1971 the entire movement appeared to have faded out in the national capital. One of the major factors leading to this was strict policing within the university campus and of course student disillusionment.
Most activist students were from the middle class and children of senior civil servants. So they were able to get themselves freed after being caught for their Naxalite connections, said Dasgupta, who was in St. Stephens in 1971-76.
A student of La Martinere School in Kolkata, Dasgupta joined Delhi University in the 1970s when the violence Naxalite movement was at its peak in Kolkata and "I didn't want to lose out on my academics", he said.
A senior government officer who did not want to be identified explained to IANS what happened in the 1970s - which came to be known as the decade of revolution.
"Another reason which attracted students to Naxalism was the romanticism attached to being with the movement. But since most of them belonged to middle class families and were seeking to make a career, the movement gradually faded," the officer said.
Political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan said the anti-establishment feeling ingrained in the young also pushed them to the Naxalite movement, which by early 1970s suffered serious setbacks.The patriotism triggered by the 1971 India-Pakistan dealt death blows to the Maoists, who were physically sought out and killed in hundreds in West Bengal as well as in other parts of India.
In the process Charu Mazumdar's Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist split into several groups and began attacking one another when they were not taking on the state."The Maoist movement's entire focus has today shifted to rural areas, especially in tribal belts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand," Rangarajan said. "It is assuming more dangerous proportions due to economic disparities in these regions,"
By July 1972, when Mazumdar died in police custody, the Naxalite movement in the University of Delhi also died a natural death.
posted by Resistance 5/29/2007 09:24:00 AM,