Thus spake Jyoti Basu


Kolkata : Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu, who died Sunday, was a man of strong views and never hesitated to speak his mind. Here are his comments on his life and politics:

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On childhood:

“My mother came form an upper middle-class family, they were well-to-do landowners. My father, Nishikanta Basu, came from a relatively lower middle-class background.”

“I was 10 years old. Talk of revolutionaries and the fight for independence was in the air. Father was treating a revolutionary who had been shot and wounded. Those were part of my childhood thrills.”

In London:

“I was initiated to international politics in London. Entire Europe was restive. Fascist Mussolini had wrested power in Italy.”

“We formed the `London Majlis’ and I was its first secretary. The idea was to generate public opinion for the cause of Indian independence and collect subscriptions.”

On return to India:

“Marriage was being discussed. I did not attach importance to this. I knew there was a long and difficult political agenda ahead. Anyway, I got married.”

Political life:

“It never occurred to me that I would one day become an MLA, but the party thought otherwise. I had to abide by its directives.”

“My very first election as a candidate gave me a taste of what bourgeoisie elections were all about. It was baptism by fire. But all’s well that ends well.”

On life in undivided CPI:

“Raids and arrests were routine. Between September 1948 and January 1949, I worked openly in trade unions, maintaining the communication links with our leadership in hiding.”

On becoming a father:

“I became the father of a son in September 1952. We named him Chandan; he is my only son. My wife, Kamal, used to stay at her parents’ place during most of the time when I was either in jail or underground.”

Emergency rule:

“(Indira) Gandhi was scared. Her authoritarianism knew no limits. Thus she chose the option which all dictators faced with a critical situation coupled with the fear of losing power usually do: she opted to usurp all the rights of the people.”

Left Front government:

“It was exactly at 10.30 a.m. on June 21, 1977 that the first Left Front ministry was sworn in… Land reforms were our topmost priority.”

On Mandela:

“Nelson Mandela was given a reception at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. He represented all that fortitude stood for, having spent 27 years in jail. Calcutta was paying its tributes to a man who did not know the meaning of compromise.”

On Babri Masjid razing:

“On December 6, barbarians demolished Babri Masjid. We stood dishonoured in front of the entire world.”

(Excerpts from “Memoirs-A Political Autobiography: Jyoti Basu”, National Book Agency Pvt Ltd, Kolkata)