Leaders pay homage to Basu at huge memorial meeting


Kolkata: Leaders cutting across the political spectrum Sunday paid homage to Marxist icon Jyoti Basu at a mammoth memorial meeting here, with the Left parties urging people to follow the path shown by the late leader.

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Leaders of West Bengal’s ruling Left Front, the Congress as also representatives of communist and fraternal parties from Nepal and Bangladesh recalled Basu’s contribution to parliamentary democracy and in struggles of the workers, peasants and the toiling masses during the Sahid Minar Maidan meeting.

The Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stayed away from the meeting, while representatived from the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati attended.

Describing Basu as the “greatest leader” of India’s communist movement, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash karat recalled the deluge of people at his last journey, and said “this shows how much love and affection the people showered on him”.

“He was not only a leader of West Bengal. He was a leader of entire India. He was a leader of the working class, farmers, the toiling masses, the poor and homeless,” said karat.

“The Indian communist movement has thrown up a lot of great leaders. Many of them have contributed signally and made supreme sacrifices. But Basu is unique. He is the greatest leader,” he said.

CPI-M politburo member and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee described Basu as a “multi-dimensional personality” who successfully traversed pre-independence workers’ movement, post-independence democratic struggles both within and outside the legislature.

“It used to be said that communists are against democracy. But he has proved how communists can nurture parliamentary democracy. He never put anyone behind bar without trial,” Bhattacharjee said.

He recalled that one of the first decisions of the Jyoti Basu cabinet in 1977 was to announce a general amnesty to all political prisoners. “Under him, West Bengal was the first state in India to set up the state human rights commission.”

The state’s ruling Left Front chairman and CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose said the front will work towards realising the unfulfilled dreams of Basu. “We pledge to fulfill his unfulfilled dreams in West Bengal involving the common people in the whole process,” Bose said while reading out a condolence resolution.

“Our immediate task is to strengthen the ties among all LF partners and bolster the Left movement,” the resolution said.

Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) chairman Jhalanath Khanal called Basu the “communist voice” of South Asia who always stood by the international communist movement.

Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Sajjad Zahir said Bangladesh was proud of Basu, whose ancestral house is in Dhaka. “People of Bangladesh will never forget Jyoti Basu for the way he supported our country’s freedom struggle.”

Bangladesh Workers’ Party chief Rashid Khan Menon said Basu was a genuine friend of his country. “Be it Ganga water sharing, or the Tinbigha issue – he was always vocal in giving Bangladesh its legitimate dues.”

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal executive chairman Moinuddin Khan Badal called Basu the last greatest Bengali. “He was never narrow-minded. So long Bangladesh exists, Basu will live in our hearts.”

West Bengal state Congress executive president Subrata Mukherjee said the opposition leaders always treated Basu with respect and awe even while criticising him. “He always abided by his party’s ideology and policies. But he always rose above partisan interests whenever he felt that people’s interests will be better served that way.”

Thousands of people came to the venue carrying placards and big posters of the communist patriarch. Many of them fronted pictures of Basu on their chests. Giant cut-outs of Basu with party flags were put up in and around the meeting venue in the heart of Kolkata.

Basu, who created a record as the longest serving chief minister by holding the post for 23 long years from 1977-2000, died Jan 17 following a pneumonia attack and multiple organ failure at private hospital in Kolkata.