Naxalbari, once a hotbed of Left politics, now a Cong bastion


Naxalbari, which goes to the polls in the fifth phase of the Bengal elections on April 17 and was once the epicentre of politics after the peasant uprising of 1967, has since lost its political sheen.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address a public rally in support of party candidate Sankar Malakar. BK Hariprasad, a senior observer for the party said, “Rahul Gandhi ji’s campaigning will certainly boost the party’s performance and help the Congress alliance to win the seat as both the BJP and the TMC have done nothing for the state except play the blame game.”

The Matigara-Naxalbari Assembly constituency is currently represented by Sankar Malakar of the Congress who is the MLA since 2011. The seat is reserved for Schedules Castes. In the 2016 assembly elections, he had defeated Amar Sinha of the TMC. Sankar Malakar got 41.28 percent of the votes.

In the April 17 poll, Sankar Malakar (INC), Captain Nalini Ranjan Ray (AITC) and Anandamoy Barman (BJP) are contesting from the Matigara-Naxalbari constituency. In the 2016 Assembly elections, the total percentage of votes in this constituency was recorded as 84 percent.

The area was once the epicentre of Left politics and is the home place of the founder of CPI ML, Charu Majumdar who led the peasant movement which led to police firing and triggered an armed revolt. On May 25, 1967, the police opened fire in Prasadujyot village in Naxalbari, which resulted in the death of eleven persons, including two children. As news of the firing and deaths spread the peasants, armed with bows and arrows, launched a spontaneous agitation culminating in a full-scale armed struggle.

The protest of the peasants started with a refusal to hand over the majority of the farm produce to landowners. The protestors not only kept the crop and distributed it but also seized land by sticking red flags as a mark of ownership. The Naxalbari movement split the Communist Party, with the Maoist factions teaming up to launch an armed struggle to overthrow landowners and the State.

Charu Majumdar later launched the CPI-ML in 1969, but the movement was led by Jangal Santhal, Kanu Sanyal, Khokon Majumdar, Nimu Singh and Mujibur Rehman to name a few.

The movement petered out within a few years of the death of Charu Majumdar in police custody in 1972.