Naxalbari Politics: A Feminist Narrative

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-Krishna Bandyopadhyay

Several times, while composing this piece, I debated whether it would be better not to do so. With such critical reflections one would runs the risk of isolation; and who wants to be isolated? though friends had told me to go ahead, there was something inside that had held me back. Through a long period of struggle with myself, I realised that it was imperative to write what follows.

I had embraced Naxalbari politics in my early youth; and in my mature years today, I still feel no regret for having done so.This politics had instilled in me the courage to call a spade a spade. All that I had experienced, and all that I had learnt then, still inspires me to explore new modes of being and to discover yet more paths.Whenever I am witness to a struggle, I still feel like joining it. I had become a part of so many movements – the women’s movement, the students’ movement and the peasants’ movement.

Today I speak out forcefully against violence perpetrated in the name of religion, just as that young girl of the 1970s would have done. Although, many young people are doing good work beyond the framework of our movement, yet, for me, this has been the gift of my politics. All the respect and love I get from relatives, friends, and so many others is because of the fact that I marched in step with that politics once upon a time. Still, emotion and reason must be reconciled after a point.

My political party had grown out of our own social milieu. A party is not just a frame; it is a platform for people of various kinds to come together. And we were creatures of this very socio-economic reality. It is impossible for a person to hold back all negative traits and bring in only the good. Everyone carries both good and evil traits. Anyway, what I want to say is that moves to condemn our party as “evil” were typical of those with feudal and patriarchal values, be they men or women. And in any case, even the very concepts of “good” and “evil” are relative. Those who genuinely wish to dismantle exploitative social structures also challenge their own old structures of belief. That is why they are the vanguard of society.

If the very edifice of the nation state is to be brought down, then this work must begin at its very foundation – this may have been a declared aim, but it was not achieved in reality. Tearing out the foundations is not a matter of just killing off a handful of landowners and landlords, for they are the mere pillars of the nation. It means tearing out the very patterns of thought; and that is a long process that must be carried out in a sustained manner. This political party had launched itself with genuine questions, which could never be answered with any short-cut approaches.

A long-term war had been declared, yet simultaneously, a time limit had also been set. We have lost so many lives in our haste for short-term success. And not just workers, leaders too have had to die. Yet it was so important for these selfless and extremely courageous people to have carried on living in our society.

Another regret is that my party had never considered seriously, far less taken any stand whatsoever,on women’s liberation. Later, when I began to publish Khoj Ekhon, a feminist little magazine, my political friends were still saying, “Women will automatically become free when society is liberated”. The point is that the women’s liberation movement or the movement for national identity are not divorced from the struggle to reform society; both must continue simultaneously. Today, many have understood this at least partially, if not completely.

This piece is dedicated to those women of the next generation who will play an active role in political struggles, not just for the liberation of humankind in general, but also for the liberation of women in particular. In spite of all the bloodshed, disappointments and failures, I still dream of a liberated society where some day women will claim half the sky…

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 14 (Apr. 5 – 11, 2008), pp. 52-59

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