To Serve Suffering Humanity

by Mark Chmiel

Shekhar Ganguly, A Satyagrahi, a Revolutionary, a Communist
People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1995

I recently read Arundhati Roy’s moving essay, “Walking with the Comrades,” detailing her solidarity with the indigenous Maoists of India back in 2010.  Shekhar Ganguly is an ideological antecedent, in some respects, to those women, men, and kids Roy met in the jungles of India.  His book is a straightforward account for the  benefit of the next generation.  Here’s a most important fact: He spent 12 years in jail for his Communist compromismo. 

Ganguly  became a satyagrahi at 13.  He noted the influence of the Ramakrishna movement and Vivekananda and revolutionary politics: “I was torn between two ideas and two desires at that moment. To search out and join the ranks of the revolutionaries, fight the British rulers and die a hero’s death like Bhagat Singh and the other heroes or to join Ramakrishna Mission and spend my life serving the suffering humanity! In those days the first was much stronger than the second.” [9]

He moved away from “Gandhism” because he was “serious”: The British only understood force:  “Hence they will have to be thrown out by force.”  [11] He had to reckon with this question: “Are you ready to sacrifice everything for the freedom of Mother India?” [11] He sealed the deal with an offering of blood to the goddess Kali and “learnt in jail that many others had been tortured much more and for longer period than me.” [25]

He became a Communist in 1938.  A cell had five members, at least. They organized militant as well as nonviolent demonstrations and struggles. [41] Here’s his formation: His secondary education in the party course, and higher education in the Deoli detention camp jail. [42]  Further, there was intense activity in 1938-39: “Not a single day passed when we were not engaged in some activity or other.” [45] He  was a full-time Communist worker the rest of his life.

He spent nearly nine years in British jails, and also experienced underground life, tortures, separation, and the sacrifice of home and  comforts [64 ] but no matter:  “For more than five decades I have worked full time for the party. I have worked in the party in different capacities, always with the same zeal…. I am proud of the fact that I have the longest party membership in Bihar.”  [70-71]

This pamphlet reminded of the diary of the Vietnamese doctor Dang Thuy Tram who worked in the south during the U.S. war of aggression; she was also a committed Communist.  Here’s one passage: “Our responsibility is to fight for what is right, to fight for righteousness. To win we must strive, think, and sacrifice our personal gains, perhaps even our own lives. That’s it, Thuy! I will dedicate my lifelong career to securing the rights of the common man and the success of the Party!  For better or for worse, I will hold this course with joy or sorrow—what else is there, Thuy?”