Jyoti Basu Arrested During Food Movement

In this post under the section ‘Indian Communist Photos’, we publish a 1966 photo of Comrade Jyoti Basu, being arrested at the peak of the Food Movement. 



In 1959, West Bengal  suffered from a massive food shortage. Following a month-long campaign movement, a central rally was organised in what is now the Shahid Minar Maidan. The rally, held on August 31, spilled over into the Surendranath Park (formerly Curzon Park) and Rani Rashmoni Road. The massive rally had Jyoti Basu and other leaders of the democratic movements in the forefront. The administration was at a loss about what to do in the face of such a huge rally. There are indications that they initially thought about taking the rallyists into custody, but suddenly they decided to change the tactic. The rallyists kept raising militant slogans for more than half an hour but, just before the dusk settled in, the police arrested the leaders and then started a brutal lathicharge; 80 people were bludgeoned to death on the spot and hundreds left injured. This was one of the rarest examples of so many people being killed in such a short space of time, at the crest of a democratic movement that remained peaceful.

Students organised a strike on September 1. When the police fired upon their rally and killed some students, a protest day was observed in the form of a strike on September 2. A general strike was organised successfully on September 3. Over 130 courted martyrdom between August 31 and September 3.

Mass movements were organised during 1960-61 also. The student movement roared in protest against the setting up of an Indo-American Foundation for import of wheat under the PL 480 scheme.

In February 1966, a student agitation demanded food, kerosene oil and exercise books. But the police opened fire against the students. A school student, Nurul Islam, was killed. A big movement of students now roared across West Bengal, followed by a still bigger mass movement. Several districts like Nadia, Hooghly, Burdwan, and 24 Parganas plus Kolkata became the volcanoes of protests. In March, a one-day strike against police oppression in Bengal evoked two-day or even three-day strikes in some of the districts. The massive discontent among the common people in the state created a negative atmosphere for the ruling Congress party, and it broke into two. Ajoy Mukherjee and some other leaders left the Congress to form the Bangla Congress.

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