Sunday 15 August 2021

Tarun Chakraborty, ShortStory 2021 Longlist


There was a time in West Bengal during Naxal extremism in late 60s and early 70s, when boys or young men in the age group of 18-25 (to which I belonged then), were advised to stay indoors, for fear of being accosted by Police. Today when I am in the age group of 65-70, people of my age group are being advised to stay indoors for fear of being accosted by Corona virus. Is it a mere coincidence that both should have their origins in China? Doesn’t this sound like a story?

With father posted in Delhi AF Station, maternal uncle’s house at Tollygunge in Kolkata had become the destination for small holidays second year onwards during my IIT Kgp days. Movies in Kolkata cinema halls being the primary attraction.

The Bollywood movie ‘Shatranj’, starring my favourite pair Rajendra Kumar and Waheeda Rehaman, was once again opened for exhibition following its withdrawal after attacks on cinema halls by infuriated Naxalites for the 'folly' of portraying a Chinese terror-group as the abductors of the dancer heroine. Public interest simply conflagrates on something once banned or prohibited like the forbidden fruit. Edgar Snow’s book ‘Red Star over China’, I got my hands onto, was another example. Indeed, that is the best possible publicity.

As the bus left Howrah Station terminus, my eyes ran through the slogans and graffiti scribbled on the city walls even those seemed to be creations in the field of fine arts.          

Alighting from the bus at its terminus stop Kudghat, as I walked towards the wooden bridge over Tolly-Nalla (over which pillars of Metro-Rail are grouted now), I saw troops of CRPF men with rifles advancing from the opposite side. The street was deserted, and shutters down. Me, the lonesome pedestrian, had no idea where others got lost at the sight of those policemen who could either be retreating after conducting a ‘combing operation’ or ‘raid’, based on intelligence inputs or tip offs. Combing operationhow appropriately termed, I thought. Those men in uniforms were like the sticks of a comb that pulls out lice from their hideouts in the hair, mostly of women and relieves them of the itching that the parasite causes. Naxalites were those parasites whose parents battled every hour, every day, draining away themselves to support the existence of their wards.

I am alone and some twenty of them marching towards me. The rumbling sound from their boots are getting louder as they are closing in. What should I do? I know my age falls within that vulnerable range. Will they catch hold of me for reasons best known to them only? Should I turn my back and start running away? But an act of such foolishness would only make it obvious to them that I am a law-breaker, without being one in realitythe saddest thing to happen. Should I then coolly walk through the platoon, pretending to be oblivious?

Yes, I must face them. I must walk my way through their columns. What have I got to be afraid of when I am not at fault? But that is easily said than done. Some people have their own nuisance values. What if I am nabbed? Should I start yelling‘We have bashed up the Naxals at IIT... We have flushed out the Naxalites from IIT...'

I don’t have to try hard to look indifferent or unconcerned. It comes naturally to me. This hidden feature has carried me through many awkward situations both in work or lifean honest confession. The two columns of policemen marching from the opposite direction have closed in on me, almost as in a flank-attack. But I am strolling down through them nonchalantly. My heart is pounding with no apparent signs on my blank face. To my ears the clops emitting from their marching boots seem to last much longer than it ought to be for their length. That is relativity. At last, I hear the clops from the last of their boots receding away. I thank my starsI remained inconspicuous! Vroom… I hear the police van roaring away, as if, angered at having to return empty handed. After nearly fifty yards tread, I step onto the first wooden plank of the foot-bridge. Despite its other structural elements being made of Steel, this used to be called a ‘wooden bridge’ because its deck and hand railings were wooden. Quiescence has taken over the pathways and localities on either side of the canal following the police action. I can hear the sound of my own footfalls on the timbers. A few steps more, a sudden slosh of the water draws my attention towards ripples around thickets of water hyacinth. My eyes meet with a big surprisethe gruesome figure of a human being, slathered with mud all over save his eyes, jumps out from the grime-stained water like a dolphin, lunges towards the edge like a leap-frog and runs away as fast as a leopard. I have just got the ‘Darshan’ of a Naxalite, who has just escaped capture by virtue of his ‘muddy soak’ with head curtained by water hyacinth. That was amazing! By contrast, their IITan counterparts who once terrorized the campus seemed to be mere amateurs!

But again, however gallant may they seem by our standards, these ‘Calcutta Naxals’ were no match to their role model The ‘Red Soldiers’ of the Red Army of China raised from peasants and workers, the fore runners of People’s Liberation Army or PLA. That would be like comparing this wooden bridge over Tolly Nallah with the Luding bridge over Dadu River that flows narrow, deep and swift between immense gorges in Sichuan province in western China. That bridge happened to become the most critical link in the kinky chain of the historical 6000 Mile ‘Long March’ starting from Yudu (Jiangxi province) in far southeast of China to its end point at Yanan (Shaanxi province) in far northwest.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”— Chinese proverb.

The Long March of the Red Army lasting from October 16, 1934, to October 19, 1935, was in fact a ‘strategic retreat’ by the rebellious Chinese Communists and the Red Army under the command of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, together with their women, children and livestock to the safety of barren lands thousands of miles away. That retreat followed a fierce crackdown unleashed by the ruling Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and their warlord allies. That historic trek with all its twists, turns and counter-marches led to the relocation of the communist revolutionary base under conducive surroundings, where the communists grew in strength and eventually defeated the Nationalists in the struggle to gain control over mainland China with the emergence of Mao Zedong as the undisputed leader.

The mighty Yangtse river flows cutting across the entire breadth of the country from the east to west. Hence For a strategic retreat that started from a region lying in south-east and targeted a region lying to the north-west as the destination, it was very much in the logic that river Yangtse needed to be crossed at least once on the path. The Red Army must cross the Yangtse and Nationalist forces must prevent them. Obstacles were put up on all roads or trails leading to the crossing points of the river and Ferry points were heavily fortified. Ferry boats were mostly burnt and whatever remained were moored to the northern bank. The Red army was pushed to the southwestern province Yunnan bordering Burma and Indochina.

The battle game of misleading versus encircling tactics still went on. While a huge division of Nationalist forces was misled into far southwest of Yunnan province to find nothing, counter-marching briskly towards the north, the Red Army reached a ferry crossing attached to ‘Chou-P'ing’ Fort unopposed. They captured the guards at the bank through guerrilla style surprise attacks and donned their uniforms. They tricked the guards at the opposite bank into sending one ferry boat to their side first and then towed the rest. With their pursuers dispatched far away, six big boats continuously shuttling for nine days ferried the entire regiment of the First Red army to the northern bank lying in Sichuan province with no life lost.

And they marched on…

They entered Lololand the independent tribal country of Lolo aborigines, located at the interior of densely forested and mountainous terrain running alongside the southward loop described by the Yangtze to the east of Tibet. Neither absorbed in the mainstream nor given any respite from centuries of oppression, the Lolos had turned traditional enemies of the white Chinese. But the Reds were experienced in the art of making friends with enemies of enemies.

Winding their way over narrow hilly trails Red Army was guided out of the forests. Marching further northwards, they faced their next hurdle crossing the Dadu river. Originating from the eastern Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai province, the Dadu river flows swiftly south-eastwards cutting across the Sichuan Basin and then joins the Min River just before it pours into the Yangtze River. Thus emerged the next watery barricade to their passage to the north which must be crossed or else their rebellion would be crushed here itself like the previous ones in history.

Fortune favours the brave…

From the high cliffs they looked at the river bank down below and to their delight noticed a ferryboat anchored on the south bank of the river. What a stroke of luck! That was not just a vacant boat would things be any different the destiny of an entire nation for that very moment kept itself afloat on that one single boat! Without a moment lost, the vanguard or forefront of the Red Army led by Lin Piao, followed by the rest descended onto the River Town of An-Jen-Ch'ang. Taking by surprise, the Red soldiers captured the local commander his soldiers and his boat.   

The first group of Red Soldiers got ferried to the northern bank and towed back two other boats from there. For three days, those three ferries of An-Jen-Ch'ang ferry point shuttled back and forth until nearly a division got shipped to the northern bank. But the river was in spate from the rains of May in the upstream mountains. Ferrying process slowed down to a rate at which they would be encircled before ferrying was entirely over. The Nationalist Army, swollen with heavy reinforcements rushed from all corners by an infuriated Chiang Kaishek, following deception at Chou-P'ing-Fort, was closing in. Military airplanes had already spotted that location and bombardment would follow. So, something drastic needed to be done. A hurried but historic military conference was held between Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, Lin Piao, Chu The and P'eng Teh-huai on their horse-backs at the southern bank. They took a critical decision and instantly began its execution.

Nearly 120 miles to the west from where they stood then, there was an iron-chain suspension bridge called ‘Liu Ting Chiao’ in Chinese (Luding Bridge by the outside world later on). That was the last possible crossing of the Dadu river. If they captured bridge, the whole army could enter central Sichuan. If they failed, they wouldn’t survive. Those who had got stranded marched westward along the southern bank. Alongside, the Red division that had already crossed over to northern bank marched in tandem. Sichuan troops had by then set up positions along northern bank and violent skirmishes took place. Reinforcements of Chinese Nationalist troops of Chiang Kaishek who appeared on southern bank were racing to reach the Bridge first, hoping to cut the Reds off at one single strategic point. But the gallant Red soldiers marching at double quick, at times climbing several thousand feet over high cliffs, again descending as low as the level of the stream and paddling through waist deep mud, outpaced the enemy’s fatigued soldiers in the race for the Luding Bridge.

That suspension bridge built in 1701 AD during the rule of Qing dynasty, was held up by thirteen heavy-duty iron chains, stretched across the river over a span of some 100 yards, with ends imbedded under huge piles of cemented rock beneath the stone bridgeheads on both banks. While two chains on each side served as the bridge-railings, nine floor chains made up the 3-meter-wide bridge-deck with wooden planks placed crosswise on them. But wooden planks over three-quarters of the length of the bridge-deck were found taken away when the Red Soldiers reached there. With raging waters below, they stood sandwiched between Sichuanese Army’s machine-gun nest pointing towards them from the from the front bridgehead and a regiment of white troops holding positions at their back. Before them only the bare iron chains swung up to about three-quarters of the bridge. The war game was all but over so their enemies thought, never thinking even in their wildest imagination that the Red Soldiers would insanely try to crossover on the bare chains alone! But that was what they exactly did. No time was to be lost. The bridge must be captured.

Theirs not to reason why

Theirs but to do and die…

Crossing the Luding Bridge seemed a suicide mission. One by one Red soldiers stepped forward and offered themselves. Of those who volunteered, thirty daredevils were chosen. With hand-grenades and Mauser-rifles strapped to their backs, some crawled on the floor chains creeping forward hand over hand and some walked sideways on the edge-chains clinging on to the chain railings, swinging dangerously above the furious river. Machine guns barked. Bullets whizzed. Red soldiers were hit one after another and bodies swept away by current below. More and more of these madcaps were shot and consumed by the angry surge. Eventually at least one Red Soldier got over the first of the leftover timbers, uncapped a grenade, and tossed it with perfect aim into the enemy redoubt (defence enclosure outside a larger fort). Paraffin was hurled as more and more Red Soldiers boarded these planks. The wood caught fire and so did the Paraffin-drenched inflammable uniforms of the frontline daredevils, who displayed a devilish spectacle: Burning figures of Humans, appearing like ignited torches, insensitive to the fire, numb to the flames, as though belonging to a different sensory world, ran towards the enemy redout wielding rifle! Sichuanese soldiers stood spell-bound, viewing that unearthly show, forgetting their triggers for a while. And swiftly more Reds from behind swarmed over the chains, dashed out through flames licking them and tossed grenade after grenade, into the enemy redout. More and more Reds now advanced to help put out the fire and replace the missing boards. Luding bridge was captured. And soon the Red Soldiers who just crossed the river by the bridge joined those who had already crossed it by boats and together they opened an intense flank attack on the enemy positions. The disoriented Sichuan soldiers receded in a disorderly flight. Those who didn’t flee, surrendered and turned to join the Red Army. The entire horde of Long Marchers was now hiking across the river, deeper into the comparative safety of Sichuan, shouting— “Long live the Revolution!” 

What describes your feelings best up to this point awed or dazed? But wait… The Long March is far from over. It is halfway through in seven months.

The Reds then marched through some of the highest snow peaked mountains in the world, some of the world’s most far-stretched swamp-lands replete with devourer quicksand. Fighting all along their way under extreme conditions, a yearlong march took them across 18 mountain ranges, 24 rivers and over unfathomable tracts of lowlands!

That recites like the opening lines of ‘Vidrohi-Kavi’ (rebellious poet) Kazi Nazrul Islam’s inspirational Bengali poem ‘Kandari Hushiyar’ (Captain be Alert), which in English would read as:

“Insurmountable mountains, Uncrossable oceans, Impassable desert

Have to be crossed in the darkness of night, travellers be on the alert”

Some among us fantasize, romanticize or muse over it or derive thrills out of it. But when it comes to going through such a horrid ordeal in practice, it is the Red Army of China.

That was the briefest possible outline of the ‘Long March’, depicted by American journalist Edgar Snow in his 1937 book ‘Red star over China’, through which the world outside China came to know about the Long March and Communist movement, though many years later. The world was astounded. But some high-flier romantics were more touched than others may be mesmerized would be more appropriate.  

For some it is an action-packed odyssey, founding myth of Communist China’s that every Chinese child learns in school. 

For some it is a grossly exaggerated propaganda in order to inspire more and more the Chinese youth to join the Red Army. The Long March was only a political gain but a military failure with shocking stories of starvation, disease, desertion, ruthless purging, mistreatment of women and thousands of unnecessary deaths. Of the original 86000 marchers only around 8000 reached the final destination. Also, the capture of Luding Bridge was in fact an easy military operation, without really much of a resistance met. Was the thriller then contrived by those historical greats in their horse-back military conference? What was the truth then?  

Be it exact or embellished, no other historical depiction such as about the Long March has carried away bright minds to the extent of fantasizing a similar liberation even in our context. Whether factual or fabricated, accounts of no other military feat such as the battle over the Luding Bridge has charged romantic minds with the impractical idea of waging a similar people’s war even under our conditions.

Just in the manner China had once spread a political virus named 'Naxalism', so did they spread a biological virus called ‘Corona’ half a century later.  Corona rides on medical comorbidities like Hypertension, Diabetes, Heart & Lung diseases, Kidney & Liver Disorders etc for inflicting fatality.  Much in the same manner ‘Naxalism’ had arrived riding on mental comorbidities like extreme romanticism, Utopianism, Quixotism, ‘blindness to practicality’ etc for inflicting calamity.

The wreckage had been cleverly brought about by China on what they still used to call Nehru’s imperialist, capitalist, feudalist, bureaucratic India and it worked without firing a single bullet from their side, unlike 1962 aggression but like Coronavirus infection.

‘There is no greater disaster than discontent’ Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher)

March 25, 1967: A tiny village on the foothills of the Himalayas made named Naxalbari located in the Darjeeling district in North Bengal made headlines in ‘People’s Daily’, the official newspaper of China, as well as on ‘Radio Peaking’ news broadcast:

“A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India. Revolutionary peasants in the Darjeeling area have risen in rebellion. Under the leadership of a revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party, a red area of rural revolutionary armed struggle has been established in India”, it said.

The above incident took place just a day earlier (24th March), as an eruption of feelings of discontent bottled-up deep within the landless peasants, exploited by the landowners (Jotedars) whose tea-estates they worked in. That 50-year-old incident had sparked a fire that spread across large parts of India under the name of ‘Naxalbari Movement’ which has been burning on even till this day under the grab of ‘Maoist movement’ A mutation of Naxal Virus, similar in manner to the mutations of Corona Virus enabling it to linger on.

‘Before preparing to improve the world, first look around your own home three times.’ Chinese Proverb

"Forget everything you have learnt here in China. Once back in Naxalbari, formulate your own revolutionary strategies, keeping in mind the ground realities over there” Mao had told a delegation of Naxalite revolutionaries at the end of their three-month ideological cum military and guerrilla training at Changping Military School near Beijing on December 13, 1967. That group of four was headed by Kanu Sanyal, a close associate of the legendary Charu Mazumdar the supremo of Communist Party’s breakaway radicals who spearheaded the Naxalite movement and, on the ‘May Day’ of 1969, publicly announced at a rally in Kolkata, the formation of their own political party and named it (CPI-ML).

Carried away emotionally by the adulations on the state-controlled Chinese media, on the wake of ‘Spring Thunder’ striking the Naxalbari soil successfully, the ‘super theoretician’ Charu Mazumdar was more than convinced that, ‘conditions for an armed revolution were ripe in the country on the path shown by chairman Mao alone and coined slogans like "China's Chairman Is Our Chairman, China's Way Is Our way". Chinese virus found its way through the supremo’s mental comorbidity.

Though back home with Mao-Tse-Tung’s parting words ringing in their ears, Kanu Sanyal and his comrades, in their over-infatuation with his ways, fantasized a country wide People’s Revolution, failing to take cognizance of our ground realities A Feudal Democracy, a society divided on the lines of cast, creed, religion laden with superstitions and communalism, cultural diversity, varied ethnicity to mention only a few. Romanticism functioned as another mental comorbidity.

‘A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another’ The Little red Book (Quotations from Mao-Tse-Tung)

And their blind faith in the ‘The Little Red Book’, which they revered as a ‘Holy Book’, pushed us a step closer to the ‘doom’. Never in post-independence history has there been a murderous cult so lethal as the Naxalites letting loose an auto-escalating savagery of killings and counter-killings similar in the manner to the self-propagating Corona Pandemic.

Charu Mazumdar and his comrades enticed many college-going students into joining the movement who fanned out to the countryside. Taking the revolting peasants and tribals in their stride, they launched ‘Sreni-Shatru-khatam' (Finishing a class-enemy) operation on 'jotedars'. Spooky tales of blood shed resulting from gunshots or hacking, slashing, slitting using Hasua, Kurki or Tangi-knives chilled spines. Policemen who came to protect them were murdered mercilessly and their guns looted. Euphorically they shouted slogans like ‘long Live Chairman Mao, Long Live the Revolution’, whenever ‘Liberated Zones’ were created in isolated pockets.  

The ‘Chinese Virus’ made deeper inroads into our ‘body politic’. The Naxals started killing even school teachers, professors, professionals, businessmen, traffic police, state officials, who too had become ‘class enemies’ in their eyes. A lot of cruel, gruesome and ghastly murders, were the handiwork of seasoned criminals who had infiltrated their ranks. Spreading further the virus turned ‘Anti Establishment’ not even sparing premier educational institutions from its ruinous exploits…      

A little-known fact, but IIT Kgp too went through its own share of distress inflicted by the Naxalites during early 70s, which I am depicting from my own experience and personal viewpoint. Characters though real, appear with their names changed:   

“Sir, squad No3 has not yet reported for duty”. It is not any battle field where a Havildar is reporting to his superior in command of a platoon, comprising several such squads. It is Nehru Hall of Residence, one of the three Halls situated at the Old Campus at IIT Kharagpur one evening in September 1971. Patel Hall and Azad Hall are the other two. Patel Hall was rocked by a bomb blast that very morning. The blasters numbering two raced away from Patel Hall, sped through entire span Nehru Hall, then sprinted over the adjacent unfenced field, crossed the peripheral road around IIT campus and finally disappeared into the private area to the other side, which we called the DVC area. In those days there was neither any fencing separating Nehru and Azad halls from that open expanse, nor any overall boundary wall existed around the campus.

Far from the madding crowd, IIT Kgp’s multicultural, multilingual ambience, with presence of nearly all the provinces but without a political colour, had not felt a pinch of outside politics until then. But one day that seclusion broke. That impregnable insulation had an aperture running through it, via which the Naxal virus found its entry. The first IIT in the country which had its humble beginnings in early 50s, at the Hijli Detention Camp, interwoven with memories of freedom fighters of the nation, saw the ugly face of nation-killing movement called Naxalism during early 70s.

During those days, there used to be an Engineering course titled Special B.Tech (SBT), into which Science (Hons) graduates from other universities could get enrolled on the basis of marks secured in graduation and directly join the mainstream students in third year. But along with the meritorious students enrolled under this scheme, a few ‘seasoned’ Naxalites too, mainly from Presidency and Scottish Church College of Calcutta, had also infiltrated.


Putting into effect this ‘fatwa’ issued from their ‘high command’ seemed to be the ulterior motive behind their entry.

They were mostly allotted Nehru, Patel and Azad three halls clustered together in the old campus, whose terminal location became conducive to their Naxal activities. Fortunately, by virtue of being a Nehruite, I could quietly witness their misdeeds.

Though genre wise a bit different, nothing was conspicuous about that entire set of about twenty, barring just four who formed a subset. Revolutionary words like reactionary, bourgeoise, revisionist, proletariat etc were freely exchanged within this coterie of four during their closed-door interactions, it was rumoured. But initially taken lightly, because they were from an ambience completely different from ours— College Square of Calcutta. As per our preconceived notion, Coffee House was the best place there to get a feel of the romanticism of revolution by raising a storm in a tea cup over Camus and Kafka. Billowing out cigarette smoke in the air there, they perceived the heat of a revolution simply by listening to the embellished story of Mao-Tse-Tung’s long march. They burned the midnight oil to get a feel of excitement from reading Che Guevara thriller.

But as days went by, this indifference turned into a slow realization that they are a force to recon with. Many mainstream students joined their brainwashing sessions and slowly began getting induced into radically different beliefs, which they started voicing without inhibitions.

That premium Institute about which it was said that an appointment letter waited even for the DPs (Declared Passed) or a somewhat decent looking grade card was the equivalent of a ticket to the US, suddenly degenerated into ‘reeking filth’ and their future employers degraded to their ‘class enemies’. What mesmerisation lay in their indoctrinations, under whose spell even those career-conscious, intelligent types from the mainstream too got misdirected? The answer is not known to me because I never got a call for their rendezvous.

An apt medicine was administrated during the five-day long inter-hall cultural programme– ‘Spring Festival’. Patel hall staged an English drama titled– ‘Son of Macbeth ka Beta’. The novelty of such an English-Hindi punched (Hinglish) name filled up seats in the stadium.

In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, the protagonist Macbeth was one of the Generals of Scotland’s king Duncan (I), who in the year 1040 AD, in collusion with his wife had killed the king and acceded to the throne of Scotland. Duncan’s 9-year-old son Malcolm (III) then fled to England and lived in exile. Over the years Malcolm raised an army in England, and killed his father’s murderer Macbeth in a battle in 1057 AD and was crowned king at the end of the play. 

But according to mediaeval history of England, David (I), third son of Malcom’s second wife Margret, eventually became the king of Scotland in 1124 AD, who grew in stature and became immensely powerful. Among the various religious, social and economic reforms that he implemented (called Davidian reforms), ‘introduction of feudal system’ through immigrant French and Anglo-French knights. was one. Up to this is History.

But whether Macbeth had a son at all does not exist in recorded history, not to speak of ‘son of son’ or grandson. But Ujjwal Anand, of Naval Architecture and talented dramatist, in his brain-child satiric play, created Macbeth’s grandson, who for avenging his grandfather’s killing, and together with it eradicating feudal system, attacks David’s castle. His unarmed soldiers numbering ten are emotional and romantic. They are less of warriors and more of spontaneous poets. They stand outside the castle reciting poems of revolution, as if, poetry alone would bring about revolution. As if, it was as easy as a poet’s dream. They sing songs of revolution, as if, land would be surrendered for a song. Satiric replies came out of the castle, evoking waves of laughter among the audience, as though it was a duel between poets. Suddenly, knights of David come out of the castle wielding swords and chase them away. It is needless to say that the nail was hit right over the head.

Next morning, the walls beside the foyer at Nehru Hall’s entrance were found decorated by wall writings (probably the first in the history of IIT)


Without altering much, the letter L appearing twice in word KILL, was simply replaced by S. The altered meaning became a laughing stock. From duel between poets, it now turned into a duel between wall-writers.

Some days passed off uneventfully. Once again, a wall writing came up. This time in Azad Hall:


Without altering anything, it was simply tagged with a tail and the picture of a donkey drawn below it:


While cleaner minds mused at the pun where ‘Calibre’ could mean either the ‘bore of the barrel of a gun’ or a donkey’s ability, it was left to the dirtier minds to interpret the prurient content.

A few days of inactivity was once again followed by a writing on the wall. It was Patel Hall this time:


No tampering done. That was quite indicative of something very clandestine in the offing. Hijli-Thana situated opposite to the Institute main-gate was cautioned. As expected, during day time two ear splitting bomb blasts were heard in succession. But the pre warned policemen came out from behind piles of sandbags. It was just lunch break, with cyclists swarming out who joined the policemen in the chase, finally grabbed hold of them at ‘Chandmari Maidan’ (at the rear side of Cheddi’s Snack Shop) and bashed them up.

The writing on Patel Hall’s wall was covered under whitewash and an open challenge thrown:


The game now grew interesting. Some days passed without any incident. Suspense was mounting. Night vigil was increased. We did the night guard-duty in relay. On the seventh day I did not go to class as I was not feeling well. The time for lunch break was nearing and I was waiting in my room for sick-diet to arrive from the mess. Just then the sound of a single bomb blast emerging from Patel Hall, rattled the window panes. I ran to the balcony and witnessed that unforgettable escape scene of Gora and Chandan.

Gora, short height, fair complexioned and stockily built, had something in his demeanour that suggested his wealthy upbringing. They owned factories at Howrah, twin city of Kolkata. There was something overbearing in his manners as to pass him off as the kingpin among his companions from Calcutta colleges. Chandan on the other hand, of medium height and athletic build and one of the worst raggers, belonged to a class of people in a village of Howrah district who owned agricultural land with landless peasants or labourers working on them. According to the ‘ism’ they were indoctrinated into, they very much fitted well into their definition of ‘class enemy’. Then, why they didn’t begin their ‘finish-operation’ from their own homes, I reflected as my eyes followed them in their flight.

At the other side, Patel Hall’s entry corridor bore the marks of a bomb blast bits and pieces of steel chips, nails, glass pieces littered all over and the air laden with heavy smoke smelling of gunpowder. Luckily none happened to be in the vicinity. When the air cleared of smoke a new wall writing was discovered just below our provocation lines:


A massive search operation was mounted in the DVC locality where they could be hiding in their hideout or den. At nightfall the search party returned without a clue. But it was apprehended that that these two ‘revolutionaries’ would at least return stealthily to get their bare essentials even if they were to flee for good. Dividing into small squads, we put up vigil at all possible entry points or gaps. Just then someone from one of the squads spotted them at the Hira’s tea stall just out of the peripheral road, which we too frequented.

A group of daredevils led by Sodhi, the hall G.Sec in the lead, volunteered to launch a frontal attack wielding hockey stick. I along with some others offered to be on the rear flank holding flash lights. Stealthily we advanced almost up to the striking distance under the cover of darkness. 

“Charge” shouted Sodhi in over excitement. They fled leaving their tea cups and we chased with beaming flashlights, trying not lose sight of them in the dimly lit area. From a distance they were seen entering an abandoned house. The single-panel door was left wide open. With beams of flashlight light piercing through the darkness, Kuntal, ventured into the house. Just then Gora sprang from behind the door, knifed his shoulder blade and swiftly disappeared into the darkness. Kuntal’s’s blood smeared body fell on the floor. The suddenness of the incident left the amateur adventurists in a state of dazzle. Chandan too came out of hiding and swiftly vanished in the darkness. While one group carried Kuntal to the hospital, another (which included me), led by the Chief of Security Capt Shenoy armed with a revolver, launched a further search operation. Passing through dingy slums, we stepped onto a clear railway track, little knowing that nearly 40 KM away from where we stood, nearly 40 years later, a ‘mutated version’ of the same virus which was troubling us, would wreck the Bombay bound Gyaneshwari Express on a dark night in a forest near Jhargram. What if, Charu Mazumdar’s route passed through Jungle-Mahal, the way Mao’s passed through Lololand?      

The wild goose chase was abandoned and we returned to find that the sensational stabbing news had already spread like a wild fire in the entire campus. Patience had outstretched its limits; anger had found its natural outburst. All the ‘budding Naxals’ from the three halls of the old campus had been dragged out and squatted on the spacious common room floor of Nehru Hall. Blows, slaps and kicks indiscriminately descended on them. Blood Clots stained the floor. I had never seen such a spectacle before. Some startling revelations from their confessions were:

Bombing Director’s bungalow, thwarting the upcoming terminal exams, guerrilla style surprise attacks on wardens and some selected students. Police van arrived. They were bundled off to Midnipur jail. Calm descended after the storm. Terminal exams were held on schedule. Those arrested were released, but after the terminal exam, because among their bad intents, thwarting that was one. Unlike Gora, none of the others had charges of putting into effect an unlawful intent nurtured within the mind. Rather it was deemed proper to counsel those human resources ‘gone astray’, back into the mainstream. Chandan too returned along with others and re-joined losing a year. Professionally most have done well either in the country or abroad, which include even NASA Scientist and chiefs of Corporations, in fact higher than many of those who had played safe with their careers fifty years back. That is potential.

But Gora never returned. Recorded on police files as ‘absconding’, some rumoured that he was killed in a fake ‘encounter’. While what happened to him will never be known, can we play our small role in keeping our future generations from such self-destricting games...











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