ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Early Years of a Communist in a Colonial East Bengal Town

The document is a rendering of excerpts from the autobiographical essay by Poromesh Acharya, “Ak Naasteek Breeddher Jabaanbandee” (“Statement of an Old Atheist”) that appeared in Anustup (Kolkata, Supplement 2, Autumn Issue, Bengali Year 1421 [2014]). The focus is on Acharya’s East Bengal years and his political activism of the 1940s in Mymensingh town—in particular, “baptism” in the communist movement and being thrust willy-nilly into the fire of revolutionary activity in that town in 1948–49 in the midst of ongoing Hindu–Muslim communal tension. Acharya sees individual roles, responsibilities, problems and troubles, including his own, in terms of institutional movements and contradictions. All through, there is an acute awareness that his life can only be meaningfully understood alongside the unfolding history of the society itself, as reflected in the anti-colonial movement, the Bengal Famine of 1943, the political path of Subhas Chandra Bose and his Forward Bloc, communal tension and partition, and the short-lived revolutionary programme of the Communist Party of India following its February 1948 Second Party Congress.

[Note on Translation: The spellings of the Bengali proper nouns have been retained with an intention to help the non-Bengali reader not acquainted with Bengali pronunciations.]

It was on a sun-scorched day in Chaitra—the last month of the blooming Baanglaa spring season, and, also of the Baanglaa year—that I was born in Mymensingh, a colonial East Bengal town on the bank of the old Brahmaputra, the mythical river. The day remains unknown as I forgot to ask my mother. Most probably, the year was 1933. A teacher at the Mreettoonjoy School, the school I was enrolled in Mymensingh, however, wrote the year of my birth as 1935. Officially, my date of birth is 1 January 1935. One of the six brothers and two sisters, I was the naughtiest.

The Brahmaputra river with its overflowing banks during the monsoon, and sandy, wide banks during the winter, still flows, as I feel, through my veins. The old town was on the south bank while the northern bank spread to villages, fields, meadows, trees, bushes and groves stretched to the horizon. My days of childhood and early youth, my memories of the seasons, summer–­monsoon–autumn–winter, my first experience with the spring, all my early days of learning, my school days, the beginner’s lesson with politics, my first love, all are there in the town, along the banks, and with the flow of the Brahmaputra.

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Updated On : 26th Sep, 2023
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