A legendary revolutionary

Print edition : November 07, 1998
KALYAN CHAUDHURI

A MASS leader and liberator of the tribal people, Dasarath Deb, or Raja Dasarath as he was popularly known in Tripura, was a legendary figure in the Communist movement in the State. He filed his nomination for the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952 while remaining underground. He won the East Tripura seat with a huge margin on the Communist Party of India ticket even without any organised campaign. Deb served as a Member of Parliament for four terms - from 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1971.

Born in 1916 in a peasant family at Boltali village in Khowai subdivision of West Tripura, Dasarath Deb dedicated his life to social work after graduating from B.C. College at Habigunj, now in Bangladesh. His political career began with a mass literacy movement intended for the uplift of the tribal people in Tripura. In 1945 he formed the Janasiksha Samity in order to educate the tribal masses, enrich the tribal language and literature and make the tribal people conscious of their social and political rights. Later, in order to bring the tribal people on one platform he formed the Mukti Parishad. He led an armed struggle for three years (1948-1950) against the repressive, feudal rule of the King of Tripura. In 1950, Dasarath Deb, along with his followers, joined the CPI. Since then he had striven for unity among the tribal and non-tribal people living in Tripura.

Dasarath Deb was inducted into the Central Committee of the undivided CPI in 1951, one year after he joined the party. Immediately he made his presence felt in the party at the national level. When the CPI split in 1964, he joined the CPI(M) and was its Central Committee member until the party's 16th congress in Calcutta, held in October 1998.

Under the leadership of Dasarath Deb, the Upajati Ganamukti Parishad was formed in 1964 to lead the tribal people to the path of socialism and counter the activities of tribal extremists politically. He was its president until he died on October 14, at the age of 82. The Upajati Ganamukti Parishad, a mass organisation of the CPI(M), was a political necessity in the context of the secessionist activities indulged in by some tribal extremist organisations.

ASHISH K. BOWMIK

Deb was also actively involved in the peasant movement in Tripura. He has served as the vice-president of the All India Krishak Sabha and the president of the All India Agricultural Workers' Union.

Deb did not lose any election except one to the Lok Sabha in 1967. He began to concentrate more on State politics in 1978 and fought the Assembly elections from his home constituency, Ramchandraghat in West Tripura. He was elected to the State Assembly for four consecutive terms between 1978 and 1993. He was Education Minister in the first Left Front Government in Tripura in 1978 and Deputy Chief Minister in the second one in 1983. The Left Front went out of power in the 1988 elections, but the high point came for Deb in 1993 when as the State secretary of the CPI(M) he led the party again to victory. Deb took over as Chief Minister of the Left Front Government in 1993, and continued in that position until early 1998. He declined on health grounds to contest the 1998 Assembly elections. Deb was secretary of the CPI(M)'s Tripura unit from 1988 to 1993.

A prolific writer, Dasarath Deb authored two books - Mukti Parishader Ektikatha (Story of Mukti Parishad) and Samantatantrik Byabasthar Biruddhe Mukti Parishader Sangram (Fight of Mukti Parishad against Feudalism). He also wrote two books in his mother tongue, Kakborak, a tribal language. He contributed hundreds of articles to newspapers. Deb knew a number of Indian languages and was fluent in Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali apart from having mastery over Kakborak. Deb had travelled widely; he visited Russia, the United Kingdom and China.

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) described Dasarath Deb as an unchallenged mass leader and a symbol of the tribal movement in Tripura. Deb was a true Marxist who took the right stand on crucial issues, it said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu said that Dasarath Deb was one of the architects of the Communist movement in Tripura. "His death is a great loss to the party and the Left democratic movement. Deb was one of the best Communist ideologues and a champion of the cause of the tribal movement."

The Opposition Congress(I) leader in the Tripura Assembly, Samir Ranjan Barman, and State Congress(I) president Gopal Roy described Deb as a "legendary figure" in the history of Tripura.

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