December 27, 2015

Comrade Noorul Huda Shall Continue to Inspire

Vijoo Krishnan

COMRADE Noorul Huda, a veteran of many struggles who carried a rare grace combined with resoluteness and humility in all he did, passed away after a brief illness on December 17, 2015. He was aged eighty six. In his long span in the Communist Movement spread across nearly seven decades, he made an impeccable contribution to the peasant movement. He selflessly worked throughout his life for the emancipation of the oppressed people, adhering to the Marxist-Leninist worldview. He held many important responsibilities in the Party and Kisan Sabha and carried out his work till the very end with a great sense of urgency. Comrade Huda was born on March 13, 1930 at Dalugram village in Silchar, Cachar in Assam as the third child of Muhammad Ali and Ayesha. His father was a magistrate in the British government. He had his early education in Guwahati, Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) and Silchar. After passing his matriculation with first division from Silchar Government High School in 1946, he shifted to St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata where he completed intermediate science with first division in 1948. He then joined the College of Engineering and Technology (CET), Jadavpur and graduated in mechanical engineering in 1953. In the very first year in the CET, he was drawn into student activism and joined All India Students’ Federation in August 1948. He came in contact with the leaders of the Communist movement in early 1949 and became a member of the Party in 1949 October when the Party was banned. Along with Sachin Sen, Prasanta Sur, Sibu Sen, Sukumar Roy and others working under the difficult circumstances, he was instrumental in founding the CPI in Jadavpur Mistripara Lane in 1949. As a student leader, in August 1949 he was arrested for protesting against the policies of the Congress government in the state and centre during the visit of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Kolkata. He was detained at Presidency Jail for about four weeks. Very soon he was again in the thick of political activity and in January 1950 was arrested for protesting against the policies of the then Congress government during a visit of Chief Minister Dr BC Roy to Jadavpur. He spent two months in Alipur Central Jail and was in the same case later sentenced to five months which he spent in the same jail in 1951. In the course of these detentions, he lost one academic year. An amiable personality committed to the student cause and broader struggles of the masses, it did not take long for him to emerge as a leader of the students’ movement in College of Engineering Technology, Jadavpur. In 1952-53, he was elected as the secretary of the students’ union fighting under the AISF banner. He secured the BME degree on completion of mechanical engineering in 1953. In 1954, he was elected as one of the joint secretaries of Bengal Provincial Students’ Federation (BPSF). In the same year, he was again arrested for participating in a teachers’ movement and was held at the Dumdum Central Jail for nearly a month. As an accomplished mechanical engineer, he completed a year’s training in the Machinery Manufactures Company, Kidderpore, Kolkata in 1954 and joined Stewarts and Lloyds Company and worked at Kolkata as well as Jamshedpur in 1955. In 1956, he joined Kaiser Engineers - an American firm given contract for expanding production of Tata Iron and Steel Company, Jamshedpur to two million tonnes. It was at Jamshedpur that he met Chhabi Ghosh whom he married in September 1962. She was the daughter of Gandhian, Manindra Kumar Ghosh who was a renowned trade union leader and later also a Congress member of parliament from Jamshedpur. During 1960-66, Com Huda worked in several engineering firms located in Kolkata and surroundings. In the meantime, he studied law in the evening at Surendranath Law College, Kolkata and obtained LLB degree in 1966. In 1964 when the CPI(M) was formed, he remained steadfast with it. In August 1966, as per the decision of the Party he quit his job and shifted to Silchar to help in building the Party there. Although he had joined the Silchar District Bar Association in September 1966, he devoted himself fully towards building the Kisan Sabha and the Party in undivided Cachar district working in close association with stalwarts like Gopen Roy, Achintya Bhattacharyya, Digen Das Gupta, Biresh Misra, Dwijen Sen Gupta and Rukmini Acharya. He always cherished his association with this set of leaders who selflessly contributed to building the Party and Kisan movement facing great hardships. The Surma Valley struggle of the peasantry was always an inspiration for him. In 1967 assembly elections for the first time Com Huda contested the assembly elections as an independent candidate supported by CPI(M) from Lakhipur. Although he lost the election, it was the immediate election after the Party was formed and helped in rallying people around the Party. In 1972 he contested the Assam assembly elections from Lakhipur as a CPI(M) candidate and came second, surprising political observers securing nearly 39 percent votes in the Congress stronghold. In 1973, the sitting member of parliament from Silchar died and by-election was due. Comrade Pramode Dasgupta who was on a visit to Silchar conveyed to Com Huda the Party’s decision that he should contest as the Party candidate. The contest was against senior Congress leader Mahitosh Purkayastha, former minister and Rajya Sabha MP. In a contest where few gave even the remotest chance of victory, Com Huda won with a huge margin fighting on a shoe-string budget which he always felt was possible only due to our struggles, commitment to the people and hard work of hundreds of Party activists and sympathisers. It was undoubtedly a big victory for the Left in Barak valley as well as Assam and he took oath as the first CPI(M) member of parliament from Assam on March 8, 1974. The political scenario changed soon with streaks of authoritarianism being clearly exhibited by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and culminated in the imposition of the national emergency threatening the democratic foundations of the country. Thousands of political leaders and activists were arrested and imprisoned for over eighteen months. Several hundreds of CPI(M) leaders and activists were kept in jail and even members of parliament were not spared. Comrade Jyotirmoy Basu and Comrade Noorul Huda were detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). Comrade AK Gopalan in his historic speech on the emergency referred to the authoritarian regime and the arrest of Com Basu and Com Huda. Like most other political prisoners Com Huda was also released on January 15, 1977. In the immediate elections after the withdrawal of the emergency, held in March 1977 Com Huda contested again to Lok Sabha but lost the elections narrowly securing around 45 percent of the votes. However, he won the Silchar legislative assembly seat in 1978 defeating the Janata Party candidate Kabindra Purkayastha. This was a landmark election in the history of Assam CPI(M) as along with him eleven CPI(M) candidates were elected to the assembly. The CPI(M) led the opposition to the reactionary policies of the Congress and emerged as the voice of the toiling masses in the assembly as well as outside. It led struggles seeking to force the Janata Party led state government to implement pro-worker, pro-farmer policies. However, from 1979 onwards there was the violent agitation by chauvinistic separatist forces and the All Assam Students’ Union. The reactionary movement seeking to drive out people they termed as ‘outsiders’ or ‘foreigners’ led to the killing of over fifty valuable comrades of the Party. In February 1983 on the pretext of opposing state assembly elections a pogrom took place at Nellie in Naogaon district in which on a single day over two thousand poor and extremely backward minority Muslims were massacred. CPI(M) facing heavy odds mobilised against these incidents and worked to protect peace and harmony in the state. Along with the other comrades of the Assam CPI(M), Com Huda under these difficult circumstances played a major role in keeping the red flag flying in the state. He contested unsuccessfully to the assembly and parliament when Assam was witness to extreme violence led by separatist forces. He performed creditably in the adverse situation even in the wake of extreme rigging. Com Noorul Huda was elected to the CPI(M) Assam state committee in 1970 and to the state secretariat of the Party in 1978. He was elected as the secretary of Cachhar district committee of the Party in 1985 and continued to hold the responsibility till 1990. In December 1985 at the 12th Party Congress he was elected to the Central Committee of the CPI(M) and continued as a CC member till he was relieved of his responsibilities at the 20th Congress of CPI(M) in April 2012. He joined the All India Kisan Sabha in 1967 and was elected to the Assam provincial Kisan Sabha committee and central kisan committee of the AIKS. He worked from the AIKS centre from August 2006 and worked as finance secretary and continued till the Cuddalore conference in 2013. He also helped in guiding the Party and the Kisan movement in Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and other states. In September 2013, he shifted to Kolkata and was part of the Paschim Banga Krishak Sabha as a CKC member. At the founding conference of the All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers’ Federation held in 2007, he was elected as the treasurer and later was elected as vice president in 2013 which he continued to hold till his death. Com Huda or ‘Noorul Da’ as he was affectionately called set an example as a disciplined activist, known for his simplicity, punctuality and commitment to the cause. Even at his advanced age he participated in protests against the ruling class policies and in Bengal against the TMC government and attacks on democratic rights. He was a voracious reader who kept meticulous notes of the newspapers, books and journals he read and continued with the habit till the last keeping awake late in the night. Coming from a rich landed Manipuri Muslim family with his father working as a magistrate under the British, he charted a political course surmounting many difficulties. According to reports, he gave up over 75 bighas of land he received from family to the sharecroppers who were cultivating the land. All through his life, he maintained a humble demeanour and was ever accessible to everyone. This endeared him to young and old alike. The peasantry, workers and people he interacted with saw him as one of their own. Generations to come will be inspired by his life, his struggles and steadfast commitment to the cause.