Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 8, February 14, 2015
Sunil Dasgupta Is No More
Monday 16 February 2015
On January 8, passed away in Berlin Sunil K. Dasgupta, 86. He is survived by his wife Barbara and two sons.
His wife, Barbara Dasgupta, sent the following life-sketch of Sunil Dasgupta for publication in Mainstream.
“Fondly known as ‘Ramuda’ or simply ‘Dada’, Sunil Kumar Dasgupta was born in 1928 in Beldhakan, now Jalakati, in Barisal in a family of ayurvedic doctors. His uncle was Nalini Gupta, the famous Chacha of ‘Chachar Kahini’, one of the founders of the Communist Party of India. From 1928, he owned the Hindusthan House at Berlin’s Uhlandstrasse Street which was a meeting place of emigrant Indians and was visited even by Rabindranath Tagore. In 1941 he had to leave Nazi Germany with his German wife and little daughter and from then on lived in the family till his death in 1956. He exercised considerable influence on young Sunil whose family moved to Calcutta long before partition.
“At the age of 13 Sunil started working for the Communist Party as a courier. Later on he joined the party and worked as an organiser and trade union activist, for example, with the Tram Workers’ Union in Calcutta. In early 1961 he went to Berlin, first to its western part as a worker with the Siemens. He established contact with the Socialist Unity Party (SED) of Germany and with its help one year later moved to East Berlin, the then capital of the German Democratic Republic. There he married in 1969 and worked in an electrical goods factory. Alongside this work he was in charge of looking after the Indian students who were sent to the GDR under an agreement between the CPI and SED. He saw to it that they were successful in their studies, kept in contact with developments in their home country and helped them with any problem that occurred. These ex-students are now scattered all over India and holding very good positions. The condolence messages coming in from a number of them express the gratitude to him they feel even to this day.
“When the news of the upsurge in East Pakistan and the beginning of the liberation struggle there reached him, he at once became active. He raised money which was sent to the Indira Gandhi Liberation Fund and started canvassing support for Bangladesh in Germany. After the victory of the Mukti Bahini with the support from India, a group of wounded freedom fighters came to Berlin for treatment and he looked after them, brought them food and spent time with them to make them feel at home. Since his name had spread by then, represen-tatives of the new Bangladesh Government, of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, trade unionists and journalists, students and others who came to East Germany met him and came to his house at Berlin’s southeastern Koepenick district. From then on the ties with the land of his birth became deeper than before. In 2012 he was awarded the Friends of Liberation War Honour by the Bangladesh Government together with 83 activists across from the world—those who had built the solidarity movement of 1971, many of them from India including the legendary Lieutenant General (Rtd.) J.F.R. Jacob. This was to be his last journey to India and Bangladesh. “His health became ever more frail. In spite of his dwindling eyesight he kept reading mostly books on the contemporary history of India and Bangladesh and remained in contact with his friends there.”
Sunil Dasgupta was close to the Mainstream family and occasionally wrote in this journal. While offering our sincere homage to him we convey our deepest condolences to his family members, and his wife Barbara in particular.