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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 22 New Delhi May 21, 2016

Lest We Forget

Monday 23 May 2016

Several noted personalities passed away in the last few days,

On April 27 veteran CPI-M leader and former Education Minister in the West Bengal Left Front Ministry, Kanti Biswas, 84, breathed his last in Kolkata. He was suffering from diseases related to old age.

Kanti Biswas’ original ancestral home was in Faridpur district of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). He migrated to India in 1965 and began residing in the Bongaon region of 24-Parganas, West Bengal. He came in contact with CPI leaders of the area, Ajit Ganguly and Krishnadulal Biswas, and joined the mass organisations of the CPI—Paschim Banga Yuba Sangha and Krishak Sabha. He took up teaching as a profession and became the Headmaster of Nahata High School of Bongaon.

Subsequently he joined the CPI-M and started working among Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and refugees. In 1977 he was elected to the State Assembly from the Gaighata consti-tuency. Initially he was given charge of the Youth Welfare Ministry in the State Government. Thereafter he became the Minister for Rehabi-litation as well as Information and Broadcasting for a brief period. In 1982 he was appointed the Minister for Education, a post he held till 2006. He was quite adamant on not abiding by the Central regulation on the issue of affiliation of the primary teachers’ education centres or PTTIs in the State with the National Council for Teachers’ Education. He had written several books on education. Various Left parties and mass organisations have mourned his demise.

In the Annual Number of Mainstream 2015 Dr A.K. Biswas wrote a review of Kanti Biswas’ memoirs Amar Jeevan: Kichu Katha (in Bengali). The review was entitled “A Communist Speaks: Memoirs of a Namasudra”. Kanti Biswas himself phoned up the Mainstream office and even sent an e-mail expressing sincere gratitude for the publication of the review.

On April 28 veteran Communist social scientist and journalist Prof Sunil Munshi, 94, died in Kolkata after prolonged illness. Hailing from Rajshahi in undivided Bengal, he joined the mounting students’ movement in the 1940s close to the end of British rule while studying in Calcutta’s Presidency College and soon became the Secretary of the Students’ Federation. A meritorious student, he attained a First Class First in MA in Geography from the Calcutta University. He worked at the central head-quarters of the All India Students Federation in Bombay and edited the AISF organ, The Student, for sometime.

In 1942 he became of a member of the CPI and remained so till the end. After having worked in the students’ movement he devoted himself to the teachers’ movement as well, as he took to teaching after leaving the university. He taught in Calcutta’s Vidyasagar College and Burdwan University where he functioned as a Reader. He was a Visiting Professor at the Calcutta University and also taught at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata.

He was intimately connected with the youth movement and cultural movement alongside his work as a Professor. He played a prominent role in establishing the Students’ Health Home in Calcutta and organising youth festivals in West Bengal. At one time he used to write regularly on science and geography as well as politics in Patriot, Link,The Statesman,Anand Bazar Patrika and New Age.

He was associated with the Kalantar news-paper since its brith in the 1960s. Subsequently he became its editor and thereafter the Chairman of its Editorial Board. He wrote a series of articles on various old buildings in Kolkata under the title Thikana Kolkata in Bengali (meaning Addresses in Kolkata) alongwith pictures and sketches all drawn by himself.

Prof Munsi’s elder brother, Dr Nihar Munsi, was a celebrated ophthalmologist, while his wife Vidya Munshi, who happened to be a pioneer among women journalists in the 1950s (having worked in such periodicals as Blitz), was a leading figure in the women’s movement. His daughter, Urmimala, is currently teaching in the Department of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Veteran freedom fighter and former West Bengal State Secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, 90, died in Kolkata on April 30.

A brilliant student of Calcutta University, his place of work was the Murshidabad district of West Bengal. He joined the freedom movement and RSP under the guidance and inspiration of the legendary RSP leader, Tridib Chaudhury. He was elected to the West Bengal State Assembly several times from Baharampur. He was a member of the Left Front Government for 24 years from 1977 to 2001 and served as the Minister of such departments as Panchayats, Jails, Social Welfare and Irrigation.

He was the State Secretary of the RSP from 1998 to 2012.

On his death leaders of several political parties and noted personalities have offered their warm tributes.