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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 8 New Delhi February 9, 2019

Kalpana Dutt

Sunday 10 February 2019, by Nikhil Chakravartty


From N.C.’s Writings

The following lines were written by N.C. twentyfour years ago and published in this journal’s February 18, 1995 issue. It is being reproduced on the occasion of the distinguished revolutionary Kalpana Dutt’s twentyfourth death anniversary which fell on February 8 this year. It came and went with hardly anyone remembering her on that day. Kalpana’s birth centenary on July 27, 2013 also went virtually unnoticed. But we in Mainstream have decided to offer our homage to her memory by reproducing the following piece. Incidentally N.C. had also translated Kalpana’s reminiscences from Bengali to English under the guidance of P.C. Joshi, Kalpana’s husband and the legendary General Secretary of the CPI (1943-48). 

On February 8 passed away in a Calcutta hospital a frail figure who sixty years ago became a legend in the classical mould. Kalpana Dutt, born in 1913 in a middle-class Bengali home in East Bengal, was a student in Calcutta’s Bethune College in 1930 when she came in contact with the group of Chittagong revolutionaries whose leader was the great Surya Sen, fondly called ‘Masterda’ by all his disciples.

Soon Kalpana came under the hawk’s eyes of the police and she had to return to Chitta-gong where she was interned at home. But the young revolutionary, in her secretly maintained close links with Surya Sen’s revolutionary group, learnt handling firearms and engaged herself in other revolutionary activity. She would have been in the party of revolutionaries whose famous attack on the Armoury and the European Club touched off the famous Chittagong upsurge, an incident which electrified the entire nation. Kalpana at that time was serving a short prison term. As soon as she was released she went underground and for two years moved with Masterda’s team. When Surya Sen was betrayed by a police informer, Kalpana escaped, and moved into hiding for three months, when she was arrested and brought to trial in what was known as the Chittagong Armoury Raid Supplementary Case, in which she was sentenced for life. After the nationwide campaign for the release of the imprisoned Bengal revolutionaries, she came out of prison in 1939.

Like many other Bengal revolutionaries, Kalpana took to Marxism in prison and after her release, joined the banned Communist Party. It was in those days that the present writer met her—a remarkable blend of humility and elegance with unswerving dedication to the cause of the country’s freedom and the uplift of the downtrodden. During the Bengal famine, one saw her totally devoted to organising relief kitchen for the starving and medical relief for the sick in the Chittagong villages.

In 1943, about the time of the Communist Party Congress, Kalpana married P.C. Joshi, the popular leader of the Communists. She was fully occupied with her party work in Bengal. When the communal holocaust of the partition overtook Bengal, Kalpana was equally active in relief and rescue work. Then came the period of insensate sectarian adventurism of the Indian Communists under Ranadive, inflicting severe loss on the movement. Joshi and with him Kalpana were thrown out of the party. Bereft of shelter but undaunted in spirit, Kalpana received support from close friends, one of whom was Prof P.C. Mahalanobis who engaged her in his Statistical Institute, where she worked until she retired a few years ago.

With the country switching over to election politics after independence, few heard of Kalpana engaged as she was in her silent work. The lure of office and headline publicity never swayed her from utter devotion to the cause of fighting for the underprivileged and dispossessed. She remained unwavering in her conviction and unobtrusive in her dedicated work, no matter whatever the form be.

Out of the limelight this gem of revolutionary India was lost in the forgotten gallery of India’s patriots so much so that even the Doordarshan could not spare a few seconds to announce her passing away. Those who have known her in life shall never forget the exquisite serenity of a personality who carried such an unbroken spirit of service to humanity.

Patriotism of the highest order in Kalpana shall remain a shining memory for all those who knew her.

(Mainstream, February 18, 1995)

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