The house where Kanu Sanyal lived and his body was found hanging on Tuesday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Naxalbari, March 23: Kanu Sanyal, one of the founding leaders of the Naxalite movement in the country and the all-India secretary of the CPI(M-L), committed suicide at his house in a Naxalbari village this afternoon.
Sanyal’s body was found hanging from the rafters of his mud hut at Hatighisa village, 20km from Siliguri, by Santi Debnath, the wife of party worker Kesab Debnath who had gone to check on the veteran CPI(M-L) leader around 1.15pm.
Police said Sanyal, 78, a bachelor who was ailing, was suffering from depression.
“My daughter Jaya, who cooks for him, had served him chapatis and vegetables in the morning and rice, dal and egg curry around noon for lunch. He retired after lunch, reading the newspapers and Jaya returned home. I went to check on him later but did not find him on the mattress on the floor. I saw him hanging from the ceiling. I raised the alarm immediately,” Santi said.
She said ever since Sanyal suffered a stroke in 2008, she used to call on him every day and her son-in-law stayed with him at night.
Hearing the news of Sanyal’s death, neighbours and hundreds of people from around the area thronged his Hatighisa home. Leaders of other Naxalite factions and those belonging to the CPM, Congress and the Trinamul Congress also arrived at the spot.
Tea workers grieve for Kanu Sanyal.
Picture by Kundan Yolmo
“Of late, he was sounding very depressed. He was frustrated with the current communist movements in the country and used to say that both the Maoists and the CPM had deviated from their ideology. After his stroke, he had become feeble and could not move out to address meetings and rallies,” said Dipu Haldar, a district committee member of the CPI(M-L).
Haldar said though the Naxalite movement of the late sixties had witnessed killings, especially in the urban areas, Sanyal would always say that he was against the “wanton killings of innocent villagers” that the Maoists had been indulging in.
Around 3.30pm, Sanyal’s body was taken to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for post-mortem. Cries of Kanu Sanyal Amar Rahe rent the air and tribal men and women broke down as the ambulance drove off.
Jogen Biswakarma, the Darjeeling district secretary of the CPI(M-L), said Sanyal’s body would be kept at his home tonight as Naxalite leaders from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand were expected here tomorrow to pay their last respects.
Sanyal was born in 1932 in Kurseong and quit the CPM in 1967 to form the CPI(M-L) along with other leaders like Charu Majumdar. He practically led the May 1967 peasant’s insurrection by declaring the “liberation” of Naxalbari village — after which the movement came to be known.
Before that, Sanyal had worked as a revenue clerk at the Kalimpong and Siliguri courts.
Sanyal was arrested in 1970 and spent about seven years in various jails in Bengal and in Andhra Pradesh. Jyoti Basu personally saw to it that Sanyal was released when the Left Front came to power in Bengal in 1977.
Since then Sanyal, though maintaining a relatively low profile, had been campaigning for the rights of farmers and the tea garden workers in north Bengal by denouncing his original ideology of armed struggle.
Sanyal, in recent years, had been vocal in opposing land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram and was also in favour of Gorkhaland.
The CPM has condoled Sanyal’s death. Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said for the past two years Sanyal had become critical of the Maoists.
“His death is very unfortunate. He had been saying that the line adopted by the Maoists did not conform to the revolutionary understanding at the time when he started the Naxalite movement. Sanyal had actively participated in all major agitations of the CPM and other Left parties in Bengal against neo-imperialism,” Yechury said.