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Last service, after stutter Basu's body for medical school

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By BISWAJIT ROY
  • Published 18.01.10
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Calcutta, Jan. 17: Jyoti Basu used to say that communists served the people till their last breath.

To some of his critics, the remark betrayed his alleged desire to cling to power even after 23 years as chief minister.

But Brojo Roy knew better. He had been present the day the former chief minister had lived up to his words, publicly pledging his body (and organs) for the benefit of patients and medical science.

Basu’s eyes were removed soon after his death this morning. His body will be handed over to the SSKM Hospital authorities on Tuesday, CPM state secretary Biman Bose announced this evening.

Roy, the general secretary of Gana Darpan, an organisation that promotes the cause of body donation, said: “The nonagenarian Basu’s organs (almost all dysfunctional when he died) will not be of much use any more. But his body will help medical students learn more. Above all, it will inspire many people to donate their mortal remains for the benefit of future generations.”

CPM sources said there had been certain hiccups over donating the body as some people close to Basu, including a few family members, felt it would be better not to put it under the scalpels of anatomy students in view of his advanced age and public sentiments. Bose summoned Roy to the state party headquarters this afternoon to discuss the matter.

Roy told him that dishonouring Basu’s pledge would not only be a show of disrespect to him but may trigger a controversy that could affect both the party and the campaign. Bose, who has himself pledged his body, appreciated the logic and brought round those who had reservations.

Basu’s family members said they had left the decision to the party.

Roy recalled the pledge Basu had made on April 4, 2003, as the veteran leader inaugurated a workshop to popularise Gana Darpan’s campaign.

He remembers Basu saying: “I knew that communists worked for the people till their last breath. But I didn’t know it would be possible to serve the people even after my death. I’m really happy after pledging my body today.”

Roy knew it was not just a politician’s posturing — Basu had already expressed his desire to donate his body when the organisers approached him.

“He had learnt about our campaign from one of his friends who had pledged his organs and wanted to emulate him,’’ Roy said.

Every donor needs wit- nesses to his pledge. In Basu’s case, it was the former ministers, the late Prasanta Sur and Pratyush Mukherjee.

Earlier, other CPM leaders such as Bose, his predecessor Anil Biswas and veteran Benoy Konar had pledged their bodies, Roy said. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee followed suit in 2006. Now many in the CPM rank and file have joined them.

Although the families of a few politicians and other celebrities had declined to honour the pledge made by the deceased, Roy had been confident that this would not happen with Basu.

“It is the party that decides. When party veteran and educationist Satyabrata Sen died, Anil Biswas informed me and asked me to proceed with the formalities to honour the pledge Sen had made. Biman Bose took the same initiative when Biswas died in 2006,’’ Roy said.

Sources said the CPM state committee had urged its members to donate their bodies but had not made it mandatory, following the line party general secretary Prakash Karat has taken on cadres’ observance of religious customs.