Remembering Pranab Da and the Durgapur 'Steel Melting Shop'

26 July marks the second death anniversary of Comrade Pranabda (Dhurjati Prasad Bakshi). The tireless revolutionary whose Naxalbari-inspired journey had begun during his student days in Durgapur Regional Engineering College in the late 1960s finally fell to cancer two years ago. In March 2018 we had our Tenth Party Congress in Mansa, Punjab. True to his organiser instinct and training, Comrade Pranabda was the first central leader from outside Punjab to go and camp in Mansa to help Punjab comrades organise the mega event. But we could see his flesh had started showing signs of fatigue and after a brief battle with cancer his long and tireless journey ended on 26 July.

He was an outstanding organiser who could adapt to a whole range of difficult situations and forge intimate ties with comrades from diverse backgrounds. Pranabda spent quite a few years in Assam during the turbulent Assam movement period, mastering great fluency in the Assamese language and playing a key role in the party's expansion in various parts of Assam including the hill district of Karbi Anglong. In later years, we saw him in a similar role in Odisha and Jharkhand. Tenacity and adaptability were two defining qualities of his five-decade-old communist career which also included years in jail in West Bengal during the repressive reign of SS Ray.

What was the source of this tenacity and adaptability? To Comrade Pranabda and his generation, these were quintessential communist qualies, something they picked up early on as basics of the ML movement, core values of the Naxalbari tradition, and grew up with these qualities as part of their basic communist education. Shedding every bit of intellectual arrogance and individualist conduct, getting integrated with the people and practising stubborn perseverance as the key to victory - these were principles that they learnt to live.

The close interaction between the Durgapur RE College student movement and the Durgapur Steel Plant working class movement was the crucible that churned out a large number of communist revolutionaries from among both engineering students and steel plant workers. With their characteristic tenacity and discipline, and courage and initiative, they played such a key role in rebuilding the CPI(ML) party and movement after the severe setback of the early 1970s. Bhojpur and Bihar added to this the vitality and power of the upsurge of the oppressed and helped CPI(ML) overcome the setback and strike deep roots in India's social soil.

Today on Pranabda's second death anniversary, let us salute these communist architects and their tremendous contribution to the growth of the CPI(ML). Tributes to four comrades emerging from this Durgapur 'steel melting shop' - two from the engineering college, Comrades Vinod Mishra and Pranabda (DP Bakshi) and two from among the vanguard workers, Comrades Analda (Sudarshan Basu) and Shantanu Bakshi, who are no more. There are many more from this specific background who are still around and working with all their strength, and I salute them all without naming them.




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