‘He spoke his mind and expected others to do so too’

Recently, at Howrah station, a group of railway porters surrounded me to ask about the health of Comrade Jyoti Basu. I told them that he was better. They smiled and said, "We hope he lives for many more years, he is our man." A colossus who was inspirational in his unswerving commitment to the interests of the working class and the poor, a true Communist, he cared deeply for people and was loved by them in return.

In Bengal and all over the country, there will be numerous, countless workers and the poor in the villages who grieve today the passing of a man who lived his life to create a world more just for them. They trusted him because Jyoti Basu always spoke the truth to the people. He never exaggerated what he could do for them, he always pointed out the pitfalls. The higher his stature, the sharper his unerring instinct and connection with the grassroots, with the pulse of the people. In his death, the country has lost one of its greatest sons, a man who was born into privilege, who turned his back on it, to fight the fight of the dispossessed.

In the stormy years between 1967 and 1970, under the leadership of Jyoti Basu and Pramod Dasgupta, the party in Bengal first came to power. Jyoti Basu became deputy chief minister. It was also the period of the Naxalite movement. In faraway London, where I was at that time, the echoes of the struggles could be heard in the heated discussions among Indian students. The CPI(M) was referred to as Jyoti Basu's party and there were two opposing camps, those belonging to Jyoti Basu's party and the rest. I remember writing in my diary how proud I felt to belong to his camp.

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