Vol. 5 Num 218 Mon. January 03, 2005  

Lest We Forget
Comrade Moni Singh
A leader of all people

Comrade Moni Singh, one of the national heroes of Bangladesh, adopted Marxism and Leninism at an early age. In his autobiographical book, 'Jiban Sangram', Comrade Moni Singh says that he joined the communist movement of workers and peasants during the last part of the twenties. He used to organise the workers first and subsequently he launched the struggle for the betterment of life of peasants and other toiling masses. During this time, Comrade Moni Singh met in Calcutta a number of famous communists including Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed.

Comrade Moni Singh maternal uncle was a feudal lord or 'Raja' of Susong Durgapur in greater Mymensingh district. But Moni Singh turned an anti-Britisth anti-feudal radical of the period. He organised secret societies or radical groups in the area and came in touch with the other groups who were working for the betterment of the ethnic minorities like Garo, Hajong and other downtrodden communities.

At the time the Bolshevic Revolution of 1917 took place in Russia Comrade Moni Singh was a young man. He and his comrades, both in Calcutta and Mymensingh, became highly jubillant, as if they themselves had caused the Revolution.

In India the first communist Party was founded by M N Roy in 1920. But the party officially started functioning from 1925. The British sought to nip the communist movement in the bud. They started three conspiracy cases -- one in Peshawar (1922-23), one in Kanpore (1924) and the third in Meerat (1929). The government took up the Meerat case very seriously.

Communist and working class leaders were apprehended all over India. Those arrested in connection with the Meerat case were: Muzaffar Ahmed, Dharani Goswamy, Gopen Chakrabarty, Radharaman Mitra, Shamsul Huda, Gopal Basak, Kishor Lal Ghosh (non-communist), Phillip Sprat and Shibnath Banerjee. But the police did not spare comrade Moni Singh. His residence and textile union were searched. Newspaper men inquired of the I.B. officers if comrade Moni Singh had been arrested. As a result came out the news of Moni Singh's arrest.

In 1926 Comrade Moni Singh, along with a number of other comrades decided to visit Calcutta and call on Comrade Mazaffar Ahmed. Comrade Moni Singh opened an office in Calcutta and tried to involve himself in working class movements. Three of them went to Metiaburuj and discussed worker-millowner relation. "We began working in the Keshoram Textile Mill" says Comrade Singh in his autobiography. Metiaburuj was an industrial area. A large number of workers used to work there day and night. Comrade Moni Singh and his comrades printed receipt books for the textile union. The works themselves were very enthusiastic to work for there union. Once a dispute arose on the question of payment in pound (weight) or yard (length). The Mundelia (secretary) of Birla's Mills defended the new system of payment of wages on yard basis. The workers went on strike demanding payment on pound basis.

The workers supporting payment on the basis of pound invited Comrade Moni Singh to speak on this issue. Comrade Moni Singh spoke defending payment on pound basis. The organiser of the meeting left the place as the workers shouted slogans supporting the speech of Comrade Moni Singh.

Comrade Moni Singh was arrested in May, 1930. He was released in 1935 but was interned in their Susong home. He had to attend the police station every day.

During his internment he got an opportunity of meeting the peasants and understanding their problems. The peasants discussed with Comrade Moni Singh the issue of 'Tanko'. Tanko meant a system of payment of paddy as tax. Peasants would have to give paddy even if the harvest failed for natural calamity or any other reasons beyond the control of the farmer. In this situation peasants unitedly decided not to pay Tanko if crop failed. After his release from jail in 1937 Comrade Moni Singh met the peasants and assured them that he would be with them in their anti-Tanko movement. He decided not to return to Calcutta for trade union activities. In 1939 a big peasant rally was organised in Kishoreganj.

In the mean time, a number of communist parties were formed in Sylhet (1935), Dhaka (1937), and other districts (1938). Bengal party's head office was set up in Calcutta. The World War Two was declared by Hitler on September 1st 1939. Communist leaders including comrade Moni Singh decided to go underground when warrants of arrest were issued against them.

The Government of India released in 1942 all the communists who were arrested earlier. Comrade Moni Singh was released in July, 1942. The ban on the Communist party was withdrawn. On this occasion a public meeting was held in Netrokona. Presided by comrade Baro Miah (Yahub Mia) of Comilla, the meeting was addressed by comrades Bankim Mukherjee, Bhupesh Gupta, Jyoti Basu, Monikuntala Sen and Moni Singh. Comrade Moni Singh and other comrades of Mymensingh took the advantage of their open activity to constitute the district committee of the party. Comrade Moni Singh was unanimously elected secretary of the Mymensingh District in 1942.

An all-India peasant conference was held in Netrokona. Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed was among the organisers. Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed proposed the venue of the peasant conference depending primarily on the organising ability of Comrade Moni Singh. The conference was attended, among others, by PC Joshi, Bhabani Sen, Bankim Mukhrjee, Krishnobenode Roy, Somnath Lahiri, Gurumukh Sing, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Nambudiripad, Sundaraya, Dr ZA Ahmed and Kalpana Joshi. The successful conclusion of the peasant conference elevated the position of Comrade Moni Singh not only among the communists but also among the whole people of India. A large number of Muslims also attended the conference.

In the general elections of 1946, Comrade Moni Singh was a candidated from the Communist Party. His constituency included Netrokona, Kishoreganj and partly Mymensingh Sadar. The Congress candidate indulged in a nasty campaign, saying that the Communist were British agents who wanted to sabotage the quit India movement of Mahatma Gandhi. Only three of Communist Party's candidates returned to the provincial Assembly. They were comrade Jyoti Basu, Rup Narayan Roy and Ratan Brahmia.

The second world war was over in August, 1945. In comrade Moni Singh's area 'Tanka' movement was again launched. In December 1946, 'Tebhaga' movement was launched in Dinajpur, Rangpur, Mymensingh, Jessore, Khulna, Dhaka, Chittagong, Bogra, Pabna and Faridpur of East Pakistan. In West Bengal, India, Tebhaga movement had a positive impact on the government, in particular the provincial government. In East Pakistan white terror was let loose to suppress the Tebhaga movement.

The Communist Party of East Pakistan which was founded in March, 1948, elected in 1951, Comrade Moni Singh as secretary of the party. Over three years Comrade Moni Singh emerged as an efficient, hard-working and balanced party leader. He continued to be the secretary of the party's secretariat for a long time. Although he lived underground most of the time, his popularity continued to go up.

During the first provincial election of 1954, the Communist Party fielded eight candidates. For other seats the Communist Party led by comrade Moni Singh extended support to the United front of AK Fazlul Haq, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Hussein Shahid Suhrawardy. The United Front's massive victory also brightened the image of the communists. The Party declared full support to the front without being its member. However, four of the CP's candidates Purnendu Dastidar and Sudhansu Bimol Datta of Chittagong, Prasun Kanti Roy alias Braun Roy of Sunamganj and Abhoy Barman of Rangpur were elected. The Party's policy of working in the Awami Muslim League and the Ganatantri Dal proved right when it was found that as many as 22 legislators who were elected as candidates of their respective parties belonged to the Communist Party.

The Awami Muslim League changed its nomenclature as Awami League by amending its constitution in 1955. A large number of non-Muslims joined the Awami League after the amendment.

General Mohammad Ayub Khan and General Iskander Mirza seized power in Pakistan on October 7, 1958. They broke the United Front before declaring a country-wide Martial Law. Field Marshall Mohammad Ayub Khan's government leaked out a news that the President was going to give a constitution which would be based on his Basic Democracy concept.

In 1961 a meeting took place between the Ittefaq's Editor Toffazzal Hossain Manik Miah and Comrade Moni Singh of the Communist Party. Subsequently Manik Miah and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman used to attend the meetings. Sangbad's Editor, Jahur Hussain Chowdhury attended the first meeting held between Manik Miah and Comrade Moni Singh. The second meeting was held between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Manik Miah on one side and Comrade Moni Singh and Khoka Roy on the Communist side.

Talks went on for some time. Finally it was decided that the withdrawal of martial law, restoration of democracy, release of political prisoners, East Pakistan's autonomy based on 21-point programme of the United Front, students and workers demands would be placed in a declaration of the two parties. It was further decided that the Students League and the Students Union would launch a joint movement in the Dhaka University. They also discussed the question of independence of East Pakistan, an issued raised by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Comrade Moni Singh and Khoka Roy advised him to go slow on the issue. The result of Awami League and Communist Party discussions were made known to CP's various organisations. The Students League and the Students Union were advised to launch joint movement in all the campus on the issue of withdrawal of martial law, restoration of democracy, demands of workers and peasants.

Comrade Moni Singh regretted in his book that the Government of Pakistan used to fabricate conspiracies to turn the attention of the people from workers' demands. The Indo-Pak war of 1965 over Kashmir was one such conspiracy. And that imperialism, particularly the American Imperialism was behind the Indo-Pak war.

Comrade Moni Singh's popularity reached a new high after the 1961 talks between the Awami League and the Communist Party. Comrade Moni Singh became a highly popular leader. The Communist Party's role during the liberation movement of 1971 took him to the position of a member of the Advisory Council of the Gano Prajatantri Bangladesh Government set up in Mujibnagar. Comrade Moni Singh was thus raised to the position of a leader of people. No wonder that on 2003 Victory Day Comrade Moni Shingh was posthumously awarded the Jatio Padak, the National Gold Medal.