By bappaditya paul
KOLKATA, 31 OCT: After a gap of 36 years since the visit by the party’s first general secretary Puchalapalli Sundaraiah in 1974-75, the CPI-M’s present general secretary, Mr Prakash Karat, is embarking on a tour of the trouble-torn North-eastern state of Manipur on 2 November.
During the two-day visit, the CPI-M general secretary is likely to meet the “Iron Lady of Manipur” Ms Irom Sharmila Devi. Ms Sharmila is on a fast for the past 11 years demanding the repeal of the Arms Forces’ Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Mr Karat’s visit comes in the wake of a persistent and sentimental request from the party’s Manipur state committee, which was unhappy at the fact that none of the incumbent CPI-M general secretaries have graced the militancy-hit state all these years.
Incidentally, Mr Karat will be visiting Manipur at a time when an ongoing economic blockade in Manipur has already entered 92 days and the people of the state are severely affected by the consequent rise in prices of essentials and medicines.
According to sources in the CPI-M headquarters AK Gopalan Bhawan in New Delhi, in this trip, Mr Karat will be accompanied by the party’s central committee member and former Lok Sabha MP, Mr Noorul Huda. Mr Huda is in-charge of the party’s state unit in Manipur.
“They will be flying down from New Delhi to Imphal on 2 November morning. Soon after this, Mr Karat and Mr Huda will take part in the party’s extended state committee meeting over there. This will be followed by an interactive session with the students and teachers at the Manipur University,” the sources said.
On 3 November, that is, in the forenoon of the second and concluding day of the tour, Mr Karat will address a hall meeting of party members and supporters in Imphal.
The CPI-M general secretary will also hold a Press meet in the Manipur capital prior to flying back to New Delhi later that afternoon.
Although it has not yet been finalised, Mr Karat is likely to pay a visit to Ms Irom Sharmila Devi as she continues with her decade long fast from police custody in hospital. “Irrespective of whether the general secretary is able to meet Ms Sharmila, he will certainly deliberate on our party’s stand on AFSPA both during the hall meetings and at the Press conference. The CPI-M’s stand on AFSPA is that we support the recommendations of the Centre-appointed Jeevan Reddy Commission, which had suggested repealing of the draconian Act with a humane but effective law,” Mr Huda told The Statesman.
Though the CPI-M presently enjoys a minuscule presence in Manipur, in the early 70’s, the party had sound electoral strength in Manipur and in the adjoining Barak Valley districts of Assam.
Now, after being pushed to the wall in the traditional bastion in West Bengal, the party wants to focus on tiny states like Manipur that are still deemed fertile for a Communist struggle.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 1 November 2011.)