How Irawat became a communist
- Part 1 -

L Sotinkumar *

During this period, in Dec, 1939, Nupi Lal broke out and as a consequence Irawat was sentenced for 3 years' imprisonment for leading Nupi Lal. After spending one year's imprisonment in Imphal Jail, he was transferred to Sylhet District jail for the rest of the term. During his imprisonment in Sylhet District Jail, Jyotirmoy Nandy was undergoing imprisonment along with Biresh Misra, Secretary Sylhet District Congress committee, Arun Chanda, Congress leader of Cachar; Rabi Aditya, Congress leader of Karimganj and others.

Jyotirmoy Nandy was the then Editor of Naya Duniya, a weekly published from Sylhet a semi-official organ of the Communist Party of India, till then an illegal party. Biresh Misra wrote a series of articles bearing the nature of the second world war and Jyotirmoy Nandy published them in Naya Duniya. Both were convicted for a period of nine to eleven months of rigorous imprisonment in Division NO. 2 of the Sylhet District Jail. The others were detainees under Defence of India Rules.

Jananeta Irawat was kept in the detenue ward along with Arun Chanda, Aditya and others, while Jyotirmoy, Biresh Misra and some others were kept in the Div 2 ward of the jail. After a few days of official tangle the jail authorities were forced to allow them to mix together for a few hours in the evening for playing badminton.

Those few hours were the period when Jyotirmoy, and Misra have particularly befriended Irawat, knowing from him the experiences of the Manipuri people's movement and its peculiarities. They told him about the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the experiences of the working class movement all over the world. They gave Irawat some books and pamphlets about the Soviet Union as well as the literatures of the Communist Party of India is illegally brought inside the jail.

The other non-communist Congress leaders were also trying to draw Irawat towards Gandhian programme and its philosophy. But the programme and philosophy of the communist movement won Irawat's mind. The struggle of the working class people and the downtrodden for freeing themselves from the shackles of the capitalists and the feudal exploitations and oppressions, in the cause of their fight for the country's freedom from the clutches of the Imperialist rule carried more weight than the ideal of freeing the county from the burden of foreign rule alone.

The vision of a socialist Manipur in socialist India free from imperialism, feudal and capitalist shackles had reached both his head and heart. Thus through mutual discussion, reading of books and other literatures made Irawat an ardent believer in Marxism-Leninism. When Jyotirmoy Nandy was to leave Sylhet jail after expiry of his prison term, Irawat told him that he would join the communist party after his release.

With the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazi Germany, the Communist Party had changed its Strategy and tactics of the freedom struggle. Jyotirmoy Nandy sent message of this change to Irawat in jail, who in turn told his followers in Manipur to change their tactics also.

At one stage the British Government was forced to legalise the Communist Party and one of the party's first demand was to release all communists from jail and detention camps, and Irawat's name used to be one of the foremost among them. Party adherents in Manipur have also raised these slogans. After the expiry of his prison ten, Irawat had communicated the Political Agent to issue him necessary permission to return to Manipur, but Maharaj Bodhchandra did not permit him to enter Manipur.

After this release from Sylhet jail the Communist Party leadership decided that Irawat should remain in Cachar District which was near to Manipur on the one hand and wherein a good number of Manipuris lived. Communists in Cachar took an initiative to Ex up an area where Irawat would work mainly among, the Manipuri peasants and also among the non­Manipuri ex-tea garden workers. Irawat plunged headlong to the peasants movement and particularly the Manipuri peasants in Cachar had joined the Kishan movements. Irawat attended the first Congress of the Communist Party of India held at Bombay from May 23 to, June 1, 9431 as a special invitee from Cachar.

From the Congress Irawat learnt the fact that India's freedom struggle had to be integrated with the worldwide struggle against Fascism. As a Communist Organiser of Kishan movement, Irawat earned a special place of honour in Caphar and Sylhet Districts of Assam. In Cachar he had built cultural squads known as Swadesh 'Gamer Dal along with other people.

He used to hold shows in rural areas and aroused people to joint the peasant movement and the Communist Party of India to liberate themselves from the yoke of the Imperialist rule as well as from the shackles of the feudal oppressors. Later on, these singing squads were incorporated in the Indian People's Theatre Association.

Irawat was not only a mass political leader, but also a cultural leader who helped to build up the IPTA movement in the Barak Valley.

To be continued.....

* L Sotinkumar wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on September 30, 2010.

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