Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006
Through the Eyes of the Police Naxalites in Calcutta in the 1970s
The Calcutta Police Gazette, a unique tool of internal communication
circulated among police personnel during the 1970s, helps us understand
the measures taken by the police to suppress the Naxalite movement in
Calcutta. It provides the historian of the Naxalite movement
with invaluable information about the everyday tactics that the police
adopted at the ground level to face the enemy. It also lends another
dimension to the history of this movement
by offering an alternative version from the viewpoint of its antagonist.
By ASHOKE KUMAR MUKHOPADHYAY
Activities of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-
Leninist), popularly known as the Naxalite movement,
in Calcutta during the 1970s have, among others, inspired
social scientists, creative writers, historians, journalists to produce
a number of research-based essays, poems, novels and plays
on the subject. A few retired police personnel have also written
But we have not yet come across any study on the
evolution of the control mechanism of the Calcutta Police against
the Naxalites of that period, based on police documents. In this
respect, the Calcutta Police Gazette (CPG) gives an interesting
glimpse of the city police's responses and reactions to Naxalite
actions in Calcutta during the 1970s. It provides researchers with
Published daily, the CPG is a unique tool of internal communication
among the police personnel. It is circulated far and wide,
reaches all the city police stations and is meant for police cadres
at all levels.
According to Police Regulations Calcutta, 1968, the
CPG is intended for official use only and is published daily excepting
holidays and is circulated to all superior officers, departments,
thanas, police posts and courts...
All Police officers are expected to acquaint themselves with all
matters concerning them that may
appear in the issues of the Gazette. Every officer who receives
a copy of the Gazette should therefore be careful to communicate
to such of his subordinates as are unable to read it, those matters
that concern them; and inspecting officers shall test their subordinates
in their knowledge of such matter...
Each department/unit/ thana shall preserve the Gazette in bound
volumes. Each volume shall contain Gazettes for six consecutive months.
These records will be classified as permanent.
In other words, the CPG does not fall into the category of a
"secret" document – like a government home (political) file,
which might have tracked and recorded various aspects of the
Naxalite movement in the city and related individuals in a more
Nevertheless, extracts from the gazette from 1967 to 1975 reveals
various contours of the police policy,
ranging from an initially defensive mindset to a subsequent flurry
of activities in building up a team to cope with the crisis faced
by them in the most tumultuous period of the city's history.
Notifications regarding the forfeiture and proscriptions of various
publications, as circulated through the gazette, also provide an
insight into the attitude of the then government towards political
There are quite a few proscription notices against
Deshabrati, the Bengali weekly a mouthpiece of CPI(ML);
Liberation, the monthly English organ of the party, as well as
books coming from China and a number of pro-Naxalite publications
from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Bihar.
For instance, the gazette (from now on described as CPG) dated
September 18, 1969, informs us that a number of issues of
Liberation, the "monthly organ" of the all-India coordination
committee of communist revolutionaries, printed at Kathamala
Press, 590A Bechu Chatterjee Street, Calcutta, published by
Nimai Ghose, were proscribed on July 23, 1969 for publication
of seditious articles and that "every copy of the said articles and
every document containing the said articles to be forfeited to the
It added, "The deputy commissioner of police,
special branch, Calcutta, should be informed of any seizure
made". Interestingly, not only Naxalite literature, but also a
number of other Left publications came under the censorious eyes
of the police in the 1970s, particularly, during the Emergency.
An issue of Ganashakti, the then evening daily of the parliamentary
Communist Party of India (Marxist), October 24, 1975 also
attracted a notice of forfeiture for not complying with a government
order advising scrutiny of the manuscript by an authorised
censor officer before its publication, a rule which came in vogue
following the proclamation of Emergency in the country by the
president of India on June 26, 1975 (CPG, November 21, 1975).
On October 24, 1975, a similar forfeiture notice was slapped
against the 'Special Autumn' issue of Darpan, a pro-left Bengali
weekly from Calcutta (CPG, December 11, 1975). Frontier, an
English weekly edited and published by the poet Samar Sen, was
proscribed for publishing an editorial 'Making on the
Roundabouts', which was found by the police to be attempting
"to bring into hatred and contempt and...excite disaffection
towards the government established by law in India" (CPG,
August 5, 1975).
The Naxalite movement, as acknowledged in numerous CPG
circulars, created an "unusual situation" in the city. To understand
the unusual situation and comprehend the Calcutta Police reactions,
as chronicled in the gazette, an overview of CPI(ML)
activities in Calcutta might be of help.
After a series of political debates among Communist revolutionaries
and peasant struggles that followed the Naxalbari uprising in 1967,
the CPI(ML) was set up on April 22, 1969, and its formation was
officially announced next month at the May Day rally in the
The political resolution adopted by the party laid down that the
primary task was to organise the peasantry and seize area-wise
power through armed guerrilla warfare. Its leader Charu Mazumdar
in August that year gave a special call to the youth and students,
where he introduced a new concept that was radically different
from the hitherto followed conventional pattern of student and
youth movements which were marked by demonstrations, processions,
He urged the youth to "repudiate the path of capitulation to the
bourgeois education system" and integrate
themselves with the workers, and the landless peasants. Responding
to his call, many students left Calcutta and went to the villages.
The party's first congress was held in Calcutta on May 15 and
16 in 1970, where Mazumdar laid stress on the theory of "annihilation
of class enemies", according to which landlords in the
villages had to be killed and revolutionaries filled with classhatred
were required to "move up to the enemy and with bare
arms snatch away their rifles".
This created a new situation in Calcutta. Although its primary
stress remained on agrarian revolution, the CPI(ML) also now
turned its attention to acts in the urban areas as complementary
to rural guerrilla warfare.
The CPI(ML) urban movement had a threefold agenda, aimed at
(i) attacking "bourgeois" institutions
and symbols of culture (e g, colleges and statues of eminent
(ii) annihilation of police personnel, informers and
political rivals; and
(iii) building up of an arsenal by large-scale
snatching of arms and ammunition. As a result, the student cadres
of the CPI (ML) in Calcutta launched a massive onslaught against
educational institutions resulting in cancellation of examinations,
destruction of furniture and laboratories.
Disfiguring of statues of national leaders and social reformers,
also marked the cultural onslaught. Soon after this, the killing of
policemen became a common phenomenon in the streets of Calcutta.
The main targets were traffic constables, policemen in plainclothes,
police officers and personnel of the paramilitary forces. The combined
impact of annihilation of police personnel, throwing of bombs on police
vans, murder of informers, left the Calcutta Police stunned and
totally on the defensive in the initial stages.
Following the murder of Ranjit Kumar Roy, a police constable
near Doctor's Lane at Taltala in central Calcutta on June 15, 1970,
P K Sen, the then commissioner of Calcutta Police admitted to
a section of journalists that these attacks "might affect the morale
of the police force". He regretted that even after the incident,
which happened in broad daylight, none from the locality had
come forward "to assist the police in detecting the murderers".
Stung by such events, the Calcutta Police, in a bid to motivate
the ranks, started rewarding those policemen who had done a
bit of "good work" in containing "miscreants" in the city. Their
names along with efforts were highlighted in bold prints in the
CPG, July 18, 1970.
R K Gupta, a veteran police officer from the Indian Police
Service, took over the charge as commissioner of police, Calcutta,
in the afternoon of the July 10, 1970, from P K Sen. Along with
motivational exercises, primarily aimed at ranks, the new city
police chief tried to inculcate a sense of alertness in the force.
Considering the "present disturbed condition of the city", the
Calcutta Police commissioner ordered his colleagues down the
line to be more alert than ever before. According to an order
issued by him,
...Very often it is found that officers and men on duty, though
equipped with firearms, gas guns, steel helmets, etc, they stand
or sit in such a way that the behaviour of the force betrays lack
In the morning it is a common sight that picket force
sits on the ledge of the premises or on the footpath reading
newspapers and books. Everyone should appreciate that the evil,
which the police is to fight very quickly, understand that the force
is in alert...By this time everyone must have noticed that when
the army mobile patrols move, two persons keep standing on the
vehicle with pointed guns.
The idea is not to kill anybody but to lend an atmosphere of
alertness around the deployed patrols.
In pickets they also keep one man as a sentry who remains alert
even when others are allowed to relax.
Today in the city when surreptitious attacks by bombs, acid bulbs
and other missiles have been common, the necessity of extra
alertness of the police force is most essential (CPG, July 30, 1970).
Despite this, by the end of October 1970, 25 police employees
had been killed and 350 injured in these urban actions of the
CPI(ML). In the beginning of 1971, the city police strived hard
to strengthen its defence mechanism.
In his communication to
"all members of the force", a worried Calcutta Police commissioner
held, "It is very unfortunate that in the last few months
some of our co-workers in the Calcutta Police Force, have lost
their lives either while on duty or mostly while off-duty. From
time to time I have brought to the notice of my officers and men
the necessity of taking precautions, of avoiding avoidable conditions
of life and also increasing their mental and physical
alertness against likely attack by a class of people who call
themselves as Naxalites and also by anti-social elements and
criminals associated with them."
He added: "It should be known
to all the policemen in the Calcutta Police Force that extermination
of men - a very brutal political way, by this people, calling
their targets as class enemies, is their avowed policy."
In the same order, the commissioner laid down an 11-point
agenda of "concrete proposals" (read instructions) meant to be
practised by all in the force. The instructions throw light on the
sense of panic that gripped the police chief and his subordinates.
Some of the suggestions are quite revealing:
...While off-duty, everyone should carry some sort of an implement,
at least a 'lathi' or a dagger if they are out of home. To carry
such implement for self-defence in no offence....
In the home,our officers and men should keep weapons ready at
hand so that if attacked, they can also counter attack the attackers.
In this matter the complacence that the house of a police officer is
safe should be shunned.
If they go out for marketing and the like, they should
not go alone and they should not go bare-handed. Effort should
be made to take a friend, a colleague and if none is available,
his grown-up son. They should know that four eyes or more see
more things than two eyes.
Going to cinemas, theatres or in such functions where officers
and men are to stay for a considerable
period of time, should be avoided. In this regard even if the family
members are insistent, they should be dissuaded from such simple
desires of theirs under the present peculiar circumstances.
This self restriction should be enforced for the next few weeks.Their
family members particularly the children should not talk anything
about their fathers' profession. They are not connected with the
profession of the policeman and they should be taught now to
behave that way.
Otherwise, quite inadvertently they will invite danger for the father
or brother and husband as the case may be.
The order ended on a significant note:
Our officers and men shall not forget that the loss of life of any
individual officer or man, is not only a very big loss to himself,
to his family and the co-workers they leave behind, but also a
very great loss in many ways to the police force as such.
Let us all remain cautious, careful, cool, unexcited and calculating
and cunning. We shall have to deal with the anti-socials and
Naxalites not only to defend ourselves, but (also) to protect million
others whom we are pledged to protect. These are unusual instructions.
But I want all to realise that we are facing an unusual situation
and unusual and bold steps are required. Meanwhile let everyone
realise that we are from the armed police, DD, SB and thanas and
traffic constantly attacking the enemy.
This attack will increase in intensity. (In all units the officer-in-
charge will please read out
and explain the instructions to officers and men in roll calls for
the next seven days) (CPG, January 2, 1971).
The above note of caution was reproduced over and over again
in a number of subsequent issues of the gazette, particularly after
February 25, 1974 when a traffic constable Prem Chand Rabidas
was killed and his service revolver was snatched away while he
was on duty at a spot in north Calcutta.
The annihilation programme thus unleashed by the CPI(ML)
sent shivers down the spine of the city police. In fact, all the seven
signs of alarm - surprise, insufficient information, escalating events,
loss of control, increased outside scrutiny, siege mentality and
panic - that appear
in a crisis situation could be found in the behaviour of the city
police organisation in the middle of 1970.
Perhaps it was due
to the threat perception, that the panic-stricken city police had
to keep "rehearsals regarding the March Past for Annual Police
Sports" in "abeyance until further orders" in early 1971 (CPG,
February 5, 1971).
Close on the heels of the annihilation campaign came "actions"
of rifle snatching. City walls wore slogans like "pulish maro astro
karo" (kill the police, capture their weapons). Sudden attacks on
police outposts, army patrols, traffic police and capture of revolvers
and rifles were quite common in those days.
To prevent snatching of arms, the police personnel on duty with
arms were directed to tie their rifles/revolvers to
"the web or leather belt on the right side" (CPG, March 15, 1971).
This was the first time
in the history of the Calcutta Police that the police personnel
were asked to attach their rifles and muskets to their waist through
web slings. However, with the support from the paramilitary and
military forces lent by the central government, the city police
started consolidating its combat strength from the last quarter
A number of repressive laws were either revived or
enacted to provide the police with legal licence for ruthless
repression of the Naxalite movement.
Provisions of a colonial legisation, Bengal Suppression of
Terrorist Outrages Act of 1936, were revived on September 10,
1970 to be made applicable against the Naxalites. In November that
year, the president of India gave accent to a new bill, the West
Bengal Prevention of Violent Activities Bill, which gave wide
powers, including arrest without warrant, to the police.
to avoid staff agitation at a time when the force was readying
for a massive onslaught against Naxalites, police ranks were
also discouraged to join or form associations. By a notification
issued by the state government October 22, 1970, the Police
Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act 1966 was brought into force
with effect from November 1, 1970.
According to this act,
no member of the police force can be a member of any association
or organisation unless
(a) the said association or organisation has
been recognised by the central government as part of the police
force of which he is a member and
(b) he has obtained express
sanction of the central government to be a member of that association
or organisation…even an existing recognised association or
organisation of the police force will be required to obtain recognition
from the central government.(CPG, October 23, 1970).
Besides draconian laws, the unchained police force was adequately
encouraged to liquidate Naxalites through "encounters".
The sole motive was to kill the enemy by any means. The legal
procedures were given a go by. On getting the green signal from
the top, a section of the police force happily turned Calcutta and
its suburbs into their hunting ground.
An alleged "encounter and
torture specialist" at the Calcutta Police headquarters,
Ranajit (Runu) Guha Niyogi, then a sub-inspector, would
later receive the president's award (police medal) for his
"gallant conduct" shown in those days.
According to the "statement of services"
for which the decoration was awarded, "On the September 9,
1971, Ranajit Guha Niyogi arranged a predawn raid on the
hideout of extremists of Muraripukur in eastern Calcutta.
As the police party surrounded the 'bastee' (slum),
the extremists opened fire on the police. In disregard of the
firing by the extremists Niyogi crawled and reached near the bastee.
He then opened fire
and hit two of the extremists and killed one of them. He also
captured some arms and ammunition" (CPG, November 29,
Straight out of a Hollywood action movie, as it sounds,
Guha Niyogi's said "services" might have few takers. Those who
had been accustomed to his style of functioning tell a different
According to eyewitnesses, the armed police in those
days used to raid Naxalite hideouts in north Calcutta or east
Calcutta, select some young boys (who were suspected to be
Naxalites), make them stand in a single file and then riddle
them with bullets. This scene was enacted in the city over
and over again in 1970-71.
No doubt, these acts of the police further
alienated them from the common people of the city.
Apparently, R K Gupta, the Calcutta Police commissioner,
could diagnose the ailment of alienation and perhaps that was
why he strongly recommended to his ranks selected
excerpts from the book on communist insurgency by Robert
Thompson as a must to be read.
They were reprinted in the CPG for wide
circulation. Robert headed the British advisory mission in Vietnam
from 1961 to 1965. Interestingly, the excerpts begin with a saintly
note, "The government must function in accordance with law"
(CPG, December 3, 1970).
On the same date, i e, December 3, 1970, the commissioner of
Calcutta Police asked "all ranks to
devote themselves to chase and pursuit of the Naxalites and antisocials
and break up their organisation without delay. In fulfilling
this task they will move with the people and with the help of
the people. The support of the people is essential." The commissioner
also wanted that his orders "should be read over and
explained to all".
This was the first time since the Naxalite
upsurge in the city that the police force was directed by its
supreme to enlist people's support in "anti-insurgency activities"
undertaken by the police.
But despite police atrocities, the CPI(ML) revolutionaries scaled
up their operations. Policemen were being killed, arms and
ammunition seized, and local gangsters executed by communist
In a brazen show of their strength a CPI(ML) guerrilla
squad on February 21, 1971, attacked a police camp at the Behala
Airstrip and captured nine rifles and 300 rounds of ammunition.
On the very next day, in a "shoot and scoot" operation, two rifles
were seized from another police outpost.
However, dissensions within the CPI(ML), infiltration of the
lumpen-proletariat in the party and a series of clashes between
the ranks of the CPI(ML) and CPI(M) were increasingly weakening
the Naxalite movement in the city.
Armed with superior weapons, the Calcutta Police was quick to
take advantage of these
weak spots of the party. In fact, from the beginning of 1971 the
city police started gaining grip on the situation and earned
admiration from the director general, Border Security Force,
Rustamji, who, in a note to the Calcutta Police commissioner, said,
"I certainly have a good deal of admiration for the manner in
which you and your officers and men have reacted to the situation
in Calcutta. I can well imagine the difficulties that all of you
have faced, and the serious problems that have confronted you
at every step. I hope you are now feeling the satisfaction of having
turned the situation in your favour after a good deal of work and
sacrifice. Please accept my humble tribute to all those in Calcutta
who have laid down their lives in the course of duty, and have
faced serious hardships." This letter was read out to all ranks
in the city police to boost their morale (CPG, January 14, 1971).
In a further effort to re-activate the police, after having distributed
a "large number of revolvers" to its "officers and men", the
Calcutta Police authorities took steps to educate them on "safety
precautions" and "Dos and Don'ts" regarding the arms.
Accordingly, the additional commissioner of the police issued
a communication containing eight-point safety precaution measures
and six-point dos and don'ts in January 1971. Around the same
time, the commissioner of Calcutta Police warned his ranks,
"Any loss of weapon and ammunition will be most severely
punished". In other words, an effort was still on to further improve the
efficiency of the city police force (CPG, January 19, 1971).
Meanwhile, the approaching mid-term poll scheduled on March
10, 1971 posed a new challenge to the city police. As in 1969,
this time also the CPI(ML) gave a call to the people to boycott
The party cadres in the city started terrorising the
voters and the candidates, so that the election could not be held.
Such activities alienated the party from the urban middle class,
who earlier used to have some soft corner for the urban guerrillas,
whom they regarded as a generation of honest youth ready to
sacrifice for a revolutionary change.
The police on the other hand
took up the challenge of conducting the election as "a matter
of prestige". Thanks to the support from the Indian Army and
the Central Reserve Police, the city police was successful in
meeting the challenge.
Immediately after the election both the
state and city police earned accolades from the office of the
governor for making it possible "to hold the elections peacefully
and successfully". The city police, in its turn, profusely thanked
the army and the Central Reserve Police for "all their aid and
assistance – always on a massive scale and ungrudgingly – for
the maintenance of law and order in this most turbulent city of
the country” (CPG, March 15, 1971).
The results of the 1971
elections indicated a reversal of political trends amongst the
middle class population in the city. The Left – both the CPI and
the CPI(M), lost ground in Calcutta.
The CPI(ML) movement in the meantime was marked by a
new development. Jailbreaks by Naxalite prisoners became a
Between December 1970 and September 1971,
the party guerrillas conducted a series of successful "actions"
leading to jailbreaks and escape of prisoners from the district
jails in Darjeeling, Siliguri, Purulia and Dum Dum Central Jail
in Calcutta. Following the escape of 24 "Naxalite detainees" and
"under trial prisoners" from the Dum Dum Central Jail on May 14,
1971, the deputy commissioner of Calcutta Police, detective
department, directed all his ranks "to be on the look-out for the
accused persons" (CPG, May 31, 1971).
In a rather unusual move,
the Calcutta Police under its "notices regarding persons wanted"
column of the CPG published a photograph and description of
one "Biswanath Das alias Sukanta Roy, son of Gurupada Das,
a hard core Naxalite", who had "escaped from Purulia Jail on
the September 11, 1971 at about 12-20 hours".
The notice advised
section officers "to maintain a sharp look-out for the said accused"
(CPG, November 3, 1971).
Following the 1971 elections, particularly in the second half
of the year, the Calcutta Police, in collaboration with the Central
Reserve Police, increased its offensive against the Naxalites.
Regular combing of suspected areas, predawn raid on houses,
extermination of sympathisers/supporters of the CPI(ML) by the
police became a part of the city life.
According to police sources,
between March 1970 and August 1971, 1,783 CPI(ML)
supporters/members were killed in Calcutta and its suburbs.
investigators claimed the figure was at least double.
Between May and December 1971, the police opened fire on
Naxalite prisoners in at least six jails in West Bengal.
The newly elected Congress
government of West Bengal also fuelled the counter-revolutionary
activities to a great extent.
In response, Charu Mazumdar called upon his followers to
avenge every murder of his comrades. In an amazing show of
fearlessness, they struggled to put their leader’s theory into
But the unequal battle between a better armed police
force and ill-equipped Naxalites in the city did not last for long.
By the second quarter of 1972, the movement unleashed by the
urban guerrillas in the city had suffered a setback. The number
of city shelters for the communist guerrillas dwindled in the face
of the police raids; the sympathiser-base eroded as the movement
degenerated into a swirl of senseless killngs, and the much touted
annihilation programme began to wane without yielding any
As reported in various issues of the CPG, the
number of CPI(ML) actions in the city went down in 1972-73.
At a time when the city was under intense police surveillance,
Charu Mazumdar was arrested from a "shelter" at Entally in east
Calcutta on July 16, 1972.
Incapable of unleashing any massive
protest movement as in the past, Naxalites could now retaliate
only by killing two policemen a few days later. Mazumder lived
only 12 days following his arrest. He was reported to have
"died" in the police custody at 4-50 am on July 28,1972.
Neither the news of the arrest nor that of his death found a place
in the CPG. There was, however, a note of caution from the Calcutta Police
commissioner. In an order issued five days after the death of
Mazumdar, the city police chief said,
"I noticed armed constables
in different parts of the city moving about carelessly and sometimes
singly, and they may be easily overpowered and arms snatched
away by any determined persons.
The deputy commissioners of
divisions and armed battalions and other deputy commissioners
are hereby instructed to see that armed men are alert and they
are not less than three in number moving about together in a
compact body and their weapons are secured to their persons
by iron chains.
They shall not also get mixed up in a crowd as
far as practicable, shall not sit down and relax keeping their rifles
by their side and shall be in a position all the time to repulse an
Any violation of these orders shall be taken serious notice
of. These orders will also apply to pickets, men on transports,
static guards and all other detailments (sic) of armed force
including the traffic points security men" (CPG, August 2, 1972).
Return to 'Normalcy'
As we reach the beginning of 1973, we find that the city police
was feeling more secure and had started to regard the situation
in Calcutta as normal. This found reflection in the CPG.
"All members of the Calcutta Police force" earned 'Sabash' from the
then commissioner of police, S C Chaudhuri for their "excellent
performance" of duties "in connection with the procession of the
Congress president, the AICC sessions, visits of the prime minister,
and last of all, the test cricket match" held in Calcutta between
December 25, 1972 and January 4, 1973 (CPG, January 4,1973).
The police, however, could not afford to let its guard down and
it continued to maintain its anti-Naxalite campaign so that the
movement could not stage a comeback.
But there seemed to be a slight shift in stress during this period
– which could be described as a reprieve of sorts. The police
authorities felt the need for refurbishing the image of their men,
who had acquired the reputation of a notoriously ruthless force
without any accountability during the anti-Naxalite operations
in the city.
As mentioned earlier, a large number of firearms were
distributed amongst the city police who were encouraged to use
them indiscriminately in the name of suppressing Naxalites.
A lot of innocent people were killed in the course of such
counter insurgency operations. But almost all the police excesses during
the period were condoned. However, with the collapse of the
Naxalite movement in the city, the police authorities could now
afford to relax a bit and see to it that their men did not get out
of total control and offend middle class public opinion by exceeding
the usual limits that were laid down by the law.
The Calcutta Police commissioner through a communication meant
for all in the force tried to enforce discipline. According to the preamble
of his order,
Following the outbreak of serious violence in the city and frequent
attacks on the police in particular by some militant extremist
elements in early 1970, a section of the Calcutta Police Force had to
be either issued with or permitted to carry firearms for their selfdefence
as well as the protection of lives and properties of others.
The steps thus taken had proved quite helpful in effectively dealing
with the grave situation and thereby restoring normalcy in the city.
But with the dispersal of firearms to a large number of officers
and men, it is considered necessary to impress upon all carrying
firearms, particularly small firearms, and remind all members of
the Calcutta Police Force, of their powers and responsibilities in
the matter of general use of firearms.
Meant for "information and guidance of all concerned",
order reminded the force of police regulations - "Police may,
in exercise of the right of private defence, resort to firing only
as a last resort and under unavoidable circumstances" (CPG,
January 9, 1973).
The order was subsequently reproduced in a
number of issues of CPG in 1974.
While the city police was in a reorientation mode, the CPI(ML)
was fragmented into various splinter groups. There were about
10 different pro-Naxalbari,
Maoist groups operational in various
parts of the country. These groups had differing point of views
on the content and form of the struggle. The political changes
in China (fall of Lin Piao and his subsequent death) influenced
these groups' international outlook.
Followers of Charu Mazumder
belonging to these groups were also divided into two factions
- pro-Lin Piao and anti-Lin Piao. The pro-Lin Piao faction of
Charu Mazumder's followers, under the leadership of Mahadev
Mukharji (MM) of Burdwan, reorganised themselves in a few
districts of West Bengal.
This faction of the CPI(ML) established
links with like-minded comrades across the country, convened
and organised the second party congress at Kamalpur in the
district of Burdwan, West Bengal on December 2, 1973.
The party congress adhered to the Mazumder line of action and started
implementing the same in district towns including Hooghly,
Chandernagore, Asansol, Burdwan and Nadia. The reorganised
party tried to make its presence felt in Calcutta by sudden display
of posters, hoisting of red flags at important places, organising
armed procession of sympathisers (who would melt into the
crowd following a brief appearance on the city streets).
As part of the renewed annihilation campaign, they also killed a few
Calcutta Police personnel and captured arms. For a brief period
though, those "actions" shook the Calcutta police once again.
Following a Naxalite attack on policemen in the city, the
Calcutta Police commissioner, in his order, recorded, "On the
February 25, 1974 at about 07-30 hours two traffic constables
just taking up duty at the crossing of B T Road and Raja Manindra
Road were attacked by some extremist miscreants. One of them
succumbed to the injuries on the spot while the other has been
admitted to the Calcutta Police Hospital with not very serious
injuries. The service revolvers they were carrying have been
An angry city police chief then added, "This
incident should be an eye-opener to all members of the force.
It shows that even though there has been a remarkable improvement
in the law and order situation, there is no scope for complacence
and we must always remain on guard and alert to combat
sneak attacks of the nature that took place on February 25, 1974.
It is a pity that even though both the constables were armed they
could not use their revolvers and over-power either one or all
"We have been providing arms to the members
of the force going out on duty. They are meant to use them
whenever necessary. Elaborate orders and instructions were issued
from time to time in this regard but unfortunately it appears that
these orders and instructions are not being strictly adhered
The deputy commissioners of police and the assistant
commissioners of police should be responsible to improve
alertness in these respects of the force placed under each of them"
(CPG, February 26, 1974).
However, it did not take too long for a better prepared city
police this time to smother this second spark of the Naxalite
"revolution" in Calcutta.
Unlike in the early years of the 1970s, when
the CPG was daily filled up with reports of Naxalite activities,
during the 1974-75 period barring a few sporadic "actions", no
noteworthy Naxalite activity found place in the CPG.
Following the proclamation of the Emergency in end June 1975,
the central government of India, by an order number SO 305 (E)
dated July 3, 1975, banned all the 10 pro-Naxalbari, Maoist
groups in the country.
The CPG reproduced the order which read:
whereas the central government is satisfied with respect to the
organisations specified ... below that they are organisations which
are, and whose members and the persons in control whereof are
indulging in activities prejudicial to the internal security, the public
safety and the maintenance of public order; Now, therefore, in
exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rule (1) of Rule 33 of
the Defence and Internal Security of India Rules, 1971, the central
government hereby directs that the said rule shall apply to the
organisations specified ... below:
(1) Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (Charu Mazumdar Grouppro-
(2) Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (Charu Mazumdar Groupanti-
(3) United Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (S N Singh-Chandra
Pulla Reddy Group)
(4) The Andhra Pradesh Communist Committee (Revolutionaries)
(T Nagi Reddy Group)
(5) Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (Suniti Ghosh-Sharma
(6) Eastern India Zonal Consolidation Committee of the Communist
(7) The Maoist Communist Centre
(8) The Mukti Yudha Group
(9) Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India (Marxist-
(10) Centre of Indian Communists.
(CPG, November 1, 1975).
Incidentally, the central government did not perceive any threat
from the other two communist parties – the CPI and the CPI(M).
Accordingly, these two parties were not banned during the period.
The issues of the CPG in the 1970s help us understand how
the police handled the internal communication system and
conduced the day-to-day management during a crisis situation
that lasted for nearly a decade. The goals of any crisis
management, according to experts, are:
(a) terminate the crisis quickly;
(b) limit the damage; and
(c) restore credibility.
It is evident from CPGs, that the city police achieved these
goals in its dealing with the Naxalite challenge.
Crisis experts often adopt the following five strategies in
communicating to their targets:
(1) straightforward position;
(2) involve top management;
(3) activate third party support;
(4) keep the crisis in perspective; and
(5) do not ignore employees.
While going through CPGs, one can identify the stance/position
taken by the police at any given point of time during the 1967-
The top management's involvement in the internal
communication programme vis-a-vis Naxalite movement could
be traced from 1970 onwards. It is also apparent from at least
one communication of the city police chief that he directed the
force to garner third party (public) support for the "cause" they
were fighting (Re: CPG, December 3, 1970).
Along with the straightforward position of face-to-face combat
with the enemy outside, within its organisation the city police
authorities were also keeping a close tab on its employees and
paying attention to their needs.
It is significant, that at no point of time during the crisis, did the
police management ignore its
ranks. Besides issuing a series of "We care for you" communications
on various occasions, the city police authorities, "in
addition to other benefits admissible under the rules", provided
the family of "killed" police personnel with "ex-gratia payment"
(financial assistance) on the fast-track basis.
And the "magnanimity"
of the management was duly recorded in the Gazette
(CPG, May 11, 1970, June 10, 1970). Just before the pujas (annual
autumn festival held in September-October), the Calcutta Police
commissioner would remind all his colleagues of the police
personnel who were killed by Naxalites in 1970-72 and urge upon
them to send gifts to the families of the deceased through the
Calcutta Police Family Welfare Centre.
Very similar to the communist tradition of remembering martyrs,
the practice was followed by the Calcutta Police from 1973 to 1975
(CPG, September 29, 1973, October 14, 1974 and October 6, 1975).
The authorities also closely monitored the progress of
investigations and court battles in defence of their ranks. The
CPGs during this period recorded "Particulars of the cases"
at regular intervals. In February 1972 alone, there were as
many as 33 police-murder cases under investigation (CPG,
Monitoring the contents of the issues of the CPG of 1970 is
like the interception of signals by the military intelligence at
the time of wars. It provides the historian of the Naxalite movement
with invaluable information about the everyday tactics that
the police adopted at the ground level to face the enemy. It also
lends another dimension to the history of the Naxalite movement
by offering an alternative version from the viewpoint
of its antagonist.
These communications through CPGs created a positive impact,
projected a good image of the organisation on the police
ranks and finally helped the management to consolidate the force
at a crisis situation.
And as the internal communications tool
there lies the strength of the Calcutta Police Gazette, which
is sure to be a pretty good source material for those who
intend to research on anything from the social to the police
history of Calcutta.