Gundahar Murmu: A legendary revolutionary

Gundahar Murmu

On April 12th earlier this year the Communist revolutionary movement commemorated the 12th death anniversary of veteran Comrade Gundahar Murmu. He passed away leaving his wife, four daughters, son, relatives and comrades but his memories will be embedded forever in the revolutionary movement like an inextinguishable red light shimmering.

Few comrades ever from West Bengal staged such an invaluable crusade  as an architect of the mass revolutionary line in agrarian revolution. hitting revisionism and left adventurism at the very grassroot.. With the skill of a surgeon, creativity of a poet and tenacity of a soldier he steered his way through the most tortuous paths or obstacles. At every crucial juncture with the resilience of a boulder and dialectical methodology of a scientist he countered all opportunist trends or attacks from the enemy. Till his last breadth he was a crusader for revolution, shimmering the spark of Mao thought. More than any comrade in the agrarian front Murmu gave shape to the political mass line of Tarimela Nagi Reddy. being a committed member of the Communist Party of India Re-Organization Centre (Marxist-Leninist) till his death. He banged every nail in the coffin to knit the agrarian revolutionary movement on the basis of mass revolutionary line illuminate the spirit of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought.

His contribution is all the more significant today with the task of re-organization of the proletarian party yet to be fulfilled and serious deviations still pervading the Communist revolutionary camp of ‘left’ and ‘right’ variety in West Bengal. Even if the C.P.I.(Maoist) is the principal torch bearer of the camp the revolutionary movement still remain splintered between various groups. Inspite of  over 50 years since Naxalbari a united revolutionary movement has not been built in Bengal with movements infact becoming more marginalized.2decades ago a polarization took place between the groups of left deviationist trend, or right opportunist trend but hardly of those practicing the proletarian mass line. Some very strong united movements took place of different groups on issues like bus fare hikes, struggle of employees, encounter killings of Maoists, opposing building nuclear power projects like Pokharan etc. In recent times some positive united protests have been waged on issues of opposing Hindutva fascsim or Communalism, state murder of Maoists in Malkangiri and Chattisgarh. However revolutionary forces basically remain isolated from the mass movement. Today the Communist revolutionary ranks are splintered. In recent times democratic movements area again on an upswing, but lack a cohesive political leadership. The mistakes or setback in the movement in Lalgarh throw important light on the virtues of the teachings and practice of Comrade Murmu,in earlier periods.Murmu had displayed great mastery in establishing unity between tribals and industrial workers .His writings are a must read for any political cadre on the ‘Analysis of the Debra Peasant Movement.”, which is a classic in it’s own right. Few documents as comprehensively deal wit aspect of massline in agrarian revolution and party-building and the glaring left adventurist errors of the C.P.I.(M.L.) of Charu Mazumdar.The movement dearly missed a comrade of Murmu’s calibre in the recent tribal movement in Bhangar.

Today still an infection pervades which feels that the issue of correct revolutionary line has been decided which is solely practiced by the C.P.I.(Maoist).There are hardly any echoes reverberating the massline of late T.Nagi Reddy. within the revolutionary camp in Bengal with the revolutionary camp split within the pro-Maoist section and those owing allegiance to Kanu Sanyal, SNS-CPReddy etc .Even if great rectification has been made still there are tendencies to glorify individual heroism of armed squads and negate the massline..

Gundahar Murmu was born in June 1927 in Belar village of Debra in West Midnapur,into an adivasi peasant family. and studied till the Higher Secondary certificate stage. In his student days he gained his baptism in revolutionary politics when he organized the poor and landless peasants with Comrade Nikunja Behari Chowdhury, the then leader of the Communist party of India. After independence he became a member of the Communist Party of India and became the secretary of the Krishak Samitii n Debra area.

He stood by China in the 1962 war and was arrested during the Indo-Pak war when he was upholding the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He was branded as a an agent of China.(China-dalal) Later he was arrested for opposing the Indo-Pak war. and called a ‘Pakistan Chor.:’

After coming out of jail he understood the differences that had cropped up within the party.Gunadahr took a firm stand supporting the CPC in the great debate, upholding the general line of the International Communist Movement laid down in 1963.He was of firm conviction that Communists would steer this ideology along to the path of liberation. After split of party he joined the C.P.I. (M.)

Murmu lit the spark in the 1960’s to defend the peasant’s rights and organized them against the opression of the jotedars-zamindars. When the Naxalbari peasant movement emerged he formed the Naxalbari Krishak Sangram Shayak Commitee in Debra police station. His voice played an important role in moulding comrades towards grasping the fundamental relationship between armed struggle and massline,like a wheel with an axle. In 1962 he built up the movement of workers, peasants, students and youth .However it could not develop into a revolutionary movement

In May,1969 he joined the C.P.I.(M.L.)with comrades Bhadadeb Mondal and Netai Das. Earlier, activists who fought against revisionism like Kanhai Chaterjee,Amulya Sen and Sushital Roy Choudary supported Murmu.
Fascinatingly the former two comrades were the founding members of the Maoist Communist Centre.

Murmu organized peasants against Jotedars zamindars. Thousands of peasants thronged with tangi(axes) and bows and arrows. Raids were organized on black marketers. Under Murmu’s leadership peasants fought jotedars armed with 45 guns at the police station in Baulasani village of Debra police station where Jotedars ran away from the village leaving their guns. Active movements also occurred in Keshpur and Daspur police station capitalising on previous struggles.  In 1969 he organized the Kshet Mazdoor Krishak Sabha and edited the revolutionary “Lal Tara ‘magazine. Several peasant struggle committees were formed.

In a meeting in Kharagpur he raised his voice against the line of ‘annihilation of class enemies’ which the C.P.I.(M.L.) planned to implement in Debra,Gopiballavpur and Baharagora on August 21st,1969. for which Charu Mazumdar placed a more affirmative role. I recommend readers to read Gunadhar Murmu’s notes in the 2nd volume of History and Polemics of the Communist Movement of India, published by the Tarimela Nagi Reddy Memorial Trust. Comrade Murmu was one of the pioneers of the mass line combating the ‘line of annihilation of class enemies’ and abandoning of mass organizations. Comrade Murmu elaborated how armed squad actions isolated people from mass movements.

He stated “After a jotedar is annihilated his descendant would become the owner of the property. Whereas if a village revolutionary committee distributed land the people would benefit.’In November 1969,the police fled from places where thousands of peasants came forcibly to harvest crops.Murmu gave examples of how, actions of armed squads ,people got more isolated Police camps were installed when the annihilation campaign began..However the police were helpless to curb the popular upsurge with several cases in November 1969 of police fleeing from places were thousands of peasants gathering to forcibly harvest the crops.

Inspite of the leaders of Debra putting a proposal for building mass movements and formation peasant committees, the Border-regional commitee of the C.P.I.(M.L.) rejected it and criticised the Debra comrades. In Digha in January 1970 the Debra leaders were condemned by the border regional committee of the C.P.I.(M.L.) ,for opposing tactics of annihilation. A statement was published in the Bengali magazine Lal Tara in May 7th and May 22,1975 as a ‘Review od Debra peasants struggle by a Group of cadres ”

On 5th March 1970 Murmu was arrested. During this era in jail he launched a strong battle against the line of ‘Individual annihilation. Through this struggle he saved the life of many a comrade. He also combated the right deviationist line of ‘Garibi Hatao’by comrades who supported the slogan of Indira Gandhi. In jail he hammered every possible nail in the coffin to defeat left adventurism and right opportunist and was convinced that the line of Charu Mazumdar negated the relationship between the agrarian revolutionary protracted armed struggle. Within the prison walls he made a major contribution in publishing the Debra report in the Bengali magazine Lal Tara which exposed the anarchist tendency of the annihilation or Khatam line .In jail he came to know of the mass agrarian revolutionary line of the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Comitee of Communist revolutionaries. After his release on 15th August 1977 wit comrades Bhadadeb Mondal and Netai Das he contacted the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India ,at the beginning of 1978.He joined the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries led by T.Nagi Reddy.(U.C.C.R.I.-M.L.)His joining the Unity Centre of Communist revolutionaries of India in 1976 was of great political significance.Under his leadership the UCCRI)ML led peasant associations did joint programmes with groups like the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre.


Below are important characteristics of the Debra report published in Bengali magazine ‘Lal Tara.’

Positive features of the movement were

  1. Re-occupation of land started on huge scale with large scale confiscation of benami land,khas land and land posessed by absentee landlords with mass mobilisation of peasants being a firm feature.


  1. Big black marketeers were hit in their very backyard with around ten thousand peasants mobilized to confront the checkposts set up to thwart their resistance. Peasant samitis gave a slogan for stopping black marketing of rice. News of such demonstrations spread like wildfire.


  1. With this movement for higher wages started with peasants armed with arrows and spears and on the other hand jotedars with guns.


  1. Unity was established between the tribals and the poor peasants, middle peasants and rich peasants neutralized.


  1. Authorities imposed section 144 but still peasants morale was not subdued .


  1. The struggle expanded because the leadership had adopted a broad outlook in leading the struggle. A concrete example was how leaders returned guns to the Jotedars even after the peasants had snatched 20 gun sin struggle. This was because stage of creating armed squads had not been reached in Debra


Reasons for setback. were


  1. Propogated that armed struggle is the only path and the connection between seizure of power and land were not explained.-“Political power only grows out of the barrel of the gun.”The lessons f Naxalbari were presented as capture of power through armed struggle. The importance of peasnt problem, the close inteconection between land distribution and capture of power were grossly underestimated. The wrong line of leadership, of the co-ordination committee, and the party and the ideological weakness of the cadres of Debra created the basis for isolation of the struggle.


  1. Mass struggle and mass organization was totally ignored inspite of border regional leadership formulating it. They formulated no clear views on understanding of mass struggle and mass organisation, which they virtually negated. The cadres upheld the view on necessity of mass struggles and hasty actions but had no clear political perspective.


  1. Individual annihilation was termed as the only path of struggle. Cadres from Debra practicing mass movement were lured into it., with their weak ideological understanding. They fell into this trap because of lack of a coherent understanding of armed struggle. Lack of solid, political ideological understanding regarding annihilation ,was an obstacle in their building opposition to the line.Inspite of starting a movement of bamboo cutting on jotedars lands ,they were unable to effectively challenge the view sof the Border region committee.


  1. Adverse influence of Red Guard propaganda movement which when marching in making their open activities harmful to the enemy.


  1. No discussion on the building of base areas .Initially cadres felt they should build them in plains. They failed to understand that without expansion of area base areas could not be established. Geographical and natural advantages were ignored.



  1. An atmosphere of conspiracy in Border Commitee,,contradiction between intellectuals and peasants and sectarianism was built by the distortions of naxalbari and organizational line practiced..Antagonistic contradictions were created in various areas of the border commitee.



We failed to have an overall programme because we ourselves remained isolated and divided. Can an army force victory in a major battle if it is divided? No.Our duty is to re-build a party as the Centre of all Marxist Leninists. The revolution demands the presence of innumerable revolutionary cadres. Without this how can the revolution succeed in any country? The 2 line struggle was undertaken within the CPI for a sustained period, and with the intensification of the polemics within the International Communist Movement this struggle also sharpened, and on the issue of Indian agression on China, many came out ignoring the revisionist leadership. But could their struggle against revisionism be consolidated as an geological victory? Everyone knows that a handful of revisionists prevented this from happening, by supressing the ideological struggle within the party. Major sections of cadres waged a struggle against revisionism and hailed naxalbari,but again a handful of sectarian elements, abruptly put an end to the ideological struggle, and destroyed the prospect of unity by claiming the building of the party. They pushed the struggle for unity onto the quagmire of disunity not even attempting to consolidate broad sectionso f cadres into the correct path.

On the other hand what are the leftists doing? Whoever used to oppose the ‘left’ deviations within the Telengana struggle was branded as a traitor to the party.In place of proletarian principles, fascist organizational principles were introduced.Recently,the C.P.I.(M.L) co ordination Commitee under Charu Mazumdra expelled many a comrade who embraced revolutionary politics ,and rejected the revisionists. Today the C.P.I.(M.L)itself has split up due to left deviationist line .



  1. There should be a clear line of distinction between unity and dissent.
  2. We have to start from minimum unity amongst the various revolutionary organizations. This unity is nothing but the preparation for building a national united party. On this basis minimum and broad based unity can be acheived.

All the Marxist-Leninist Organisations unite on an equal footing on the basis of acceptance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung thought with the aim of establishing people’s democracy and Socialism and Peoples War as the path. There will be a struggle against 2 trends,for centralism and against centralism. It is also time consuming and complicated to unite the major section of revolutionaries on strict principles. that is why we have to begin from establishing minumum and broad unity.

The Revolutionary organisations should

1.Prepare a draft Self-critical report, Draft Programme,Draft Constitution and Draft Organisational Report along with the analysi sof the Communist Party of India.


  1. Form organizational party units from state to local level.


  1. Organize preparatory conferences from the highest to lowest levels for the election of representatives to the Congress to take concrete resolutions about the agenda and participants to circulate the draft for discussion through the organsiing committee and accordingly to organise the conference.


4.On this basis to convene the Congress, which will be the highest body of the party, which will be responsible for resolving any differences that remains in the Central Organising Committee.




  1. Some feel that the existing organizations should be dissolved and that they should remain independent even after the formation of the Central Organising Commitee or that everyone will dissolve their organisation without having any centralised political guidance.


  1. Some wish to invite these groups to the Congress with one of the C.P.I.(M.L)groups convening the conference. Would any Marxist-Leninist organization join such a conference? How would the documents be prepared and representation for the Congress finalised? Without a preparatory conference the Congress will turn into an ideological battle field.


  1. Some challenged the monolithic character of the politics and organisation of the party. In their view a Central Organising Commitee cannot be formed without being unanimous on the basic political questions.


We should not confuse between minimum unity and higher unity. Any Marxist-Leninist party develops afte resolving some of the problem son principles, and resolves the rest trough democratic centralism.

What is meant of building the party from above? It means to build the party through the Congress from the highest to the lowest level. In his article, “One Step Forward .Tow Steps back, ‘Lenin has briefly said that whichever organisation has maximum political and organizational influence in the local conference and in the organizational body,will have more importance in building the party.


4..Some comrades claim that in organizational set up, point of equal status has no importance..This distorts the struggle between 2 lines.


A 2 line struggle existed within the CPM,which was renewed after Naxalbari. Throughout this period the revolutionaries were struggling against wrong lines. All the 2 line struggles that emerged after Naxalbari are significant. What do these comrades understand by equal status? They interpret it as a means of establishing authority, thinking the party tome a mere collection of groups

We must also assert that equal status does not mean accepting principles unanimously.



In the 1980’s he strived for the mass line within the Jharkhand movement ,demarcating from reformist trends and Bengali Chauvinism. The struggle of different areas did not develop in a comradely manner under the leadership a single party. Old cadres were projected as being guilty  and new cadres as the enlightened comrades. It was as if old areas were rotten and blame for having a democratic heritage.

He played a major role in the re-organising of the Peasant Association. In June 1987 he had to face the wrath of C.P.M.goons who took every measure to suppress the work of Murmu in Belar village.

It was Mumu’s leadership that isolated the revisionist C.P.M. So they beat him with sticks.
However Murmu came back even more courageously and re-developed work. Few comrades ever exhibited more mastery in challenging the tumours of the CPM at the very roots.

Former comrades of the Maoist Communist Centre remember Murmu’s work and organization .

In 1988 he joined the Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India which later merged into the C.P.R.C.I.(M.L.) in 1995.It was of important political significance that Murmu demarcated from the right deviationist tend within the Nagi Reddy camp of the UCCRI(ML)Muktigami group joining the section led by Anand first which later merged into the CCRI.

During the period of the Khalistani movement launched a series of programmes in Debra district in solidarity with the ‘Front against Repression and Communalism’ which was a mass resistance front combating both state and Khalistani terrorism in Punjab. It is my sincere wish that today in similar manner revolutionary democratic forces in West Bengal educated the tribals about the farmer’s movement on the Delhi border.

Com Gunadhar Murmu was a staunch crusader in liberating the Adivasis from the shackles of economic exploitation, towards a development of language and culture, and for a livelihood of dignity.

He was detained as a ‘Jharkandi’ on 10th March, 1990 for 18 days.

However he combated the wrong trends of the Jharkhand movement explaining that it lacked objective class analysis .He propagated that it was reformist and that a separate state of Adivasi people would not solve their problems as within the framework of the Constitution of India. The Adivasis had to build an anti-feudal,anti-imperialist agrarian revolutionary movement under the leadership of the working class and thus build a united front.

From 1992-2002 Murmu went to the Malkangiri region of Orissa to organize the tribals on the issues of Jangal,jamin and pani. He played a pioneering role in the building of the tribal revolutionary movement in the region of Malkangiri..He played the role of an equivalent of a turbine in creating electricity or a conductor in a symphony in building the Malkangiri Zilla Adivasi Sangh..Murmu in practice imbibed the very lessons he learnt from the Debra peasant struggle where he demarcated between mass agrarian revolutionary movement and armed squad actions. Avoiding direct confrontation he often refuted the squads of the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War when they initiated actions without basing it on the movement of the tribals .Most methodically like a professor writing a thesis he chalked out an agrarian revolutionary programme .Murmu was responsible for a spark turning into a prairie fire in Malkangiri, literally stitching the democratic forces.

He played a major part in the movement in Tapu area and in the Padmagiri Panchayat.He organized the Adivasis in movements for forest, land and water..He possessed phenomenal stamina travelling 03-40 km. without any food or break. withstanding the hills, mountains and dense forests. Murmu played a role as a sculptor in the great mass armed resistance built by the Malkangiri Zilla adivasi Sangh in the Padmigeri-Pandripani land struggle protest waged against the HAMCO project , tribal’s rights for bamboo in forests, as well as the correct tactical line during elections of ‘Active political campaign’. instead of boycott or ‘participation’, and resistance against pipeline in Malkangiri. Murmu even travelled to Umerkot in Nabrangpur district at the border of Chattisgarh and Ramgiri areas. With great perseverance he infused the mass line of the Communist Party-Re-Organization Centre of India (Marxist -Leninist) which originated from the Nagi Reddy line into the day to day political struggles of the Adivasis.

Sadly he was virtually paralyzed due to prolonged strain and illness from 2003 and was forced to be inactive. His absence was a major blow to the revolutionary movement which could not be replenished.

It was this very agrarian revolutionary line that Gundahar Murmu lit the spark from the 1960’s. which sadly could not turn into a prairie fire but succumbed to left deviation. The Kshet Mazdoor Krishak Sabha existed till the time of Murmu’s death but we never read any reports of its activities for very long.

Sadly today 12 years after his death no revolutionary has been able to resurrect Murmu in Bengal by duplicating his role in re-organizing a peasant association and a revolutionary peasant movement. Such a comrade was the very need of the hour with neo- fascism scaling in untranscended regions, right opportunism prevailing predominantly in the non-Maoist camp. And still trends of glorifying heroic actions of armed squads. He would have been an ornament in Bengal today in organizing solidarity movements against Hindutva fascism and in combating Operation Green Hunt at its very core. It is also a deep regret that none of the homage memorial programmes in his memory are given publicity on social media like for other martyred comrade.

The presence of the CPRCI (M.L.) which Comrade Murmu belonged to is greatly missed in shaping the important workers or peasant movements in West Bengal today, It is the role of such a group to bring the scattered party forces together, with it’s name hardly heard in party circles in West Bengal.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has travelled around India and written on blogs like ‘Democracy ad Class Struggle’, ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Frontier Weekly.’ Mainly written on politics of mass line in Communist Movement, Maoism, peasant struggles but also on blogs on Cricket and films.

Email- [email protected]


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