Anirban Biswas – A Man of Unrelenting Dreams

Introductory Review of ‘Aleek Manush Anirban Biswas’, a Frontier anthology


Anirban Biswas, assistant editor of Frontier and one of the directors of Germinal Publications Pvt Ltd, passed away on April 4, 2021 at the age of 69, in his home in Birbhum district, West Bengal. He was also a regular contributor in the bilingual monthly Purbasha Ekhon, and editor of its English section. Anirban Biswas, a staunch, devoted practitioner of communist ideology, a veteran revolutionary and a brilliant economist with vast knowledge of Marxist Economics, had been remembered in an anthology of reminiscences, published by Frontier Publications (44 Balaram Dey Street, Kolkata 700 006, WB, India, May 2022), titled Aleek Manush Anirban Biswas.

The anthology is an accolade of loving memories and venerated recollections on the ideology, work and life of Anirban Biswas. It also recollects a time of fire and blood that shaped persons like Anirban Biswas, persons who had been absolutely devoted to a singular cause for the ultimate emancipation and recognition of dignity of the toiling masses.

The anthology includes reminiscences by Timir Basu, editor of Frontier, Amiya Bagchi, professor of Presidency College, K.K. Saxena of Aakar Books of Delhi, among other comrades, friends and loved ones from Anirban Biswas’s political and personal life.

During the Great Naxalbari Movement in 1968, Anirban Biswas became a sympathizer and activist of the CPI (M-L). He wanted to be a professional revolutionary during those early days of the Naxalbari, and went to rural areas to organize the poor peasantry. He was later imprisoned and tortured for his political activism in 1971 and 1975. In 1981 he joined as a professor of economics in Hetampur Krishnochandra College in Birbhum. He was also elected to the central committee of the Marxist-Leninist party PCC CPI (M-L). Anirban Biswas joined as assistant editor of Frontier in 2012. He was also affiliated with editing the English manifesto of PCC CPI(M-L) titled For a New Democracy.

A prolific writer with in-depth knowledge of Marxist studies, Anirban Biswas regularly contributed commentary and analysis in Frontier.  As Anup K. Sinha, a friend of Anirban Biswas recollects, “His clarity of thought and his commitment to making the world a better place was unquestioned. The hard work he did for keeping the periodical Frontier going was something rare.” (Anup K. Sinha, ‘Miss You Anirban’)

An “erudite writer” with profound articulation, Anirban Biswas had been hailed by his friends and comrades for his lucid memory and exceptional knowledge of economics and Marxist studies. His books, “The Cowrie Currency and Monetary History of India” (Camp publications, 2006), and “Money and Markets from Pre-colonial to Colonial India” (Aakar Books, Delhi, 2007), are well recognized.

Born in Chittagong district of Bangladesh in 1952, Anirban Biswas had been remembered as a humble person, with vast knowledge and exceptional brilliance. But his greatest identity had always been of an active, staunch, unwavering, passionate revolutionary till death.

The person Anirban Biswas, as had been remembered by many, was ‘unkempt’ and ‘oblivious’ when it came to material gains, a person impervious to the Earthly fetters that constitute of money, lavish homes, cars, high-paid jobs. And yet he was far more humane, closer to earth than many, as his dreams and fight were borne of the soil, borne of toil, borne of blood and sweat and borne of a relentless fight for people, for peasants, for workers. He was a revolutionary, and to him revolution was not just another fancy hobby for fanning a flickering flame of fame, it was a profession.

As Pradosh Nath remembers: “For Anirban anything other than transformation of the society we are living in has been uninteresting pastime…. When revolution remained elusive, Anirban created and inhabited a surreal world of which we sometimes caught fleeting glimpses when his passion got the better of our pragmatic self. It was a world where revolution is an imminent reality, where every one of his friends are giving their best towards realization of the dream. It telescoped the revolution and the post-revolutionary promised land of peace and harmony. It was the becoming and being of a paradise which was forever lost to us, immersed as we were in our worldly pursuits.” (Pradosh Nath, ‘Alik Manush Reminiscing Anirban Biswas’)

Anirban Biswas had been remembered for his genuine humility and humbleness, that accompanied his absolute neglect for personal fame and gains. Simply dressed, mild mannered yet fervently determined in his ideology, Anirban Biswas lived a life that was centered around the revolutionary cause. His devotion originated from his deep understanding of Marxist philosophy and his experience of political struggles during the Great Naxalbari Movement. The revolutionary cause was not a flimsy, superficial concept for him, but a way of life and work, a possible, achievable reality founded on scientific truth. His conviction was not borne of blind following of doctrines, but of an ever-developing, dynamic, and adoptive scientific thought process. When a section of leadership of the CPI (M-L) asked its activists not to read Frontier, Anirban Biswas, then an activist of CPI (M-L) remained affiliated with the weekly, with his contributions and later his active involvement as an assistant editor, as he understood the necessity of a non-sectarian way of adopting revolutionary tactics.

Words of Anirban Biswas in one of his pieces for Frontier reflect his continuously dynamic adoptive revolutionary attitude: “As I went on reading Frontier without, however, understanding much of the contents, I came to develop a fascination for the paper. It might be that the sharp language and brilliant style of editorial pieces offered an additional attraction…. I however continued to read Frontier, sometimes on the sly in order to avoid taunts and sneers from my firebrand revolutionary friends. Looking back I am convinced that had the ideologues of the CPI (ML) and their firebrand followers read Frontier with a non-sectarian mind, while keeping the scope of disagreement wide open, they would have benefited much, and the excess committed in the name of ‘revolution’ could have been contained and much unnecessary bloodshed avoided”. (Anirban Biswas, ‘My Association with Frontier’, Frontier, Vol. 49, No. 13-16, Oct 2-29, 2016)

The 84-pages anthology of reminiscences is a glimpse into the Great Naxalbari Movement and its definitive dedication towards people’s causes. Despite the said ‘failure’ of the movement, it nourished and created revolutionaries like Anirban Biswas. Revolutionaries who had functionally devoted their life for a singular humane cause and ideology.

A number of personalities like Anirban Biswas, those who had truly, absolutely been devoted to the revolution not just in words, but in their practices, were borne out of the Great Naxalbari Movement. Those fiery times created professional revolutionaries like Anirban Biswas, now rare in the subcontinent, against the continuous onslaught of a juggernaut system ensnaring and corrupting all that is good and true. Anirban Biswas, a scholar from the Presidency College, could have easily given way to the continuous tempting and persuasion of this system. He could have chosen a life, even if not of luxury, but of said solace and solitude, of a peace the definition of which is defined by the system. Yet he remained unwavering, unbridled, and uncompromising in his ideology and work, and in a very effective and functional way.

The Bangla word Anirban, refers to a flame that keeps on burning, a flame that cannot be extinguished. Like an undying flame, Anirban Biswas remains not only in memory, but through his work, his thoughts and his utmost revolutionary way of life, an ever-optimist, unrelenting revolutionary.

(*All references are from the anthology Aleek Manush Anirban Biswas)

[Omar Rashid Chowdhury is a civil engineering graduate from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and learner, from Dhaka, Bangladesh]

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