Today I read two wonderful stories in the newspaper. One was sad and the other was happy. Strangely both of them were connected to revolution and violence. Life regularly places people in unusual circumstances and ones ordinary choices can throw up extra-ordinary impact.
Let me write about the sad one first. Kanu Sanyal dies by hanging himself. The great man that he was did not deserve such a weak death. The tragedy is that when he was so fearless all through his life, he had to show such weakness in choosing such an ignoble end. For those uninitiated, Kanu Sanyal is said to be the founders of Naxalism in this country. Naxalism is not about killing and violence, though we may see it like that from media reports. Naxalism initially was about revolution against the injustice suffered by the weaker section of society mainly in rural areas. The upper casts consisting of zamindars, businessmen and priests wielded tremendous power over the poor and the lower casts. Man can endure sufferings and atrocities up to a limit and blame it on karma. When that limit is crossed, then the ambers of revolution flare up. Kanu Sanyal stroked such wild fires during his hay days. Known to be a great leader and orator, he led front the front and had a vast following. Slowly the naxal movement lost stream after the communists came to power in West Bengal and they changed the land holding scenario in rural areas across the state. Slowly the naxal movement shifted to Andhra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. But the brave man that he was, why did he choose suicide? Was he dejected because nobody wanted to listen to him anymore? Or was he unable to bear the physical pain of old age and assumed that hanging was a brave act? Obviously many people would attend his funeral and cry for him. Sadly the truth is that all his work did not bring him much love. It was an unhappy death.
The other story was about an army-man who was shot at and wounded by militants in Manipur during its period of insurgency in the 1994. Lt. Col. D. P. K. Pillay who was leading his men had received a couple of bullets on his body and could have been evacuated by helicopter. However he chose to stay put and instead evacuated some children from the fighting zone. He waited for the helicopter to return after two hours during which time he continued to fight against the militants. He could have died but he survived. After a period of 16 years he again went back to the same place and met those militants who are now working as farmers as well as those children whom he evacuated. The children are now grown up and have become parents themselves. The militants joked with him about their poor aim and he showed them his scars. They all had a good time, laughed and cried together. Lt. Col. D. P. K. Pillay must have gone through some major emotional crises during his recuperation. The best thing about him is that he carried no malice against those who shot at him to kill him. The people loved and respected him for his selfless deed to save their children. There is so much of love that the imagining the scene of reunion itself brings tears to my eyes. Lt. Col. D. P. K. Pillay tells that he chose to send out the children first because it was not their fault that they were caught in a cross fire. Bless his soul!