22nd March 2020, is the 43rd death anniversary of Comrade A.K.Gopalan, veteran working class leader, PBM, CPI(M) and the first Opposition (Group) Leader in the Indian Parliament. He died on 22nd March 1977 after a long illness.
Com. AKG, as he is popularly called was an indomitable fighter of the working class and toiling masses. His entire life was full of struggles for the downtrodden people. He was arrested and put in jail many times both by the British as well as the Indian rulers. Com.AKG, who was in the forefront of the Independence struggle was in Cannanore Central Jail even on 15th August 1947, on the day India got Independence, even though almost all the freedom fighters who were in jail were released.
Comrade AKG could not tolerate injustice. Wherever and whenever he saw injustice, he jumped in to the struggle against the onslaught. There are any number of such struggles which AKG led and succeeded. It was the three great leaders, Coms. P.Krishna Pillai, E.M.S.Namboodiripad and AKG who built and strengthened the Communist Party in Kerala.
I had the opportunity to meet Comrade AKG several times and seek his guidance. During many of his visits to Calicut along with his wife, Com. Susheela Gopalan, who herself was a senior leader, Member of Parliament and later Minister in Kerala, I had the fortune to receive them at the Railway Station and to bring them to the house where they were to stay. One such time, AKG was ill and for many weeks he was not able to speak due to illness. Myself along with Com. M.Balasubramanian, the Dist. Secretary E.III Union, went to the Railway station and took him to the house of Advocate P.K.Kunhirama Poduval where they used to stay. After reaching Calicut, two senior doctors, Dr.CBC Warrier and Dr. N.S.Venugopalan checked him and stated that he was better. In fact AKG was able to speak bit by bit. That day the Confederation of Central Government Employees, of which I was the convener, had arranged a meeting in the Mudalakkulam maidan in connection with an All India strike next day. I very meekly asked the doctors whether I can request AKG to address the strike meeting. AKG immediately agreed and the doctors consented provided he would not speak more than five minutes. AKG agreed to the condition and it was decided that he will address the meeting.
The news that Com.AKG will address the meeting in the evening of the day spread like wildfire. Irrespective of party affiliation, people in thousands gathered at the maidan to hear Com.AKG, his first speech after several weeks. The meeting started in time and after welcome etc. Com.AKG was requested to address. He started speaking and the audience sat in pin-drop silence to hear their beloved leader. The stipulated period of five minutes was over, but he continued speaking. Then Com.Suseela Gopalan, who was also on the stage, reminded him the doctors’ advice. He laughed away the request, openly telling the public that he knew when to stop. All were very much worried. Then Com. M.K.Kelu (Keluettan), one of the senior most leader of the CPI(M) who was also present, openly requested him to stop his speech considering his health. The audience also in one voice supported the request. Then and then only, AKG stopped his speech, thanked all and sat down. Such was his love for the people who even in the face of severe illness could not stop interacting with them.
I remember another incident which again shows the tenacity of Com. AKG in fighting against all attacks on the working class. It was during the 1974 Railway Strike demanding Bonus. The strike was to start from 8th May but due to mass arrest of the leaders and workers and victimisation, it started two days earlier. The Central government met the strike with utmost cruelty and vengeance. Tens of thousands of workers were arrested and jailed. Railway Quarters were searched and even the family members were beaten and harassed not finding the striking workers. In many staff quarters water connection, electricity connection etc. were cut. In Calicut, the procession organized in support of the strike was attacked and people beaten and two news paper reporters also badly beaten and hospitalised. It was terror unleashed for the railway workers and their families.
It was at this time that Com. AKG along with Com. Suseela Gopalan arrived at Calicut. He was not at all well and the doctors advised complete rest. When I reported to him about the serious situation, he wanted to go to the railway quarters immediately. Though we tried to stop him going, he was adamant. We started for the Railway Colony. He stepped out from the car at the entry to the colony and told that we will walk. Com.A.Kunhiraman Nair, veteran NGO Union leader and some other comrades also reached by the time. We were about 6-7 people and led by Coms AKG and Suseela we started slowly walking in to the colony through the small road. Women and children who were alone in the houses saw AKG and started joining us. Within a few minutes, it became a jatha and culminated in the school premises inside the colony. By the time, police also came to the spot. Party comrades also reached. A loudspeaker was brought and Com.AKG started speaking. One police official, without knowing who it was speaking, came forward and threatened to arrest. AKG told him that ‘I am AKG and you can arrest me’. The poor policeman was dumbfounded and became silent. By that time, senior police officers came and the situation became normal. AKG spoke consoling the families of Railwaymen and told that nothing will happen to them, and also warned the police officers that he will come and sit there in dharna if the harassment continues. Within a few minutes the meeting was over after Com. Suseela Gopalan also addressed.After this incident, there was a halt to the harassment of the families in the colony.
It was his forceful speech along with that of Comrade Nath Pai and other opposition leaders in the Parliament against the victimisation of Central Government employees who participated in the historic July 1960 strike that compelled the Jawaharlal Nehru government to take back all the thousands of workers who were dismissed or suspended. It was the same in the case of the 1968 Strike victimisation. For vacating the victimisation, he fought inside and outside the Parliament, even attending many meetings in Kerala.
In all Indian Coffee Houses through out India, one can see the photo of Com. A.K.G. placed in a most prominent place inside, as a token of respect and thanks to the great leader who saved the Indian Coffee Houses and its workers, when the Govt decided to close them. Com. A.K.G. discussed with the Government and all these Coffee Houses were handed over to the co-operatives formed by the workers.
Com.AKG was one of the senior CPI(M) leaders who was not arrested and jailed during Emergency, being very sick. When he came to Calicut during the period myself and Com. N.Ramesh, then Divl. Secretary of E.III Union went to meet him. He was very tired and sick, but asked about the situation in Calicut. When we were returning, he told us ” your job is not to get arrested, but to continue the resistance work against the Emergency and safeguard your workers.” Probably he might have been hinting at my being taken in to custody by Special Branch and questioned for hours a few days back.
He was sick and was under treatment for many months. During this period Com. T.K.Karunan, then leader of Kozhikode Municipal Corporation Workers , came to my rented line house near Sreekandeswara Kshetram and handed over a letter stating that he had gone to meet AKG at Alappuzha hearing that he was not well. He told that Com.AKG was always his beloved leader,despite political difference. The letter was in the handwriting of Com. Suseela and signed by AKG. Whatever he commanded, was done immediately.
Com. AKG died on 22nd March 1977. The Congress party was rooted out in the election, but probably he might not have known the same as he was in coma. The news of the death of the dear leader was a shock to all. His body was brought to his home place in Kannur District. Through out the way in all district headquarters, thousands of people came to pay homage to their departed leader. The condolence meeting held at Kalliasseri was attended by more than ten thousand people. Along with some comrades, we also went there. Almost all the PB members were present. While speaking, Coms. E.K.Nayanar and Mrs. Kamalam broke in to tears and wept due to emotion and memories. Such was the close relation of Com. AKG to all whom he met.Every one who met him even once had the feeling that he specially cared for him. All those who came in contact will have many such incidents to remember. He was very close to all and was loved by all.
A.K.G.Bhawan in New Delhi, the Central Committee office of CPI(M), A.K.G.Centre, the State Committee office of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram and many party offices are named in honour of Com. A.K.G. I used to visit 4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi, where he stayed for many years as Member of Parliament, even after his departure, as it was there where many of us met him and presented our problems and difficulties for being taken in the Parliament. Still the name of 4, Ashoka Road brings many memories, though the bungalow has been vacated by CPI(M) after the elections in 1914. In fact, the govt should have maintained it as a memorial to AKG, a long time Opposition Leader of the Parliament.
BSNL Employees Union was formed on 22nd March 2001, on the 24th death anniversary of Com. A.K.G. It was not accidental, but a conscious decision.
My respectful homage to the memory of this great revolutionary and working class leader on his 43rd death anniversary!
RED SALUTE TO COM. AKG, COMMANDER OF THE PROLETARIAT!