Tribute to Comrade Moni Singh

Published : 28 Jul 2021 08:39 PM | Updated : 29 Jul 2021 12:12 AM

In the course of time, Moni Singh became known in the country and abroad as ‘Comrade Moni Singh’, a name associated with the tradition of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), the history of long struggles and the glory of the freedom movement of the working class of this country.

Moni Singh was one of the prominent advisers of the freedom seeking expatriate government of Bangladesh during the liberation war. He was an anti-British fighter, a great hero of the historical Tonk Rebellion and Tebhaga movement and one of the pioneers of the communist movement in the subcontinent.

Moni Singh was born on 28 July 1901 in a middle class family in Kolkata. His father's name was Kali Kumar Singh and his mother's name was Sarala Debi. However, Kali Singh married in the dynasty of Susang Durgapur. Moni Singh lost his father at the age of only two and a half years. At that time his family lived in Dhaka for some time at the house of one of his uncles, Deputy Magistrate Suren Singh. After spending four and a half years there, Sarala Debi moved to Susang Durgapur, her ancestral home in Netrokona with seven-year-old Mani Singh. Moni Singh completed his primary education at Susang Durgapur and went to Kolkata for secondary education.

During this time his intense hatred and resentment towards the British banians grew. Out of that hatred and anger, he got involved in the anti-British movement in his school life. From the anti-imperialist consciousness he joined the 'Onushilon' party and gradually took a place in the revolutionary activities. The mass uprising of non-cooperation movement and caliphate movement in 1921 made a deep impression on the mind of young Moni Singh. He had doubts about the terrorist method. During this time he continued to organize the peasants in the labor movement and the anti-British struggle. In 1917, he was inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and the historic 'October Revolution'.

Moni Singh adopted Marxism-Leninism as his ideology in 1925 after discussions with the eminent revolutionary Gopen Chakraborty. Since 1928, he devoted himself to revolutionary activities as a full-time activist of the Communist Party. At this time he was devoted to the labor movement in Kolkata. Later, he was arrested on May 9, 1930.

Although he was released from jail in 1935, he was kept under house arrest in his village Susang Durgapur. At this time, when he took the side of the peasants and farm laborers, a family dispute arose with his landlord uncles. He was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for giving a speech on behalf of the farmers demanding a fair price for jute.

When he was released from prison in 1937, Moni Singh was informed that he had become a member of the Communist Party. After that he met his mother in Durgapur and wanted to return to the labor movement in Kolkata but he could not ahead of the demand of the common people of the area. Indigenous Muslim peasants and indigenous peoples, including the Garo and Hajangs, repeatedly urged Moni Singh to launch a movement against the Tonk system. Moni Singh then devoted himself to the Tonk movement and became the undisputed leader of the Tonk movement.

When the movement intensified in 1941, Moni Singh was arrested again and detained for 15 days. When he was released, he understood the situation and went into hiding. In 1944, Mani Singh was elected a member of the Presidium of the Krishan Sabha of Bengal. He was one of the main organizers of the reception committee of the historic conference of the All India Krishan Sabha held at Netrokona in 1945. Before 1947, Comrade Moni Singh had to endure imprisonment and torture while fighting for independence against the British.

After the establishment of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, Moni Singh was one of those who brought forward the ideology of full democracy and a society free from exploitation. In doing so, he was subjected to torture and arrest warrants by the Pakistani government. He has been forced to remain in hiding for almost 20 years since the creation of Pakistan. Military government of General Ayub Khan announced a reward of Tk 10,000 for his capture.

The second conference of the Communist Party was held in 1951. While in hiding, Comrade Moni Singh was elected General Secretary of the East Pakistan Communist Party. He played an important role during the 1952 language movement. At the third conference held in 1965, he was re-elected general secretary of the party. While in prison, he was elected a member of the Central Committee at the Fourth Conference of the Communist Party (which was declared the party's first congress) in 1968. Moni Singh, along with other political prisoners, was released from jail in the face of the historic mass movement of 1969. When martial law was re-imposed on March 25 of that year, he was arrested again in July. Although many leaders were later released during the non-cooperation movement, the military ruler General Yahya Khan did not release Moni Singh. After the start of the war of liberation in 1971, the prisoners broke the Rajshahi jail and released him and themselves.

The contribution of Comrade Moni Singh in securing the political and diplomatic support and assistance of the socialist camp for the great war of liberation in the international arena was undisputed. He led the armed liberation war by forming a special guerrilla force comprising NAP, Communist Party and Students Union. He was one of the advisors to the Mujibnagar government formed in 1971. He was the main person in gaining the support of international political forces for Bangladesh in the war of liberation. It was because of him that Russia (then Socialist Soviet Union or USSR) cooperated in the war of liberation.

After the victory on 16 December 1971, Moni Singh raised his voice in taking forward the struggle for the establishment of a full democracy and a society free from exploitation in independent-sovereign Bangladesh.  Comrade Moni Singh was elected President of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) held in 1973. Later, he was elected President of the Central Committee at the Third Congress held in 1980. After the brutal assassination of the then President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on 15 August 1975, the then government declared the Communist Party illegal for the first time in an independent country. Comrade Moni Singh, 77, was arrested in 1977 during General Zia's military rule. He was then imprisoned for 6 consecutive months. This legendary revolutionary actively served the party till the age of 84 years. He fell seriously ill on February 23, 1984. On December 31, 1990, his long revolutionary life came to an end. After his death, his last rites were performed at Postagola Mahashoshan in Dhaka.

Comrade Moni Singh was awarded the state's highest civilian medal, the ‘Shadhinota Puroshkar’, in 2004. The government posthumously awarded him this award for his extraordinary contribution and unique achievements in the war of liberation and independence. But sadly, despite the heroic contribution to the struggle for the rights of the people of Bangladesh, including the anti-British colonial movement and the armed liberation war of 1971, no national institution has been established in the name of Comrade Moni Singh. The undivided Dhaka City Corporation has named a road, at a short distance from the Old Paltan of the capital as 'Comrade Moni Singh Road'. There are many establishments and institutions in the name of millions of martyrs in this country. But, is this the reward for the great contributions of this hero?

Ashish Kumar Dey is a Journalist