29th JULY 2015 : 69th ANNIVERSARY OF THE HISTORIC MOVEMENT OF WORKERS AND LABOURERS OF BENGAL & ASSAM
29th July 1946 ---- it is the red letter day in the history of the working class in India. In support of the ongoing strike called by All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union, which started all over the country from 11th July 1946 and later spread to all over the country, the working class of Bengal and Assam observed a general strike and Hartaal. The strike was called demanding settlement of 12 demands comprising of wage revision and other better service conditions and pension etc., to which Govt was reluctant. The steep rise in price-index and inflation in post-world war days jeopardised honourable social living by the Postal staffs. The strike started from 11th July 1946.
From the beginning, leftist leaders and all intellectuals of Bengal were deeply involved with the strike. Com. Jyoti Basu issued a statement in 'Swadhinata Patrika' supporting the strike. 40,000 Postal & Telegraph employees of Bengal and Assam joined the strike since 21st July 1946. A proposal in support of strike was adopted by Bengal Assembly on 24th July led by Kiran Shankar Roy. Within 18th July Rs.80,000/- was collected in strike fund. National media like Indian Express and international daily like Chicago Tribune described that the nation was almost crippled by the effct of the strike.
At least 3,50,000 workers and labourers were assembled in 'Maidaan' area of Kolkata on 29th July 1946. Salil Chowdhury wrote and sang the famous movement-ballad --- 'Dheu Uthchhe Kara Tutchhe...', Poet Sukanta Bhattacharya wrote --- 'Bidroho Charidike Bidroho Aaj...', Poet Subhas Mukhpadhyay wrote the poem 'Maidaan Chalo'. Thousands of workers formed rallies from different parts of the state to reach the meeting at 'Maidaan'.
In the meeting at 'Maidaan' the speakers were Dada Ghosh, Mrinalkanti Basu, Bankim Mukherjee, Abdul Momin and many more who apparently had no connection with Postal movement. All leftist political parties, viz. --- Socialist Party, Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), Forward Block, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and trade union leaders came forward in support. Com. Dada Ghosh wrote in his diary--- 'In the British Regime of 200 years, it was the biggest meeting of the workers and labourers in the city of Kolkata.'
The effect of 29th July hartaal was immense on the Postal Strike and administration. In the rest of the country the strike was called off on 3rd August 1946, but in Bengal & Assam it continued till 6th August 1946. Many demands were accepted by the Govt. and a Good-Conduct Pay was granted to the Postal Workers.
In the entire episode, the role and opinion ofthe Indian National Congress was unclear. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru issued a statement in which he condemned Govt's inability and negligence to handle the demands and the situation, but he did not make clear whether he supported the demands or the strike. Satyanarayan Sinha, Chief Whip of Congress in Central Assembly, issued a statement against the strike. Obviously, they were more interested in smooth transfer of power which was imminent.
To commemorate the day, South Kolkata Division called a Working Committee meeting of their Group-C Union. They decided to hold a session of speech on '29th July 1946 ---- The Perspective of strike : Then and Now'. Com. Bijan Chakraborty, Asstt. Circle Secretary, Group-C, attended the meeting and delivered brief accounts of the 1946 strike, the glorious 29th July and our coming strikes on 2nd September and from 23rd November 2015.
Let us all pay our tribute to the leaders and participants of strike of 1946, and remember that it is our historic duty to carry the legacy forward.