Marxist icon Surjeet cremated, thousands pay last tribute (Lead)

August 3rd, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Mortal remains of veteran communist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet were consigned to flames here Sunday evening as top leaders from major political parties and hundreds of Marxist supporters paid their last tributes. Surjeet’s body was received amid much sloganeering by a large number of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) workers, who assembled at the Nigam Bodh Ghat cremation ground well in advance for the last glimpse of their departed leader.

The funeral pier was lit by Surjeet’s sons Paramjeet Singh and Gurucharan Singh, a Punjab CPI-M committee member, at 5.20 p.m.

Surjeet was given the police honour and three rounds were fired by the police personnel as salute to him.

The former CPI-M general secretary died Aug 1 after a prolonged illness. He was 92.

The funeral procession of Surjeet reached the Nigam Bodh Ghat around 5 p.m. The CPI-M’s politburo members as well as Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders A.B Bardhan, G. Sudhkar Reddy, D. Raja and others escorted the body to the cremation platform.

A posse of 92 CPI-M volunteers, as many as Surjeet’s age, carrying party flags, led members of the politburo and the central committee in the procession.

The CPI-M cadre, flaunting red ribbons and black badges, assembled at the cremation site and raised slogans - “Comrade Surjeet ko lal salaam, Comrade Surjeet Amar Rahe” (Red salute to Comrade Surjeet, Comrade Surjeet is immortal) when the procession arrived at the cremation ground.

Surjeet’s body was consigned to flames on an elevated platform built in the memory of late Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue and the erstwhile Jana sangh president.

Earlier in the day, a large number of CPI-M workers thronged the party headquarters at the A.K. Gopalan Bhawan where the body of the veteran communist leader lay in rest for people to pay their last respects.

Party workers from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala thronged the place.

Volunteers and party workers wore red t-shirts and red scarves printed with the party symbol.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi joined the communist rank and file in bidding her adieu to the Left veteran.

Besides the entire top Left top brass, former prime ministers H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Lok Janshakti Party chief and Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit were among the host of political luminaries who paid their homage to Surjeet.

Samajwadi Party cheif Mulayam Singh Yadav and his colleague Amar Singh, Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and his colleague K. Yerran Naidu and Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav also paid their last tributes to Surjeet.

President Pratibha Patil sent a floral tribute.

Vijay Kumar Malhotra, deputy leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha, said the demise of Surjeet was a big loss to the nation.

Mulayam Singh Yadav said: “Surjeet always fought against injustice. He will be remembered for his great contribution to the uplift of the downtrodden and the voiceless masses.”

Paswan recalled, “I had old ties with him, like that of father and son. We will try to follow and strengthen the example of secularism and social justice which he set in front of us.”

Shivraj Patil and Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad visited Surjeet’s house earlier in the day to pay their tributes.

“He was a unique person. With his demise, an era has ended. He was instrumental in cobbling the third front governments whenever they were formed,” said Sharad Yadav.

Surjeet, who headed the leading Left party from 1992 to 2005, was born in a Punjab village March 23, 1916. He is survived by wife Pritam Kaur, two sons and daughter Charanjeet Kaur.

Surjeet began his revolutionary career influenced by the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, and hoisted the tricolour in March 1932 at the district court in Hoshiarpur at 16.

He was arrested and sent to a reformatory school for juvenile offenders. He came in touch with communist leaders in Punjab after his release. He joined the CPI in 1934 and became a member of the Congress Socialist Party in 1935.

Surjeet was elected to the Central Committee and the politburo of the CPI at the Third Party Congress in January 1954. He continued in the leadership of the CPI till the split in 1964, and then moved tyo the CPI-M.

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