New Delhi, Aug 1: Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet died of multiple organ failure on Friday afternoon at the Metro Hospital in Noida.
The 92-year-old leader had been in and out of hospital for several months now. Doctors said the immediate cause was a massive heart attack.
Born to a Bassi Jat family in Bandala, Jullundhur district, Surjeet started his political career in the national liberation movement in his early teens, as a follower of Bhagat Singh. In 1930 he joined the movement of Bhagat Singh, Naujawan Bharat Sabha. On the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Surjeet hoisted the Indian tricolour at the court in Hoshiarpur, an action during which he was shot two times. Later he was punished by the colonial regime. In court he stated his name as London Tod Singh (one who breaks London). In 1936, Surjeet joined the Communist Party of India. He was a co-founder of the Kisan Sabha (Peasants Union) in Punjab. In the pre-war years he started publishing Dukhi Duniya and Chingari. During the war, Surjeet was imprisoned by the colonial authorities. When India became independent and partitioned in 1947, Surjeet was the General Secretary of CPI in Punjab.
Split in the Communist Party
Surjeet visiting the 2005 CPI congressJust after independence, Surjeet was forced to go underground for four years. Several other communist leaders like A K Gopalan were arrested under the preventive detention laws. In the 1950s he led the historic anti-betterment levy movement in Punjab in 1959. His work with farmers led to his election as General Secretary and then President of the All India Kisan Sabha. He also worked in the Agricultural Workers Union. When the CPI split in 1964, Surjeet sided with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Surjeet was one of the nine members of the original CPI(M) Polit Bureau.
He continued to rise within the party until he was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPI(M) in 1992, a post he held till 2005, retiring at the age of 89. Surjeet is known for his steadfast opposition to the BJP and communalism. He was instrumental in forming a number of anti-BJP coalitions in the 1990s and for ensuring left support the present UPA government. After retiring from his post as General Secretary, Surjeet continued to play an active role in Indian national politics. Many times, including after the 2004 Lok Sabha election and during the 1996-1998 United Front government, his role has been that of a cunning king-maker in parliamentary politics, mending and assembling broad coalitions.
With his health declining, Surjeet was, for the first time, not included in the CPI(M) Polit Bureau at the party's 19th congress in early April 2008. He was instead designated as Special Invitee to the Central Committee.