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Over 1000 Marxist Book Stalls in WB to Work for Communal Peace During Festival Season

The communist parties induced the culture of setting up progressive literature stalls during the Autumn festival season.
The communist parties induced the culture of setting up progressive literature stalls during the Autumn festival season.

Kolkata: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], which administers over 90% of the Marxist literature stalls, has decided to use these stalls as outposts not only to spread progressive literature but also to maintain communal harmony in the state.

In Kolkata, over 200 book stalls have been set up like every year, with more than 109 stalls located at the heart of the city and the rest in the KMC areas. If the Kolkata Metropolitan area is considered, the number will be nearly 400, according to preliminary estimates. Besides the CPI(M), other Leftist parties like CPI(ML) Liberation, SUCI, RSP, Forward Block, and CPI also administer about 10% of the progressive stalls in various areas of the state.

Following the Communist-induced culture of setting up progressive literature stalls during the Autumn festival season, even rightist and centrist parties in West Bengal, namely the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have started book stalls, although they are few in number and mainly concentrated in urban areas.

"While the book stalls started by the TMC are packed with over 40 book titles by Party Supremo and CM Mamata Banerjee and drawings by her, BJP's book stall now focuses on Modi and Shyamaprasad, and Congress on Gandhian philosophy and Nehru. However, the Progressive Book stalls boast a wide range of titles, from ideological books to classics to children's books and even books on science and technology. It is this rational approach and its positioning as a rationality-based knowledge centre that makes these makeshift progressive knowledge stalls the most favoured destination, even during the autumn festival," said Sudip Sengupta, a CPI(M) State Committee member and organiser of the largest Marxist study stall in the state at Jadavpore 8B. 

He also added that thousands of progressive literature stalls this year are also serving as outposts for spreading communal harmony and amity against any religion or language-based violence in the state. "This is an added responsibility for all of us who will be keeping guard against any untoward incident in our respective localities during the festival days," he added.

Two of the oldest book stalls, situated in Park Street and Jadavpur, have also been opened this year. The Jadavpur Book Stall, during the puja times, had recorded sales of over Rs 3 lakhs.

"This year, despite steep economic depression, we are getting a good response as we slightly changed our policy of keeping books with high denominations. Instead, we focused on keeping lower-denomination informative books. Books on RSS combating, on Kashmir, on Shyamaprasad's divisive role, and eminent historian Prof. Sukumari Bhattacharya's book 'Revisiting the Myth of Ram' are selling like hotcakes."

It can be recalled that over 2000 Progressive Book stalls used to be held during the autumn festival before 2011, and at one point in 2013, the number had dwindled to nearly 600 due to large-scale terror by the ruling party. Until 2018, many book stalls were vandalised multiple times by ruling TMC hooligans. However, each time they were vandalised, they reopened. This time also, a bookstall in Diamondharbour was vandalised by TMC hooligans, but the stall was reestablished on a polythene sheet spread across the pavement and did brisk business from there.

Senior Journalist Aniruddha Chakraborty, Director of National Book Agency, the largest progressive book house in the state, which was initiated by Communist Doyen "Kakababu," said, talking to NewsClick, that "this year, even the Leftist activists belonging to terror-stricken Goghat, Khanakul, Purshura, Arambag, Naranghat of Hooghly district, will be sharing the joy of setting up Marxist Literature stalls with Leftists all over the state, as more than scores of stalls are coming up in the terror hotbeds of West Bengal."

"However, since the last few years, in the over 1000 progressive stalls in the state, the star attraction is the Former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachrya's Bengali book, 'Swarger Niche Mahabishringkhala' (Pandemonium under Heaven), rewritten from a write-up by Bhattacharya that appeared in CPI(M) Periodical Mouthpiece 'Deshhitoishee' in 1983. From climate change to books on traditional folk-based philosophy pioneered by eminent philosopher Debiprasad Chattopadhya, and a number of publications brought out this year on Martyr Bhagat Singh and the translation of Comrade EMS's book on 'Adi Sankaracharya,' published last year, are very much in demand this year too. Jailed Newsclick editor Prabir Purakayshtha's booklet on digital journalism has been published and is also much in demand."

"One thing can be said with certainty that the huge response that Progressive literature is getting in the state is directly proportional to the deepening crisis in the state and in the country," Chakraborty added, and recalled that approximately over crores of progressive books were sold from Progressive stalls last year during the Autumn festival in West Bengal.

"Despite the recession, however, going by the interest in setting up these stalls, it can be easily said that Progressive Book sales might record a multifold increase. In this age of the internet too, Progressive books ranging from Gorky, Turgenev to Tagore and Tolstoy have been selling like hotcakes, which itself shows the mindset of millions to allocate millions to gather a permanent source of knowledge and study resources that they find using Progressive books as a reference to deal with the present difficult situation in the state," he said.

The religious hue of the autumn festival rests on gods and goddesses, especially the Durga Puja. However, starting from 1952, the Communist Party has been at the forefront of setting up Marxist literature stalls in the vicinity of the different places where large gatherings take place, offering an opportunity to spread rationalist and progressive ideas throughout the state.

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