1931: Abdul Halim, left internationalist solidarity and the Calcutta Committee of the CPI by Suchetana Chattopadhyay
Following the Meerut Bolshevik Conspiracy Case related arrests and trial, Abdul Halim (1901/03-1966) played a major role in re-starting the communist organisation in Calcutta. Helped by two communist medical students, Atul Chandra and Nur Mohammad, the Calcutta communists managed to set up their office in a lodging house, later named Dhaka House, at 41 Zakaria Street in 1931. They were helped in their efforts by John Jameson, a communist exile from Chiang Kai-Shek's China. Jameson had fled Shanghai during the nationalist coup of 1927, landed in Singapore and made his way to Calcutta. According to the Bengal police file on him, the Kuomintang had issued a 'beheading' order and he would have been executed if caught. He lived in a Chinese shoe shop at Bentinck Street and found work as a clerk in the income tax department of the colonial government in Bengal. He gave money to the Calcutta Committee each month and became a close comrade of Halim, offering to take him to China secretly. From Halim's recollections, it is clear that Halim and Jameson had developed a close bond. Halim relied on him deeply at the time and hoped to accompany him to China. Jameson's regular visits to the office attracted the attention of the Special Branch of Calcutta Police and the Intelligence Branch of Bengal Police. He was arrested and deported under the Foreigners Act by the colonial state, taken to Singapore, served three months in jail and was never heard of again. His Bengali comrades suspected he had been forcibly deported to China by the British imperialist authorities, handed over to the Kuomintang and murdered there. Another Chinese comrade who worked in New Market helped them in the early 1930s. Halim mentions an American marine engineer, Martin. They used to meet surreptitiously on board an American ship in the Calcutta Docks. Martin supplied red literature published in the West and sometimes gave them money. Halim writes it was these foreign comrades who offered concrete support at a time when many local middle-class intellectuals avoided them out of fear of persecution or showed great contempt for communist ideological positions.
The office at Zakaria Street was closed during large-scale arrests in 1934. Dhaka House still stands. When visiting Zakaria Street several years ago, I asked a gentleman coming out of the Marwari Welfare Society where number 41 was located. He smiled and said: 'Dhaka House' and pointed at the large building with great reverence.
Image: Dhaka House, 41 Zakaria Street. Room no. 25 was occupied by Calcutta Committee of the CPI during 1931-34.
Suchetana Chattopadhyay, An Early Communist: Muzaffar Ahmad in Calcutta 1913-29, Delhi, Tulika 2011.
IB and Home Department files.
Interview with Ranen Sen, June-July 1999.