Romesh Chandra, Veteran Communist  and Anti-War Campaigner, Passes Away

Romesh Chandra. Credit: Communist Party of India

Romesh Chandra. Credit: Communist Party of India

New Delhi: Romesh Chandra, veteran leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and who actively participated in the freedom struggle, spending several years in prison, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday. He was 97. According to party sources, he breathed his last at around 3 am. Chandra is survived by his son, Firoze.

Chandra, who was born in Lyallpur on March 30, 1919, fought for India’s freedom struggle as a student leader and became a member of the CPI in 1939. He served in several posts within the party and was a member of the central secretariat of the party’s national council from 1963 to 1967. Around the same time, he was also the editor of the central organ of the CPI, New Age.

The party in a statement said Chandra had joined the World Peace Council (WPC) headquarters in Helsinki, first as general secretary in 1953 and then becoming its president in 1977, and played a role during Cold War era. He also served as the general secretary of the All India Peace Council from 1952 to 1963. As WPC leader, he addressed the UN General Assembly on many occasions, the highest by an Indian.

Maharashtra secretary of CPI Bhalchandra Kango said Chandra’s demise was a big loss as he was “witness to the historic peace movement” and “made hefty contributions towards the movement”.

The WPC remembered Chandra as a person who for decades served the “peace movement in India and the world”. Describing him as “a genuine son and figure of the Indian working-class movement and one of the leaders of the world peace movement. He was an example of an internationalist who never compromised his revolutionary identity and values,” the WPC said.

Recalling Chandra’s early political and academic accomplishments, a WPC statement also said, “He received degrees from a university in Lahore and from Cambridge University. From 1934 to 1941 he was chairman of the Students’ Union in Lahore. He became a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in 1939, of the Central Committee of the CPI in 1952, of the National Council of the CPI in 1958, and of the Central Executive Committee in 1958”.

“During the Assembly of WPC in Athens in 2000 Romesh Chandra contributed decisively to the preservation of the anti-imperialist character of the WPC and got elected President of Honour,” the WPC statement added.

The council remembered him for having served and contributed to the struggle of the people and their just causes, and championing the solidarity movement under dictatorial regimes “for the liberation and self-determination of peoples in dozens of cases all over the world”. It signed off with the words: “Lal Salam Comrade Romesh”.

For his outstanding work in the field of championing the rights of the people, Chandra was awarded the F. Joliot-Curie Gold Peace Medal in 1964, the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Nations in 1968, and the Order of Friendship of Peoples in 1975 by the former Soviet Republic.