Wednesday, February 27, 2008

M. N. Roy (March 21, 1887 —January 25, 1954)

M. N. ROY'S life is the stuff thriller novels are made of. Fired by patriotic zeal, he joined the revolutionary movement at the tender age of 14. During World War I, he tried to get arms for Indian revolutionaries from Indonesia, China, and Japan. Dodging the British, Chinese and Japanese police with a forged French passport in the name of Father Martin, he reached the USA. Once there, he began to call himself Manabendra Nath Roy or M. N. Roy for short. He assumed so many more identities and aliases, in his long adventurous life, that people forgot his real name: Narendra Nath Bhattacharya.

M. N. RoyInspired by the daredevilry of firebrand revolutionary V. D. Savarkar, he himself led a life as exciting as that of his childhood idol. Quite early in life, he read Bankim Chandra's Anand Math. The book had a profound impact on the young man. Roy studied for a while at National College, when Sri Aurobindo was Principal. He soon joined the Yugantar group - an organisation that believed in violent revolution. As he indulged in more and more revolutionary activities, he began to figure prominently in police records. When the situation became an impossible one for him, he was forced to flee the country.

Having reached the USA, he started studying socialism, and was back to his revolutionary ways. When the USA joined World War I, there were orders to have him arrested. Fearless as ever, he jumped the bail and fled to the neutral Mexico, along with his American wife Evelyn Trent, under an assumed name of Manuel Gomes. Over there he organised a Socialist party, which later became the first Communist Party outside the Soviet Union. He became so popular there that the President of Mexico took him as his non-official adviser.

When Lenin heard of the exploits of Roy, he invited him to Russia. Travelling once again under an assumed name, he reached Russia for the second International Congress of Communists. Lenin was actually expecting a wizened old man from the east, but he was surprised to see a young and robust six-footer instead. Lenin was sufficiently impressed by his intellectual depth and called him the symbol of revolution in the East. Not the man to be overawed by big personalities, M. N. Roy was bold enough to speak out his mind whenever he disagreed with Lenin. He was asked to write for Pravda, the Party organ; was elected member of the Presidium; and was sent to Tashkent to lead the revolution. In fact there was also a proposal to send him as Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan so that he could guide the revolution in India. After Lenin's death, differences cropped up between him and the Communist leadership in Russia, and he left for China in 1926 to lend his strength to the revolution there.

He returned to India in 1930, and was arrested and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. At the end of his prison term, he joined the Indian National Congress, but at the outbreak of World War II, left the Congress and formed the Radical Democratic Party in 1940. By that time, his political philosophy had begun to show signs of change. He began to drift away from Marxism, and drew closer towards New Humanism.

Beginning his eventful life as as a nationalist revolutionary, Roy worked in at least twelve different countries spread over three continents. He ultimately was recognised as one of the leading philosophers of the modern Indian Renaissance. It must not be forgotten that for someone who held such powerful influence of young intellectuals of his time, Roy did not have the advantage of going to any big university. "And yet what marks out Roy as unique among the dramatis personae of the history of the revolution," remarks G. D. Parekh, "in our time is a rare combination of the love of freedom, unimpeachable integrity, a sense of loyalty, the courage of conviction, a passionate interest in ideas and their human implications, an unqualified involvement in the struggle for freedom together with complete detachment from the game of power politics."



1 comment:

Babu Gogineni said...

You say that M.N. Roy was inspired by Savarkar. How is that possible? What was Savarkar's age when M.N.Roy left India? And has this been acknowledged by Roy or any scholar who has studied Roy's life?