Mohit Sen (Bengali: মোহিত সেন) born on March 24, 1929, in Calcutta, and died in Hyderabad on May 3, 2003 was a well-known communist intellectual. He was general secretary of the United Communist Party of India at the time of his death.
Early life and education
Sen was born into a progressive and westernized Brahmo Samaj family. His father, Justice Amarendra Nath Sen, was a judge of the Calcutta High Court and his mother, Mrinalini Sen (née Sinha), was an eminent dancer. His paternal grandfather was an Advocate General of Burma. His maternal grandfather was Major N.P. Sinha, a member of the Indian Medical Service and his mother's elder uncle was Lord Satyendra Prasanno Sinha, the first Indian Governor of Bihar. On his mother's side he came from the zamindari family of Raipur in Birbhum, a district in present day West Bengal. He had five other brothers, the eldest of whom was Shri Pratap Chandra Sen, a brilliant student of history at Presidency College, Calcutta, who rose to the top of a mercantile firm in Calcutta in spite of remaining a closet communist. Mohit Sen had his early education at the Presidency College, Calcutta, where he was a student of Professor Susobhan Sarkar, and from where he came First Class First in his BA (Hons.) examination. Later he studied at the University of Cambridge, UK.
In communist movement
While in Cambridge, in 1948, he joined the Communist Party of India (CPI) as a 'candidate-member'. Also in Cambridge he met and married Vanaja Iyengar, who became an eminent mathematician later, in 1950. After marriage the couple moved to the People’s Republic of China. Sen went to the China International Communist School in Beijing between 1950 to 1953. After his return to India, Mohit Sen worked in the CPI central office in New Delhi and also for its publishing house during 1953-62. Later he became party organiser and teacher in Andhra Pradesh.
Mohit Sen arrived in India during a period when India had won her Independence. The appraisal of the CPI at that time was that the country had not really got freedom, but was still a 'semi-colony' of Britain. The following words of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was then prime minister, to visiting Soviet leaders, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev in 1955, aptly summarizes the CPI's position then. To quote Nehru,
Until this year (1955) the Communist Party was saying that Indian people were not independent; they even opposed our National Day celebrations.... They also said that when they were in doubt about the right line of action, they had to get directions from the Soviet Union. Early in 1951-52, some principal leaders of the Communist Party went to Moscow secretly, that is without passports. They came back and said that they had got directions from Mr. Joseph Stalin. At least this is what they said. The line then laid down was one of full opposition (to the Government) and, where possible, petty insurrections.
Mohit Sen stood for collaboration with Congress for fighting against imperialist forces. When the CPI split, and gave raise to a new party the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sen remained with the original CPI, under chairmanship of S.A. Dange, which was following nationalist line. He became a national council member of CPI in 1966 and was elected to party central executive committee in 1971. Sen parted ways with the CPI, following its anti-Congress stand, in 1978, following Indira Gandhi's emergency and subsequent failure in the election. In 1985, Sen joined the Indian Communist Party and when it merged with the All India Communist Party in 1988 to become United Communist Party of India, Sen became its general secretary, a post he held for 15 years till his death. At the time of his death Sen, 74, was a widower and had no children.
Sen was a prolific writer; credited to him are following books:
- Revolution in India — Problems and Perspectives
- Glimpses of the History of the Communist movement in India
- Maoism and Chinese Revolution
- Congress and socialism
- Naxalites and the Communists, and
- A Traveller And The Road: A Journey Of An Indian Communist.
A Traveller and the Road: A Journey of an Indian Communist
He had published his autobiography A Traveller and the Road: A Journey of an Indian Communist in March 2003, few months before his demise. The book brought out Sen's evolution as an independent leftist thinker. Eric Hobsbawm, the famous historian had opined about the book that
- ”… it is a most remarkable book, written with unremitting passion and love, with acute observation of those who gave their lives to the case, but with skeptical judgment. In my view no more illuminating first-hand book on the history of Indian Communism has been written, nor is likely to be written… India was lucky to enter independence with people as honest, as selfless, and as devoted to service of the people as he.”
- The CPI constitution stipulates that a member be admitted first as a candidate, and thereafter depending on whether his or her performance is satisfactory, full membership is given.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Second Series, Volume XXXI, edited by H.Y. Sharada Prasad and A.K. Damodaran, A Project of Jawaharlal Nehru Fund, distributed by Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
-  Anand Kishore Sahay, in his review of Mohit Sen: An Autobiography
- Satchidanda Mohany: A Man called Mohit Sen An obituary in The Hindu, Chennai.
- Kanwalpreet: The memoirs of a Communist A review of A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist appearing in The Sunday Tribune, Chandigarh
- Blog on Mohit Sen