Sharit Bhowmick was the first scholar to write on the trade union structures and mobility in Bengal tea gardens, and to expose the plight of tea workers in these colonial labour enclaves from both political and sociological point of view. He ought to be remembered with Amalendu Guha, Nirban Kumar Basu or more recently Rana Behal for their outstanding studies on tea workers both in Assam and West Bengal.
I remember meeting him for the first time in the late 1980s in Jalpaiguri Town, where we met attending a conference of social activists. Later I used to hear about him from my friend Khemraj (working with State Workers' Education Directorate) who did his Ph.D. under Prof. Sharit Bhowmik.
I retrieved my long-lost ties with Prof. Bhowmik only since 2014, when we could unite all operating trade unions in Bengal under the umbrella organisation "Joint Forum" and started demanding Minimum Wages in Tea Sector, opening of closed tea gardens and proper implementation Food Security Act for the tea workers.
We mutually got benefitted by exchanging our views as he continued with his potent contribution to EPW and other journals articulating the same demands with scholarly insights.
Undeterred by the failings of age, in 2015-16 phase he travelled frequently between Mumbai and Dooars, urging and advising the starving tea workers in closed tea gardens to form a labour cooperative towards occupying and run even a closed tea garden like Bundapani, Dheklapara, Birpara, Gergenda,Hantapara, Lankapara, Dumchipara etc.
He remained an unflinching advocate of the rights, dignity and freedom of the working class till his last breath.
Writing about him in The Statesman, Kanchan Sarker observed, “One of his last lectures, in August 2016, was on the plight of tea estate workers — the second Gautam Ghosh Memorial Oration in Kolkata under the aegis of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights. The lecture was named: Obohelito, Nipirito, Cha-Bagan Shramik (The neglected, troubled, tea garden worker). …A card-holding member of the Communist Party of India till his last, Bhowmik was remarkable in that he was never dogmatic and always a strong defender of those who were for moving towards reunification of communist parties in India through open and friendly inner-party discussion on the past of the CPI, particularly its relationship with the CPI(M).”
Comrade Sharit Bhowmik Lal Salaam !