When Che Guevara Came to India

Photograph/ Unknown. Image Courtesy/ The Photo Division , Government of India

Photograph/ Unknown. Image Courtesy/ The Photo Division, Government of India

This story was originally published in July 2014.

Files that were declassified recently gave details about Ernesto Che Guevera’s only visit to India in 1959. This image shows an old villager in a Gandhi cap garlanding the Cuban revolutionary during the Cuban team’s visit to a Community Project Area in Pilana Block near Delhi. Om Thanvi, the erstwhile Editor of Jansatta, a Hindi daily, published a series of articles giving a vivid account of Che’s visit to India. Titled The Roving Revolutionary, these articles were published originally in Hindi in Jansatta, and later in English in the Himal magazine.

These articles and the declassified files provide the only information behind Che’s historic visit. The photographs and accompanying captions show the many moods of the rebel leader, his various meetings with bureaucrats and farmers alike, and his welcome by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

“During his visit to Pilana, Che was disturbed by the fact that the farmers were extremely poor while heavy industry was thriving deeply. He was also affected by the inequality of landholdings in India. On the other hand, he was impressed by how farmers guarded their cattle wealth, which formed the backbone of agriculture. This understanding would help him define his own ideologies later,” wrote Om Thanvi in his article. Che was followed around by Photo Division photographer, Kundan Lal, who made almost all the photos shot during this visit, though it is unclear whether the above frame was photographed by him as well.

Tags: better photography, india, june, photojournalism, 2014, Che Guevara, Communism