BY SATYEN KUMAR BORDOLOI
In 1959, convinced of the Stalinist ideology that heavy industry i.e. steel was the key to a nation’s growth, Mao Zedong launched the Great Leap Forward and asked millions of peasants to mine local iron ore and limestone deposits and convert them into iron on an ancient Chinese furnace design. Problem is that the furnace didn’t really work.
In villages unable to meet targets, farmers were forced to melt their tools. This, mixed with famine led to conditions of hunger that caused depravities like murder and cannibalism and caused deaths of anywhere between 17 million to 45 million (4.5 crores) people in 3 years. Up to 2 million more were killed during the Cultural Revolution later, another Mao Zedong brainchild.
The truth of what happened then has begun trickling out of China only in the last couple of decades. But only to outsiders. Propaganda has led those inside the country to know little or nothing about it.
(The excerpt has been published here with the consent of the author)