It was on September 17, 1973, when all of Calcutta (now Kolkata) was surprised to know that legendary Cuban President Fidel Castro was in the city. Within no time, thousands of people gathered in front Dumdum airport to catch a glimpse of Castro. Though it was an unplanned visit and there were no Union Ministers available in Kolkata to welcome the Cuban head of state, Castro was well received and treated.
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Castro was in Hanoi, Vietnam when he was informed that Chilean President Salvador Allende had been assassinated. Vietnam was then not a united country and was waging war against the erstwhile South Vietnam which was supported by American machines and men. Castro cut short his Vietnam visit and immediately rushed to Cuba. It was on the way to Cuba that he halted in Kolkata.
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Hearing this, CPM leaders Jyoti Basu and Pramod Dasgupta, Forward Bloc state president Ashok Ghosh, RSP president Makhan Pal, local Congress leaders, members of the then Soviet diplomatic staff, representatives of various women’s organisations, government officials, journalists and photographers all flocked to meet Fidel Castro.
It was less than an hour he had been in the airport, but he was ready to chat with everyone. He posed for photographers, nibbled snacks in the VIP lounge of the airport and said bye to Kolkata with a revolutionary salute to the crowd.
The photographs that were taken on that unforgettable moments by late Satya Sen were exhibited as “Fidel in Kolkata” in December 2008.