Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, commonly known as Fidel Castro, passed away aged 90. Fidel Castro survived as many as 638 assassination attempts, but at the end died after suffering a long battle with illness. Fidel Castro will always be remembered as a revolutionary legend who stood against a superpower country and gave Cuba back to the people. It is hard to believe a single man from an island nation smaller than the US state of Pennsylvania fought and even won the battle against the global power. But Fidel Castro made this impossible dream of Cubans true.

Over his nearly 50 years of rule in Cuba, Fidel Castro had a hostile relationship with USA and its western alliance. But Castro chose to maintain relationship with India since the country got independence. Not many know this, but Fidel Castro always considered the rule of Nehru-Gandhi family as one which was trying to champion the cause of peace, independence and democratic form of development. From first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to General Secretary of CPI(M) Sitaram Yechury, Castro met several Indian politicians.

Here are 5 rare known facts about Fidel Catsro’s close links with India:

Nehru was the first to reach out to him in New York (1960)

Fidel Castro arrived in New York in 1960 to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Far from being provided official accommodation, the host nation even did not care to book a hotel for him. None of the hotels in New York agreed to give him the room, as he was constantly being portrayed as an evil dictator by the US media. Finally, Castro threatened to put a camp right outside UN headquarters if he and his contingent was not provided accommodation. UN authorities intervened and booked rooms for him at New York’s Teresa hotel. Immediately after being updated about the discrimination suffered by Castro, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru reached out to him, and said that the entire world is not against him. Nehru, perhaps, told him that the third world and the non-aligned nations see his leadership in Cuba with immense hope. According to journalist Saeed Naqvi who later interviewed Castro, the latter defined Nehru as a true leader and it was because of him that he developed love for India.

Considered Indira Gandhi as a bastion of peace, justice and development

When Indira Gandhi presided over the 1974 convention of non-aligned nations, Fidel Castro showed immense amount of respect for her. Castro straightaway hugged her during their meet, and began narrating about his relation with her father Nehru. Part of that admiration for Indira was because of her blood relation with Nehru, but he also respected her after she read out India’s agenda for non-aligned nations at the meet. Subsequently,Castro called her the “bastion of  peace, national independence and development.”

Interaction with the then West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu in Havana (1993)

The then CPM leader Jyoti Basu, who was heading the provincial government of West Bengal, visited Cuba. He had a strange interaction with Castro. He was called from his hotel room at 11:30 PM in the night. During the meeting, Castro quizzed Basu on various developments in West Bengal, and the total industrial and agricultural output of the nation. Castro also inquired about the developments made in social sector. The approach shown by Castro was genuine and he was interested to know the issues which have plagued development in India, which was considered to be the brightest in the third-world.

Escorting CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury at Havana airport

In the 1993 visit of Jyoti Basu to Havana, he was accompanied by CPI(M)’s then general secretary Sitaram Yechury. When they were about to leave, Castro decided to accompany them till their flight and hold talks with both of them inside the air lounge. While the details of the interaction have not been reported, Yechury claims that Castro revealed one of his secrets to him. Castro told Yechury that there are no bullets in his revolver which he carries everywhere in Cuba. On being asked why, Castro replied that for him each and every innocent life is important. Castro feared that gun could be used by him in a mode of anger, and it may lead to the loss of an innocent life.

Friendship with Congress veteran Margaret Alwa

In Margaret Alwa’s own words, Fidel Castro is a hero. She admired his style of leadership and the concept of social equality he attempted to implement in Cuba. Once on her visit to Cuba, Castro asked Alwa what could had been the course of history if Spain would had colonized India instead of Latin America. To this, Alwa replied, someone as great as Fidel Castro would had been born in India. This incident amused Castro in unprecedented manner, and he continued to reiterate with his comrades while discussing about India.

(image source: reddit.com)