BEST of times, WORST of times
For 32 years, the CPM has replaced the rule of law by partisan rule in West Bengal, specialising in crimes like torching people alive, committing rape or threatening rape for the sake of vote fraud. Hence, the party has to raise gangs of organised criminals
Sunanda Sanyal Kolkata
One could say with Charles Dickens, it's the best of times, and it is the worst of times, in West Bengal. Bengalis are probably coming to their senses, having realised that revolution is far off, but democratic accommodations can be reached, if we try hard for it. We, perhaps, needed loot, arson, murder and rape that have been the general practice, particularly since 1977, when the Left Front government took over.
Not that the Congress government before it, headed by Siddhartha Shankar Ray, was any better. Over a hundred young Naxalites were killed by the Congress and the CPM (called Congsal) together at Baranagar and Kashipur, close to Kolkata, and the dead bodies were tarred over and thrown into the Ganga. But Ray could at least claim that the Naxalites were killers themselves, and his government merely met "an action" of theirs with "an equal and opposite reaction". There may, or may not, be an end to all that, now that the Left Front looks like being removed from power in 2011, when the assembly election is slated. It depends on how the aam janata of West Bengal behaves.
The worst first! To begin with, Marichjhanpi in Sunderbans: 30,000 refugees originally from East Bengal, but now from the arid lands of Dandakaranya, attempted to settle at Marichjhanpi in 1978, in response to the assurance given by the then chief minister, Jyoti Basu. On January 25, 1975, Basu addressed a public meeting at Bhilai, where he called upon the refugee leaders from Dandak, including Satish Mondal, Rangalal Goldar, Raiharan Baroi and Kali Bose and assured them: "If we come to power, we'll meet your demand for resettlement in West Bengal." Later, two ministers, Ram Chatterjee of Marxist Forward Bloc, and Kiranmoy Nanda of West Bengal Socialist Party, told them, "Our eight crore people, with 16 crore hands outstretched, are going to welcome you to the state."
But when the refugees finally started arriving in 1978, with the Left Front government in place, Jyoti Basu complained of population explosion, conspiracy in certain quarters in bringing them back, and the Left Front government's inability to rehabilitate "even one of them".
Jyoti Basu's police and cadres together set hundreds of hutments on fire, raped their women, and blockaded the boats carrying drinking water and food. The bodies of those who fell to the policemen's bullets were strewn all over the tiger project nearby. The tigers made a feast of the human flesh. Saibal Gupta, ICS, who was to look after the welfare of the refugees at Dandakaranya, was convinced that the government failed to look at it from a humane point of view. Raiharan Baroi, general secretary of Udvastu Unnayanshil Samity, complained to Shri Prasannabhai Mehta, leader, 'Enquiry Committee Regarding Police Firing and Other Inhuman Torture on Homeless, Helpless Refugees at Netaji Nagar (Marichjhanpi)', listed the following:
- § Death from starvation due to blockade, from January 24, 1979: 136
- § Killed by police bullets on January 31, 1979: 14
- § Died after consuming inedible vegetation: 239
- § Women raped: 24
- § Refugees untraced: 24
- § Those arrested: 500
- § Houses gutted and irreparably destroyed: 1,000
"Rabid anti-communists" was the term that the CPM used against all non-communists. The Ananda Marg, an organisation of monks and nuns was one such, probably because they described the communists as irreligious - and said as much. Besides, the Margis, were making inroads into all sections of society, particularly the downtrodden, with their schools and medical help. The CPM was opposed to all social efforts outside their control and spread all kinds of canards, the most sinister of which was that they were a group of child-lifters.
On April 30, 1982, a number of Ananda Marg sanyasis and nuns were going to attend an educational conference at their Tiljala ashram. When they arrived on Bijon Setu, close to Ballygunge rail station in south Kolkata, the CPM cadres blocked the road, pulled out 16 sanyasis and a nun, doused them with kerosene and petrol - and torched them, burnt them alive, in broad daylight.
Next morning, Jyoti Basu was quoted as saying people had taken the Ananda Margis for "child-lifters". Ananda Marg still complains, "No criminal related to this heinous massacre got punishment till today." It adds that the crime "was organised and executed by the CPM party's hired anti-social elements and it was done in a pre-planned way". It scotches child-lifting as the possible cause of the outrage with the statement of the then commissioner of Calcutta Police, Nirupam Som, and that of the Superintendent of Police of 24 Parganas: "No child is reported to be kidnapped in Kolkata and 24 Parganas. There is no case of child-lifting from any school in both the districts... Not only that, the director-general of West Bengal Police also confirmed that there was no First Information Report (FIR) regarding child-lifting in any part of West Bengal."
Next, take the case of Adikondo Dolui, a job assistant from Birsachak, Midnapore, who worked against the CPM but switched allegiance to the co-ordination committee, attached to the CPM, in order to save his skin. But the "original cadres" continued to bicker with the faction he joined. A leader of this faction was murdered, when they targeted Adikondo. He took shelter in a school teacher's house, but was dragged out, soaked with petrol and kerosene and set on fire. When he was burning alive, his wife Bijalibala came out and asked, "What's burning?" A policeman in uniform, who stood by as a passive onlooker, said, "Oh! A mere dog!"
You may recall the killing of 11 Trinamool Congress workers on January 4, 2001, when CPM activists allegedly set fire to a house belonging to Trinamool worker, Abdur Baktar Mondal, at Chhoto Angaria in West Midnapore, killing all of them. Baktar lodged a police complaint next day at Garbeta police station. The government first ordered a CID probe, but the Trinamool demanded a CBI enquiry, which the government granted, following a high court order. The CBI, however, put only five on the chargesheet. Most witnesses turned hostile, and the judge who released Tapan and Sukur Ali for lack of evidence was allegedly involved in a rape. The woman who was allegedly raped demanded an investigation of the judge's clothes for traces of semen. The investigation was never done.
A veritable crime syndicate, the CPM is known for its organisational strength. So is Dawood Ibrahim, who lives in Pakistan but commits crimes in India. The CPM, too, which has had untrammelled power for the last 32 years, and has replaced the rule of law by partisan rule, specialises in crimes like torching people alive, and committing rape - or threatening rape - for the sake of vote fraud. It has required the party to raise gangs of criminals.
Take Khejuri in Nandigram. The CPM used to win the gram panchayats of Kamarda and Kalagechhia in East Midnapore uncontested. At Baratala in the same region, the party took 10 out of 14 gram panchayats seats uncontested. How did the party pull it off? By threatening gang rape and widowhood of the wife of anyone from the opposition parties who dared contest an election. Bear in mind, while freeing their countryside, the masses of Khejuri unearthed huge stockpiles of arms and ammunition from the houses of CPM leaders and party offices.
Most CPM leaders are shameless, according to Sudhir Pande, a CPM MLA, who had worked whole-time for the party, but claimed no wage. He was the zonal secretary of the CPM in West Midnapore. But his nephew, Anuj Pande, another whole-time cadre, gets just Rs 1,500 per month but has nevertheless constructed three palatial buildings at Lalgarh. "Nothing remains of the ideology that inspired us. The CPM is finished," says Sudhir Pande. But why blame the CPM alone? Actually, ideologies have had no bearing on any of our political parties since Independence. Ideologies, which seemed very important when I was young, now seem banal. And, I am going on to 80. I have seen political leaders swearing by Gandhi indulge in horrid crimes, and top leaders of opposition parties that flaunt niti and noitikata (moral uprightness), betray the trust of a comrade, and commit fornication. Today I would, if I could, combine the insights of Marxism and Gandhism, even as I believe, with Professor Amlan Datta, that if the 20th century belonged to Karl Marx, the 21st will to Gandhi. Given the technological advance, and the world having shrunk because of it, we have no choice but to be inclusive.
Finally, a septuagenarian's impression. Two lessons can be drawn from not just Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh but also from what has been happening over the past 32 years, which witnessed murder and rape being made systemic. The CPM must have decided, somewhere sometime, it would meet serious opposition with murder and rape. Two, bolstered GDP is not enough, if it is cornered by the affluent. The people's uprisings for a share of the cake can no longer be ignored. No amount of state terrorism - rape or murder - can deter them. That is why the women are coming out in numbers to fight CPM's terrorism. Tapasi Malik of Singur, who tried to organise the women of Singur, and was, therefore, punished with gang rape and murder by incineration.
The CITU, an outfit of the CPM, subsequently put out a dirty CD, where she was shown to be pregnant before marriage. Both Radharani Ari and Afroza Bibi are reported to have cried out to the perpetrators of the crime: "How many times will you rape me?" For all that, their husbands and their young sons accept them. Would you believe in rural Bengal today Tapasi, Radharani and Afroza are icons of veneration. I remember sharing a platform with Mamata Banerjee and Radharani Ari, where the masses in front pointed to Radharani and said: "She is our Mother!" Does this give a message to our political leaders?
The writer is a former professor of English at Belur Ramakrishna Mission College, Howrah, near Kolkata. Currently, he heads the Ganamukti Parishad, which espouses the cause of democracy and rule of law