In recent times we found that the young generation of India are taking lot of interest in national as well as state politics which buck the global trend of declining in interest in politics. The youth not only show a high level of interest in politics. There is no decline in this interest across generations. There is a reasonably high level of participation by youth in all forms of politics — direct, indirect, formal, non-formal and in social media. To increase awareness amongst youth we will try to recount few incidents which happened in past and heard those names ‘n’ number of times in West Bengal. But exactly what happened many of the youth are unaware till date!
Terror, exploitation, crime, corruption and slavery of the masses were characteristic of the 34 year Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM or CPM) rule in West Bengal which is unprecedented in the human history in recent times. Way long before they came to power CPM had established their character of criminal and horrible activities through murder, rape, extortion of money from common people, terrorizing the voters and all opponents. It is because of CPM few names will remain in the history books of West Bengal for next few hundred years viz. Sain-Bari, Marich Jhanpi, Keshpur etc. Let us go through briefly.
President’s rule was imposed on the state of West Bengal on 16th March 1970 which ended the Anti-Congress United Front Government. The Harmads went on rampage right after the day of declaration of President’s rule. From the early morning on 17th March, the Harmads, armed, organized marches in different areas. The most aggressive was the armed rally in Pratapeswar-Shibtola area in the district of Burdwan. On their way the The Harmad procession started extorting money from people, forced them to express loyalty to CPI-M and humiliated women of the houses that fell on their way. The Harmads were armed with sophisticated weapons and menacing, and already stories were in abundance about their brutality. So nobody dared protest or complain to the police.
As soon as the procession advanced near the house of the Sains, flaming arrows were hurled at their house as the Sain brothers showed the bravery to disregard the diktat of Benoy Konar to change their loyalty from National Congress to CPIM and join the procession. The miscreants entered their house in flames, brutally beheaded Pranab Sain and Malay Sain along with the private tutor Jiten Roy who attempted to save the lives of the Sain brothers. The face of the old mother of the Sains was smeared with the blood of her sons. The air reverberated with the inhuman roar of happiness of the Harmad squad after the terrible act. The Harmads played ‘holi’ with the blood of the victims.
The Harmad dons organizing the crime were declared as great heroes and assets of the party. Benoy Konar was elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly from the Memari (Vidhan Sabha constituency) in 1969, 1971 and 1977. His wife, Maharani Konar, was elected from the same constituency in 1982, 1987 and 1991.
After partition of India in 1947, there was a rapid inflow of Hindu refugees into West Bengal from East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh). Well to do refugees managed to settle in the cities in West Bengal, but the majority – the lower castes and poor people, were sent to Dandakaranya forest in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh (now Chhattisgarh). There they were forced to live in concentration camps named Permanent Liability Camps in extremely miserable and inhuman conditions. During the 1960s, the CPM was the lone party which protested against the inhuman treatment of the Bengali refugees in Dandakaranya and promised that they would get them rehabilitated in West Bengal as soon as they assume power.
After the LF govt. came to power in 1977, CPM invited the Dandakaranya refugees to West Bengal. CPM thought that all the refugees would not be able to travel to West Bengal, only a few hundreds would do so. Refugees started coming into West Bengal in thousands and expressed their willingness to get settled in Marich Jhanpi and adjacent islands. CPM got panicked realizing that accommodation of lakhs of refugees would destroy the ecology of the mangrove zone. So, strong administrative measures were adopted to resist the massive inflow of refugees. They were detained at railway stations without food and water and the Harmads had the free hand in looting whatever little money they had and raping and looting the females. Ultimately most of the refugees could be sent back to Dandakaranya. Only about 15, 000 of them were permitted to reach the islands.
All of a sudden the govt. announced that the refugees who had already settled would have to return back to Dandakaranya. But the refugees were unable to return. Even within the restricted conditions they felt they were better here than the horrible camps. So they did not pay heed to the warnings of the govt.
The LF went all out to evict the refugees from the mangrove islands. Accordingly on January 26, 1979, thirty police launches created blockade of the relevant islands. Then their fisheries, tube wells and all sources of water and food supply were destroyed by the police. Finally, the police attacked them with tear gas shells. Still the desperate refugees with their backs on the wall did not surrender. Then the horrible Harmad attack commenced with police coverage. The huts of the refugees were raged and there were cruel killing of the men. The females were gang raped before being killed; even children and elderly women were not spared. Many of those who jumped into the sea were either devoured by the crocodiles or drowned. Those who surrendered to the police were however saved and sent back to Dandakaranya. About forty five percent of the settlers were killed by the Harmads.
The L.F. govt. however, could hush up the matter as the police and the Harmads could successfully block the entry of the media men at the time of the carnage. But in 2002, the matter surfaced when one eye witness and survivor of the incident Jagadish Chandra Mandal published a book titled “Marich Jhanpi: Naishwabder Antarale.”
The incident had connection with the education policy of the Left Front (LF) Government. Within a few years after the LF assumed power, the education system of West Bengal completely collapsed. The exceptions were the Institutions run by the Ramakrishna Mission, the Jesuit Churches and institution run by the Anand Marg. The attempts to attack the Ramakrishna Mission and the Jesuit institutions were foiled by the timely intervention by Jyoti Basu. So the target was Anand Marg.
The Anand Marg sanyasis appealed to both the common people and the state govt. to restore discipline and academic atmosphere in the educational institutions. In certain areas of the Purulia district and Kasba in Kolkata their preaching had remarkable influence on the ordinary CPM supporters and members of the SFI – the student wing of the CPM.
The horrific and planned attack came right before an educational seminar organised by Ananda Marg. In the morning of 30th April 1982, the sanyasis and the nun hired taxis to reach the venue of the seminar. As soon as the taxis carrying them had entered the over-bridge called Bijan Setu, the armed Harmads blocked the two entries to the bridge and posted armed guards at various points of the bridge so that the masses cannot intervene. Then they dragged out the sanyasis and the nun from the taxis thrashed them to death and then the bodies were burnt with petrol. Thousands of people watched the horrible killings but nobody could intervene because of the armed Harmads guarding the entire bridge with threatening announcements that anybody trying to intervene would be shot dead.
Keshpur is a part of the Panskura parliamentary constituency in West Midnapore district. There was a sharp inner party struggle in the CPM. On one hand, the leaders were ruthless Harmad dons and on the other, the lower rank, the majority were dedicated communists. These young men were against the exploitation of the poor people by the money lenders, landlords, contractors and promoters holding important positions in the CPM. As the CPM leadership took side with the Harmad dons, the cadres deserted the party and joined the newly formed Trinamool Congress (TMC). The dons were cornered as a consequence in the 2000 bye-election of the Panskura parliamentary constituency, the LF candidate was defeated by the TMC candidate.
Now the dons invited the Maoists from the adjacent state of Jharkhand to help them cope with the situation. The Maoists accepted it as they found an opportunity to establish their stronghold in West Bengal. They were aware of the exploitation of the tribal people of the southern districts of West Bengal and expected to establish a foothold among these oppressed people.
The Maoists joined the Harmads to evict the TMC supporters (erstwhile CPM cadres) and thereafter Maoists left the place to create their base among the tribals in the jungle areas of the districts of Bankura, Midnapore and Birbhum. The Harmad dons could now mobilize Harmad forces from other districts and in all the subsequent elections the CPM won overwhelmingly. In fact, in each election seventy percent of the votes were cast by the Harmads and only thirty percent of the voters were permitted to cast their votes. In course of these operations two most ruthless enforcers Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, the most ruthless murderers country has ever seen, emerged in the scene.
We will continue this series and try to bring such blood stained names of West Bengal politics in front of our young readers. Those names will be from 34 years of Left Front regime and 4 years of Power Packed New Improved Left Front Regime – The Didi’s Era.