18 June 2016

34 years of Communist Violence in Bengal

 Schrödinger's cat - heard of it? Not all of us are aware of the quantum mechanics but we all know the paradox. The cat in the box is alive and dead simultaneously. 19th of May, 2016, left Bengal in such a paradox. People were expecting the verdict and were simultaneously surprised by it. The defeat of the Congress-CPI(M) alliance was under scrutiny. In some ways, the defeat was greater than the victory. And there was more to it than the combustible mix of ideologies. After a remarkable turnaround in 2011 at the Writer’s (the then WB Govt. Headquarters), the state had a lot of expectations from the Mamata Banerjee – led TMC government. The people of West Bengal wanted to see better days for themselves. Better than what had been served to them in the previous 34 years.

There's a saying which claims that at a certain point, every person is a leftist. But while Communist preachers have been very vocal about the ill effects of capitalism and the totalitarian regime it follows, communist regimes all over the world have meant a mass destruction of human and civil rights. The proletariat dictatorship, has set a benchmark for being a one-man dictatorship, rather than an utopian world of equality.  Digging into why communism kills, one would refer to the Manifesto where Marx states:

“You must, therefore, confess that by "individual" you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible. (Published by Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973 edition, page 66).”

What is seemingly a metaphor was taken far too literally by communist leaders all around the world, including Stalin and Mao Zedong. Marx’s reference to an economic transition ended up being an excuse for centuries of inexcusable genocides.

The infamous Mao Zedong

Though, ironically, the above reference has almost no connection to the following discussion of communist violence in Bengal. I think it has everything to do with the greed and intoxication of power, more than anything else.The lethal communist violence had been surging in West Bengal since the early 1970s, way before the Communist Party of India came to power.

The March 1970 incident of Sainbari runs a chill down the spine every time one thinks about it. Two brothers who were Congress leaders in the district of Burdwan were murdered. But that is not where the brutality ended. The CPI-M cadres responsible, then forced the mother of the Sain brothers to eat rice that was drenched in the blood of her own sons. A teacher who had come to their place on that unfortunate day was also killed and later the cadres had taken procession of the whole house. The mother of the slain brothers had degraded to a state of mental imbalance till her death a decade later. So the look of astonishment on the faces of elders were justified as they saw Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Rahul Gandhi sharing the same garland (ironically) before the polls this year. It seemed that they either don’t remember their history too well or aren't bother much about it.

In 1982, 17 Ananda Margi monks were charred to death  and many others were severely injured, on their way to an educational conference at the Tiljala centre. They were pulled out of their taxis on Bijon Setu and set on fire alive by CPI-M cadres. It was a follow-up act on a string of attacks on the Marga starting from 1967 where 5 monks were murdered in the institution headquarters in Purulia. What do the CPI-M party owe their angst against the Ananda Marga? Because ideologically they oppose communism and follow what is known as neo-humanism. Though ideally, they are also against capitalism, the violence against the Ananda Margis was something that the then ruling party felt strongly about. After the incident, a mandatory inquiry commission was set up but nothing further happened to deliver proper justice. No report of action, not even a single hearing. Instead in their defence, party candidates said that the whole attack was framed by the Margis themselves to vandalise the government. Then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu was quoted infamously saying, “What can be done? Such things do happen”.

The independence war of Bangladesh induced a steady inflow of refugees until 1978. The refugee policy changed drastically just at the whim of a government after the communist party came to power in 1977. Even though no government assistance was sought but only the permission to settle on the lands of the Union of India, the still-struggling refugees and the inflowing ones in the area of Marichjhapi in the Sunderban terrains faced an economic blockade. Little children died of green diarrhoea due to lack of drinking water. There were also cases of  abduction and molestation with the ruling party cadres and officials. Then one morning of January 1979 saw tear gas and bullets fired by the government forces claiming a number of lives – a number still unknown since many bodies disappeared after the attack. The wounds are still afresh in the hearts of many because seeing your daughter or husband being shot and watch them die helplessly in front of your eyes is not something that someone forgets. One does not forget the torture in the hands of their protector, the state.

In July, 2000, 11 Muslim labourers were mercilessly killed in Nanoor by the goons of the CPI-M party, the “harmad bahini”, because they were supporters of the opposition party. Practically without soil, they opposed the illegal encroaching of their lands. All the accused cadres in this case never faced the turmoil of a trial which was anything but accidental. Instead the ‘harmad bahini’ did only get stronger to spread terror in Bengal and use the killings as an example of the fate of anyone opposing the party.

A victim during the Nandigram violence.

A more recent history which is still fresh in our minds was the 2007 Nandigram massacre. An eleven month long struggle for survival. Tireless fighting against a government on the mission to industrialize at the cost of anything. A time that saw the death of farmers as well as the dream of progress. Villagers of 100 villages fought over 27,000 acres of land that was their sole source of living. A violent struggle for the land that Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had promised the TATA Industries for the production of Nano, without the proper consent of its inhibitors. It was a state of constant conflict and tension, an almost civil-war like situation where the Trinamool Congress found their grounds as they stood up with the people of Nandigram that protested. After an attack from about 250 CPI-M cadres, six farmers died. With ongoing protests and the farmers blocking the SEZ marked area, the government sent police forces onto the field on March 14. Unofficially the forces were accompanied by 400 CPI-M cadres and in the clash with the protesting farmers, 14 of them died according to official records though more than 100 went missing. But there was no remorse on the part of the government. Bhattacharya, the then Chief-Minister, quite surprisingly said that the protestors (farmers and TMC) had been paid back with their own coin, trying to make it all sound very justifiable. Soon enough the issue was forgotten and Nandigram became a battleground of political games which marked the beginning of the change that West Bengal would bring upon itself four years later in 2011.

Some of us thought that the Narada-Sharada scams would restore a way for the leftists into the state this time but having lived through the “sottor saal” or the “dreaded seventies”, and further on under the terrorising communist reign in Bengal, it's difficult to put your faith in a party which has been plundering basic human rights back when the social media wasn't this "cool". It's a pity that ideologies like socialism and the abolition of class demarcation have been percolated down to a one-man reign of terror. That's not what communism is, and will never be! Don't let a single party fool you. CPI(M) or the CPR are mere parties, Communism is a belief.

Article by :- Sucharita Ganguly.

1 comment:

  1. It's an interesting blog on incidents like Sainbari, Marichjhapi & Bijon Setu. Here is an online article that seems to 'justify' the Sainbari incident !!!