Rekharani Sain is an angry woman today. Angry because leaders of the party she has always supported are set to embrace the killers of her husband and her brothers-in-law. Rekharani is a witness to the brutal massacre of her three brothers-in-law and the blinding of her husband by CPI(M) cadres nearly 46 years ago at Burdwan in West Bengal. Their crime was that they were staunch Congress supporters.
Rekharani’s husband Nabakumar had acid poured on his eyes, and a year later he was murdered. The killers smeared the blood of one of her brothers-in-law on the forehead of her widowed mother-in-law; the old lady lost her mind after that. So brutal was this ‘Sainbari’ massacre that it shocked the nation and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi flew down to Burdwan to console the family.
According to eyewitnesses, the murderers included Benoy Konar (he was a three time CPI(M) MLA later), Nirupam Sen (he became the industries minister later) and Anil Bose (he went on to get elected to the Lok Sabha seven times from 1984 to 2004 before being expelled from the CPI(M) in 2012).
But Rekharani is not the only one who is angry with the leaders of Congress for committing what, to her, is the ultimate sacrilege—forge an electoral alliance with the CPI(M).
Tens of thousands of men and women across Bengal who have lost their loved ones to CPI(M) ‘harmads’ (the Bengali word for ‘armada’ of pirates) are similarly angry and confused.
They are now finding it extremely difficult to digest the fact that the party for which their loved ones lost their lives is now set to embrace the party the killers of their loved ones belong to.
These people were at the receiving end of the CPI(M) for about four decades from the early 1970s when the Marxists started expanding their footprint in Bengal by carrying out a comprehensive political cleansing since they came to power in 1977. According to official records, more than 60,000 political murders were committed in West Bengal during the 34-year reign of the Left Front.
In 1997, while replying to a question in the state Assembly, then information minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee stated that 28,000 political murders were committed in the 20-year period between 1977 and 1996. That means the daily rate of murder was a little over four with one political murder being committed every six hours!
It doesn’t need to be explained that all the victims were Congress supporters and members and the murderers were CPI(M) members or armed goons hired by the party. Bengal’s crime records show that the rate of political murders soared dramatically from the late 1990s and till 2011.
When the Left was voted out of power, about 60,000 political murders had been committed. That made Bengal politically the most intolerant state in the country from 1997 to 2011.
But it is not just ordinary foot soldiers of the Congress who were targeted by the CPI(M) cadres. Even senior leaders of the party were not spared. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the president of the Congress in Bengal, seems to have forgotten the attacks on him ever since he joined the party as a youngster.
Bombs were hurled at his house at Behrampore in Murshidabad district. But Chowdury, considered to be a courageous person, didn’t let those attacks deter him in fighting the CPI(M).
Chowdhury’s opposition to the CPI(M) is well-known and his speeches in the Lok Sabha. His criticism of t e party and its policies were the most spirited attacks on the Marxists on the floor of that House. That same person is now the most ardent votary of an alliance with the CPI(M).
Another senior Congress leader, Manas Bhuyan, would find it difficult to forget the murderous attack on him and seven fellow Congress legislators in July 2009 by CPI(M) harmads while they were on their way to Mangalkot village in Burdwan district to distribute relief to poor villagers who had been driven out of their homes by the harmads.
The images of Bhuyan and his fellow party MLAs running through paddy fields to save their lives while the harmads lobbed country-made bombs at them has remained one of the most enduring images of the CPI(M)’s attacks on opposition. Many other senior Congress leaders have faced worse attacks at the hands of CPI(M) cadres during the Left Front’s rule.
Congress leaders and workers would also find it difficult to forget 21 July , 1993. That day police fired on a procession that was being led by Mamata Banerjee (who was then the chief of the Youth Congress in Bengal) to demand the making of voter ID cards mandatory for voters to exercise their franchise.
The firing left 13 Congress activists dead and many more maimed. The then Union Home Minister S.B.Chavan flew down to Kolkata and advised the state government to order a judicial probe, but Chief Minister Jyoti Basu declined saying there was no need.
To rub salt into the Congress’ wounds, Basu lauded the police force for “doing a good job”. Since then, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress observe 21 July every year as ‘Martyr’s Day’ in the state. Would the Congress observe the day this year too after joining hands with the CPI(M)?
The CPI(M) had used murder as a political weapon since the early 1970s in an organized fashion. It was always in ones and twos but the CPI(M) cadres never shied away from mass murders also.
Suchpur, Garbeta, Keshpur, Pingla, Sabong, Choto Angaria, Kotalpur, Khanakul, Goghat, Singur and Nandigram are names of places stained by the blood of hundreds of Congress workers and supporters.
It would be interesting to see how the Congress leaders face the families of the 60,000-odd Congress workers killed in Bengal by CPI(M) cadres and harmads after joining hands with the party of their killers. How will the Congress leaders explain this unholy alliance to them?
Today, the CPI(M) alleges that 142 comrades have been killed over the last five years by Trinamool Congress men. That means an average of 28 murders a year or about two in a month.
Compared to the five political murders a day during the Left Front rule, the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal looks quite peace-loving indeed. This, of course, does not justify the murders of CPI(M) activists by Trinamool goons .
The point is that a party that used violence as a political instrument has no moral right to complain against the Trinamool Congress now. As for the Congress, its leaders will have a lot of explaining to do.
After opposing the CPI (M) for four decades, embracing the Marxists now seems nothing short of gross opportunism. And in the unlikely event of this unholy alliance winning a majority in the forthcoming Assembly polls in the state, what would be the agenda of governance?
How would the CPI(M) sit together with the ‘neo-liberal’ Congress to form a government? There are many such questions that both the CPI(M) and the Congress leaders, but more so the Congress leaders, need to answer. The amnesia that they suffer from seem to be a convenient self-induced one to aid their political chicanery.
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