Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2009 > December 2009 > West Bengal: Citizens Beware! Killer Convicts At Large!

Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 51, December 5, 2009

West Bengal: Citizens Beware! Killer Convicts At Large!

Tuesday 8 December 2009, by D. Bandyopadhyay

A brief recital of the event is necessary both for the purpose of recapitulation and for putting the issue in the right context. On March 16, 1970, the Second United Front Government of West Bengal imploded entirely because of its internal contradictions. The then Chief Minister, Ajoy Mukherjee, resigned (on March 16, 1970) calling his own government “barbaric”. President’s Rule was imposed immediately. On March 17, 1970, the CPI-M called a “bandh” for the entire State. Being thrown out of power, not by any Central conspiracy but because of their own internal dissensions, the CPI-M was in a foul mood. They wanted to have their revenge and retribution.

Burdwan town was a traditional stronghold of the Indian National Congress (INC). The Sai brothers of Burdwan town were prominent leaders of the INC. Their antipathy towards the CPI-M was well known. Therefore that they would be the natural prey of the predatory CPI-M was a foregone conclusion. At about 10 am on March 17, 1970, a gang of 50/60 CPI-M marauders led by Benoy Konar, now a member of the Central Committee of the party, attacked the family residence of the Sais in Burdwan town. They murdered the two Sai brothers then and there. They killed a private tutor who happened to be there at that time. They also slaughtered two domestic helpers of the family. The most gruesome aspect of this sordid event was that the mother of the two Sai brothers, who had fainted having seen her two sons murdered before her own eyes, was brought back to her senses by these killers and was made to swallow cooked rice laced with the blood of her dead sons. She lost her mental balance since then. It was an act of utmost savagery. It was a totally unprovoked massacre of innocent citizens, whose only “crime” was their allegiance to the INC. There was President’s Rule in the State. So the police had to file a chargesheet without much delay. They named 17 persons as accused. In 1971 the District and Sessions Judge of Burdwan imposed life imprisonment on eight accused persons among whom were Benoy Konar, Khokan alias Nirupam Sen, Manik Roy (absconding), Amal Haldar and Bilo alias Paltoo Bandyopadhyay.

The convicts went on appeal before the Calcutta High Court twice. On both occasions the appeal was rejected. The matter went on till the mid-seventies. Curiously, the convicts did not prefer any appeal before the Supreme Court. The party (CPI-M) and convicts waited for an opportunity to get them out of the prison by foul means. In 1977, the Left Front dominated by the CPI-M came to power being propelled by the anti-Emergency gale. [They have been in power since then.] Immediately on assumption of office, the CPI-M withdrew thirtythree thousand (33,000) criminal cases all over the State where their members/sympathisers were shown as accused. And in that big sweep all the convicts of the Sai murder case were released on “parole”.

The CPI-M did not move the Supreme Court to quash the sentence against their prominent district leaders, not because of their inherent faith and trust in the bourgeois system of justice. Theoretically, they could not and did not believe in any system of justice except their own “kangaroo” court system. They abstained from preferring an appeal before the Supreme Court because they had already devised a diabolical plot to pilfer all the records of the case from the archives of the Calcutta High Court through their committed members of the “Coordination Committee” among the employees of the High Court. Had the case gone to the Supreme Court, the case record or important documents thereof would have been consigned to the archives of that Court. Apparatchiks of the CPI-M of West Bengal would not have had any access to those records to cause their “disappearance”.

The matter was revealed shockingly when the Registrar-General of the Calcutta High Court recently informed the Supreme Court that all the papers and documents relating to the Sai murder case had disappeared from the Record Room of the Calcutta High Court.

Joydeep Mukherjee of the All India Legal Aid Forum filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to find out under what authority the convicts of the Sai murder case like Benoy Konar, Khokan Sen, Amal Haldar have been enjoying unrestricted and unconditional parole for the last 32 years. Having admitted the petition, the Supreme Court routinely directed the Calcutta High Court to send the entire case records to Delhi. It was then that the stinking skeleton toppled out of the cupboard. There was not a scrap of paper in the archives of the Calcutta High Court pertaining to the Sai brothers murder case where the matter was heard on appeal twice in the mid-seventies. This disappearance of the entire record of the Sai murder case from the Record Room of the Calcutta High Court, which has a reputation of preserving old records carefully, was not a paranormal case. It was a case of theft simpliciter by the agents of the CPI-M among the officers and staff of the Calcutta High Court. The disappearance would have taken place around the same time these convicts were released on parole in 1977.

According to the newspaper report, the Supreme Court has directed the lawyer of the State of West Bengal to reconstruct the case record within a month. The apprehension is that the minions of the Government of West Bengal would reconstruct the file in such a manner that vital papers would either be missing or tampered with to hide the truth. Joydeep Mukherjee should satisfy himself whether the case records have been properly reconstructed; otherwise he may consider moving the Supreme Court to hand over the case of disappearance of the records to the CBI for proper investigation. A couple of arrests and suitable interrogations of persons likely to be involved in 1977-78 would certainly reveal a few leads to solve the mystery. It is necessary to assess how far the rot in the CPI-M has affected the judicial system of the State.

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So the killer convicts are at large. And what have they been doing? The murderous instinct of one of them, who is a member of the party’s Central Committee, is still intact. In the afternoon of January 6, 2007 he gave a TV interview which was carried by all the vernacular TV channels in Kolkata where, in response to the popular resistance against the notice of acquisition of land in Nandigram, he directed his goons to openly “surround Nandigram from three sides and make their life hell”. Like any other Bengali petty-bourgeois personality he uttered the words “make their life hell” in English and went on repeating the sentence several times. It was quite typical of the Bengali petty-bourgeoisie who think Bengali is a week language; hence to be forceful and resolute one has to speak in English! Following this directive marauders of the CPI-M surrounded Nandigram from three directions in the night of January 6-7, 2007, resorted to indiscriminate firing, committed arson and killed three—Bharat, Selim and Biswajit. That was the beginning of a planned genocide which went on unabated till the “reconquest” of Nandigram on November 10-12, 2007. Estimates vary. But the common perception is that not less than 150 persons were killed, many of whose bodies had been carried away by the attacking gangs to Khejury either to be thrown into the river as food for sharks or buried en masse; the bodies of those buried were found and recovered subsequently.

To make “life hell” for the protesting population, the CPI-M devised “rape” as an instrument of political onslaught. Dozens of protesting women were gang-raped publicly in open daylight as retribution of their temerity to protest. That nothing could break their spirit, that no “red” flag flies in Nandigram and Khejury today, and that the local warlord of the CPI-M had to suffer a humiliating defeat in the last (15th) Lok Sabha poll is another story. So this convict on parole is still very much a public menace. He has to be put back into the prison to serve his remaining years of imprisonment of 20 years without any remissions for having illegally enjoyed parole for 32 years.

Another culprit on parole happens to be a Minister. He is no less dangerous with his expressionless cold eyes like that of a “black mamba”. He tortures people through his misuse of law. Singur and Nandigram were all his own creations. The protesting public of the State should, perhaps, be grateful to him. But for him the conflagration of public protest would not have been ignited. In retrospect, he might be credited by the future historians for the downfall of the CPI-M rule because of his policy of relentless appeasement and unlawful concessions to the big bourgeoisie to the detriment of the interests of the poor peasantry and people in general. This public threat should be ended by revoking his parole order and putting him behind bars again.

The third convict is a district level operator. Nothing much is known about him at the State level. His notoriety in his district is quite high. He should also spend the remaining period of his sentence in jail thus allowing the district populace to remain in peace.

The most dangerous and nasty killer is Manik Roy. He is at large not because of parole but because of impersonation. He is shown as an “absconder” in the police record. But it is common knowledge that by changing his name and aliases he never went to jail. He got elected to the Lok Sabha by record margins through sheer terror tactics. That his continuation as a “free” citizen is a grave threat to public order is being demonstrated by the continuing riots, arson and killings in his erstwhile fiefdom of Khanakul, Goghat and Arambath areas. The Statesman (Kolkata) of November 27, 2009 carries a news itsm on the front page captioned “One Man dead, 16 wounded including O.C. in attack on village: Khanakul Burning”. The caption explains his criminal activities.

His impersonation has to be proved and he should be put behind bars for the prison term of 20 years because he had been convicted in “absentia” by the District and Sessions Judge of Burdwan.

Now a word about “parole” before we end. “Parole” is not “pardon” granted by the Governor of a State or the President under the clemency clause. These exalted authorities are empowered under law to pardon a convict or to commute a sentence. On the other hand, parole is a conditional and revocable release of a prisoner serving an unexpired sentence in a penal institution. Parole is merely a conditional suspension of a sentence imposed and not its vacation. (Sunil Fulchand Shah versus Union of India, AIR 2000, SC 1023) Parole has to be for a specified period and specific purpose like severe illness of the prisoner or death of any member of the prisoner’s family. (Bikhabhai versus State of Gujarat, AIR 1987, Guj 136) Thus parole is a conditional release for a specific purpose and the prisoner has to go back to prison after the period of parole is over. That the CPI-M Government had granted unconditional and unlimited parole is itself an act of gross illegality. Such an order should stand ab initio void.

Even if the Supreme Court gave an order revoking the parole of these convicts, it is doubtful what the deceitful CPI-M Government would do. Perhaps, one has to await the change of government in West Bengal to put these killer convicts back into the jail to remove the grave threat to public order and peace.

[The author is indebted to veteran journalist Sukharanjan Sen Gupta for his write-up in Dainik Statesman of November 18, 2009 for some details of the case.]

The author, who has now retired from service, is a former Secretary, Revenue, and the erstwhile Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India.

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