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Mainstream, Vol. XLVIII, No 34, August 14, 2010

Census of Political Murders in West Bengal during CPI-M Rule—1977-2009

Sunday 22 August 2010, by D. Bandyopadhyay

One could ask a question whether a heinous crime like murder be classified as “political”. A crime is generally distinguished by the motive behind it. The Oxford Dictionary of Law defines “political offence” in the following manner: “An offence committed for a political purpose or inspired by a political motive. The act could be a combination of a politically motivated but criminally implemented act, or it may be more narrowly political or it may be criminal activity that resulted from an attempt to escape from political system or discriminatory persecution.” (p. 410) Thus murder simpliciter is committed for personal reasons like gain, greed, revenge etc. A political murder is organised to make political gain or achieve a political objective or to terrorise a group of persons who hold views contrary to the political party which commits it.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) ends with the following evocative sentences: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution.” Thus any Communist Party is wedded to the cult of violence to achieve its political objective. One could, perhaps, live with this thesis so long as any such party strives to achieve total transformation of society to establish a classless one. But when a “Communist” Party abjures Marxism-socialism and ardently embraces neo-liberal economic policies as its creed, it ceases to be a Communist Party. The CPI-M has discarded Marxism openly. It has abandoned socialism with a brazen face. It has accepted “capitalism” as its mantra. So it has ceased to be a Communist Party, far less a Marxist party. But it uses “CPI-M” as a brand name—an electoral brand equity. However, it still adheres to the cult of violence. So its character is anything between a fascist party and a Mafioso. In fact by their public activities the CPI-M activists lean more towards the mafia organisation.

Much before they came to power heading the Left Front Government in 1977, the CPI-M leaders started experimenting with murder as a political instrument way back in 1970 when the party cadres murdered two important Congress leaders belonging to the Sain family of Burdwan town. The level of bestiality that they stooped down to was evident by the fact that they made the mother of the two Sain brothers eat rice drenched with the blood of her dead sons. As a result the mother lost her mental balance from which she could not recover till her death a decade later. Among the accused were Benoy Konar, presently one of the topmost CPI-M leaders in the State, Khokon alias Nirupam Sen, currently the Industries Minister of West Bengal besides being a member of the party’s Polit-Bureau, and Manik Roy (shown absconding in the police records) who, after changing his name a couple of times, emerged as Anil Bose and become a CPI-M MP by winning the Lok Sabha election with a record margin through massive rigging. None of the accused has been punished till date.

Devoid of any high ideology and believing in the cult of violence the CPI-M used murder as a political instrument since 1978 in an organised manner. Ignoring the individual cases of murder flowing from local inter-party disputes, the CPI-M activists used murder as an instrument of political aggression in the Marichjhapi island of the Sunderbans. We need not go into the long tale. Recent research on the subject revealed cases of monstrous barbarities on the refugees who had come from Dandakaranya at the behest of the CPI-M. The next remarkable case of mass murder was done on the monks and nuns of the Anandmargi group. Seventeen of them were beaten to death and then doused in petrol to burn them publicly. Thereafter the most significant incident to catch the headlines was the Bantala rape and murder. A senior lady officer of the UNICEF and another senior officer of the Government of India detected a case of huge embezzlement of UN funds by some CPI-M organisation within the South 24-Parganas district. When they were returning with a lot of incriminating evidence, their vehicle was waylaid at Bantala by the CPI-M goons. The vehicle was set on fire to destroy all documentary evidence. The driver, who tried to protect the two lady officers, was killed. Then the lady officers were raped and one of them murdered and her body without any cloth left on the open paddy field. When the then Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, was informed of the incident, he quipped to the waiting mediamen: “Such incidents do happen, don’t they?” Thereby he put the official sanction to rape in addition to murder as an instrument of political aggression. Then came the incident of Suchapur murder where 11 Muslim agricultural workers were killed in a gruesome manner because they demanded minimum wage rates fixed by the government from the CPI-M jotedars (landlords). Thereafter they (the CPI-M) resorted to political cleansing of territories by murder, rape, arson and loot. Large areas like Garbeta, Keshpur, Pingla Sabong, Chhoto Angaria, Kotalpur, Khanakul, Goghat etc. were cleansed of Opposition elements by continuous raids as it used to happen in the untamed tribal land of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of the old British India. All these affairs in a sense culminated in Singur and Nandigram where the murderous strife went on for over two years. Such planned but isolated incidents do not give a clear idea of the dreadful magnitude of murders committed by the CPI-M.

WE shall now try to assess at the macro level the vastness and magnitude of this political slaughter. In 1997, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in a reply to an Assembly question, stated that between 1977 (when they came to power) and 1996, 28,000 political murders were committed. This bland statement does not convey the enormity of the crime committed by the CPI-M. It meant on an average 125.7 murders were effected in a month. It meant that the daily rate of murder was four. That is to say that one political murder took place every six hours for the entire period of 19 years between 1977 and 1996. Could any member of the Opposition feel safe in such a “haven of peace”?

From the late nineties the CPI-M claimed that they would go in for greater efficiency in dispatch of business. By this criterion their rate of murder had obviously increased with the increased efficiency of the CPI-M. But we did not have any figure from the State Government. Fortunately, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in a statement laid on the table of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly made the following disclosure for the year 2009 only.

The figures are as below:

(i) murder—2284
- (ii) political murder—26
- (iii) rape—2516
- (iv) outraging modesty—3013
- (v) torture on brides—17,571
- (vi) death/murder due to Maoist activities—134
- (Source: Dainik Stateamsn, Kolkata, July 16, 2010)

A comment on the veracity of these figures is necessary. He has shown political murder as only 26. This figure is suspect. Between 1977 and 1996, the rate of annual political murder on an average was 1473. This figure, giving a 19-year-old trend, cannot suddenly come down to 26. This is a statistical outlier which has to be ignored. In 1997, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was severely criticised for admitting such a large figure of political murders. Hence a cautious Home Minister just manipulated the figure which has to be rejected as an outlier.

Anyway to come to a reliable figure of murders between 1997 and 2009, we have taken the annual average of 2284 to come to a total figure of 27,408. Thus between 1977 and 2009 the total number of murder was 28,000 + 27,408 = 55,408. It means an yearly average of 1787, a monthly average of 149 and a daily average of five. In other words, in every four hours and 50 minutes one person was being killed for political reasons in West Bengal. The CPI-M can claim credit that instead of a murder an hour they could limit it to four hour and 50 minutes per murder. What an achievement!

During the last 31 years, no murderer was brought to book for this dreadful figure of 55,408 murders. It is anybody’s guess regarding the number of killers involved. Assuming that there was at least one killer per murder, the number would be over 55,000. With all these murderers roaming about freely, no government (assuming that there would be a change in 2011) can restore the rule of law. They would have to be punished. The present police force which has been dangerously and thoroughly contaminated by the CPI-M over the last three decades cannot be relied upon for investigation and launching prosecution. Many of the policemen and higher officers were directly or indirectly involved in these criminal activities. They have also to be investigated and tried. The present criminal courts are already overburdened with pendency and arrears. Another Bench of 30-40 thousand new cases would lead to further phenomenal delay. Hence the new government would have to devise a new system for investigation, prosecution and hearing of these new cases.

The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 of Bangladesh, as amended in 2009, may provide the broad contours of the proposed Political Crimes (Tribunals) Law of West Bengal. This law should provide for the constitution of more than one Bench for the purpose of trial of the accused. It would have its own investigating agency and may employ well-known NGOs and public affairs activists for the purpose. For Bangladesh in 1973 it was a Greenfield law. In our case the proposed law should be compatible with the Constitution of India, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and a host of other laws in the criminal field. It would be a difficult but not intrac-table legal exercise. Without a special purpose legal mechanism it would not be possible to bring to book all the murderers, rapists, arsonists, looters who had been waging a war against humanity in West Bengal for the last three decades of CPI-M rule with the support and connivance of the administration and the party.

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