Marichjhapi: History of Slaughter and Massacres

Gautam Guha, Agami Kalarab: This year will mark the 41th anniversary of one of the Worst massacres in independent India that claimed the lives of over a thousand people, many of them women, children and the elderly. It was a cold-blooded, planned and horrendous massacre that few even in Bengal know about or care to remember. Hardly anyone in India knows about it. On 31 January 1979, the CPI(M)-led Left Front government, heady with its electoral success in Bengal two years before that, trained its guns on thousands of Bengali Hindu refugees who had fled persecution for religious persecution from Bangladesh and settled in an uninhabited island in the Sunderbans. Not only were these people desperately poor who had suffered the unimaginable trauma of having had to flee their hearth and homes across the border, they were also all Dalits and OBCs.
According to survivors’ accounts, the police did not even spare about 15 kids- aged between five and twelve who had taken shelter in their school (a thatched hut). The kids had gathered there to make arrangements for Saraswati Puja, which was to be celebrated the next day (1st February), when the cops and cadres landed at Marichjhapi. Hearing the firing and cries of their elders, the scared kids huddled inside the school, cowering in fear. The cops and cadres herded them out of the school and decapitated them. Not content with their gory act, they smashed the idol of Goddess Saraswati into smithereens.The events leading to the Marichjhapi massacre form a sickening narrative on the ugly, hypocritical, diabolic, brutal and inhuman character of communists. Marichjhapi, about 75 kilometres east of Kolkata as the crow flies, also stands as a damning indictment of Bengal’s red helmsman, Jyoti Basu, who presided over his state’s decline while his party gained in strength. It is yet another proof that human lives, even the lives of the poor whose cause they profess to champion, matter little to the communists! Though figures vary, it is widely believed that at least 1,700 people, including many women, children and the elderly, were killed on 31 January 1979, at Marichjhapi. Many others were injured. The survivors fled to other parts of the state and many are now settled in the North and South 24 Parganas districts of Bengal, wiped out their lives in utter misery and penury. Accounts of their sufferings are sporadically published in the media, but they have been largely forgotten in Bengal while few outside the state even know of their sad plight. But the most important question is this ‘Why did the Left invite all these people over, just to kill them?’ the proper answer is once in power, the Left got overwhelmed about global concerns about ‘tigers versus people’.

Jyoti Basu, ex chief minister of West Bengal

Actual news reports from the time indicate no such concerns. Complete outsiders were sent to raze settlements to the ground. Police shot at boats trying to take people away, and sank them. Entire villages were tear-gassed first before being shot to pieces. So why did they do this? Few reporters tries to make the ‘man versus tiger’ her central argument about Marichjhhapi. The Sundarbans is home to tigers, so a lot of encroaching fishermen were not welcome. It’s probably fractionally correct. If only the data agreed with this. The most plausible explanation is almost all the folks who came from Dandakaranya to Marichjhhapi were Dalits we call them Namasudras in Bengali.The Bengal Left leadership, mostly high caste, took up tigers as an excuse to commit genocide on Dalits. Then, of course, numbers show the place was quickly repopulated. By people who were not Namasudras were committed party slaves.This is the tale of India’s biggest organised genocide. But why it resonates and should be remembered by our children is this: if you’re a minority, tribal or Dalit, who will you call a friend when in trouble?
In current politics, seeking refuge in violence is also considered a agenda and tactics. When various political parties instigated hate for their own affection there, such an event like Marichjhapi overwhelms all inferiorty.

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