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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 27, June 20, 2009

West Bengal: Khejury — The Truth

Monday 22 June 2009, by D. Bandyopadhyay


Genocide is not an appropriate word. In international lexicon it has a definition which would not perhaps apply to large scale slaughter, mayhem, arson, organised rape and other atrocities committed by the ruling party against their political opponents. If you look at the history of the Left Front Government from 1977 onwards, there have been cases of large scale manslaughter beginning with firing on the refugees who settled in the island of Marichjhapi in the Sunderbans in 1978-79. It is said that by sinking boats, by firing bullets and by depriving them of food and water 350-450 men, women and children were killed. The government does not agree with it. According to them, only two Adivasi tribal women died of police action. No one believed it then, no one believes it now.

This was followed by a murder of 17 monks and nuns belonging to the Anand Margi sect in broad daylight near the Ballygunge Police Station. Their fault was that they belonged to the Anand Margi sect. They were beaten and when the bodies were wreathing in pain on the road, petrol and kerosene were poured on their bodies and these were set on fire. It was done under the guidance of a local CPM leader who passed away recently but his accomplices are still alive and fighting elections.

Four lady officers belonging to the Government of India and a UN organisation went to visit a health centre in the Sunderbans and found something missing there. On their way back they were waylaid, raped, tortured and two of them murdered. The reaction of the then Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, was that “such things happen”. By that time the CPI-M had honed their instrument of torture to a much sharper degree. They started the process of political cleansing in different parts of the State of West Bengal where they found Opposition leaders reorganising people. This happened in Nanur in Birbhum district where 11 agricultural workers, who demanded their rightful wages from the masters who were from the CPM, were beaten up, lynched and murdered. The then CPI-M MP of the area declared that these men were anti-social elements. This was followed by a series of cleansing operations in the district of Midnapur in places like Keshpur, Garbeta, Pingla, Sabang for about half-a-decade till 2006. Then the CPI-M had to face protests, the coup de grace, both at Singur and Nandigram in 2006 and 2007. These are the two recent events well known to many and they do not bear repetition.

After the shameful action of the CPI-M party by firing on unarmed peace marchers in Nandigram on November 10, 2007, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was quoted publicly alluding to the law of motion of Isaac Newton; he said in Bengali that if you throw stones you will get back brickbats.


The people of West Bengal were seething with rage and anger due to numerous instances of torture, extortion of money, gang rape and total collapse of civilised governance. They took revenge in the 15th Lok Sabha parliamentary election when they trounced the CPI-M and their hangers-on from a total of 35 seats out of 42 in the 14th Lok Sabha to 15 seats in the latest poll. People have understood that by their organisation and mobilisation they could meet the violence of the CPM peacefully. Thus, when recently five Ministers of the State went to visit Khejury accompanied by a large police force about 10,000 people sat down on the road peacefully, did not raise any slogan or do any acts of violence. After waiting for three hours the Ministers went back. Having gone back one of the Ministers inquired: what sort of State are we living in? He asked the question forgetting that it is this State that they created for the last 32 years where the Constitution does not exist, the laws do not matter, courts have no voice, it is only the Party which matters all along the line.

What is happening in Khejury today is a peaceful mass upsurge of people against the lawlessness perpetrated by the CPI-M abetted by the police force. How could they recover about 100 rifles, thousands of rounds of rifle bullets and other deadly weapons from the party offices and houses of the CPM leaders in Khejury? Had there been law and order could this cache of arms and ammunition be kept undetected by the police for years on?

The general suspicion of the local people is that the arms had come from the police armoury and the ammunition was leaked from ordinance factories with the help of some workers owing allegiance to the CPI-M. This needs to be investigated by the Central IB and Military Intelligence.

The CPI-M leadership has described the people’s upsurge at Khejury as reflective of “semi-fascist terror” organised by the Opposition parties. This charge has been belied by the fact that the people’s boycott of the police (because of the police inaction in apprehending anyone connected with the acquisition of illegal arms and ammunition and their use against the peaceful supporters of the Opposition parties) has been going on in the area very peacefully without any disruption of civic life. So far there has been no case of mayhem and murder in sharp and glaring contrast to what was perpetrated under the CPI-M and State Government’s directive in Nandigram in March and November 2007.

What is happening in Khejury is a restoration of law and order, by the people’s non-violent movement which the State failed to do. One should applaud the Gandhian approach of the people of Khejury who resorted to mass action not to break but to enforce the law. Had the State been doing what it should have under the law and the Constitution Khejury would never have occurred.

At the same time in the light of whatever is lately happening in different parts of West Bengal it needs to be pointed out that retaliatory violence, even under grave provocation, should be avoided and brought to an end at the earliest.

The author is a former Secretary, Revenue, Government of India (now retired).

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