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Mainstream, Vol. XLVI, No 23

CPI-M’s Sleight of Hand delays Justice for Victims of Massacre at Shuchpur

Wednesday 28 May 2008, by Manas Ghosh

For the past two years, the reign of terror unleashed by the Government of West Bengal and CPI-M in Singur and Nandigram has drawn headline attention through the length and breadth of the country. However, long before these events unfolded, surreptitious efforts were on to interfere with the course of justice in Suri court (the administrative headquarters of Birbhum district, West Bengal) by the State administration under the directives of the CPI-M, to save from punishment the perpetrators of the heinous massacre at Shuchpur, Birbhum. The Shuchpur massacre ranks as the most heinous amongst all the heinous crimes committed by the CPI-M during the 31 years of Left Front Government in West Bengal.

The events happened as follows. Eight years ago, under the leadership of Nityaranjan Chattopadhyay (CPI-M member, influential leader of Nanur, member of the Birbhum Zilla Parishad) 11 poverty stricken Muslim agricultural labourers were murdered in broad daylight. Their throats were slit with tangi (battle axe) and hanshua (crescent shaped knife) and their heads were smashed with stone slabs. Eight years since the fateful day, the trial is still on and doubts keep creeping in whether delayed justice will at all be delivered. This is because of the presence in public memory of another massacre of 26 years ago carried out by the CPI-M in Kot village of the same district which did not see the light of justice. In Kot, CPI-M members and supporters carried out a pre-planned massacre of seven Muslim preachers after branding them as ‘gonoshotru’ (or enemy of the people). They were first snuffed out of their tenements by burning sacks filled with dried red chilly and then butchered the moment they stepped out in the open. It goes without saying that this reprehensible case is yet to be solved. The case is still in the stage of recording the witness’ evidence. The culprits have not only gone scot- free but they have been going around since then carrying on with the party’s terror agenda.

The relatives of the victims of the Shuchpur massacre have ample reasons to be apprehensive that the delayed justice will finally be denied. The hearing of this mass massacre case has been postponed not less than 80 times which is a record by itself. In most cases the postponement was deliberate although Justice Debiprasad Sengupta of the Calcutta High Court by his ruling, dated March 23, 2005, had ordered a fast-track adjudication of the case within the following six months. In spite of this directive, the case has hardly moved during the past three years. The reason for the slow pace was the transfer of five additional district judges during this period. As a result, leave alone a quick adjudication, the case is yet to reach the stage of examining the witnesses.

Whenever the judges have attempted to speed up proceedings, they have been abruptly served with transfer orders. It goes without saying that these steps have been taken to delay the process of justice for every time a judge has been transferred the new incumbent has used the court’s time to take a look afresh at the details of the massacre and the legal proceedings thereafter. It may be concluded that such state of affairs indicates that there is a deeper conspiracy at work, a conspiracy to delay the process of justice. More shameful is the fact that these delaying acts have been orchestrated to coincide with the 2004 Lok Sabha elctions, the 2006 West Bengal Assembly elections and the 2008 panchayat elections. This orchestration has been necessary to ensure that the judges are far away from a position from where they can quickly come to a verdict and also because the ruling party apprehends that the verdict will go against them and this is bound to adversely affect their electoral prospects.

SHUCHPUR is a part of Nanur Vidhan Sabha and Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency. It is an extremely impoverished, underdeveloped village and ‘Brand Buddha’ development has not even reached any place near Shuchpur. The Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency is represented by Somnath Chatterjee, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. After the massacre of the Muslim agricultural workers, he had the gumption of calling them ‘dacoits’ which is a lie. For him as well as his party the massacre was the consequence of ‘dacoits’ from a neighbouring district becoming victim of ‘unrestrained public anger’. This ‘appropriate expression of public anger’ was under the leadership of Nityaranjan Chattopadhyay who is ‘close’ to Somnath Chatterjee. To establish as legitimate the ‘lie’ of Somnath Chatterjee, the police charged the victims and their families with cases of robbery, attempted murder, molestation and snatching. Fraudulent means were adopted while recording the time of the robbery in order to establish that the robbery case was filed and recorded before the occurrence of the massacre. This was done to establish that the Shuchpur massacre was a result of a ‘spontaneous outburst of public anger’. However, Somnath Chatterjee’s effort in cooking up a cock- and-bull story of dacoits and their public punishment has not cut ice with the public and perhaps not with the judiciary too.

The most shameful aspect of the Shuchpur episode has been the effort of the ruling party and its crony administration to purposefully and jointly obstruct the course of justice and also to actively scale down the esteem of the judiciary in the public eye. This vicious game can be understood from the sequential steps taken with the objective of shielding the perpetrators of the heinous crime by crippling the judicial process to reduce the trial to a farce. This is being done to ensure that the prime accused like Nityaranjan Chattopadhyay and others are kept out of the reach of law so that they can operate with impunity and carry on with their terror activities. The chorus leader of this musical performance has been Barrister Somnath Chatterjee who sits today as the Speaker of the Parliament and daily utters homilies on the virtues of impartiality. His true character is, however, revealed by his role post-Shuchpur massacre.

The desperation of the ruling party and the administration to defeat the judicial process can be gauged from their extreme non-cooperation with the judiciary. During the past three years the hearing of the case has been ‘deliberately’stayed at least forty times. The non-cooperation of the police and administration with the judiciary is politically motivated. The main duty of the police and administration is to always be on the side of law and justice and to carry out the orders of the judiciary but in this case it has been seen that they have been actively subverting the process of law. The police and administration are dutifully bound to produce the accused and government witnesses, as per the summons issued by the judiciary, to the court on the date of the trial in order to maintain the pace of the proceedings. However, in this case it has been seen that the police and administration have always managed to get away though they are guilty of contempt of court.

The most blatant example of the police and administration subverting the process of law is the case of the four doctors of the Bolpur Government Hospital who performed the post-mortem autopsy on the 11 victims of the mass massacre. During the seven months when the court recorded the witness’ evidence, these four doctors were not present with their report. The date of recording of the doctors’ evidence was deferred not less than seven times on the flimsy pretext that the doctors had not received the summons. The court resorted to sending the summons through the Directorate of Health Services located at Writers Building but the efforts came to naught. The judge repeatedly asked the police and administration to trace the summons but there was no result. The helplessness of the judiciary, in this case, will be evident from the fact that the court finally issued summons in the name of the Directorate of Health Services. That efforts were on to delay and subvert the process of law was clear to all including the judge presiding over the proceedings.

(Courtesy : Dainik Statesman)

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