Jiten Nandi of Garbeta, Purnima Gharui of Raina, Ajit Lohar of Saltora, Ramprabesh Ray and Mundakala Ray of Durgapur, Dahiruddin of Raigunj, Mohammed Khodarakha of Suri, Amal Samaddar of Durgapur, Mahbul Sheikh and Masahrul Sheikh of Beldanga.
All butchered to death between May 14 and May 24, 2011. Crime? They were CPI(M) activists.
Masahrul Sheikh (Natabar) was the 18 year old son of Mahbul Sheikh (55), a CPI(M) worker in Beldanga. He was a migrant worker in Mumbai and had come to visit his family after 11 months. On 24th May, 2011, in Kapasdanga village in Beldanga, Murshidabad, at 11 pm at night, the family’s sparse brick and clay dwelling was bombed and set on fire. Father and son were assaulted, locked up in a room and burnt to death. Mahbul’s mother, 75 year old Saharbanu Bibi (75) along with two children – Nazma Khatun (13) and Shahjamal Sheikh (7) have been grievously injured in the bomb attack. Other family members were held captive outside the house and forced to watch this act of ‘retribution’ in utter helplessness. The police arrived after the mayhem was over. Though the local Congress MLA, Humayun Kabir denies any role of his party in it, seven Congressmen have been arrested by the police after this incident.
Amal Samaddar was lynched by a group of Trinamool Congress youths as soon as he returned home to Belgachhi, Baruipur, South 24 Parganas, seven days after the decisive triumph of ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’.
Reports trickle in everyday from all parts of Bengal of lynching, dispossession, rape, arson and murder. All the targets are CPI(M) activists. Goaltore, Salboni, Keshpur, Midnapore Sadar, Keshpur, Garbeta, Chandrakona, Haldia, Ramnagar, Bhagwanpur, Nandigram, Chandipur, Tamluk, Khejuri, Simlapal, Katoa, Egra, Nayagram, Bankura - the list gets lengthier by the day. Sceptics assert that Kolkata is safe under the new Chief Minister’s benign smile of triumph; but neighbourhoods in Beleghata, Sealdah, Hatibagan, Narkeldanga, Gardenreach, Beniapukur, Joka, Behala belie the belief.
The Chief Minister of Bengal assures the media that there is no post-poll violence perpetrated by her Party in West Bengal. Corporate media whose stars competed for scoops on going to the loo with ‘Didi’ and her daily diet, concentrate on reports of ‘illegal arms seizure’ straight out of official press releases.
On the blogosphere, opinion makers claiming to be on the side of the dispossessed and displaced, and basking in the reflected glory of the possibilities of ‘real’ Leftism under ma-mati-manush ,shake their head and opine that this is the inevitable course of justice and retribution against the ‘Stalinism’ and ‘fascism’ or ‘social fascism’ of the last 34 years (all of these words are substitutes for each other in the ‘discourse’ of these opinion makers when it comes to describing the Left Front and especially the CPI(M)). They celebrate the infinite possibilities of a ‘New Left’ even as they draft the damning epitaphs of the ‘Old Left’.
Natabar was a migrant worker. Dahiruddin was an agricultural labourer. Ramprabesh Ray, Mundakala Ray, 66 year old Mohammad Khodarakha and the 74 year old Sheikh Israel were peasant leaders.
Mangal Hansda is a school teacher battling for his life in Bankura. Pradip Manjhi sells milk at a STD booth in Beleghata, Kolkata. He is battling serious injuries in NRS Hospital.
An agricultural labourer Ujjwal Bagdi (21), and Basanti Mitra, a Panchayat member unable to bear repeated physical and mental torture, drank pesticide. Saital Lohar, a young agricultural labour was tortured and made to drink the urine of his assailants. Sarial Mallik had already run away from home but was apparently 'captured'. When his mother, Ashia Begum, a 70 year old woman tried to intervene, she was stripped and beaten.
All the targets of this systemised violence in West Bengal without any exception are poor peasants, marginal workers in the unorganized sector and lower middle class white collar workers like school teachers. Most of the targets are from Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim families. This trend of targeted annihilation of Left activists and supporters began in 2007 and had intensified since the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. After May 13, 2011, it is fast turning into a pogrom.
An observer from West Bengal who has been documenting this annihilation project reports: ‘The patterns of violence unleashed since 2007 fall into some of these rough categories and have intensified since Friday 13th: murder of activists/supporters/family members, loss of livelihhod/survival routes (driving out people from workplaces/agricultural land and neighbourhoods/villages), mental torture of communist families refusing to leave villages/neighbourhoods (this has resulted in 4 cases of suicide in the course of the last one week), physical torture of communist families refusing to leave villages/neighbourhoods (rape, beatings, preventing the victims from lodging complaints in police stations, preventing the victims from seeking medical help so that in some cases they have succumbed to injuries),loss of livelihood (confiscating barga-land, torching of houses/huts, looting and burning small shops/auto rickshaws), 'jarimana' or levying of illegal fines on activists/supporters refusing to leave villages/neighbourhoods, planting of weapons in 'captured' party offices and then lodging of false police cases against activists, forcible take-over of union/kisan sabha offices (and preventing people belonging to the left hawkers' association, auto-rickshaw and cycle-rickshaw unions from plying their trade) etc’.
However, the corporate media and its supposedly 'independent alternatives’ teach us ad nauseam old lessons in anticommunism bottled as new:
Lesson 1: The victims of the post-poll annihilation project in West Bengal are doomed after death. They cannot figure in the ‘discourse’ of the ‘glocalisers’. Neither can they be the concern of the pure and pristine imaginings of the New Left fighting ‘independently’ against dispossession and displacement. Why? Because these men, women and children, while they ‘fit’ the categories of identity that would be ideally be the subject of digital solidarity and civil society promotional campaigns and movements, espouse the identity of being with the CPI (M) where C stands for Communist.
Lesson 2: Following from 1 above, any oppressed and/or exploited person who is anti-CPI(M) has agency which she or he exercised during the Assembly polls in West Bengal, but all who are pro-CPI(M) of course are devoid of any agency. Such agency-less individuals constituted 40 percent of West Bengal’s electorate in April-May 2011.
Lesson No 3: Do not ask why there is no musing in either the corporate or the alternative media on ‘retribution and popular justice’ against those who allegedly were addicted to pelf and were drunken in power under 34 years of Left Front rule and against whom the independent unaffiliated struggles (please do not point out the contradiction) of the Trinamool Congress in Singur and Nandigram has been supposedly pitted for the last several years.
Lesson No 4: Do not ask who the few incumbent ministers were of the Seventh Left Front government who won in these elections. The answers would be unsettling for those who have campaigned ad nauseam that the Left Front government targeted dalits, adivasis and muslims.
Amidst the celebrations of liberal hypocrisy and the cerebratory cynicism of the anti-liberal liberals, welcome to a state where every day on an average five to ten persons among India’s poor and oppressed are tortured and pay with their life, livelihood and shelter for being with the losing side in an electoral democracy just after one of the highest recorded poll turn-out in recent history and a ‘free and fair’ election certified by all concerned.
Lesson 5: Siddhartha Sankar Ray is dead. Long Live Siddhartha Sankar Ray.
Welcome to the mrityu upatyaka (valley of death) called West Bengal. With due apologies to the poet, for the second in time in history in less than four decades, the Left has to prove that ‘ei mrityu upatyaka amar desh na’ (this valley of death is not my country).