There is an impression among the vast majority of people that the ongoing spree of political violence in West Bengal is a recent development. Some have also pinned the blame for the violence on the rise of ‘fascist Hindutva party’ BJP. However, those who remember the days of yesteryear know that it is farcical to reach such a conclusion.
It is widely known that the Left Front ruled Bengal in tyrannical fashion and liberally made use of violence to prevent the rise of rival political parties in the state. The Trinamool Congress merely taken up that particular mantle after defeating the Communists in the Assembly Elections of 2011.
When people speak of Communist violence in West Bengal, they often speak of the lynching of Ananda Margis, the Sain Bari Massacre and the violence at Singur. However, there is another such massacre that transpired that has failed to imprint itself in public memory. Of course, it is not the public to be blamed as such demonstrations of brutality is extremely commonplace in Bengal, unfortunately enough.
We speak, of course, of the Nanoor Massacre. It occurred on the 27th of July, twenty years ago. Monday was the anniversary of the massacre and hardly anyone so much as whispered about the horrific atrocities committed by the Left Front. Nanoor lies in Birbhum district, which in those days, happened to be one of the most politically disturbed areas in the state.
The 11 victims belonged to the minority and Scheduled Caste communities and were brutally hacked to death by functionaries of Communist political outfits. They were all supporters of the Trinamool Congress. The Left Front these days tries to give people the impression that it is only they who care about minorities and SCs. When they were in power, however, too many of their functionaries did not shy away from attacking and torturing them.
Over ten years after the massacre, 44 CPI(M) supporters and local leaders were awarded life sentences for their role in the events that transpired all those years ago. Additional district and sessions judge Biswanath Konar convicted the accused on the charges of murder, rioting and unlawful assembly.
The list of convicted CPI(M) functionaries included Nitya Narayan Chatterjee, former member of the Zilla Parishad from the CPI(M) who was accused of leading the mob and Ramprasad Ghosh, a member of the Communist party’s district committee. The chargesheet was submitted by Nanoor Police in 2001 and the trials began the following year.
One of the key witnesses in the case, Abdul Khalek, was attacked by goons associated with the CPI(M) in May 2005 and he was severely injured. It has also been alleged that the families of the victims were threatened in order to dissuade them from, pursuing justice. Apart from Nitya Chatterjee, other convicted well known CPI(M) faces in the district included Golam Seikh, Golam Sarwar, Kalo Sekh,Harai Sekh, Subash Chandra Dey and Gopal Ghosh.
Despite overwhelming evidence, the CPI(M) for a long time refused to accept responsibility for the Nanoor Massacre. That was not all, they even tried to blame Trinamool Congress for it even though all the deceased were TMC supporters. Then CPI(M) Zonal Committee Member in Keshpur, Imtiaz Ali, claimed that the political violence underway in rural regions of Bengal, including the Nanoor Massacre, were clashes between landless labourers and landlords. He further claimed that the landlords were funded by Trinamool Congress.
The context was that in a major land reform, the Left Front government years ago had distributed land among the landless masses. During the reforms, landlords had to give up their own land for the same. Thus, Ali claimed that these landlords were seeking retribution and were being funded by the Trinamool Congress.According to Ali, these landlords had found an ‘ally’ in Mamata Banerjee.
“Hence, the violence in Midanpore. Since there was no dearth of licensed arms with Trinamool supporters, funded by these affluent landlords, they went on a rampage, displacing thousands of workers from villages. They began returning after two and a half years. What happened in Nanoor in July? It was a fight between farmers and landlords desperate to recapture land,” he remarked.
Then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu was in no mood to accept blame for the massacre either. He instead chose to focus on the alleged deaths of CPI(M) workers during the same period. Merely a month after the Nanoor Massacre, he claimed that at least 800 workers of the Left front had been murdered by the Trinamool Congress. Then, he went on to say that while Communists were being attacked in the state, they should not retaliate even though they had the right to self-defence.
This was, of course, a complete inversion of reality. But inversion of reality has been the prerogative of the Left Front after having committed atrocities. With the passage of time, it became evident that the Nanoor Massacre was entirely the crime of Communists in the district. However, this aspect of history is often one that is ignored by the mainstream narrative.
While ‘intellectuals’ keep blaming one party and one politician for the 2002 Gujarat Riots despite a clean chit by the Court, they maintain a resolute silence on the Sainbari Massacre, the lynching of Ananda Margis and the Nanoor Massacre. It is this conspiracy of silence that has allowed a culture of political violence to fester in West Bengal. And it is due to this conspiracy of silence that there is no end in sight.