The Communists in India have been making a claim that they are the only ideology which is pro poor and is devoted to the cause of the upliftment of the backward strata of society. With that claim they had ruled in the eastern states of West Bengal and Tripura for a considerable period – they were in power in West Bengal for a period of 34 years (1977-2011) and are still shadow ruling through their ideology ingrained in the minds of left-inclined Bengalis, though their number is gradually dwindling. They are still in power in India’s southernmost state, Kerala. But this cover of them, being the messiah of the poor and the downtrodden had been blown off often, while they were ruling either of the three states mentioned above.
The communist regimes all over the world had left numerous precedents of brutality and mass killings of their detractors and political opponents. China’s Mao Zedong has the dubious reputation of being the most brutal ruler till date, killing the maximum number of people during his reign, that of 60 million. He is followed by Joseph Stalin, who killed 40 million people. The Nazi dictator, Hitler comes only third after these two brutal communist rulers, having killed 30 million people. Hence, it is not surprising that the communists in India would be any different from their foreign mentors/idols.
The biggest and the most horrific manifestation of communist brutality took place between 24th January to 31st January 1979 in the Marichjhapi Islands in the Sundarbans, West Bengal, less than two years after the Left Front assumed power in West Bengal. It was a saga of deceit and deception of the wily communists leading to the biggest human genocide in the history of Bengal, post- independence, which many authors have compared with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
India witnessed mass scale exodus of Hindus refugees on two occasions of partition – that in 1947, which was done on the basis of religion and once again in 1971, when Bangladesh was carved out of East Pakistan, in the garb of linguistic freedom but was nothing less than ethnic cleansing of Bengali hindus living there. On both occasions, the affluent upper caste hindus or even those with adequate funds escaped from Pakistan and settled down in India. However, the relatively poorer segment, mostly comprising of the Dalits, stayed back in Pakistan due to lack of funds to facilitate their migration into Indian territory and also because they were misguided by a prominent Hindu leader, Jogen Mondal, who convinced them that the Dalits and the Muslims were on the same platform as far as persecution is concerned. Jogen Mondal, one of the founding fathers of Pakistan became Pakistan’s first Labour and Law Minister. However, in the face of mass scale forced conversions of the Hindus to Islam and their ensuing persecution, he soon resigned from the Liaquat Ali cabinet and fled to India in 1950 after an arrest warrant was issued in his name, though most of his fellow Dalits were not as fortunate as he was.
Soon after, many Hindu refugees migrated to India. With thousands of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan flooding the Eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam, it became increasingly difficult for the states’ existing infrastructure to support them. This was echoed in Parliament too, by the Congress MP, Ram Niwas Mirdha. The Congress ruled Central govt started the Dandakaranya Project to settle the 2.5 lac odd refugees in the remote, arid, and inhospitable jungle terrain of Dandakaranya (the place finds mention in the Ramayana too, as a territory under Ravan’s reign), encompassing Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The refugees settling there were provided with plots of land, loans, and basic infrastructure. Yet the harsh climate prevailing there and the adverse living conditions made it extremely tough for the Hindu refugees to survive there.
The Communist deception
The Left Front had started gaining political prominence in Bengal from the mid to late 60s. They were part of the United Front government which ruled Bengal between 1967 to 1969, with Bangla Congress’s Ajoy Mukherjee as the Chief Minister and Jyoti Basu as the Dy. Chief Minister. The Left decided to use the Hindu refugees as a bait as they sniffed power in Bengal during the turbulent 70s. As the Congress Govt of West Bengal had deported the refugees back to Dandakaranya when they had trickled back to Bengal from there, a Forward Bloc leader, Ram Chatterjee, visited them and promised to provide them with accommodation and livelihood in Bengal. The Left demanded an end to the Jungle Settlement Project of Dandakaranya.
With that promise, a stream of refugees started coming back to Bengal, even before the Left assumed power there and the Marichjhapi islands in the Sundarbans were chosen to accommodate them. The Left promised that these refugees will be fully looked after once they assume power, which helped them garner support from these refugees assisting them in their ascent to power in West Bengal.
It was Mr. Jyoti Basu, who had advocated the settlement of these refugees in Marichjhapi. Soon hundreds of Hindu refugees streamed in there and developed the basic amenities like houses, flood defences and water wells. Soon their number increased to 20,000-30,000 and they became largely self-sufficient, being primarily engaged in fishing as a profession, also involved with farming – they were able to gain access to education for their children and even had a trading market, all with the help and support of either the government or the communist party. They even renamed it as ‘Netaji Nagar’.
Once the Communists were voted to power in Bengal, they did a complete volte face, declaring these Hindu refugees of Marichjhapi, who had voted them to power as a burden on the state and branded them as a national problem, who should be dispersed across India, not in Bengal alone. They did this on the pretext of preserving the biodiversity of the Sundarban region and for the sake of protecting Bengal’s famous Royal Bengal Tigers, whose refuge they claimed to have come under threat on account of human settlement there. The opportunistic and vicious nature of the Communists came to the fore then, who changed colours faster than a chameleon, which was witnessed and borne by the hapless Hindu refugees in Marichjhapi, who were solely at the mercy of the deceptive and cruel Communists.
The State Sponsored Terror by the Communists
Their excuse was freeing the area from human settlement. With that end in mind, the Communist regime in Bengal, using the police and their brutal cadres as their tools started a mass killing ‘program’, commencing from 24th January 1979 which lasted till 31st January, 1979. They first started with the abduction of young men leaving the women, children, and the elderly behind. The supply of food, water and other essential commodities to the islands were blocked so that the people living there, cut off from the rest of the state, started eating leaves and grass and soon started dying in droves. A group of women ventured out on row boats to secure supplies, but their boats were rammed into by police launches so that they drowned and those amongst them who survived were either arrested and taken to the police station to be gang raped by the police themselves. Any attempts to save these women were met with gunfire.
The police, in cahoots with the Communist thugs looted and killed people and raped women masse. The helpless islanders tried to put up armed resistance with whatever meagre means and primitive weapons they possessed but all in vain. The instances of communist horror range from killing around 13 people who consumed water from wells poisoned by them, to beheading 15 children, who were preparing for Saraswathi Puja and desecrating the murti of Maa Saraswathi- perhaps the most horrific and macabre instance of the Communist brutality and their rabid hinduphobia. The tigers of Sundarbans were claimed to have become man eaters after they were fed with the dead bodies of the thousands of dead Hindus.
Thus, this worst case of state-sponsored terror unleashed by the Communist regime of Bengal under the leadership of Jyoti Basu, led to the massacre of roughly 4,200 families, as per researcher, Ross Mallik, which amounts to around 16,000 people, considering that there are 4 people per family. An estimated 40,000 people were forced to migrate.
While the mass killings were going on, the Jyoti Basu led government prevented aid and essentials from reaching the inhabitants of Marichjhapi and thwarted attempts by the Indian government to investigate the massacre. Jyoti Basu quickly implemented plans to cover up the crimes of his government and prevented journalists and activists from entering the area. The beheading of Hindu children is a clear instance of this cover-up. In the absence of private media channels and social media 42 years ago, akin to what exists today, Jyoti Basu was successful in hushing up the incident in such a manner that no one ever referred to it for many years after this brutal genocide and the Communist regime stay put in Bengal for 34 long years. Despite the fact that a few write-ups on the incident do exist, the same is being talked about and discussed in various circles of Bengal only after the nationalist uprising there.
The Hidden Cause
One wonders what caused the Communists to make a U-turn regarding their stand on the Hindu refugees from East Pakistan. There are no second thoughts that this is a vivid example of deceit, hypocrisy, and opportunism, exhibited by the communists which is so typical of them. They used these hapless Hindu refugees with false promises of a life and livelihood to climb up to the throne of power in Bengal and then mercilessly killed them after their purpose was served.
Even when a section of the pseudo secularist elites, who have no choice but to admit to the communist brutality at Marichjhapi, attribute the bloodbath to the Communist apathy towards Dalits per se and not on Hindus in general because they feel that the presence of upper caste Hindus amongst the communist rank and fold might have led them to believe that these Dalits would not remain loyal to them and the communist’s loath detractors. However, it is apparent that the Communists’ hinduphobia and their apprehension that the presence of these Hindu refugees in the Sundarbans would increase the Hindu population there and that of Bengal in general might have caused them to organize such a Hindu genocide. To add insult to injury, the Communist regime lauded their cadres for successfully completing their ethnic cleansing programme and even settled some of them in the facilities earlier inhabited by the refugees, quite forgetting about their ‘concern’ for biodiversity and preserving the wildlife, particularly tigers.
The Communists’ apathy towards the Hindu refugees was manifested recently too, by their strong objection towards the CAA granting Indian citizenship to these refugees, so much so that various organizations affiliated to them, from cine artists to students, carried on with mayhem in the name of protesting the CAA and tried their best to create an anti CAA narrative through their ideological weapon – Cultural Marxism. Unfortunately, the current ruling dispensation of Bengal, despite promising ‘change’ during their ascent to power, has also not shown any inclination towards aiding the hindu refugees from Bangladesh, being strongly against the CAA themselves.
The Marichjhapi Hindu genocide by the Communist regime of Bengal is not only a blot in the history of the state but a stark reminder of the Communist brutality, hypocrisy, and inhuman nature as well as their abject resentment for the hindu community.
(1) Blood Island – Deep Halder
(2) The Marichjhapi massacre is becoming a symbol of all that is wrong with Left politics- Dilip Mandal: 15 May 2019 – The Print
(3) How West Bengal’s Left government committed genocide on Dalits – Abheek Burman: 30 July 2016 – The Economic Times
(4) Marichjhapi Massacre – 1979: Indian Dharmic Genocide Museum