Area: Marichjhapi, Sunderban, West Bengal, Bharat (India)
Cause of Death: Gun shots, Blockade: (Starvation, Disease), Beheading, Beaten to Death & Rape
Responsible: Jyoti Basu (Chief Minister) of Left Front Communist Party, West Bengal Police
Death Count: Death Toll never confirmed, but estimated in a range of 1,700 - 10,000+ dead
Time Period: 1979
Dharmic Faiths: Hindus
Very little is known in the world about the largest State Sponsored massacre of poor Hindu refugees, fleeing genocide in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). Even though this event only happened 38 years ago and whilst India was an Independent country. On the 31st of January 1979, West Bengal Police and Communist forces under the command of West Bengals recently elected communist party of India's chief Minister Jyoti Basu began a campaign of terror against Hindu Refugees. It ended with an estimated 1,700 to 10,000 dead including Men, Women and Children. Over a 100 rapes were committed against Hindu Women, victims often getting shot, beheaded or brutally beaten to death to avoid witnesses. What's even more startling is that 15 children that were preparing for Saraswati Pooja were beheaded and the the statue of Saraswati destroyed.
No one has ever been held responsible for this crime and time is running out for the survivors and the perpetrators of this barbaric crime. Many of the very same communists that committed these atrocities were formerly Hindu or at least came from Hindu backgrounds. However simply aligning with the communist party brought out the very worst in their humanity and led them to commit demonic acts against their very own people.
Jyoti Basu - Chief Minister of West Bengal Communist Party
India has seen two major exoduses of Hindu refugees in both partition times (1947) and later during West Pakistan's Genocide in Bangladesh (1971). More affluent Hindu's had fled East Pakistan (Bangladesh) the country even before partition. But many from poorer Hindu communities were forced to stay back due to lack of funds. They were also encouraged that they would have a place in East Pakistan by a prominent Hindu leader, who advocated Hindu-Muslim unity. He soon realised that it was a disastrous idea once the epidemic on forced conversions to Islam began, quickly resigned and fled to India. Many of those poor Hindu's that got left behind were not so lucky.
As literally 100's of thousands of Hindu refugees flooded the Indian states of W Bengal, Asam and Tripura States state infrastructure simply couldn't support the additional demand. The Government decided to settle the refugees in an area called Dandakaranya, a remote, dry, rocky, inhospitable jungle area. An authority was set up to develop the region and settle the 250,000 + refugees that were now living there. Plots of land, loans and some basic infrastructure was established there, however the refugees didn't appreciate the harsher climate and living conditions. This hotbed of activity than created fertile ground for what would happen next!
Communist Take On The Refugees Plight?
At this time the communist party had become a substantial opposition party in West Bengal and eager to bolster their support they jumped on the Refugee bandwagon. They publicly called to an end of the Jungle settlement project, demanded new settlement plans and stirred up resentment in the camps and encouraged Hindu refugees to go back to West Bengal. They made promises to the poor Hindu refugees that once their party comes into power, they will be fully looked after. Jyoti Basu then advocated that the refuges be settled in the Suderbans area of West Bengal. This garnered wide support of the communist party amongst the poor Hindu refugees, to only be turned on by the very same communists at a later date. Under the direction of the Left Front Party representatives, refugees began streaming into Marichjapi. This began with just a few hundred that set up essential infrastructure like basic living quarters, flood defences and water wells. Later this would be reinforced with around 30,000 refugees and developed the once uninhabited Island further and it's people became largely self sufficient. They were able to educate, feed, farm, fish their population and even had a trading market, all this without the support of either the government or communist party.
Once the communist party was elected in W. Bengal under the name 'The Left Front' they did a complete U Turn and declared that the refugees that had voted for them were now a burden to the State and should be dispersed throughout India. So much for the communist party supporting the poor! The state government declared that all Dandakaranya residents would have to go back and first tried to force the refugees out of the protected forrest land unsuccessfully, but soon resorted to much harsher tactics. They began a campaign of rumours, providing ample atrocity literature against the Hindu refugees. Accusing them of being Facist, Supremacist Hindus, Bangladeshi infiltrators and even that they were preparing an armed rebellion against India itself.
Hindu Refugees queueing for water
On the premise that the refugees had to be forcefully removed from the protected forrest reserve, first came the abduction and arrest of young men. Leaving the elderly, women and children behind. On the 24th January 1979, the West Bengal Police and the hired goons of the Left Front communist party began a blockade of the island, ensuring that no food, water or essential supplies could reach the community. People resorted to eating grass and leaves, the young and old started dying out in droves. Several women attempted to secure supplies in small rowboats, only to be either rammed by Police/communist forces boats and left to drown or arrested and taken back to the local Police office and gang raped by the Police themselves.
Any attempts to rescue women were met with gunfire. In addition to the W Bengal Police, paid communist thugs were also killing, raping and looting the poor Hindu community. The desperate islanders tried in vain to protect themselves with whatever primitive weapons they could find or make. 13 more refugees were poisoned when taking water from one of the two local wells. Police were seen dumping bodies into water ways and it is said that the local Bengal Tigers soon after became man eaters, having developed a taste for flesh from the reported thousands of Hindu's that died there and were subsequently fed to them.
The CPIM (Congress Party Of India) concluded this massacre by congratulating it's members for a successful campaign. Even being so brazen as to claim that "there was no possibility of giving shelter to these large number of refugees under any circumstances in the State”, when it was they that initiated the massacre. One must question what was their goal, to kill and rape poor Hindu's that had already suffered at the hands of the Pakistani Invaders? Or perhaps to ensure that the state doesn't become too 'Hindu' and drive out ten's of thousands of the poor Hindu's that they themselves had promised to settle?
Communist Party Logo
During the massacre itself Jyoti prevented aid from flowing into the area and thwarted Indian Government attempts to investigate the situation. In the aftermath of the massacre, Jyoti Basu quickly implemented plans to cover up his grave crimes by preventing Journalist and Activists from entering the area. Several of the incidents themselves demonstrated that communist forces and W. Bengal police were acting under orders to cover up their crimes, often leaving no survivors or witnesses. This is clear in the cases of rape and beheading of Hindu Children.
To further add insult to injury, the same communist party than took over some of the facilities that the islanders had developed, forgetting that the protected forrest land shouldn't be inhabited by anyone, it settled it's own supporters there. 4,128 families perished in transit, dying from starvation, exhaustion, many more killed by Police bullets in Kashipur, Kumirmari.
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