The communists of Bengal nurse a lot of apologists for their crimes. When, under pressure from statistical evidence, they are forced to admit to the fact that under Left Front rule the state has had more people died of political clashes than the combined total of all victims of communal riots since 1947, they are quick to say: ?But we are better than Gujarat.?
Now, after what happened in Singur on November 30 and December 1, Gujarat, even if one accepts the media propaganda as true, was a teddy bear picnic. Nothing comparable to the organised mass brutality carried out by men in uniform has been seen in the recent history of India. The West Bengal police, which in reality is the uniformed wing of the CPI(M) because everyone in the force up to the rank of sub-inspector is a member of the Marxists? police front, fell upon thousands of innocent villagers and carried out mayhem.
TV grabs showed how the Marxist police shouted provocatively at the women who showed black flags to the work gangs employed by the government to fence the farmlands which it intends handing over to Tata Motors to build their car factory. Men holding rubber-bullet firing guns hurled abuses at the villagers in the distance while simultaneously firing at them. This kind of blood-thirst has rarely been displayed by a police force. It goes to show how unprofessional the Bengal force has been rendered after three decades of intensive politicisation.
The marauders not only fired from guns, they combed villages in the project area looking for any signs of life. Like Stalin-era Cheka agents, they went from hut to hut beating up even old people and children. In one TV grab, a child of barely five was seen being dragged even as it bawled in terror. Many women complained of being hit on their private parts by truncheons. This is a familiar way of inflicting double humiliation, repeated in Bengal quite often. In May this year, soon after election results were declared, the women of Shyamnagar block in Howrah district were similarly punished for voting against the CPI(M). In that case too, the victims were too ashamed to give ?proof? of the atrocities committed on them by the communist police.
There may be arguments that, after all, there were no deaths?therefore ?no story?. In the TV age, there is scarcely any scope for that. The Gurgaon incident of July 2005, in which Haryana Police attracted media flak for giving communist marauders the stick, was roundly condemned even though the provocation came from the Reds who earlier brutally assaulted a Deputy Superintendent of Police. This time, the only way in which the desperately poor, marginal farmers of Hooghly could have instigated the CPI(M) was by reminding the ?aam aadmi'sparty? of their original, pro-poor slogans. Nothing enrages a communist more than a reminder of the ?revolution? he has himself forgotten. This is a fact admitted by ex-communists everywhere. They simply see ?red? when they see poor people. In Bengal, the ?Langol jar jomi tar? ( a Bengali variant of ?Jiski lathi uski bhains? or ownership lies in occupation) slogan of the 1960s is too recent in the collective memory for the communists to wish away. Therefore the zeal is not only towards gifting the Tatas a plum, 1,000 acre and make huge commissions in the process. It is all about forcing the ?short memory syndrome? on to the collective psyche.
Only one parallel from the past can be found to match this barbarism. And that lies neither in Gujarat, nor in Moradabad or the countless other places where communal riots have been witnessed. It happened in Bengal. In February 1979, hundreds of people were massacred by the communist police in Marichjhapi near the Sunderbans. Nobody knows the true death toll even today. The execution of the plan to liquidate the refugees was carried out in a fashion which closely resembles the Singur operation. Much like what we see in Singur today, back then too journalists and opposition political leaders were dis-allowed from entering the vicinity of the zone selected for the operation. In 1979 there were no TV crews and therefore the rate of media intrusiveness was much lower. Moreover, the killing fields lay on an island on the muddy river. The police was efficient enough to seal off the place with motor boats. Journalists could only hear the gunshots and cries of people from a distance.
Marichjhapi still figures in academic discourse as an example of Marxist deceit. In 1977, Bengali refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, who had been promised permanent plots and a life of respectability in countless communist election manifestos in West Bengal before 1977, genuinely believed their misery had ended in 1977. A Minister in the first Jyoti Basu government called Ram Chatterjee actually went to Dandakaranya forest in Madhya Pradesh where they had been living for a decade or so and lured them back. But after they reached Bengal, they realised the Marxist Government had no plans for them. They had no choice but head for uninhabited parts and scrounge out an existence on the islands in the Sunderbans.
Finally, the sight of the hopeless refugees living without food and water amid their own excreta on muddy islands attracted global attention. The Central government, which was then headed by Morarji Desai, offered the ?friendly? regime in Calcutta a face-saver. The Centre offered to transport the poor intruders back to Madhya Pradesh. But the Marxists were fearful of the political fallout. They owed their rise to power to the refugees, had promised them the moon, even prevented them from taking up residence in alternative locations offered by the Centre on the Andaman Islands when it was still sparsely populated. Now, in 1979, it was case of a vote-bank paying diminishing returns. So, Marxist government in emulation of the man closest to its heart, Joseph Stalin, ordered a massacre.
The Marichjhapi massacre has been ?forgotten? in Bengal because the Marxists were very successful in making the intellectuals of that state into prostitutes after petty jobs and government housing plots. The issue was kept alive till well in the 1980s by a few old socialist leaders. In 2004, the well-known Indian writer of English prose, Amitav Ghosh, mentioned it in his seminal novel on the hard lives led by the mud people of Sunderbans, Hungry Tides. He recorded how the memory of Marichjhapi massacre is still kept alive in popular folklore. How many were killed? ?Thousands? was the answer.
The huge movement built up over Singur by Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, has captured the national imagination. Even though the leading TV channels of Delhi always find an excuse to downplay its significance, it is a matter of great embarrassment to Leftist ideologues to see Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy, their two icons, join the crusade against the Tata-Marxist combine. Patkar, who was repeatedly prevented from approaching Singur, openly said at one point: ?There was more democracy even under the British.?