August 30, 2009

Fact file about the Historical Food Movement (1959) and Witnesses account

Kolkata, August 28th - On 9th July, 1959 the Bengal Daily “Swadhinata ‘ brought out its historic editorial “ there no other way so struggle is inevitable “ Though in our state there is no apparent scarcity of food grains , still the people of our state is being forced to buy rice at 33 rupees per Mon ( I mon = 37 kg ) ( an abnormally high rate considering the value of a rupee at that when average salary was about Rs 100/ month even for Government officials ) Rationing system is absent in many places of the state. The area’s were food scarcity is high there also there is no rationing system. Farmers are not getting loans. People are dying in scores everywhere. People irrespective of the fact whether they live in villages or towns are living their lives in abject poverty. The present Congress Government is responsible for this- only by creating movements after movement can force the government to change its food policy and adopt some pro people measures.

After the waves of protest and the gory incidences spanning over 9 days where more than 100 people were killed another 100 still untraceable and over 2500 people injured in various incidents as the Government called military to subdue the protests of the Hungry millions of the state on 8 th September , ‘Swadhinata ‘wrote another editorial the movement as a historic mass enlightment for Bengal. And said that more 15000 hungry improvished people has been confiscated by the Congress Government , More than 26 MLA’s belonging to opposition parties of the assemblies were arrested by the Government. Still when the Government by adopting reprissals’ could not subdue the unrest it adopted brutal tactics of killing people in cold blood to stop the movement.

Exerpts from the Swadhinata brings forward the brutality of the congress led Police “ How cruel the attacks of the police can be, how brutal the oppressions can be? Even woman with children in their laps were not spared, the reporters and photographers of Swadhinata had brought forward the repercussions vividly.

The Brutal repercussion of the spontaneous movement of Hungry millions through Witness accounts

Not only the participants,, even common passersby were targeted by the police led by the then Congress led State government. Various tragic tales were brought forward by the fearless journalism of Swadhinata reporters.

Prahalad Chandra Majumdar of Boubazzar, a owner of a jewellery shop showed how Sudhakar Mondal, an employee of his shop was shot with his 4 year old son Megnadh in his lap. Both the father son duo was removed to hospital by the local residents who had defied the police threats to do so. The incident happened on 1st September when the police fearing the mass uprising on the previous day at the streets of Kolkata. Tragically, when the reporters of a daily arrived at the spot where the father son duo was shot -the youngest son of Sudhakar Mondal showed the blood marks and told “ See theses are the Blood stains of my father and brother.

Dipak Dutta ,then the 7 year old son of a prominent chemist Dr Biren Dutta , D.Phil , had gone out with his family to a Cinema Hall in Central Kolkata . While his entire family was returning to his home on foot , he being the youngest of the lot and his grandfather Chunilal Dutta a Retd. Instructor of Chemistry of Bidyasagar College in Kolkata was returning in a hand held Richshaw . Suddenly a police van came and started a shooting spree killing the his grandfather and injuring young Dipak in his foot.

That day on 5th September 1959, more the maternal uncle of famous actor Shishir Kumar Bhaduri also lost his life. His name was Fanindrakishore Acharya , a scholar in his own right . Tara Bhaduri brother of Shisir Bhaduri and nicknamed as Natyacharya told that Mischief has been done and shunned all trophies that he had received from the Government.

Tales of a Gouri Bhhattacharya , a nurse, who received Bullet wounds and Pushpa a farmer who had come with his son in his lap, lost his son and the Police forced upon her their bayonets and the batons . Gouri – the nurse received bullet wounds.

Shantimoy Bhattacharya , now secretary of CPI(M) South 24 pargans’ district committee and then a youth gave vivid description of how the police lathicharged helpless young people lying on the ground and battered their heads with batons . He himself also received head wounds . many peasants and his co rallyists was tormented to death by the police that day .

Infact, a room of the Shambhunath Pandit hospital in surgical ward came to be known as ‘Bullet Room’ as the Swadhinata news reporter gave an elaborate description of the inmates of the hospital who received Bullet injury that year. They were Ranjit Kumar acharya (14) a school student, Nirmalendu Brahmachary(36) a monk of Ramkrishna Mission ,Shailendranath Ghosh 22( a young worker ) . Police sentries were posted before the bed of Dilip Chatterjee 3rd year student of Charuchandra College and Bijoyprasad Choudhury Commerce student who too was injured with Bullet wounds. Many others were also lined up.

The Movement

On July 1959the price of the rice touched Rs 87.5 per quintal, Bengal rose in revolt. In 15th August the in the press note of the Government again the Congress Government tried to shield the Hoarders and the Black marketers again On 20Th July the second pat of the movement started – the first part being started from 14th July . . in this phase the movement committee called for Civil disobedience in every District headquarters including Kolkata . Rallies were conducted towards every state government departments and on 3rd September general strike was to be observed. On 31st August over 3 lakhs of people gathered in the Maidan of Kolkata. When they were marching towards the Government Departments police wielded their batons and not sparing the peasant women’s also. According to reports of Swadhinata daily that day, 80 lives were crushed under the police baton that day. First although the Government refuted to accept the number of Dead but later the Government also accepted the facts – which pointed out that 80people were killed and 3000 people were injured while 100 people were untraceable. Total arrests were 21000 that day.

"Drenched in the blood of the Hero’s, Bengal has risen again”

Next day the whole students’ community called students’ strike in the entire state. After observing the strike the Student conducted rally towards the home of the then Chief Minister. A group of Student volunteers cordoned of the CM’s house showing discipline and so that no untoward incident happens. They shouted slogans saying ‘Drenched in the blood of the Hero’s, Bengal has risen again.”

After the front of the procession crossed the CM’s House police again lathicharged the students and this time showered them with bullets also . That day 7 students lost their life while 1000 students were injured in the clash and Triguna Sen the vice Chancellor of Jadavpore University hoisted Black Flag in protest against the Killing of the Students. On 3rd September General strike was observed and on that day even in separate incidents Police opened fire in 17 places of Kolkata , 8 places in 24 Pargana’s and in places in Howrah district .

The wanton violence showered by the administration had stunned the entire state and the intellegesia.

Outrage in the state Assembly

A no confidence Motion against the brutal Congress regime and its misadventure aimed in suppressing the hunger of the scantily dressed Mass of Bengal under the weight of the Police baton and showering them with Bullets , was brought by Jyoti Basu , leader of the opposition, Hemanta Basu (Forward Bloc) Ram Chatterjee (Marxist Forward Bloc ) Jatin Chakraborty (RSP ) and others.

Notice of an adjournment motion was also given stating “ Wanton, inhuman and unprovoked orgy of Violence Let loose by the police through Indiscriminate lathi Charges, tear gassing and firing and perpetration of unparalleled barbarities against Men, women and Children in almost all the districts of west Bengal , particularly in Calcutta, Howrah and certain area’s of 24 Parganas ‘ during August and September of this year ,resulting in the death of 80 people , maiming of scores, wounding thousands, innumerable arrests and lack of information with regard to a large number of persons missing since August 31st , 1959. “Describing the assembly session the reporter of the New Age daily reported “ The mounting hatred and indignation of the people against the diabolical savageries committed by Dr BC Roy’s Government Exploded on the floor of the West Bengal assembly when it met at 3 PM on September 21’'.

He goes on describing the session “ it was the stormiest session ever witnessed in the house as 25000 people were demonstrating outside , having been held up the Police about 500 yards From the assembly , The opposition Members except the PSP made it perfectly clear that the Government would have to answer for the mass killing and wounding of peaceful Citizens.

When I reached the assembly at about 2.30PM it was unmistakably evident that the atmosphere was one of the calm before the Storm. A scene of seen expectancy was in the Air and the Public galleries which have permanent seating accommodation for 181 were already occupied by over 400 people. The press gallery too was packed beyond capacity.’

AK Gopalan, Bhupesh Gupta Mohammamad Illiash, Aurobinda Ghosal, Tridib Choudhury and BT Ranadive watched the proceedings from the Governor’s gallery.

All the members of the opposition except the PSP entered the assembly Chamber wearing Black Badges bearing the inscription “In memory of the Martyrs "

‘As soon as the deputy speaker took his seat Jyoti Basu, leader of the opposition got up and proposed that All section in the house should pay homage to the martyrs by standing up and observing one minutes silence . The members of the party’s constituting the PIFRC ( Thre Joint platform of the food movement comprising the communists and the Leftist parties ) stood up. Both the Congress and the PSP and the Congress and the PSP refused to show respect to the dead. The people will remember this insult to their members.” wrote the reporter of the New Age in his daily .

In a moving and powerful speech Jyoti Basu started that Inspite of all the pre planned government Brutality, the people of West Bengal have bowed their heads but taken up the challenge exposing the government game and the terrible toll of lives and sufferings . He hit out the police Minister Kalipada Mukherjee is a big Goonda and DR Roy is a cowardly Goonda. Insisting on a public enquiry he recalled the editorials of the late Satyendranath Majumdar (one of the Bengal greatest journalists during the earlier tram fare increase resistance Movement (1956), when also the Government had tried terror this great Editor had called PC Se and Kalipada Mukherjee has having’ put their mothers to shame’ and as the ‘unnatural offspring of imperialism’.

Jyoti Basu said that these words exactly described the present ministry .

Under the auspicious of the PIFRC 25000 people assembled at the Calcutta Maidan on the same day . Headed by the leaders, amass deputation then went towards the assembly buildings but a big police cordon held it up. The deputation then squatted on the Road.

They anxiously waited for the opposition members to narrate to them , wat had happened in the house on the food issue and when the members arrived they were greeted with tremendous cheers. Among those who addressed the deputation were AK Gopalan , Bhupesh Gupta , Jyoti Basu, Ranen Sen Mohammad Illiyash Hemanta Basu ( Forward Block , Jatin Chakraborty ( RSP ) Chitta Basu ( Forward Bloc ) and Tridib Choudhury ( RSP ), Jyoti Basu had remarked that in 1943 hearing of the devastating famine of the Bengal in 1943 Jawaharlal Nehru had reported that so many people died without protesting , this time Jawaharlal ( the then Prime Minister ) cannot make this complain . People of Bengal have wiped out that allegation, this time they have fought till they are dead.

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