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.

Food Movement of Bengal (1959)

Role of the Congress in forcefully suppressing the movement and the current policies of the Union government leading again to a food crisis

On the 50th anniversary of the Historical food Movement the country once again as the state of West Bengal nee’ the whole country is looking at the glimpses of the brave fighters and the martyrs of the Historical Food Movement of West Bengal in 1959 where thousands of farmers and workers of mills and common man came to open roads demanded the right to food and demanded for food to Government of the Independent India and the then Congress led State government of West Bengal . Tragically enough the government of the free India and the Then Congress led State Government had wielded their mighty Batons on the unarmed Man and Woman - mostly scantily dressed – Killing about 80 people under the weight of their batons on the 31st July of 1959. Lakhs of people w ho had come to Kolkata demanding Food had received batons instead . On the next few days too, the tyranny of the Congress led Government was at its best – Bullets were showered on unarmed protests taking the tally to even a higher shale.-waves of students protests , workers’ protest hit the streets of Kolkata and the districts . The tally of the dead was more than 100 on the first few days . About another 80people was untraceable and remains so after 50years of the movement .

In his speech in the assembly after the mass killings of Food movement activists on the streets of Kolkata on 21st September in the first session of the assembly after the incident , Communist Leader Jyoti Basu had told in the assembly in his Historical speech “ You have imprisoned more than 17000 people in the prison- when U had accused of violence fact proves that on the incident not a Single policeman received wounds while your baton has claimed many lives. He had told “ We had given the call to the people to conduct movement in a peaceful manner- to stall work adhering to the principles of peace – to fill up your jails in order to share the sorrows of all suffering man and woman – he had rightfully pointed out that on that day the lorries of Food department were used to ferry police to launch attack on the Hungry civilians - Equating the massacre and the attitude of the Congress led Police with that of the Jalianwalabag Massacre he had told of incidences of a body of woman in a crematorium being cremated by the police on questioning the police had retorted that they have retrieved the body from aroad. He had given vivid description of the police’s killing lathicharged on the helpless scantily dressed woman and had asked the essential question to the state government ‘ If u yourself had witnessed the ferocious attack of the police on the scantily dressed woman and the students wont you have resisted- If u are not a coward if Blood flows through your’ veins u too would resist the ferociousness of the police and on that we would have congratulated you '.

The role of the Congress Led Government in augmenting the Food crisis in favour of the millioneers and hoarders had been further highlighted when on 28th august ,1959 the then chief Minister of west Bengal congress leader Bidhan Chandra Roy had remarked that ‘ The Real hoarders were not the traders or the millers but the producers - big and small. It was aclear attempt to defend the ruling class of India and absolving them of the responsibility of the severe food shortage and the famine like improvised conditions then prevailing in Bengal. The Government till the had not forbade hoarding of Rice in Bengal and had allowed individuals to Hoard up to 120 quintals of Rice .

Infact the class characteristics of the Congress led Union government was exposed when the then Deputy minister of Foods of the Union Government Mr. Thomas drew the attention of the state administration to take remedial measures about the act of one Sub divisional officer of Contai who embarking on an anti hording campaign had sealed the godowns of Influential persons of the area and the many Congress MLA’s had complained about the same to the administration against the move of the SDO. Later it was found out that the amongst those whose Godowns were sealed there were prominent Congress Leaders of the district Including Charu Mohanty , a deputy Minister of the state cabinet, The District president of the Medinipore district Congress, Rashbehari Pal and Satishchandra Jana a close aide of the then Chief Minister of West Bengal BC Roy . So while the Congress Government tried to absolve the big fishes of hoarding they tried falsely to implicate the farmers whose bare fields at that time had made them line up in the processions of Hungry persons and had tried to change the focus of world towards false facts.

The then General Secretary of AIKS, Harekrishna Konar , had on 6 th September 2009, had in an article written in the Swadhinata Daily , and had warned the Government that by using Brutal repressals as a force to contain the spontaneous movement of Hungry people wont’ be subdued rather it would known as an anti democratic tirade of the Government. By drawing batons’ , bursting tera gas shells and showering them with bullets and imprisoning them -the common people of the state cannot be subdued . This measures for the time being can shield the profiteers and the hoarders , the ultimate boss of the government, but on the long run due the people’s protest they with their bosses will be reduced to ashes. This word of Com Harekrishna Konar has later hold to be true as after 1977 , by the land reforms the Left front government had replaced the autocratic Junta of the Congress rule. Harekrishna Konar at that time had said the’ The dictates of the History is always True and not only in the interests of the farmers and nation’s people - but also for your own good ( he advised the government ) relieve yourself from taking the anti people measures . At the same time he called upon the people to rise in protest and chain the power hungry rulers and their violent abnormalities’.

Mentionable that at that time the first Communist led and democratically elected Government of Kerala led by EMS Namboodripaad had been sacked at the order of a pen and Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime Minister of India and the then Chief Minister Of West Bengal BC Roy had referred the food movement as a ploy of the Communists and had told commented about the copmunists in Kerala and west Bengal. On this, Harekrishna Konar, the fire brand secretary of AIKS had retorted back ‘The Chief Minister is trying to undermine the anti hording people’s movement is ablunt manner . He even has dared to give examples from Kerala. Dr Roy should know that though in Kerala there is more than 50% Food shortage still the congress Union Government has not extended any help towards that Communist led Government still the communist Government in Kerala has effective controlled the rates of Rice within 25 -26 Rs per quintal . Where as in the case of West Bengal though there was a 25% shortage and the Union Government supplied rice in excess of that shortage to the Bengal government still due to callousness of the Government the Price of Rice is hovering more than 30 Rupees and out of the range of the common people . Shame on the Government ‘.

Lessons from the movement and the condition now

Currently, price rise of essential items has affected not only West Bengal. But the entire country. Price of all the essential items has sky rocketed compared with the situation in 2008 and 2009 the price of rice, pulses and vegetables has increased by over 50%. All these can be attributed to Hoarding and forward trading by which the agricultural traders of the country and that of foreign countries has increased and according to the Forward market commission the regulatory body of the country the total value of the forward trading in the country was pegged at Rs 2.2288.06 crores at the month of June 2007 only . In next year June that is in 2008 june the amount has increased to 15,64,114.96 ie. a 7 times increase in the amount. On the on the Human Development Index the Country is at 66 th position out of the 88 developing countries of the world. Even Suda ranks before us. Still the farmers of the Country are committing suicides and the farmers of the countries and the country in the current year are under the spell of a severe drought.

Though more 11 farmers have committed suicides in Andhra Pradesh in the last 40 days still the central government has not included Andhra within the Draught prone states’ name . The fact points out to the social condition of the shining India where farmers are committing suicides due excessive loans on their head. AIKS Leader and CPI(M) Central committee member Madan Ghost has raised this question currently also. Even the Chamber of Commerces’ are telling that the country is suffering from tremendous malnutrition as per head consumption of Pulses has come down to 11 kgs from 27 kgs’ in the Country . While in the godown of the Central government more 3 crores 23 lakh tones of rice and 2 crore 53 lakh tones of wheats are stagnated which is sufficient to feed the hungry mouths of the country for 13 months at astretch. This is happening due to lack of purchasing power of the people as about 77% of the country’s population earns less than Rs 20 per day or less according to reports of the Central government Itself. Well known economist Prabhat Patnayak too has expressed apprehension that after the world wide recession , as part of the global economic system will face severe food shortage Price Hike ad Inflation in the coming days .