Nanoor massacre

Nanoor massacre

Nanoor massacre refers to the massacre of 11 landless labourers allegedly by Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) activists in Suchpur, near Nanoor and under Nanoor police station, in Birbhum district in the Indian state of West Bengal, on 27 July 2000.

Background

Nanoor is located in the south-eastern corner of the district which is an alluvial plain between Ajay River and Mayurakshi River. It has hot and dry summers, spread over March – May, followed by the monsoon from June to September. 78 per cent of the rainfall occurs during this period.

Historical records talk of at least 13 droughts of severe intensity between the years 1799 and 1855. The drought of 1836-37 was particularly severe.Floods also wreak havoc. More than 15,000 people were affected and 7,000 mud houses were broken or damaged in Nanoor and three other blocks in 2004.

Nanoor Block, comprising of 24 villages, is an economically backward area of artisan families living largely below the poverty line, bulk of them being Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Lack of opportunities and ignorance had kept the talented population away from a decent source of sustainable livelihood. Many of them were migrating to the cities for unskilled work forsaking their generations-old invaluable craft skills.

Nanoor is described as the most politically disturbed area in Birbhum district.With acute poverty it has been a disturbed area for ages.

The massacre

Just after the massacre CPI(M) leaders said those killed were dacoits. A few days later they admitted that the dead were landless farmers, but that they were killed over a land dispute.Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the Lok Sabha, in whose parliamentary constituency Nanoor falls, described those killed as hired goons, Dacoits and dreaded anti-socials. Two of the CPI(M)'s senior leaders, Anil Biswas and Biman Bose, both politburo members, condemned the Nanoor killings as well as the loss of lives in incidents of violence in the preceding weeks.

"The Hindu" wrote, “On a long term, the killings, symbolizing the birth of a new theater of violence after Keshpur in district Midnapore - where deaths and maiming in political clashes have become a bizarre routine - constitute an extremely disturbing augury for the society in Bengal.The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Jyoti Basu, said the Leftists should be tolerant towards their political rivals instead of being vindictive. He said at least 800 Left party workers had been killed in clashes with the supporters of the Trinamool-BJP combine. According to him, though the Leftists had the right to self-defense, they would restrain themselves even in the face of atrocities from the Trinamool-BJP supporters. ``But, when attacked, should we not retaliate?''

According to CPI(M), what happened in Nanoor was a fight between farmers and landlords desperate to recapture land.

Aftermath

Abdul Khalek, the prime witness to the Nanoor killings, and his guard, Jahangir Alam, were injured in an attack allegedly by CPI(M) activists, on May 12 2005. Four people were arrested for the attack, the next day. Police said that the political loyalty of the arrested persons was yet to be established though local opinion spoke of their “strong links” with the CPI(M).

The Statesman in an editorial wrote, “The sole purpose in attacking the prime witness in the gruesome Nanoor massacre of July 2000 in which 11 Trinamul Congress supporters were slaughtered by armed CPI(M) cadres was to shield those responsible and abort their trial, by hook or by crook. The irony is that although five years have elapsed since the occurrence of the horrendous killings by the Marxists, the trial of their 79 accused comrades has not yet begun. Repeated postponement of hearing (at least seven in the last two years) because of failure of the accused to turn up in court has made the outcome uncertain.”

There were reports about CPI(M) cadre allegedly creating panic in the area just before the commencement of the Nanoor massacre trial as the witnesses of the Nanoor massacre case were being threatened repeatedly. A Trinamul Congress delegation visiting the villages to “observe the tactics adopted by the CPI(M) to terrorise the villagers just before the trial of the Nanoor massacre case” is reported to have remarked, “We saw that though a few police camps have been set up in the villages, the CPI(M) is still dominating the villages.”

Two main accused in the Nanoor massacre of 11 landless farmers on 27 July 2000, Nitya Chatterjee and Manirujjaman, filed nominations as CPI(M) candidates for the panchayat polls in 2003.

The enquiry into the Nanoor massacre has reached a dead end, In 2004, Kolkata High Court severely reprimanded the West Bengal Government for delay in holding the Nanoor massacre trial.

Political equations

Nanoor was considered one of the strongest bastions of CPI(M) in Birbhum district, but after the Nanoor massacres, the situation started to change and soon after, the Trinamul Congress developed a strong foothold in the area.

In 2003, the CPI(M) charged Trinamul Congress with terrorising voters in the area, and demanded re-poll in 17 out of 19 booths of Thupsara panchayat in Nanoor block.

References

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