(Purushuttam Roy Barman, Secretary, Tripura Human Rights Organisation writes about a visit to the site of the infamous massacre of 7 CPI(ML) comrades in Tripura in 1980.)
25th February, 2017, we are in front of the Martyr’s Column at Kalacherra Bazar, about five kilometres from Dharmanagar, North Tripura. About 200 people have gathered to pay homage to Gobinda Teli and his 6 comrades, who were killed by a combined posse of State Police & CRPF, in total 47 Persons, led by Mr. T K Sanyal, SDPO, Dharmanagar on this day of 1980, in a brazen and most brutal manifestation of state terror and violence.
This is my first visit to Kalacherra. I have come to meet with the survivors and family members of the martyrs Comrades Gobinda Teli, Ranjan Nath, Chandan Namashudra alias Kshiroda, Kshitipati Das, Akkel Mian, Chandrakanta and Kalinjoy Sinha.
When Comrade Mrinmoy (CC Member of CPI(ML) Liberation) asked me to visit there I agreed at once. In front of the Martyrs’ Column, there is a bust of Comrade Gobinda Teli. The names of 7 martyrs are inscribed on the column. A mother, aged about 40 years, her daughter, around 5 years in her lap, stands in silence before the column. Tears are rolling from her eyes, the daughter is also weeping, not loudly but silently. The child has understood the gravity and sanctity of the occasion and she is also not ready to puncture the somber mood by any shrill lamentation. I have been watching the woman and wondering who she is.
Mrinmoy tells me that she is the Joystna Begum, daughter of Akkel Mian. When I approach her, she tells me that when her father Akkel Mian was killed by police she was about a year old. She has no memory of her father. She recollects, that when she asked her mother about her father, her mother took her to the house of Boroda Sabdakar at Huruah and told her that this was the place where her father and his comrades sacrificed their lives for the the liberation of poor people. Every year she visits the Martyr’s Column on this day to pay homage to her father and his comrades. She brings her daughter also. Joytsna walks in her father’s steps, she is an activist of the AIPWA.
Huruah is a village situated on the northern side of Dharmanagar, adjacent to lower Assam. On 25 February, 1980 in the house of Boroda Sabdakar, the eight CPI(ML) comrades were in deep sleep after a day’s hard work. All of them were the leading organizers of the peasant movement for the rights of sharecroppers and landless agricultural workers. The house was surrounded by the 47-member Police-CRPF team led by T K Sanyal. They were armed with 8 Revolvers, 5 Sten Guns, 34 303 Rifles, 2 LMGs and 2 Machine guns. In the early morning of 25 February, the police–CRPF team began firing indiscriminately from all sides to kill the peasant activists. When Gobinda Teli and his 6 comrades came out of the southern viti hut to surrender, they were taken into custody by the Police team, their hands tied behind their back. They were made to lie on the ground and shot dead in the head at point blank range. It was cold-blooded murder.
Kamal Mian gives me a graphic description of how the comrades were killed. Kamal Mian was also with Gobinda Teli on that day. He also came out of the southern viti Hut. But he managed to hide behind a sack of straw, and so survived to nail the lie mouthed by the then Left Front Government headed by Nripen Chakraborty, that the seven ‘Naxalite extremists’ were killed in an exchange of fire during an armed encounter with the Police Party. What sort of ‘exchange of fire’ could it have been when the police party fired 548 Rounds, and there was the sound of only two shots from the southern viti hut?
After the Huruah Massacre there was huge public protest. The Government was compelled to appoint a one-man Enquiry Commission headed by A K Dey, retired Justice of the Calcutta High Court, under the Commission of Enquiries Act, 1957. The Enquiry Commission gave its report on 14th April, 1982. The Report unequivocally observed that police firing was unprovoked and the killings totally unjustified. The Commission dismissed the police version that the police party went there to arrest Gobinda Teli and others and in self defence police had to resort to firing killing 7 persons. It established that Gobinda Teli and the others were on the top of the hillock, the police party was below the hillock. Despite the topographical disadvantage, none of the police party suffered even a single scratch on their backs but seven people up on the hillock died. What I heard from Kamal Mian is corroborated by the report of the commission. Each was killed by point blank range with one shot each.
The Government did not accept the A K Dey Commission Report. The Government sheltered T K Sanyal and other police officers who ought to have been prosecuted for conspiracy, murder and destruction of evidence. But instead T K Sanyal was rewarded by the Government with the President’s police medal and being nominated to IPS out of turn.
I visited the home of Boroda Sabdakar, Huruah, where the massacre took place. The huts are in very dilapidated condition. Boroda Sabdakar’s family has shifted elsewhere. The jackfruit tree, under which Gobinda Teli and the other 6 comrades were killed, still stands tall. I requested the villagers and family members of the seven martyrs to turn this place into a fitting memorial to the seven heroes. It will be a way to assert that Gobinda Teli and his comrades are still alive and their sacrifice will not go in vain.
I visited Akkel Mian’s and Gobinda Teli’s homes. Mahim Teli, a 75-year-old retired teacher, the uncle of Gobinda Teli, breaks down while speaking about Gobinda. Arpita Teli is the daughter of Arabinda Teli, brother of Gobinda Teli. Arpita Teli, a student of Class XI, is proud of Gobinda Teli. Her aim is to be a lawyer, to take up the unfinished fight for the trial of T K Sanyal and his accomplices. Arpita’s determination galvanizes me. She is the future.
State Terrorism is the order of the day. From Kashmir or Assam, to Bhopal, Bastar or Malapuram, the state and its machinery is perpetrating arbitrary killings disguised as ‘encounters.’ It is unfortunate, that, in a state ruled by the Left Front headed by CPI(M), Huruah happened. The perpetrators of Huruah have been sheltered by the Government. The victims and their families have not got justice till date. Mass murderers are scot-free.
While returning from Huruah in the forenoon, I resolved to visit Huruah again to feel again the spirit of the fight for justice. I share with Samanta that, immediately after the Huruah Massacre, I also was misled by the Government propaganda. But within a few years I realized the bitter truth. I confessed to Samanta that while I was placing a wreath on the Martyrs’ Column I was expressing my sincerest regret for not being able to raise my voice against the State Terror immediately after the massacre. Her reply is curt, don’t lament about the past, now try to do something to strengthen efforts to book the uniformed murderers.