Palghar lynching reminds us of Bijan Setu Massacre when 17 sadhus were burnt alive on a Kolkata Bridge by CPI(M) cadre

    25-Apr-2020   
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Then CPI(M)’s Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had infamously said, “What can be done? Such things do happen” and also issued a veiled threat.
 
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On April 30, 1982, seventeen Ananda Marga monks were dragged out of taxis on Kolkata’s Bijan Setu and beaten and then set on fire by cadres of CPI(M). Role of CPI(M) is suspected in the Palghar lynching too.  
 
The lynching of two Sadhus at Maharashtra’s Palghar has sent shivers down our spines and the video of the brutal killing is still giving us a sleepless night. But this is not the first time Sadhus has been targeted and mercilessly murdered.
 
Thirty years ago, on the morning of April 30, 1982, seventeen Ananda Marga monks were dragged out of taxis in Kolkata’s southern suburbs by cadres of CPI(M), the then ruling party of West Bengal. They were beaten and then set on fire. The fear of Jyoti Basu-led Left Government was so much in the minds of people that they chose to remain silent and nobody raised their voice against the mass killings that happened in broad daylight.
 
These are stories neither you find in history books nor the so-called secular, liberal people will talk about. 29 years later of this horrific incident, a documentary “Bijon Setu 1982: Signature of Violence” was made by Tushar Bhattacharya.
 
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According to different reports, sadhus and sanyasis of Ananda Marga from all over the country were headed to an educational conference at the Tiljala centre, Kolkata. The way was through what is now known as Bijon Setu in the Ballygunge area of south Kolkata. Taxis carrying sadhus and sanyasis were intercepted at atleast three separate locations, doused in petrol and kerosene, and set on fire. At least seventeen Margis have died, and several others were severely injured.
 
This was the second time Sadhus of Margis was attacked. In 1967 also five sanyasis were murdered in broad daylight in Purulia district in West Bengal.
 
The CPM Government led by Jyoti Basu set up a commission of inquiry that did not proceed beyond its notification and did not have a single hearing. There are no reports of action taken apart from setting up a commission. Then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu infamously said, “What can be done? Such things do happen”, and appeared to issue a veiled threat, wanting to know what consequences might have followed had Sachin Sen, the then CPM MLA of Kasba, chosen to raid the Margis’ centre with 10,000 of his cadres. A state CID inquiry produced no results. No justice was ever done. 
 
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Sanyasins take part in a rally demanding judicial inquiry into the ghastly murder of 17 Sanaysis and Sanyasins of Ananda Marga, in Kolkata at Bijan Setu on April 30, 1982. Photo: PTI
 
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took up the investigation of the case in 1996 but did not make much headway. It was alleged that the then State Government was interfering a lot into the matter. On April 30, 1999 the Ananda Marga Pracharaka Samgha demanded a high-level judicial probe into the mass killing of Ananda Margis.
 
Later on April 30, 2004, Ananda Marga was able to hold the first rally in Calcutta commemorating the massacre without the necessity of first acquiring a court order forcing the police to allow the rally to occur. When Mamata Banerjee became the Chief Minister after dethroning the Basu-Led Left government, on request of Ananda Margis, the Mamata Banerjee Government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry in 2013. The Justice Amitava Lala Inquiry began proceedings in October 2013.
 
According to Ananda Marga website, it is a world-wide organisation with spiritual and social activity centers in different countries of the world. It runs schools, medical units, children’s homes, rural development projects and meditation and yoga centers, and is a leading global agency for social development and progress with particular emphasis in the world.