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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

When 17 Saffron-clads were charred alive in broad daylight at Bijon Setu, the heart of Kolkata

The nation, Hindus in particular, were yet to come out of the collective trauma they were put into by the brutal lynching of Hindu Sadhus at Palghar, Maharashtra, when more Hindu seers were killed or attacked in Punjab, UP and Mewat.

While the liberal cabal and politicians like Sonia Gandhi have sealed their mouths over attacks on Hindu-revered figures, eminent journalist Arnab Goswami rightly questioned, “Can we imagine such fatal attacks on a Christian priest or Muslim Imam, and the liberal, anti-Hindu groups observing their silence of nonchalance?”

Attacks on Hindu saints or revered personalities are nothing new in Bharat. The 3 decades of communist reign in West Bengal has been a nightmare for the Hindus of the state; the Bijon Setu massacre is one such episode that is etched in the memories of Bengalis, although the outside world may not know much about it.

Sadhus have no enemies, hence, to make their murders acceptable, the state machinery needs a rumor to precede the act. Much like the rumour that transpired before the lynching in Palghar, a whisper campaign about Anandamargi Sanyasis being child traffickers was run in Bengal. On the morning of 30th April, 1982, Anandamargi sanyasis from all over the country were headed for an educational conference held at their headquarters in Tiljala, Kolkata. Vehicles were to pass through a famous bridge known as Bijon Setu, in the heart of South Kolkata.

The Anand Marg sanyasis were pulled out of taxis in the heart of Kolkata and set on fire. (Source: Archive photo)

They were traveling by taxis, which were intercepted at three separate locations. The monks were dragged out of the taxis, beaten, doused in kerosene and petrol, and set afire simultaneously. Carried out in front of thousands of horrified witnesses, the carnage of the 17 saffron-clad sanyasis that died, including one female sanyasin, and others who were injured and suffered major burns, led to not a single arrest.

Then CM Jyoti Basu of CPM party had infamously said, “What can be done? Such things do happen,” threatening that things could have been worse had CPI(M) leader Sachin Sen raided Ananda Marg’s center with his 10,000 cadres. The child-lifting rumour that resulted in this carnage eventually turned out to be baseless; there was not a single case or FIR registered with the police that hinted at the allegations made. 

The National Human Rights Commission took up the case after a decade’s delay, in 1996, but due to the interference of the state government led by Basu and the Left Front, couldn’t make any headway. The Ananda Marga Pracharaka Sangha demanded a high-level judicial probe in 1999, like the one the Union Government had set up to inquire about the murder of Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Odisha, but nothing came through. Commemorating the massacre in 2004, monks and nuns of Ananda Marga held the first rally in the state capital, while West Bengal was still being governed by the Communists, albeit, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya this time. The group blocks the Bijon Setu every year to commemorate the brutality and injustice. 

In October 2013, representatives of the Marg appealed to the Mamata Banerjee government to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, upon which The Justice Amitava Lala Inquiry began its proceedings. Major discoveries revealed that the brutally-executed mass murder was likely premeditated on February 6th, 1982 when key leaders of the CPI(M) from Kasba-Jadavpur area, including Amal Majumdar, Kanti Ganguly, Sachin Sen, and MP Somnath Chatterjee (he later went on to become Lok Sabha speaker and was much celebrated by Lutyens’ media as a wise, apolitical figure) had huddled in Picnic Garden’s Colony Bazar to discuss the Ananda Margis upcoming headquarters at Tiljala. The Hindu sect was  ideologically opposed to Communists and was considered to be a threat by CPM in their own bastion.

The Ananda Marg sect was a religious synthesis of Vedic philosophies and Tantrik rituals and was opposed to both capitalism and communism. The Left feared that beneath the religiosity, the Margis had political ambitions. This fear and hatred drove repeated attacks on the saffron clad Margis, who had always been at the receiving end of the Left’s aggression, before and after the 1982 carnage. In 1967, five Margis were murdered in Purulia. Two years later, the Marg’s Coochbehar congregation was attacked. In April 1990, five more Ananda Margis were murdered in Purulia, again allegedly by CPM cadres.

Even back then the media was totally indifferent towards massacres of Hindu sanyasis. “Seventeen Ananda Margis, two of them women, were done to death on April 30 morning by frenzied mobs at three places in South Calcutta on the suspicion that they were child-lifters,” was how The Statesman Weekly covered the cold-blooded crime a week later. The tone, bereft of any sympathy for the dead or their family members, was prominent in reports that appeared in contemporaneous editions of India Today and other media outlets too. 


Indian Express

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