Martyrdom of Tapan Datta

Anirban Biswas

Three years ago, Tapan Datta, a resident of the Bali area, only four railway stations distant from the Howrah station, the main entrance to the city of Kolkata, was murdered by assassins' bullets near a railway level crossing. He was a Trinamul Congress activist, but in the eyes of the conspirators who had planned to kill him, his main offence was that he had built a forum and a movement against the filling up of a large tract of marshland. The forum, founded in 2009, is named the Bali-Jagachha Jalabhoomi Banchao Committee (Save the Bali-Jagachha Marshland Committee) filed a suit against the forcible destruction of more than 600 acres of marshland, and it is still sub-judice. In the interim judgment, a stay order was given, but the aim of the promoters is now realized. After the death of Datta, they have destroyed the marshland. En passant, it may be mentioned that the news of Datta's murder first prominently came out in the Aneek, known to be a pro-Naxalite vernacular monthly journal. This was followed by a report, coupled with a photograph, on Tapan Datta's pro-people activities in a little-known Bengali journal Sanglap (Conversation).

What is worse, the murder was allegedly planned by powerful TMC hands and committed at their behest. The FIR filed by the wife of the killed, there was the name of a minister, but the police deleted the name. The police did their utmost to dilute the charges. But the family of the deceased, with the help of human rights activists, refused to give up the battle, and the work of building up public opinion concurrently with the legal battle has been going on. This infuriated the accused persons and their musclemen, who threatened the family a number of times. The worst display of this came on 22 May when the daughter of Datta was threatened with death by a TMC councilor of the nearby Uttarpara municipality. The police received the complaint, but expectedly preferred to remain silent. The incident was so despicable that a widely circulating Bengali daily, which had earlier given large publicity to Mamata Banerjee's crusade against the Left Front Government, has openly come out in an editorial against the collusion between the police and the accused. It has charged the police and the administration with trying to suppress the facts relating to the murder and denying security to the family of the deceased.

In fact, the episode of Tapan Datta's murder, following his struggle for environmental protection, is now so well-known that it must not have escaped the attention of Mamata Banerjee. Most probably Mamata Banerjee has chosen the better option, i.e. not to antagonize the vested interests lying behind the murder. Intellectual-cultural admirers of the Chief Minister, too, will not abandon their privileges and will prefer to keep silent. They will definitely find their way into the dustbin of history while the martyrdom of Tapan Datta will continue to inspire others to fight for a just cause.

Vol. 46, No. 50, Jun 22 - 28, 2014