The Muluk Case


On 19 November 1987 four persons were killed in a village named Muluk, adjacent to the town of Bolpur, Birbhum. They were members of a peasant organization led by a group of Naxalites. Two of them were poor peasants and two others, father and son, were petty traders, used to rear cows and sell milk in the nearby Bolpur market. The incident was reported in the press, and in journals like Frontier and Economic and Political Weekly. It is interesting that two local Naxalite leaders, whose followers they were, had decided to support Mr Somnath Chatterjee two years earlier against Siddhartha Ray during the parliamentary bypoll in the Bolpur Lok Sabha constituency, while retaining their independent identity. The killers belonged to the CPI(M). After the killing was committed, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, who had been elected by defeating Siddhartha Ray handsomely, preferred to keep silent, ostensibly because the killers were his partymen and the killed, although they had voted for him, did not give up their separate political identity. It is interesting as well as amusing that persons like Somnath Chatterjee are now saying that they find it a compulsion to take to streets at this old age in order to save democracy. Those who are forming forums for saving democracy would do well to keep the democratic credentials of such persons in mind.

A murder case was filed regarding the Muluk incident. The immediate leaders of the victims, although they had supported Mr Somnath Chatterjee in the Lok Sabha polls, did not desert their followers. There were also three other Naxalite outfits operating in the region, namely the PCC, CPI(ML), the COI(ML) and the CPI(ML) Liberation. All Naxalites, along with well-meaning non-Naxalites, unitedly protested against the killing, and a successful bandh was observed in the Bolpur-Santinketan area. The eyewitnesses to the incident were initially afraid of testifying to what they had seen, but gradually they summoned enough courage to depose at the court. After a prolonged process of trial, the judgment was passed on 31 March 2009. The sessions judge sentenced 46 persons to life imprisonment. It is possibly unprecedented in the annals of legal battles in independent India that so many persons received life imprisonment at a time. After spending about 15 months in prison, the convicted persons were granted bail from the Calcutta High Court. The judgment of the latter is to come out soon.

Since the declaration of punishment at the Sessions Court, a few of the convicted have breathed their last. Most of others are now with the Trinamul Congress. They had earlier worked for the CPI(M) and whatever they did was done with the interests of their party in mind. But as years rolled by, the strength of their party declined, the eyewitnesses were rid of the fear of reprisal and they could not escape punishment. So they have now deserted their original platform and taken the shelter of the Trinamul Congress, possibly in the hope that the present ruling party will be able to influence the judgment of the High Court. The hearings at the High Court have been completed and the final outcome is yet to be seen. What is intriguing is that the CPI(M) took up the cause of the killers earlier, and now the TMC is doing the same.

Vol. 47, No. 48, June 7 - 13, 2015