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1993 police firing on Mamata rally worse than Jallianwala Bagh: Probe

December 29, 2014 17:46 IST

In a huge embarrassment for the Left Front, a Commission of Inquiry into the police firing on a Youth Congress movement in 1993 killing 13 persons on Monday said that it was worse than the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

While ordering a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the families of each of those killed, the one-man Commission of Justice (retd) Sushanta Chatterjee said that control room officers were "vicariously responsible" and "overacted to please their political bosses".

"There was no necessity to resort to firing that caused the death of 13 persons," Justice (retd) Sushanta Chatterjee of the July 21 Commission, set up by the Mamata Banerjee government soon after coming to power in 2011, said. 

"This incident was much worse than what happened in Jallianwala Bagh," Chatterjee said.

Seventy-five rounds of bullets were fired by the police in the incident, which had caused a nationwide uproar during the time.

Noting that the victims or their families were financially handicapped and of economically unsound background, the Commission ordered a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the families of each of those who died and Rs 5 lakh each to those who were injured in police action on the fateful day.

The Commission said, "The control room officers were vicariously responsible and liable thereby." 

"Without mentioning any individual name," the Commission found, "the officials in the Home department and police officials of Control Room (Kolkata Police) failed to discharge their duties in saving lives guaranteed by the Constitution and in protecting the right to demonstrate peacefully."

"Collective responsibility lies with the state and police administration, they had overacted to please their political bosses. The firing could have been avoided," he said. 

"Firing had happened on orders from control room and by trigger-happy additional forces sent by it," Chatterjee said reading out portions of the over 700-page report, which he made public before submitting to the state government. 

Mamata Banerjee, who was the then Youth Congress president, had called a 'march to Writers Building' (state administrative headquarter) on July 21, 1993, demanding mandatory use of voter identity cards for exercising franchise alleging that the CPI(M)-led Left Front indulged in large-scale rigging of elections.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre had taken place in Amritsar on April 13, 1919. 

Approximately 1,650 rounds were fired that resulted in the killing of more than 1,000 innocent Indians besides leaving more than 1,100 injured. 

Several Left Front leaders, including former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was a minister in the Jyoti Basu cabinet then, had deposed before the Commission as also many Trinamool Congress leaders and ministers. 

Mamata Banerjee, however, was not asked by the Commission to depose.

Power minister Manish Gupta, who was the then state home secretary, also deposed before Chatterjee. 

Gupta, a retired IAS officer, said in his deposition that he did not support the police firing, the Commission noted in its report.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had in his deposition justified police firing on the Youth Congress workers

during the Left Front rule and had asserted that he had never felt the need for a judicial inquiry into it. 

"In the name of march to Writers', it was an attempt to capture Writers' Buildings. Given the situation, the police had to resort to firing," Bhattacharjee had told the judicial Commission inquiring into the police firing which created a huge political controversy.

"At that time, in principle I did not feel the need for judicial inquiry and I still stick to my views," Bhattacharjee, who was then the information and cultural affairs minister, had told Justice (retd) Chatterjee, a former chief justice of the Orissa High Court.

"The programme was absolutely without any sense of responsibility and to capture Writers Buildings. There was large-scale violence and around 70 policemen were injured," Bhattacharjee, at present a CPI(M) Politburo member, had claimed.

At this, Justice Chatterjee had said that no record had been found of any policeman having been admitted to any hospital on that fateful day in connection with the incidents. 

Justice Chatterjee, reading out the report on Monday, noted that the police had prior information on the size of the gathering and the possibilities therein and had failed to deal with the situation in a proper and just way.

Referring to the huge protests in Delhi after the Nirbhaya incident in December 2012, Chatterjee acclaimed the Delhi Police's role in controlling the situation with the use of water cannons only. 

He said that instead of keeping provisions of rubber bullets and water cannons, the Kolkata Police had resorted to indiscriminate firing at two places, viz the Dorina Crossing and at Mayo Road-Red Road crossing, both of which are nearly a kilometre away from Writers' Building.

The Commission noted that another procession at Brabourne Road, which was much nearer to the state Secretariat, could be controlled by resorting to lathicharge only.

A number of processions were organised by the Youth Congress on that day from different directions in the city and were to verge on the Writers Building. These were blocked at places away from the Secretariat. 

Noting the justification of the movement, Chatterjee said that the demand for the movement has been fulfilled with the Election Commission making the use of voter identity cards for exercise of franchise mandatory. 

The Commission said that the persons who died in the firing, "thus died the death of martyrs."

Stating that all the political leaders who deposed before the Commission did not support the firing, Chatterjee mentioned that Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had told that "it was condemnable."

He said that an investigation must be made into the loss of important documents relating to the incident. "The magisterial inquiry report and individual reports by senior officers went mysteriously missing and could not be produced before this Commission."

The Trinamool Congress, which was formed by Mamata Banerjee in 1998, observes July 21 as Martyrs' Day with a huge rally in front of Victoria House at Esplanade every year.

Chatterjee concluded his report quoting from Lord Tennyson's 'In Memoriam' -- "So runs my dream: but what am I?  An infant crying in the night:  An infant crying for the light:  And with no language but a cry."

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