By: ENS & PTI
In A huge embarrassment to the Left Front, a commission of enquiry that probed the police firing on a Youth Congress rally here in 1993 — killing 13 people — on Monday said it was unjustified and “much worse” than the Jallianwala Bagh massacre during the British Raj.
The commission termed the incident as “unconstitutional” and claimed it was an instance of “unprovoked” firing. However, the responsibility of the person who ordered the firing was not fixed. The commission also observed that the situation could have been handled in several ways other than opening fire. The report said the home minister, home secretary and the police chief cannot shrug off their responsibilities in the issue.
Ordering a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the families of each of those killed in the anti-government rally led by Mamata Banerjee, the then Youth Congress leader, the one-man commission said 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… “This incident was much worse than what happened in Jallianwala Bagh,” said Justice (retd) Sushanta Chatterjee — who headed the Commission set up by the Mamata government soon after coming to power in 2011 — in his report.
Noting that the victims or their families were financially handicapped and of economically unsound background, the Commission also ordered Rs 5 lakh compensation each to those who were injured in the police action.
Seventy-five rounds of bullets were fired by the police in the incident on July 21, 1993, which had triggered a nation-wide outrage during the time. “The control room officers were vicariously responsible and liable thereby… Without mentioning any individual name, 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,” the report stated.
“Collective responsibility lies with the state and police administration, they had overacted to please their political bosses. The firing could have been avoided. 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 it to the state government.
Significantly, state Minister for Power Manish Gupta was the home secretary when the incident took place. However, Gupta is said to have submitted before the commission that he did not support police firing. The commission said that ‘history would answer’ why the firing was ordered when the then home secretary did not support it.
Mamata, the then Youth Congress president, had called a march to the Writers Buildings on July 21, 1993, demanding mandatory use of voter identity cards for exercising franchise alleging that the CPM-led Left Front indulged in largescale rigging of elections. The police had fired on Youth Congress workers while they were marching towards the Writer’s Building.
On Monday, the commission submitted its report after almost three years. During the last three years, over 40 police officers, 30 photojournalists and journalists were examined by the commission. Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattcharjee and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose too had appeared before it.
Meanwhile, the CPM on Monday trashed the report as a “political leaflet” and said it was “unacceptable”. “Such report from a retired Judge cannot be accepted,” CPM leader Mohammed Salim said. “There could be a discussion on whether the firing was done willingly or unwillingly, but comparing the incident with the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre has made it a political leaflet,” he added.
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.