Calcutta, Aug. 14: Twenty-three years after the Malopara massacre, Calcutta High Court today sentenced 22 people to life imprisonment.
Fourteen people were butchered in clashes between the Congress and the CPM in 1983 to claim control over Malopara in Malda district, 400 km from Calcutta.
A division bench of Justices A.K. Basu and T.K. Giri, however, acquitted five persons who had been earlier convicted by the Malda sessions court and awarded life sentence.
The bloodbath had rocked the entire state and even inspired the late Utpal Dutt to stage a play, Maloparar Ma.
The incident would also crop up frequently in statements made in the Lok Sabha by Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, who was the Malda MP then.
According to the case record, on July 4, 1983, a mob of 250 — allegedly Congress supporters — had attacked CPM workers, beating them up and ransacking their homes.
The CPM launched a counter-offensive the same day.
The two clashes left 13 people dead from both groups.
Around 5.30 the next morning, another crowd of 250 — again believed to be Congress supporters — gathered in the Siktahar area of Malopara.
They raided houses of some CPM supporters, accusing them of involvement in the July 4 clash.
“The attackers, armed with spears and lathis, broke up into three groups and attacked the houses of three CPM workers. They took away Azad Ali, Hussein Mohammed and me and brought us to Hijelpukur. There, they beat us up mercilessly. When we became unconscious, they took us for dead and left.
“While Azad died on the spot, Hossein and I were taken to hospital by villagers,” Mohammed Yasin, a CPM supporter, had told CID officers on July 8, 1983, from his hospital bed.
The CID took Yasin’s statement as an FIR and started a case on the massacre.
Thirty-one people were named in the FIR.
The CID filed chargesheets against all the accused when the trial started at the Malda sessions court. Three of them died during trial and the court framed charges against the rest.
The sessions court held 27 guilty of murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. Abdul Touf was acquitted.
In December 2001, all the 27 convicts moved the high court, which gave its verdict today.
Chronology of events since the massacre.
On July 4, 1983, 13 people were killed in clashes between Congress and CPM supporters to gain control over Malopara.
Another clash followed the next day, killing one person and seriously injuring two. But no FIR was lodged on either days.
On July 8, the CID took down the statement of one of the injured and registered a case.
Died during trial: 3
Acquitted by trial court: 1
Sentenced to life: 27
The accused moved the high court, which awarded life term to 22 and acquitted the rest