This day marks one of the most brutal exercises of state power in the history of India.
In the last week of December 1979, the Bengal government imposed Section 144 of the CrPC around the island of Marichjhapi. An economic blockade, with 30 police launches surrounding the area, cutting off all supplies of food, water and other essentials, followed.
The Sundarban island was home to thousands of refugees from Bangladesh, who had been sent to Dandakaranya but had found the place hostile and returned to Bengal and settled in Marichjhapi.
But the island was a protected place under the Reserve Forest Act. Many deaths, injuries and illnesses were reported during those days. On January 31, eyewitness reports claim police opened fire, killing several people. Government statements have questioned this, and survivors’ accounts often do not agree.