KILLED AS HIS YOUNG STUDENTS LOOKED ON IN TERROR
KARAMCHAND Singh was the headmaster in a two-teacher school at Simulpal in a heavily forested area of Belpahari in Midnapore west. He was a popular mastermoshai but a stern disciplinarian. A long-standing worker of the CPI(M), he was also a member of the Belpahari local committee of the Party.
Karamchand was taking his class with a group of young lads on the veranda of the school in the early afternoon of February 22 and everybody was having an enjoyable bask in the mild sun of late winter as the southerly breeze made whirlpools of fallen sal, piyal, and mahua leaves in a riot of ochre yellow and russet red.
Three grim-faced persons, probably known to mastermoshai as notorious Maoist hit men from across the border, silently stepped out from behind the school building. Each carried firearms. A fearless man, Karamchand who realised that they had come for him, leaped up as soon as he espied the trio, allowed his fearful students to huddle behind his broad back, and then went ahead and landed a heavy punch on the face of the man who led the group.
As the would-be assassin fell down, the other two fell back, took careful aim with a nine mm foreign-made pistol, and a twelve-gauge, pump-action shot gun of non-indigenous origin (the empty cartridges strewed around confirmed this), and fired three rounds.
Shot thrice in the face, neck, and chest, the powerfully built Karamchand roared out, took off his cheap rubber slippers, and gave chase barefoot, bleeding heavily, as the three cowardly killers ran away. As Karamchand, staggering heavily by then, nonetheless managed to draw nearer, the killers turned around and shot him thrice more in the head.
A bleeding comrade Karamchand stumbled, and fell down, dead, arms outstretched in a final gesture. The vicious killers then picked up a couple of heavy stones, and smashed in his head and face, before vanishing into the heavily wooded thickets that led to Jharkhand. The shell-shocked students remained huddled together – some had already fainted away – as the villagers in their hundreds came out but found no trace of the killers.
FURORE AND ANGER
The police came later, much later, and made a what-seemed-to-be a cursory foot patrol of the nearby jungles and took in for interrogation a few ‘suspects.' The death of a popular leader has expectedly created a furore and has generated a vast amount of pent-up anger in the village as in the entire locality around. They are especially peeved at reports carried almost gleefully in sections of the media that comrade Karamchand was killed because he was ‘a witness to earlier killings of Maoists.
At least one national daily, the Times of India has also spoken tactlessly and non-factually about comrade Karamchand, a member of the CPI(M) for more than one-and-a-half decades, as a ‘former Maoist' and a ‘betrayer.' What the corporate media would not write is the fact that till date, no less than 27 CPI(M) workers have been brutally assassinated in the various localities of west Midnapore alone over the past couple of years or so.' Binpur has observed a 12-hour bandh to protest the dastardly killing.
In a statement, Bengal state secretary, Biman Basu said that the killing of comrade Karamchand in the presence of his young students brought back terror-filled memories of the 1970s when the Naxalites would target teachers and kill them. The Naxalite goons would burn teachers alive or have their throats slit inside of classrooms in full view of the students. The aim was to set up a régime of anarchy in the realm of education.
A democratic set-up in education could be established once the Left Front government came to office, and to achieve the task of dispensing with anarchy in education, much sacrifices had to be made, and much blood of teachers and students had to be shed. The Bengal CPI(M) and the Left Front government would not allow the days and nights of the long knives to make a return, covertly or overtly, in Bengal in any way, whether in education or elsewhere.
The act of killing of a beloved teacher in front of his students would create waves of shock in the young mind and make the boys and girls leery of going to schools at all. Such a barbaric act as was perpetrated at Belpahari could only be the work of crass anti-nationalists. Biman Basu appealed to all democratic and patriotic people and to all the constituent parties of the Left Front to participate in the programme to be held on February 25 in protest of the killing. On the day students, teachers, educational employees, and educationists would wear black badges and organise protest marches, meetings, and rallies all over Bengal. The healthy educational ambience in Bengal must be maintained at all costs.