Nanoor massacre: Life term for 44 CPM men

Nitya Narayan Chatterjee

After a long trial of 10 years, a sessions court on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to 44 CPM cadres and workers for murdering 11 landless farmers all Trinamool Congress supporters in Birbhum, West Bengal, in 2000.

The Suri court acquitted 23 accused on the grounds that there was no evidence against them. The convicted include reputed CPM leaders and elected representatives in Panchayat bodies.

First Additional Sessions Judge Biswanath Konar also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on each of them. Some convicts urged the court to reduce the punishment as they were the only earning members of their families. Advocate Ranjit Ganguly, counsel of the victims' families, said five judges had changed during the trial in the last six years. The trial was adjourned on various occasions, which delayed the verdict, he said.

Ganguly said they would challenge the acquittal of 23 accused in the High Court. The CPM's district committee secretary Dilip Ganguly also said they would also move High Court against the verdict.

The massacre took place on July 27, 2000, when 11 landless agriculture labourers belonging to the minority and Scheduled Caste communities were killed by CPM cadres led by one Nitya Chatterjee, a member of the CPM Birbhum district committee.

A day after the murder, then chief minister Jyoti Basu removed SP Micheal Harisen Verma in the face of Mamata Banerjee's fierce agitation.

The police filed a chargesheet only after the Calcutta High Court reprimanded the state government in 2004 for the slow progress of the case.

One of the key witness, Abdul Khalek, was severely injured when CPM cadres attacked him in May 2005. There are allegations that local CPM cadres even threatened victims' families.

Apart from Nitya Chatterjee, well-known CPM faces in the district, Golam Seikh, Golam Sarwar, Kalo Sekh,Harai Sekh, Subash Chandra Dey and Gopal Ghosh, were convicted on Thursday.

... contd.

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