Analysis | Ananda Margi | Massacre 1982 | 22nd July 2022 | Virtual Wire
Religious groups in India always have been playing a pivotal factor in Indian Politics.
If we go by the records Indira Gandhi was a devout follower of Maa Anandamayee the disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda who was, in turn, the disciple of Lahiri Mahasay and she openly admitted it, in fact, Doordarshan has a documentary of the former Prime Minister visiting her Ashram in Allahabad, similarly Narendra Modiji our current Prime Minister had taken Diksha at Ramakrishna Mission in West Bengal, but if the prominence of these religious groups tries to overshadow the political party then things can get a bit tarred. This is what had happened in West Bengal way back in 1982 when a slowly rising religious cult had become a threat to the vote bank of the ruling party of that era. The Bijon Setu massacre or the Ananda Margi massacre was the killing of 16 Sadhus and 1 Sadhvi. The horrible incident took place in broad daylight with the nearby citizens not allowed to take the necessary first aid treatment for the burnt Sadhus allowing them to die in intense agony.
Jyoti Basu (8 July 1914 – 17 January 2010) was an Indian politician and one of the most prominent leaders of the Communist movement in India. He served as the 6th and longest serving Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000. He was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of India(Marxist). He was a member of the politburo of the party from its formation in 1964 till 2008. He was also a member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly 11 times. In his political career Basu spanned over seven decades, he was noted to have been the longest-serving India's longest-serving chief minister in an elected democracy, at the time of his resignation. For the 1977 West Bengal Legislative Assembly election, negotiations between the Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) broke down. This led to a three-sided contest between the Indian National Congress, the Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Front coalition. The results of the election were a surprising sweep for the Left Front winning 230 seats out of 290 with the CPI-M winning an absolute majority on its own, Basu became the chief minister of West Bengal for the next 23 years until his retirement in 2000. Jyoti Basu was also repeatedly elected as the representative of the Satgachhia constituency from 1977 to 2001.
The Government had turned a deaf ear to the constant appeal for Judicial Investigation, only after Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011 the investigative team was formed on 2012. The morning of the 30th April 1982 was not a good one for the members of the Anandamargi groups, they were travelling to the Tiljala area of Kasba for a conference the likes of which are held at Pravachan Sabhas when a mob comes in their way and blocks the taxis, following which the Sadhus and the Sadhvi were pulled out of the taxi, beaten till death and their bodies were burnt in broad daylight. The local populace was warned of attacks on their houses if they tried to help the cult members to survive or if any first aid was given. As per the old reports, the investigative probe was started by the Human Rights Commission way back in 1996 but the matter just diffused on account of political manipulations.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee (25 December 1924 – 16 August 2018) was an Indian politician and diplomat who served three terms as the prime minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999, followed by a full term from 1999 to 2004. Vajpayee was one of the co-founders and a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. He was the first Indian prime minister not of the Indian National Congress to serve a full term in office. He was also a renowned poet and writer. He was a member of the Indian Parliament for over five decades, having been elected ten times to the Lok Sabha, the lower house, and twice to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. He served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, retiring from active politics in 2009 due to health concerns. He was among the founding members of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), of which he was president from 1968 to 1972.
Ānanda Mārga ("The Path of Bliss", also spelled Anand Marg and Ananda Marg) or officially Ānanda Mārga Pracāraka Saṃgha (organization for the propagation of the path of bliss), is a worldwide socio-spiritual organisation founded in Jamalpur, Bihar, India, in 1955 by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, known as Shrii Anandamurti. It is also the name of the philosophy and lifestyle propounded by Sarkar, described as a practical means of personal development and the transformation of society. It is established in more than 180 countries across the world. Tantra yoga, as interpreted by Sarkar, serves as the foundation of Ananda Marga. According to his teachings, Tantra means liberation from darkness through the expansion of the mind. Meditation is the main spiritual practise of this tantric tradition, which assists the practitioner to overcome weaknesses and imperfections. The path to liberation in Ananda Marga is free of religious dogmas, superstitions, artificial social barriers and ritualism. Ananda Marga recognizes spirituality and liberation as the birthright of every individual irrespective of one's race, caste, creed, nationality, gender, socioeconomic status or belief system.
This case has the perfect twist and turns of political manoeuvre, providing one more example that the political needs of the VIPs are way more important than the survival needs of the common man, and especially when you are at the helm of political wrath there is no chance for even a scintillation of sympathy from the other party, even the civil servants meet a distasteful fate if they oppose the ruling party narrative. Sher Singh was an IAS officer deputed in West Bengal during the period in which the incident happened. He was the Additional district magistrate of the North 24 Parganas. On being called at the trial at Calcutta High Court he revealed that he was suspended because he refused to adhere to the Communist government’s line on the matter. Singh informed the Central Administrative Tribunal that he was bound by the Officer’s Secret Act which is why he will not be able to give the details regarding the intricate matters of the incident, but the petition gave hints more than enough to establish that the lynching was on account of the tussle between the religious cult and the local party administration regarding the acquisition of a plot in the Tiljala area nearby the party office.
Graham Stuart Staines (18 January 1941 – 23 January 1999) was an Australian Christian missionary, who along with his two sons, Philip (aged 10) and Timothy (aged 6), was burnt to death in India by members of a Hindu fundamentalist group named Bajrang Dal. In 2003, Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh was convicted of leading the murderers and was sentenced to life in prison. Staines had been working in Odhisha since 1965 as part of an evangelical missionary organisation named "Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home" caring for people who had leprosy and looking after the tribal people in the area who lived in abject poverty. However, some Hindu groups alleged that during this time he had lured or forcibly coerced many Hindus into believing in the Christian faith. The Wadhwa Commission found that although some tribals had been baptised at the camps, there was no evidence of forced conversions.
As per the claims made by Acharya Trambakeshwarananda Avadhoot the public relations agent of the Ananda Margi Organization, “the target of the mob was the top leadership of the Ananda Marga Pracharak Sangha, but the ordinary Sadhus of the group were mistaken to be the same”. On the basis of the account given by the local party workers, the Ananda Marga Foundation was mainly a tantra-oriented cult that utilised poor children as a medium for their tantra rituals, literally kidnapping them from the localities. This is why the Cult was also known as the “Cheledhora Sanyasi” (the monks who kidnapped, children). On the contrary the Ananda Margi Group who had sent an urgent letter asking for a high-profile Investigation against the then Jyoti Basu government stated that they wanted Justice for the inhuman killings that had happened in Calcutta.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government was on its heels to start the investigation for the murder of the Christian Missionary Graham Staines and his two sons who were killed by the RSS mobs on the accusation that “Graham was conducting secret conversion ceremony in the remote villages of Odhisha which could threaten the existence of Hinduism”. In the earlier stance the Ananda Margi Organization had filed a petition in the Supreme court of India that their religion is given special status as enjoyed by other religions existing in India, However Supreme Court Squashed the appeal stating that Ananda Margi Organization could mainly exist as a denomination of Hinduism but not as a separate entity, however till date the Anandamargi Organization continues to claim that Tantra has no connection whatsoever with the Hindu religion and is altogether a different plethora to talk about.
Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (21 May 1921 – 21 October 1990) also known for his spiritual name Ánandamúrti or Bábá ("Father") to his disciples, was a spiritual Guru, philosopher and composer of 5018 songs mostly in the Bengali language. He founded Ananda Marga (the Path of Bliss) in 1955 as a spiritual and social organisation that continues to offer instruction in meditation and yoga and runs numerous social service and disaster relief projects throughout the world. Sarkar developed his system of spiritual practice as a synthesis of Vedic and Tantric philosophies. He denounced religious dogmas, casteism, materialism and capitalism, considering all of these as impediments to social harmony, progress and spiritual growth. He described the universe as a manifestation of consciousness coming under the bondage of its own nature, resulting in creation. His spiritual and social philosophies embraced diversity as the law of nature; a result of Singular Consciousness expressing itself in numerous forms. Sarkar advocated for the welfare of humans and the planet through his socio-economic philosophy of Prout, which is rooted in the idea of Neohumanism, a worldview based on the inter-connectedness of all beings.
This was not the first time that the Anandamargi members got attacked the first attempt on their life was made on 1967 at the Purulia (A district in West Bengal) Headquarters where five of the members were allegedly killed, the main wrath against this group was the clash of ideals between the communist party of India and the monks. Even after the 1982 massacre the year 1990 saw five members of the organization being killed at the hands of Communist Cadres. On being asked to comment on the incident the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu said “What can be done? Such incidents do happen”, further on enquiring about whether he will be visiting the massacre location , he replied, “What’s the use of going now, what had to happen have already happened”. Till today the Anandamargi community marks the day on 30th April as a day for remembering their lost members with rallies being held in the Kasba area.