September 1, 2011
Chief Minister pays tribute to the martyrs of the Food Movement
The Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee paid tributes to the martyrs of the infamous ‘Food Movement’ of 1959 at the Martyr’s Column in Writers’ Building on Wednesday. The atmosphere at the Writers’ on the occasion of 52nd anniversary of the sad incident wore a solemn look and became even grim as the song penned `hey sambhalo dhan ho, kasteyta dao shaan ho ` by Salil Chowdhury was played which reminded of the `dark` days in history.
The Food Movement or Bengal Famine of 1959 was a turning-point in the history of class struggle in West Bengal. Food insecurity by this time had reached frightening proportions in rural and urban areas. The real hoarders were not the traders or the millers but the producers – big and small responsible for the food shortage and the famine like improvised conditions then prevailing in Bengal. Thousands of farmers and workers of mills and common man came to open roads demanded the right to food and demanded for food to faced severe resistance from the police. Nearly, 80 people under the weight of their batons on the 31st July of 1959. The entire city turned into a sea of 300,000 people demanding justice, having the centre of the movement at the Shahid Minar, the foot of the monument and the adjoining open space of the ‘Maidan’. Common man, bystanders, petty shopkeepers, cinema-hall ushers and sex-workers offered solidarity and assistance to those fleeing the police from the main thoroughfares in a bloodied state and spilling into the side streets and narrow alleys of north Kolkata. Nearly 80-people lost their lives, while 3000 were injured and nearly 1000 people went missing. Hungry people were heard screaming `phan dao, phan dao` (give us the starch of the rice, we are hungry). The dark episode is known as man-made Bengal famine of 1959. Many intellectuals including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen later made films on the subject.
Chief Minister in a sympathetic gesture put her arms round Achhiya Bibi, mother of Nurul Islam, the school-going son who fell to the police bullets in 1966. Achhiya Bibi was accompanied by her grandson Raju Mollah. “We are grateful to Mamata Banerjee for bringing peace in our minds, we lacked the same foir ages”, said Achhiya Bibi.
Ms. Banerjee known for being human remained very serious all through the programme. Her face showed that she was trying to visualize the atrocities which had taken place in 1959. She abstained from commenting on this solemn occasion and preferred to keep silent. However, in the end Ms. Banerjee who had returned from Red Road and Park Circus after attending Eid congregations greeted all on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.