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July 21, 2018

Families of the 13 martyrs 25 years on

Families of the 13 martyrs 25 years on

The Martyrs’ Day rally is organised by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) every year on July 21 in memory of 13 Youth Congress activists killed in police firing in 1993. The Left Front was in power at the time and Mamata Banerjee, who was then a leader of the West Bengal Youth Congress, herself was beaten up by the police. She subsequently left the Congress and formed the All-India Trinamool Congress in 1998 and, after 20 years as MP, is now the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the second term.

But how have the families of the 13 martyrs fared in the last 25 years?

All of them hailed from homes in Kolkata or in its suburbs. Their families have since been invited with respect and honour every year for the last 25 years to the programme that commemorates the supreme sacrifice of their sons or husbands or brothers. After brother Bandhan Das’s death, Mukul Ravidas took up his job as a CMC worker in the drainage department. He stays with his mother Dharmi Devi and younger brother at the Corporation quarters near Hatibagan in north Kolkata. The low-income group family has been helped by Mamata Banerjee who deposited Rs 1 lakh in the bank for them, among other assistance. Younger brother Anup is now working with the Metro Railway. “Thanks to Didi, we have never faced any problems in getting food, clothing and shelter for the last 25 years,” said the ageing Dharmi Devi.

In south Kolkata’s Swinhoe Lane resides the family of Pradip Roy, who had gone to the protest rally to hear what the leaders had to say, but never returned. His elder daughter Deepa is now married and a mother, while his son Sandip works in a private firm. Pradip’s younger daughter Koli is studying MA in psychology. “After that fateful day, Mamata di has been our constant companion,” said Deepa, adding she had arranged a job for her mother in the railways, which had helped sustain the family all these years. Another Roy family, this time from Khetramohan Banerjee Lane in Baranagar, recalls the tragedy of 1993 and how Didi has stood by its side since then. Biswanath Roy’s wife Minoti is suffering from several ailments but continues to work for the sake of her two children. “I am thankful to the financial help that Didi has provided, with which I have been able to arrange for my daughter’s marriage,” she said.

Murari Chakraborty’s family of four brothers and mother stay on Bipin Ganguly Road in Dum Dum. “Mamata di came to our house within seven days and offered assistance. She arranged for a government job for me,” said Krishna Chakraborty, Murari’s younger brother. Their mother Charubala is unwell, and the help they have received has taken care of the treatment. The families of 12 of the martyrs (the family of one person, Inu, has remained untraceable) have been able to pull through the immense trauma of 25 years ago and have been helped financially, with jobs and with medical assistance. They all agree that, “had Didi not inquired about our well-being and provided help, we would have been in dire straits”. They also agree on another point: owing to her strong will and determination to help the poor and unfortunate, “we want to see her as the Prime Minister soon, for we firmly believe that the people of the country will truly benefit when that happens”.