After a decade-long trial a court in Birbhum district declared 44 CPM supporters guilty of killing 11 landless farmers -- all supposedly Trinamool Congress supporters – in July 2000.
The massacre had rocked Parliament and is one of the biggest political killings in recent times in Bengal.
The verdict can add to the Trinamool’s political ammunition ahead of the assembly elections in the state next year.
Suri additional district sessions judge Biswanath Konar delivered his verdict in a packed courtroom after acquitting 23 accused. He said he would announce the sentence on Thursday.
Among those convicted on Wednesday was former CPM Birbhum district committee member Nityanarayan Chatterjee.
The minimum punishment under section 302 of the IPC (murder) is life imprisonment and the maximum is capital punishment.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee said, “The CPM initially tried to spread a rumour that those killed were dacoits. Then they shifted their stand by claiming that landlords were killed. The fact is that those who were killed were poor people for whom we had to buy cloth to cover their bodies.”
CPM district secretary Dilip Ganguly admitted that those convicted were party supporters and that they would appeal to a higher court after receiving a copy of the judgment.
Eleven landless workers, aged between 25 and 40, who were believed to be Trinamool supporters were murdered by a mob of CPM supporters at Suchpur village of the Nanoor police station area on the morning of July 27, 2000. The throats of the victims or slit with knives and their heads were smashed with iron rods.
The killings were part of the CPM’s move to regain lost ground in Nanoor, which was one of its strongholds where the Trinamool began gaining support following the winds of change in the state in 1999.
After the massacre, Banerjee, who as the railway minister then, offered railway jobs to the relatives of those killed.
According to court records, of the total 81 accused, five were absconding since 2000 and 10 persons died during the trial.