Photos: Revisiting West Bengal’s Marichjhapi massacre in a new photobook

Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book "Where The Birds Never Sing" is about the Marichjhapi massacre-- the forcible eviction in 1979 of Bengali refugees on Marichjhapi Island in Sundarban, West Bengal, and the subsequent death of thousands by police gunfire, starvation, and disease. Bose, over the last two years, has been researching and re-enacting some memories of the survivors in specific locations, as there is very little written record of the incident. Through the intricate weaving of facts and fiction of existing oral histories of the real survivors, he brings to light several perspectives of the same narrative, forming a cryptic framework of this problematic history that is facing slow erasure from the memory of people.

Updated On Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST 9 Photos
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Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book “Where The Birds Never Sing” is about the Marichjhapi massacre, the forcible eviction in 1979 of Bengali refugees on Marichjhapi Island in Sundarban, West Bengal, and the subsequent death of thousands by police gunfire, starvation and disease. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book “Where The Birds Never Sing” is about the Marichjhapi massacre, the forcible eviction in 1979 of Bengali refugees on Marichjhapi Island in Sundarban, West Bengal, and the subsequent death of thousands by police gunfire, starvation and disease. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“Survivors claim that on the morning January 31, 1979, when some women tried to row boats to the next island to fetch drinking water, grains and medicine, the police rammed their launches into the boats and drowned all of them. During a round of police firing at Marichjhapi, Kalipada Babu swam through the river Kumirmari and settled in Ballabpur, a village near Ichamoti River in West Bengal, India,” says Soumya Sankar Bose. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“Survivors claim that on the morning January 31, 1979, when some women tried to row boats to the next island to fetch drinking water, grains and medicine, the police rammed their launches into the boats and drowned all of them. During a round of police firing at Marichjhapi, Kalipada Babu swam through the river Kumirmari and settled in Ballabpur, a village near Ichamoti River in West Bengal, India,” says Soumya Sankar Bose. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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According to the author, after the partition of Bengal in 1947, many lower caste Bengalis who fled East Pakistan were aggressively sent to the infertile, inhospitable land of Central India. In 1977, the Left Front government came to power promising their refugee supporters to settle in West Bengal and they subsequently moved to Marichjhapi Island. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

According to the author, after the partition of Bengal in 1947, many lower caste Bengalis who fled East Pakistan were aggressively sent to the infertile, inhospitable land of Central India. In 1977, the Left Front government came to power promising their refugee supporters to settle in West Bengal and they subsequently moved to Marichjhapi Island. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“Thousands of refugees seeking their final home stayed in Marichjhapi, for the next year and a half after 1977, when the Left front government came to power in West Bengal. It is close to impossible to trace the precise number of people that died in process during the exodus from central Indian camps to settlement in Marichjhapi, and the eventual police eviction drive sending them back to the camps,” says Bose. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“Thousands of refugees seeking their final home stayed in Marichjhapi, for the next year and a half after 1977, when the Left front government came to power in West Bengal. It is close to impossible to trace the precise number of people that died in process during the exodus from central Indian camps to settlement in Marichjhapi, and the eventual police eviction drive sending them back to the camps,” says Bose. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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Through the intricate weaving of facts and fiction of existing oral histories of the real survivors, Soumya Sankar Bose brings to light several perspectives of the same narrative, forming a cryptic framework of this problematic history that is facing slow erasure from the memory of people. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Through the intricate weaving of facts and fiction of existing oral histories of the real survivors, Soumya Sankar Bose brings to light several perspectives of the same narrative, forming a cryptic framework of this problematic history that is facing slow erasure from the memory of people. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“He gazed at the island, and remained numbed for what seemed like forever. I sat beside him,” writes Bose in the book. Over the last two years, Bose has been researching and re-enacting some memories of the survivors in specific locations, as there is very little written record of the incident. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“He gazed at the island, and remained numbed for what seemed like forever. I sat beside him,” writes Bose in the book. Over the last two years, Bose has been researching and re-enacting some memories of the survivors in specific locations, as there is very little written record of the incident. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“I pulled out the torch from my bag to look for any insect or snake inside the boat. The wood was strong but rotten at the edges. There was logged water. Darkness deepened. Thunder! Lightning”!” writes Bose of one of his many experiences around Marichjhapi. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“I pulled out the torch from my bag to look for any insect or snake inside the boat. The wood was strong but rotten at the edges. There was logged water. Darkness deepened. Thunder! Lightning”!” writes Bose of one of his many experiences around Marichjhapi. (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“Lokhhii… Lokhiii… we heard some voices – voices in distress and desolation. An old man and his wife shouting their daughter’s name or maybe a daughter-in-law’s. The sky and river merged in the dark, only the sound of the waves reminded one that they never met.” (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“Lokhhii… Lokhiii… we heard some voices – voices in distress and desolation. An old man and his wife shouting their daughter’s name or maybe a daughter-in-law’s. The sky and river merged in the dark, only the sound of the waves reminded one that they never met.” (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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“Marichjhapi, an island in the northern part of West Bengal Sundarbans, had been cleared just two years prior to 1977 and its mangrove vegetation had been replaced by a governmental plantation of coconut and tamarisk to increase state revenue. So contrary to what many people believed, this was not a ‘forested’ land; however, it wasn’t, prior to the coming of the refugees, an ‘inhabited’ island either,” writes Annu Jalais in her essay in Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book, “Where The Birds Never Sing.” (Soumya Sankar Bose)

“Marichjhapi, an island in the northern part of West Bengal Sundarbans, had been cleared just two years prior to 1977 and its mangrove vegetation had been replaced by a governmental plantation of coconut and tamarisk to increase state revenue. So contrary to what many people believed, this was not a ‘forested’ land; however, it wasn’t, prior to the coming of the refugees, an ‘inhabited’ island either,” writes Annu Jalais in her essay in Soumya Sankar Bose’s photo book, “Where The Birds Never Sing.” (Soumya Sankar Bose)

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 11:24 AM IST
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Tuesday, October 26, 2021