Martyrdom : 18-12-2006
The West Bengal government had given hundreds of acres of land belonging to the peasants for Tata Motors factory in Singur, without even bothering to give the peasants any proper compensation. This led to a militant agitation against Tata Motors and the Left-front government, particularly against the CPM which is leading it. Tapasi Malik became the first woman martyr of this people’s agitation.
She was brutally murdered after gang raping her with the connivance of police and the CPM goons. Tapasi had dropped out of the local Beraberi High School after Class VIII because father Monoranjan could not afford the fees. Still, she was the most educated in her family. She did the household chores, helping mother Molina. Her debut as an activist came the day Tata officials were stopped near a club, Ujjal Sangha, in Bajemelia, yards from her home.
On September 25, she joined the gherao of the BDO’s office with her mother. Then followed a trip to Calcutta to attend a Trinamul Congress meeting. Back in Singur, Tapasi went about liaising with the committee’s top leaders, including Nayantara Dhara, who wrote the lyrics for the protest songs. Twelve hours before her body was found in flames in Singur’s fenced area on Dec 18, 2006, Tapasi Malik had been pushing a crowd of young land acquisition protesters to sing louder. “Jokhoni gaan gaaibe, gala phatiye, jore, bhalo kore gaaibe (when you sing, never hold back, give it all),” the 18-year-old urged the young boys and girls at Sunday’s sit-in, which she had taken the lead in organizing. Members of the Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee, the pivot of the protests in Singur where land has been acquired for the Tata Motors factory, said the words of the murdered girl reflected her spirit.
Without her efforts, the six-hour show from 10 am on the day at Baro Haath Kalitala off Bajemelia — an effort to get local students and youths to join the protest — would have been a non-starter, committee member Ganesh Chakrabarty said. In Beraberi, Gopal nagar and Bajemelia Tapasi was a hero in the war against the government. Ganesh Chakrabarty, who sees the Tatas’ “dream project” as a harbinger of doom, said: “Tapasi was a bundle of energy. She mobilized contacts in other villages — she was a natural organizer.” Both her parents and Tapasi had been opposing the land acquisition and were active in the movement. Students of the primary schools in the moujas were active in the movement and they said that they were fighting as their parents’ livelihood was in danger and in spite of their teachers’ stiff resistance.
The numerical strength of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Sahayak Chhatra Committee, loyal to the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee, has gone up from 35 in July to 600 in March 2007. Tapasi was the shining star and leading organizer among these militant student activists. Tapasi had gone out of her house to answer nature’s call early on Monday. “Later, the villagers found the half-burnt body of Tapasi. She was raped, throttled and then her body was set on fire. Policemen and CPM workers can’t deny responsibility as Tapasi’s body was found inside the already-fenced area earmarked for the Tata factory. Tapasi slept with her niece Aparna Dhara on Sunday night. Around 4:30 am, she told Aparna that she was going out to relieve herself. This is usual for her. For, she woke up early, to cook for her father and brothers, who left for work early in the morning. But on Monday morning, she didn’t return even after 90 minutes. By then, a few villagers from Khanserbheri coming to Bajemelia Paschimpara, noticed something burning, barely inside the fence.
When the villagers went here, they smelled burning flesh. The remains — only the face and the limbs were visible — were lying in a five-feet long pit. Tapasi’s father said that she was murdered and her mother said that Tapasi was raped before she was murdered. Tapasi’s parents were poor people who survived on their meager earnings and Tapasi’s murder shocked and grieved them to no end. The social fascist CPM not only murdered Tapasi for actively participating in the movement but had also tried to defame her character by spreading lies. They propagated that Tapasi had some love affair and as there was an altercation regarding this with her parents she had committed suicide. This was one of the most blatant lies propagated by these goons. This was done keeping two evil purposes in mind. One was to divert the attention from the real murderers and to portray the murder as suicide.
The second purpose was to threaten girls and women who come to the fore in the agitations. In a feudal society the ‘easiest’ thing for anybody to do to stop women from becoming politically active is to defame their character. This is a recurring phenomena in India and it goes to the credit of women activists that they are braving such foul propaganda without any fear and giving a slap on the face of patriarchy. The murder of Tapasi Malik has further angered the school students who have been fighting against forcible acquisition of land since July. About 400 girls and 200 boys from schools in the affected moujas have joined the SKJRSCC.
The girls, from Beraberi Suryanarayan Memorial High School, Daulatpur-Doluigacha School, Gopal Nagar Harharia High School and Gopal Nagar Kumud Ranjan High School, organized rallies separately demanding punishment for the murderers of Tapasi. Tapasi’s brutal murder was condemned by democrats, progressive women’s organizations and fighting people all over India. Her name reverberated in all the agitations against SEZs and due homage was paid to this bright young girl. People vowed to carry forward her struggle and she became an inspiring model for people’s activists, particularly for women activists.