Multiple accounts state an unconfirmed number of Dalit Bengalis were killed during the forcible eviction of refugees from Maruchjhapi by the CPI(M).
On January 26, 1979, India’s Republic Day, then-Left Front chief minister Jyoti Basu announced an economic blockade of Marichjhapi. Thirty police launches surrounded the island; the refugees were tear-gassed, their huts, fisheries, and tube-wells destroyed. Those who tried to cross the river in makeshift boats were shot at. The refugees, armed with carpentry tools and makeshift bows and arrows, were no match for the armed government forces. A conservative estimate gave the dead as several hundreds of men, women, and children who died either through starvation or were shot at, and their bodies were thrown into the Raimangal river. People who settled on the island of Marichjhapi for barely nine months were cleared out to maintain the ecological balance of the Sunderbans. “The death count could never be confirmed, but different accounts have put it anywhere between 50 and over 1,000. The official toll was two,” reported the Hindustan Times. Reportedly, the police set several places on fire, including the Marichjhapi market place, schools, a rural hospital, a bakery, and a boat manufacturing unit.