With the victory of BJP in the Assembly elections in Tripura and rout of the CPM, a message is being circulated on the social media that this is homage to 4 RSS officials who were kidnapped on 6 August 1999, brutally tortured for over a year, and killed. The national media almost let this case go unnoticed in 2001, when the deaths were confirmed. Let us see this episode in detail now.
Four RSS officials, not ordinary workers, but high level officials (and full time workers, as they call them, pracharaks) were kidnapped on 6 August 1999 in Tripura, held captive for over a year and brutally tortured and killed.
Those abducted and later declared killed were: kshetra karyavah (Zonal General Secretary) of West Bengal, Assam and the North-East Shyamal Kanti Sengupta, pracharak working in southern Assam Dinendranath Dey, Agartala vibhag pracharak (area-in-charge) Sudhamay Dutta, and district pracharak Subhankar Chakravarty. They were all abducted from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram-run students’ hostel in Tripura’s Kanchanchhada area. The NLFT confessed its crime.
They were tortured for over 1 year. In April 2000, they were alive and communicated that they were being tortured. On 3 April 2000, there was a report on Rediff.com titled : “Kidnapped RSS pracharaks plead for help”:
“The four Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharaks abducted by an insurgent group in the northeastern state of Tripura have written to their colleagues stating that they are alive, but under great physical and mental stress. The NLFT, one of the two major insurgent groups in the state, has several camps in the Chittagong hills, just across Tripura’s porous international border with Bangladesh.
The four pracharaks, all from West Bengal, were abducted by NLFT extremists on August 6, 1999, from a remote hamlet in the state’s Dhalai district. All four- Shyamal Sengupta, Dinen De, Sudhamay Dutta and Subhankar Datta- were on a visit to a school run by the RSS-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Tribal Welfare Organisation).
According to RSS officials in Guwahati, the letter, which bears the signatures of all four
pracharaks , speaks about their “great mental agony and tension”. “We are still alive, but physically and mentally unwell. Please take up the matter with the authorities to ensure our release at the earliest,” the letter said.
The NLFT had initially demanded Rs 10 million as ransom, but later scaled it down to Rs 5 million. The RSS leadership is, however, against paying any ransom. “We have already conveyed our stand to the NLFT,” a top RSS leader in the Northeast told
Indeed, even K S Sudarshan, the new RSS chief, on a recent visit to Tripura ruled out paying any ransom to the militants. “If we pay money for their release, the RSS will be unable to work here,” he told a gathering of RSS workers in December 1999.
The family members of the four pracharaks collected Rs 1 million and handed it over to the NLFT about a month ago, but the insurgents refused to accept the sum and stuck to their demand for Rs 5 million. The impasse between the RSS and the insurgent outfit is thus likely to continue since both sides have refused to budge from their respective positions.
In fact, the RSS has launched an agitation against the NLFT and started highlighting the contribution of the four pracharaks to the development of the tribals in remote areas in Tripura. All four RSS activists were frequent visitors to the state over the last two decades and are well known and respected in the area, RSS officials say.
The Sangh had, in fact, accused Christian missionaries operating in Tripura of having instigated the kidnapping by the NLFT, which has a large number of Christians among its cadres. The Church has, however, denied this allegation.”
RSS General Secretary (No. 2) and then Joint General Secretary H V Seshadri (he occupied both these positions, he was General Secretary from 1994-2000 and then Joint General Secretary from 2000-2003) had sat on a dharna before Tripura House in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, with thousands of swayamsewaks demanding the early release of these pracharaks in Tripura. The pracharaks were later killed under the nose of the CPM government of Tripura. The CPM government did nothing to save them.
Even the then BJP-led NDA Government did not do enough to save these 4 pracharaks. In fact, even the then Sarkaryawah (General Secretary) Mohan Bhagwat, who was a man who totally avoided public exposure and political comments until he became Sarsanghachalak publicly blamed the BJP-led NDA Government too along with the Tripura Government of the Left. ATimes of India report after the deaths were confirmed said on 29 July 2001:
“New Delhi: The RSS has squarely blamed the Baptist Church and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) for the murder of its four senior functionaries in the state. These four pracharaks (whole-timers) who have been missing since August 6, 1999, included a 70-year-old national level leader. RSS Sarkaryawah (General Secretary) Mohan Bhagwat in a statement said the Tripura and Union governments on Saturday [28 July 2001] confirmed the RSS functionaries’ death…“The conspiracy of the Christian missionaries behind the anti-national activities of this (NLFT) organisation is no longer a secret,” wrote Bhagwat. The General Secretary has called on volunteers all over the country to pay homage to the deceased functionaries in their respective shakhas on August 6 … At the height of terrorism in Punjab, a large number of RSS volunteers where killed during a morning shakha. While announcing the pracharaks’ death, Bhagwat has made a scathing attack on the Union and the State governments. “From the day of their abduction, the RSS has been trying hard to get them released. But its desperation was reciprocated by the Union and State governments’ insensitivity.” …Till November 2000, the RSS had been in touch with the kidnapped functionaries through middlemen, but their contacts broke off soon after and hence it was believed since that these four had been murdered. In fact, last August  the RSS had demonstrated against the Union Home Ministry and staged a protest march at the Tripura House in Delhi, seeking the government’s intervention to get the abducted functionaries released.”
However, it is good that after this win of the BJP in Tripura, sacrifices of those 4 officials are being remembered. One hopes that the national media too will notice their sacrifice now. The BJP must act differently from the CPM Government in Tripura, and certainly differently from the way the Union Home Ministry acted in this case in 1999-2001.