Marichjhapi massacre (also known as the Marichjhapi incident) refers to the forcible eviction of hundreds of Bengali Hindu Dalit refugees who occupied legally protected reserve forest land on Marichjhapi island in the SundarbansWest Bengal, in 1979, and the subsequent death of some due to gunfire by police action, blockades and subsequent starvation, and disease.

After the division of Bengal (during independence in 1947) along communal lines many Hindu Bengalis fled East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The first flow of refugees who were mostly the upper and middle classes from upper castes easily resettled in West Bengal. However most lower caste Hindus remained behind, seeing their plight as no better than the Muslims. However they too were persecuted by Muslims and were forced to flee to West Bengal as well. But this latter huge flow of poor, mostly low-caste Hindus  couldn’t be accommodated in Bengal. This later surge reached its peak in 1970’s. During this time in 1976 Ram Niwas Mirdha said in Loksabha that Bengal had become saturated and relocating migrants was inevitable. 

There were resistance from refugees (hailing from wetland marshy coastal landscape) against the relocation to wastelands. However, after initial resistance from they were forcibly sent to “rocky inhospitable semi arid land” of Dandakaranya (mostly in OrissaMadhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh), Terai (Uttar Pradesh, now in Uttarakhand), and Little Andamans. Most of them were destined to bear the brunt of an already failed Dandakaranya Project.

The left front leaders like Ram Chatterjee then opposed the relocation policy of Union Govt. They reached out to migrants by visiting camps in Dandakaranya and promised them that if Left Front comes to power in West Bengal then all migrants will be brought back and settled in Bengal itself.

Where the Birds Never Sing (2017- 2020)  is a book on the Marichjhapi massacre, the forcible eviction in 1979 of Bengali lower caste refugees from Marichjhapi Island in Sundarban, West Bengal, India and the subsequent death of thousands by police gunfire, starvation, and disease. 

Bose, over the last few years(2017-2020), has been researching and re-enacting memories of the survivors in specific locations, as there is almost no 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 collective memory.

Text : Aditya Kumar | Soumya Sankar Bose | Annu Jalais

Design : Barnali Bose

Pages : 140 pages

ISBN : 978-1-5136-6415-6

Price : 3000 INR(shipping included) in India, 70 USD (shipping included) outside India.

Book Reviews

British Journal of Photography :
Collector-daily by Olga Yatskevich :

Blind by Laurence Cornet :
The Revealer :
Samyak Drishti :
Hindustan Times :
Livemint :

This Project was supported by The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, India foundation for the Arts, Magnum Foundation & Henry Luce Foundation.
The Book was shortlisted for First Photobook award in the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards 2020.
PHmuseum’s Best Photobooks of 202