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Home > 2021 > What Happened at Sitalkuchi in West Bengal? | Arup Kumar Sen

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 19, New Delhi, April 24, 2021

What Happened at Sitalkuchi in West Bengal? | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 23 April 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen

In the fourth phase of assembly elections in West Bengal on April 10, 2021, Sitalkuchi Block in the district of Cooch Behar witnessed brutal violence unleashed by the Central forces. MASUM, a human rights organization, documented this brutal State violence in its fact-finding report, and communicated it to the National Human Rights Commission (April 12, 2021). To put it in the words of the Report:

“At about 9.35 am, a 14 year old physically challenged boy, Master Mrinal Haque...was hit by CISF personnel in the market place, which is far from polling booth. The on-duty and uniformed CISF jawan mercilessly beat the boy in the street, for which he fell down on the ground. This incident made the local villagers angry. After some time some CISF jawans tried to shift him in a car. The boy’s brother began recording the incident on his phone. The CISF personnel snatched the mobile phone and beat up his brother. Seeing the incident of torture by the CISF personnel upon the physically challenged boy and his brother, the villagers protested peacefully. At this point of time, sector mobile officer informed QRT (Quick Reaction Team) and the QRT headed by CISF personnel came to the spot with a Bolero car. 4/5 CISF personnel got out from the car and instructed the people to look back and instantly two CISF jawans started firing arbitrarily. Before anyone understood anything, four villagers were shot in their chest and several people were injured...It should be noted that the CISF jawans who fired openly were brought in from outside; the security forces present on duty at the polling booth did not open fire, and after the perpetrator CISF jawans shot the four people, they got into their vehicle and left the place”.

All those killed are poor youths in their early twenties, belonging to the minority community. Of the “four innocent people...shot dead for attending the festival of democracy”, two were found to be migrant workers, who came to their native village to cast their votes.

The MASUM Report submitted to the National Human Rights Commission made an alarming observation:

“It must be mentioned here (that) a day after this fatal incident, BJP West Bengal state president Mr. Dilip Ghosh told in a public rally that this incident of firing and killing will again occur in the subsequent phases of ...West Bengal Assembly Elections, but till date the Central Election Commission did not take any steps against him”.

What happened in the Cooch Behar district of West Bengal reminds us of Giorgio Agamben’s characterization of Sovereign Power: “the sovereign is the point of indistinction between violence and law, the threshold on which violence passes over into law and law passes over into violence”.

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