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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 20, New Delhi, May 1, 2021

Violence begets violence in West Bengal Politics: Political violence may intensify after the election results are announced | Tarun Kumar Basu

Saturday 1 May 2021

by Tarun Kumar Basu

Police recovered the blood-spattered body of a BJP worker in Salboni in West Midnapore, underlining how elections and violence were inseparable in the state during the first phase of the election in West Bengal on March 27. The house of a BJP leader in North Dinajpur district who had rebelled from the TMC was gutted. A former TMC MLA was heckled and his car vandalized in North Bengal. CPI(M) candidate Susanta Ghosh was taunted and stones were hurled at his car allegedly by the ruling TMC supporters. And the most sensitive incident took place in Sitalkuchi in Coochbehar when four people died in firing by the central forces. These were among the incidents witnessed in the run-up to the different phases of voting. After the incident happened, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trinamool Supremo Mamata Banerjee have been crazed in a blame game during the fourth phase of polling in West Bengal. CM Mamata Banerjee raised her voice that the firing in Cooch Behar was a part of a larger conspiracy and will make FIR once the result of the election is brought out. Mamata Bannerjee said, “I do not blame the Central forces. They are not our enemy. But they have been instructed by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to support BJP candidates

Many people have so far been arrested for allegedly being involved in incidents of violence that occurred in constituencies where polling was held. The police are expecting the violence to be escalated as victory rallies are articulated. A significant difference between post result violence in the previous elections and the Lok Sabha election in 2019 is that the TMC is heckled by the BJP. TMC leaders say that this political violence has occurred as per the instruction of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Election Commission has decided to retain some companies of Central forces in sensitive areas of West Bengal even after the result is declared. TMC MP Dibyendu Adhikari wrote to the state’s chief electoral officer and District Magistrate of East Midnapore over his “apprehension of disruption of communal harmony” in Nandigram. He has terror in mind that political clashes may take place, that is why he urged the authorities to take precautionary measures.

The Central Government deployed 944 companies, the highest election deployment in the state yet, of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), in eight-phase election in West Bengal. Around 400 companies were assigned to patrol and dominate the sensitive areas. But the number of clashes could not be checked. The hurling of bombs, vandalism, and attacks on party workers was very common despite the posting of CRPF.

Suvendu Adhikary, former TMC MP, who jumped the ideological divide to join the religious right fanned the flame of communal sensation. He used the words "mini Pakistan" sometimes compared West Bengal with Kashmir etc to indulged a section of people. West Bengal politics has played a significant role and has not been peaceful for several decades. Every transition of power is noticeably marked by higher and higher levels of violence. History repeats itself every time that elections in West Bengal are blatantly violent. If we go back to the assembly election of West Bengal in 1972, which was so gaff-rigged that CPI(M) boycotted it and the saddening incidents that happened at that time was the killing of Hemanta Basu and Ajit Biswas. According to the data reported by Election Commission, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the country, as many as 16 political workers were killed across India in poll-related violence. West Bengal had the highest share of seven deaths which was 44 percent. The Election Commission’s report shows that 2,008 political workers and 1,354 sightseers were injured in the post-poll violence during the 2014 general elections. 1298 persons were injured out of 2,008 political workers which is 64 percent were in West Bengal.

Amartya Sen, an economist and Nobel laureate lamented the fact that identity politics has nurtured its ugly head in Bengal’s political landscape. He also inculpated the emissaries of Hindutva for sharpening the communal divisions in this election that Bengali luminaries from Rabindranath Tagore to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had "worked hard to replace with a peaceful understanding". The people of the state is now petrified of political violence may happen once the result of the assembly election is announced on May,2. The BJP leaders are playing the cards of Hindutva and triggering communal sentiments. Suvendu Adhikari who recently joined BJP and pitted against TMC supremo firebrand Mamata Banerjee commented that “Election is knocking at the door. You are not giving votes to Begum. “If begum comes back to power, the state will turn into a mini Pakistan.” there will be mini-Pakistan in this region". This speech violated Para 2 and 3 of Part 1, of what is the ‘General Conduct of Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates’. The Election Commission had received a complaint from Kavita Krishnan of CPI-ML Central Committee which alleged that Adhikari delivered a “hate speech” while addressing a public meeting in Nandigram on March 29, had communal sentiments.

Nobel laureate and a critic of governance of Narendra Modi, Amartya Sen said in his interview, "The fanning of the dangerous flames of communal divisions has not occurred as strongly in Bengal since 1946, as it is happening now.” He lamented that “What Mahatma Gandhi did in the 1940s can be undone with a huge cost and sacrifice in Bengal, and this evil negation has unfortunately received much encouragement in this election. Bengal wants unity, not divisions as Gandhiji so clearly explained".

(Author: Tarun Kumar Basu is a freelance journalist.)

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