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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 43, October 16, 2010

Junglemahal: Centre Cannot Escape its Responsibility

Tuesday 19 October 2010, by D. Bandyopadhyay

It was reported that when some MPs from Trinamul Congress presented incontrovertible evidence of more than 90 camps in the Junglemahal area by the CPI-M with their goons armed with illegal firearms, the Union Home Minister expressed his contrived helplessness and tried to evade his responsibility by stating that law and order is a State subject under the Constitution. He was technically correct up to a point. List II—State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution—mentions: “Public order and police (including railway and village police) subject to the provision of entry 2A of list 1”.

But in public order there is a caveat which states “not including any naval, military or air force or any other armed forces of the Union or of any other force subject to the control of the Union or any contingent and unit thereof.” In simple language it means that whenever any armed force of the Union other than Army, Navy or Air Force is deployed in the State, the Centre would have a finger in that pie. It cannot logically and constitutionally evade the responsibility stating that such forces act under the order of the State agencies.

If the Centre has nothing to do with State public order and State Police, one can logically ask as to why it maintains such huge paramilitary forces with a strength of about one million personnel. Numerically the strength of the Central paramilitary forces approximate the strength of the Indian Army. They cost a huge amount of the taxpayers’ money. The total cost of these armed forces went up from Rs 1200 crores in 1988-89 to about Rs 8300 crores in 2005-06. (Subramanian, K.S.: Political Violence and the Police in India, Sage, New Delhi, 2007) When these forces are deployed in the State, they operate under the control of the State. So far so good. But if these forces are misused or abused, the Centre cannot remain a silent spectator. It has the inherent right to withdraw such force or to direct the State not to misuse them. The Centre cannot dodge its obligation in this regard on a make-belief. In that case, it would be failing its constitutional duty. Article 355 of the Constitution of India states:

355: Duty of the Union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance, It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried out in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

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Against this background, let us see what has been happening in West Bengal with the CPI-M in power. The CPI-M Government has created a civil war-like situation in the Junglemahal by setting up more than 90 camps of CPI-M goons and with illegal firearms. The attempt is to reconquer the area to ensure that voters there vote according to the diktat of the CPI-M in the Assembly election of 2011. There are about 40 Assembly constituencies in the area. They want to ensure rigging by sheer terror. This area is inhabited by adivasis like Santhals, Oraons Mundas, Sabars and Lodhas.

Historically, adivasis are known to resist any violent intrusion in their life and society. The Santhal Revolution of 1856 was a major event in adivasi resistance. That was quite a number of minor insurrections in the Junglemahal area during the British regime. Pushed to a corner, they would again resort to armed resistance. The situation in the Junglemahal is highly explosive.

The combined forces of the CRPF and the State Armed Constabulary are actually protecting illegally armed CPI-M cadres. It is with the help of the combined forces, the CPI-M has reconquered their “lost” territory. What are the implications for the CRPF deployed there? Instead of capturing Maoists, they are giving protection to the illegally armed CPI-M thugs who are causing depredations against the local population under the protection of the combined CRPF and State Armed Police.

Has the Government of India understood the grave threat to their armed police force? Instead of seizing illegal arms, most of which are Chinese-made AK-47, they are participating in the illegal operation of the CPI-M goondas. It is their duty to seize such illegal arms and to arrest people who are carrying or hoarding them. The sinister aspect of this illegal operation is that the CRPF personnel posted in Junglemahal are getting thoroughly polluted by participating in this illegal venture. Without retraining they would be unfit to fight any terrorist group. The Centre should take note of this. To prevent further contagion, they should be immediately withdrawn from Junglemahal.

A Kosovo-type political cleansing was car-ried out by the CPI-M to establish its political hegemony in various parts of the State, particularly in Garbeta, Keshpur, Chhoto Angaria, Sabong, Pungla, Nanoor, Mangalkote, Bhangar, Khanakul and Goghat. Normal life in these areas was disturbed and many are unable to carry on their usual business. Large-scale migration has taken place from many of these places.

Recently, three Ministers of the State—Susanta Ghosh, Abdul Rezzak Mollah and Kanti Ganguly —talked about a “bloodbath” in the State. By doing so, they committed a “terrorist act” as defined in the newly amended Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They are pushing the population towards armed conflict through such provocative pronouncements.

It has been statistically estimated that between 1977 and 2009, 55,408 political murders were committed by the CPI-M. No one has been punished. About 10,000 murderers are roaming about freely in the State threatening peace everywhere. Life and property of law-abiding citizens are in grave jeopardy because of wanton, willful, and gross violation of laws by CPI-M cadres and leaders.

Under the circumstances, it is clear that the government of the State is not being carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Hence it is not only desirable but imperative on the part of the Union Government to issue directives under Article 355 for (i) seizing all illegal arms everywhere in the State; (ii) arresting all those who are carrying and hoarding such illegal arms; (iii) apprehending and putting to trial all the murderers, rapists and arsonists who are moving about freely without any let and hindrance under the patronage of the CPI-M; and (v) restoring peace and law and order in all the areas suffering from the depredations of the CPI-M goons.

Failure to comply with these directives would attract the provisions of Article 365. Staying in West Bengal, one feels that the State is not a part of the Union of India as neither its laws nor its Constitution are observed here.

(Courtesy: The Statesman)

The author is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service. He also heads the Saantosh Birodhi Manch (Platform Against Terror) in West Bengal.

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