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Mainstream, Vol. XLIX, No 14, March 26, 2011

West Bengal: The Genocidal State under CPI-M Rule

Monday 28 March 2011, by D. Bandyopadhyay

Tt was reported in the print media that under the CPI-M rule of the last 34 years in this State (West Bengal) 34 events of mass murder were organised either directly by the police resorting to wanton firing on the crowds consisting of Opposition party members or by the armed “harmads” of the CPI-M to seek political revenge or to establish political control over the areas lost to the Opposition party through elections. In the latter incidents the police force aided, abetted and assisted the harmads both by acts of commission or omission.

The organised genocide by the police and CPI-M cadres started with the Marichjhapi case. It was the first rehearsal. The technique was perfected over the years and culminated in the genocide in Netai on January 7, 2011. In spite of repeated requests by the Tamluk MP, Shuvendu Adhikary, the Office-in-Charge of the Lalgarh Police Station refused to go there till the harmads had time to leave the camp with all their firearms and other incriminating evidence. The police reached Netai four-and-a-half hours after the genocide had happened; nine persons died and 29 others were injured because of indiscriminate firing by the harmads. Such is the “sweet-heart” relationship between the CPI-M and the police that the SP, Additional SP, DSP (West Midnapore) and the Officer-in-Charge of Lalgarh P.S. could just brazenly ignore the distress call of the victims and the sitting MP. The relationship between the police and the party (CPI-M) could not have been more cordial than this.

This dreadful and appalling reality of malgo-vernance of this State by the CPI-M came out in all its ugliness and monstrosity before the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta when the Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice had to pass an order to hand over the investigation of the Netai genocide to the Central Bureau of Investigation from the CID of the Bengal Police.

When the PIL was filed in the Netai case on January 18, 2011 requesting for a CBI inquiry, the Hon’ble High Court did not initially agree. They still had some residual faith that in this cause célèbre, the State CID would not dare to be partisan and would show their minimum civil service neutrality. But the police force in this State has become so politically polluted and infected that they defiantly and insolently supported the harmads and their employers, the local CPI-M leadership, caring tuppence for the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta. Such is the level of maladministration and misrule in this State that the High Court had to cast doubts on the impartiality of the CID and refused to ‘waste any more time’ by keeping the case with them any longer. The Court observed: “Therefore we have no hesitation to come to a conclusion that the State CID will not be able to work in an effective manner beyond a point...” It further observed: “In our view, the Lalgarh local committee (of the CPI-M) is involved in this incident... had the CID tried to find out these facts, i.e. the sources of arms and ammunition as well as the identity of the persons who had been living in the house of Rathin Dandapat at Netai from where a hail of bullets rained on the crowd, it could have done so in the period which Abani Singh and Aswini Chalak, who had also been arrested with him, had spent in the police custody.” (The Statesman, Kolkata, February 19, 2011) What a slap on the police administration and the CPI-M-run State Government!

The Court hardly ever administers such a severe admonition and reprimand to an organ of the state. It has brought the entire civil administration to utter disgrace. But shameless as the CPI—M Government of the State is, it is thinking of moving the Supreme Court in appeal to alter the High Court’s order regarding handing over the case to the CBI. This is just a ploy to gain time so that whatever surviving evidences are still there in Netai could be tampered with and therefore when the CBI starts investigation they would come up with the problem of lack of suficient evidence. How abominable is the intention of the State Government to thwart the course of justice!

This is not the first instance of its kind. The CPI-M Government tried this trick earlier with the Calcutta High Court after the mass murder of 14 persons on March 14, 2007 at Nandigram. The High Court took suo moto cognisance of this crime in which 14 persons were killed and 162 others were injured by wanton and reckless firing by the police and CPI-M goons on a totally unarmed crowd which had gathered to seek divine blessings in temples and mosque for peace and tranquillity in the area, and ordered inquiry by the CBI. After a long and detailed hearing the Court (S.S. Nijhar CJ and Pinaki Chandra Ghosh J) declared that the “action of the Police Department to open fire at Nandigram on 14.3.2007 was wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of law”; that “the action of the police cannot be protected or justified on the ground of sovereign immunity”; and that “the action of the police cannot be justified even under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Police Act, 1861, or the Police Regulation, 1943”. Thereafter they handed over the investigation to the CBI. To save the guilty police officers, including the regional Inspector General of Police, the range DIG, Superintendent of Police, SDPO and other police officers, the State Government moved the Supreme Court on appeal, and the matter is still pending there.

THREE points come out quite clearly through these two judgments of the Calcutta High Court. The first point is that the police in West Bengal are not allowed to act properly under the laws they are expected to enforce. Secondly, the police, particularly the higher echelons of the force, have been thoroughly polluted by politicisation under the direct influence of the CPI-M. And thirdly, being immune to any punishment for illegal action, grave dereliction of duty and utter negligence to perform according to the laws, rules and regulation, a fair number of members of the force has become insolent, defiant, dishonest and corrupt. The force which has lost its elan, its culture and its pride in doing its lawful duties can hardly be trusted to perform well to ensure good governance in an altered political situation.

A police force is a collection highly motivated, disciplined and skilled human beings with a given structure and a hierarchy of command. Once it loses its vital qualities, it becomes a malfunctioning instrument, too dangerous to ensure public security and well-being. To make it an effective, legally compliant and citizen-friendly force, large scale “cleansing” operation has to be undertaken. I do not buy the thesis that with the change of political masters they would also change—some would but many would not change their easy and corrupt way of life. Hence the next government has to be hard, harsh but fair in throwing out those who had openly shown partisanship and did unlawful and often illegal acts to curry favour with their CPI-M masters. Such gangrenous elements have to be amputed from the force firmly and quickly. Any leniency in this regard would imperil the moral authority of the new government.

The CPI-M inducted in West Bengal some elements of the “Dirty War” widely practised by the Latin American dictators in the latter half of the last century. One of the elements of this “Dirty War” is the creation of a vast network of illegally armed civilians, whom we call here as “harmads”, to enforce a culture of total fear and terror. Such harmads, whether in Colombia or Argentina or in West Bengal, could not effectively enforce the “culture of terror and fear” without overt and covert support of the police and paramilitary forces of the state. “Harmads camps” in the Jungle Mahal, whose existence has been fully proved by the Netai judgment of the Calcutta High Court, are clear evidence of the “Dirty War” tactics of the CPI-M. Those elements of the police force of the State, who “fouled” themselves by openly or secretly supporting these “harmads”, have to be pruned to remove the culture of fear and terror to be replaced by the life-style of freedom and enlightenment in the altered political environment.

That West Bengal has become a genocidal State is evidenced from the facts that between 1977 and 2009, as many as 55,408 political murders were committed (as stastically estimated) and that 72,600 political rapes were committed by the ruling party goons. About four lakh murderers and rapists are moving about freely with the full support of the leadership of the CPI-M at different levels.

Such widespread violence perpetrated by the CPI-M and their armed harmads, aided and assisted by the police, should be rectified in the altered situation not by counter-violence but by the process of law. Only the rule of law can end the culture of violence and terror. Hence there is a paramount need for initiating preparatory action to set up a Political Crimes Tribunal with adequate members of Benches to inquire, investigate and try all the cases of crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the CPI-M Government and their armed supporters from Marichjhapi in 1979 to Netai on January 7, 2011, and to punish all the culprits including the delinquent policemen. To prove its bonafides to the people of West Bengal, the next government would have to do this difficult but essential task immediately after the asssumption of office.

The author, who has now retired from service, is a former Secretary, Revenue, and the erstwhile Secretary, Rural Development, Government of India. He was also the architect of ‘Operation Barga’ that left an indelible impress on the West Bengal countryside in the 1978-81 period when it was carried out under the leadership of the then Land and Land Revenue Minister, Benoy Chowdhury.

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