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Comrade Goon

Comrade Goon

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 9, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/comrade-goon/456474/

Introduction: Two years ago, cadres disgraced the CPM in Nandigram. Why is still letting them run riot?

Polling in West Bengal is never violence-free. And the hitherto unassailable Left Front's nervousness - discernable ever since the Congress-Trinamool tie-up was announced - manifested itself viciously on Thursday, making the party's cadres intimidate and forcefully prevent a woman, allegedly raped by their own members during the November 2007 Nandigram violence, from casting her vote. That this happened at Satengabari (one of the few remaining pockets of CPM dominance in Nandigram, and where the woman was still registered as a voter although she had to flee her home there in 2007), at once testifies to the unease among the party's ranks and their inability or unwillingness to think twice about getting their way by any means. Later, her brother was killed in post-poll violence - at whose Satengabari house she had taken shelter for the polling day.

It is difficult to sunder Bengal from its reputation for poll-related violence. But, by the state's own standards, polling this time round has been visibly much less violent. Yet, in an ongoing general election where - barring the Naxalite attacks and stray violence in certain states - polling has been almost wholly peaceful nationwide, voting in Bengal has been comparatively much less so. At least five people, including a child in Nandigram, were killed in violence in the second phase of polling in Bengal, with the Trinamool and Congress accusing the CPM, and the CPM accusing them back of killing each other's supporters. The major incident of violence was in the Asansol constituency where armed men entered a booth, firing indiscriminately and hurling bombs, injuring police personnel and killing a supposed Trinamool supporter. Houses and vehicles were set on fire and polling had to be suspended for over an hour. In Murshidabad, a supposed CPM supporter was killed by a crude bomb. And yet, compared to the recent panchayat polls in the district that left 14 dead, polling in Murshidabad was "peaceful". More deaths were reported in post-poll violence on Friday.

For all the gory drama in Bengal's recent, failed attempt to rebuild its image under its reformist chief minister, little has changed in its politics. And little will change if the CPM and Trinamool do not break the preponderance of the cadre culture. In a democratic election, there is no role for the armed and murderous.


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