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West Bengal’s chief minister’s totalitarian rule

Author: Ashali Varma
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 4, 2018
URL:      https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/no-free-lunch/west-bengals-chief-ministers-totalitarian-rule/

As I write this yet another young BJP worker has been found murdered in West Bengal. The first was a young Dalit student who was part of the BJP youth wing. He was found murdered, hanging from a tree, and inscribed on his T-shirt was a deadly warning: he and others who worked for the BJP will meet the same fate. The two incidents happened within days of each other.

Trilochan, the young student, had been threatened by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC goons who had said that they will kill him after the polls. It happened just as they had promised. Trilochan left the house one afternoon to get some of his college work photocopied and his family got worried when he did not come back. His brother tried to reach him on the cell phone but there was no response. Later in the evening, he managed to get through and he heard a desperate cry for help. His brother told him that he was blindfolded and being carried off on a motorbike and feared for his life and then the line went dead.

Just a day before this gruesome murder, Abhishek Banerjee, a TMC, member of Parliament said that TMC will make Purulia, the place Trilochan came from, Opposition Free. He is Mamata’s nephew and her designated successor. His quote was published in a local Bengali newspaper.

The second murder was of 30-year-old Dulal Kumar. His body was found hanging from high tension wire. The police claim it is suicide. Dulal’s widow said he was killed by TMC workers who were mad at him when he joined the BJP, seven months ago and led the party to victory in the village booth. The police inaction caused the villagers to explode with anger and block a highway.

The local TMC leaders are in denial as they have been on just about every issue that has come up during the polls. They insist it must have been infighting in the BJP that got him killed, which seems quite absurd. The West Bengal police work at Mamata’s behest, who is known for an awful temper and vindictiveness for anyone who crosses her.

It is clear that power has gone to her head and she intends to keep it even if it means violence over democratic elections. Unfortunately, for West Bengal, violence as a means to an end has been the calling card first with the communists and then with Mamata. The lumpen just changed from being communist workers to being part of the TMC.

Right from the time, the polls were announced one heard how opposition party members were stopped from even filing their nomination papers by TMC goons beating them up. This was reported in the news but unfortunately, the media did not give it the headlines it deserved in a democracy. Then there were TMC party workers that tried to capture polling booths and rigged the ballot. The election workers, as well as the security, were cowed down by the sheer violence that was directed against them.

Mamata is a force to be reckoned with as she has been able to stop Durga Puja processions that happened on the same day as Muslim processions. Durga Puja is perhaps the most significant religious festival for the Bengalis but she plays to vote banks and in districts where the Muslim population is more, she divides and rules. In such an environment both Hindus and Muslims suffer the consequences. The police in the state have been thoroughly compromised with threats to do the bidding of the Chief Minister. The local media is pliant and not even journalists are exempt from violence. Both the Congress and the BJP have been taken off guard by the way the TMC- Mamata’s party have behaved during the elections.

Even school teachers in West Bengal feel terrified and angry at what happened to their colleague who denied the TMC their Mamata given Right to rig the elections in her Party’s favour.

Raj Kumar Roy, a teacher, was the presiding officer at an election booth during the Panchayat polls in the state on 14 May. He resisted attempts by Trinamool Congress goons to capture the booth and stamp ballot papers. According to reports, he was threatened but refused to be cowed down and prevented foul play. Then it is said that he left the booth in the evening, after receiving a few calls. A few hours later  his mutilated body was found beside the local railway tracks.

Once again, the state administration and Trinamool Congress leaders of the district tried to pass it off as suicide. The school teachers were outraged by such an obvious cover-up. They blocked a national highway near Raiganj, the headquarters of the North Dinajpur district, where the incident occurred. TN Sherpa the sub-divisional officer, tried to pacify the teachers but even he said it could have been suicide, which made the villagers angrier. He was abused and shoes were thrown at him.

Instead of instituting an impartial inquiry into the murder of Raj Kumar Roy, the state government slapped cases ranging from attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, assaulting a government official on duty, blocking a national highway, and arrested and imprisoned three teachers. The police, who are going through video footage of the incident say more teachers could go to jail. The absurdity and callousness of the state against violence and murder is breaking down institutions one by one. Panic-stricken school teachers who took part in the demonstrations have been compelled to flee their homes.

Many who support other parties are in hiding as they know they will be penalized by Mamata’s government. She brooks no dissent and is vicious with people who defy her rule even within a democratic framework.

West Bengal under Mamata is worse than it was before due to her authoritarian, vindictive and oppressive instincts. It is one of the few states that defy India’s democratic fabric.
 
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