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Blood-Stained Bengal: Mamata Banerjee Launched Violence Against Communists And Now She’s Paying For It

TMC's culture of violence — like fire spreading in a dried-up forest — is engulfing everyone in sight.

West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee created a stir in the state Assembly in June this year, when she appealed to her arch-rivals, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Indian National Congress, to join her in the fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Her seemingly rational proposal, although hailed by the national media, received reactions that ranged from lukewarm to caustic and downright hostile in West Bengal.

A young CPI(M) supporter, P Biswas, overcome with fury, went so far as to tweet to his party leaders, “Don’t even think about it (aligning with Trinamool). It’s better to liquidate the party. Me and my fellow comrades will commit mass suicide.”

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While this may seem an extreme overreaction, it is no secret that the CPI(M) remains bitterly opposed to the TMC, and is in no mood to forgive the ruling party, even after suffering its worst electoral defeat. Although barely part of mainstream discourse, the CPI(M) — and to a lesser degree, the Congress party — has borne the brunt of TMC’s merciless violence, ever since it won the state elections in May 2011.

Within 15 days of Mamata Banerjee coming to power, TMC’s violent goons killed 13 CPI(M) members, including three women. The violence took place in various districts throughout the state, from North Dinajpur to South 24 Parganas. By the end of 2011, the CPI(M) had lost 53 of its members to TMC’s violence. Even teenagers were not spared; in January 2012, 15-year-old Mashud Laskar was killed in South 24 Parganas.

West Bengal violence
Mamata Banerjee and PM Modi

New forms of terror

Brutality took a chilling turn when a charismatic leader and former MLA, Pradip Tah, and 70-year-old artiste Kamal Gayen were murdered — smashed with boulders and iron weapons in Burdwan by 40 Trinamool gangsters, in broad daylight, before eye-witnesses. Their mutilated bodies were used to terrorise the population and send out a message: In Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal, no opposition would be tolerated.

The new administration soon changed colours. The police failed — instead refused — to take action in these heinous cases of murder. Kolkata’s notoriously anti-Left media turned cheerleaders for the new chief minister and desisted from holding her to account. All this only encouraged and empowered the ruling party’s gangsters and political killings became routine.

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Eco-system of injustice

Along with the murders, thousands of CPI(M) members were banished from their homes and villages, causing intense fear and disruption in rural communities. Their families could stay behind only after paying “ransom” amounts, running up to lakhs of rupees. Thousands of families in rural and semi-rural Bengal were broken up; men were separated from their wives and children; households were destroyed.

Thousands of false cases, from narcotics to attempted murder, were constantly filed against CPI(M) and even Congress supporters. Between January and May 2019, a whopping 80,000 cases were filed against party activists, including Politburo members Biman Basu, Surjya Kanta Mishra & Mohd Salim, simply for organising routine election campaign meetings and rallies.

As persecution of CPI(M) cadres mounted, ordinary people sensed that the police and administration would be blatantly partisan and the ruling party, merciless. It, therefore, seemed prudent for vulnerable citizens to side with the party in power.

Naturally, this eco-system of injustice and corruption was not limited to CPI(M0 families. Ordinary citizens, unconnected to politics, were caught in the stranglehold of Trinamool’s intimidation and corruption. (The ongoing mob fury against Trinamool leaders over returning “cut money” is only a manifestation of this)

Violence of 2014

By 2014, the so-called “Modi wave” had gripped much of India, but West Bengal was relatively untouched. The BJP was still a marginal player in the state, which is why the heavy burden of violence continued to fall on Communist men and women.

The general elections were conducted between April 7 and May 12, and the results were declared on May 16.  Between April and June that year, 12 CI(PM) members were butchered, including two women. They were 58-year-old Bela De of Nadia and 33-year-old Ashmira Begum of Bardhaman. Young, old, Hindus, Muslims, Scheduled Castes, farmers, agricultural workers, labourers — no one was spared by ruling party goons.

west bengal violence
(Photo: Twitter/@amitmalviya)

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According to reports in the Bengali media, some of these murders were intensely brutal. One polling agent was beaten with rods, glass bottles, stabbed, then shot. While the Left parties take care of their own, the psychological and financial trauma suffered by families of the victims is yet to be put on record by the mainstream media.

The deep impact of panchayat violence

The refusal of the Trinamool regime to deliver fundamental justice in the most serious of crimes — political murder — by now had severe consequences. The police force was disproportionately politicised; people had lost faith in the administration; there was a large-scale perception of injustice.

The 2018 panchayat elections can be seen as an essential turning point of West Bengal politics. These grassroots polls saw mind-boggling violence by Trinamool’s foot soldiers as the entire Opposition was terrorised. People were prevented from filing nomination papers. Women candidates were sexually assaulted. Many were kidnapped and forced to retreat. Finally, 34 per cent of seats went uncontested to the ruling party.

On the day of elections (May 15), lakhs of people were prevented from voting. The death toll of the panchayat season mounted to more than 100, with the CPI(M) losing 12 of its workers. The most chilling saga was the burning to death of CPI(M) members Debu and Usharani Das, on the eve of polling, as they slept in their humble home in Namkhana, South 24 Parganas.

By now, Trinamool’s culture of violence — like fire spreading in a dried-up forest — was engulfing everyone in sight. On polling day, a presiding officer in North Bengal, Rajkumar Roy, mysteriously disappeared, his mutilated body was later found on the railway tracks.

During the day, a 28-year-old TMC worker, Sanjit Pramanik, was beaten to death by angry voters in Nadia, when his party bosses deputed him for booth capturing. Sanjit held an MA degree in Bengali but had tagged himself to the local Trinamool leader, in the hopes of getting a government job. Instead, he lost his life, trying to serve the merciless new-age gangster politician of Bengal. Trinamool members had now become their own victims.

The impact of the violence and injustice of the 2018 panchayat polls started clearing the way for the BJP. Thousands of people, including CPI(M) supporters, now wanted revenge for the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Bengal’s ruling party.

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Religion or revenge?

This sentiment was reflected in the 2019 results, where the Left vote plunged to seven per cent. Desperate people, especially in rural Bengal, who were suffocated with fear under Trinamool’s corruption and high-handedness, saw an opportunity to escape and grabbed the “muscle” which the BJP — the new goons on the block — seemed to be providing.

Some analysts now reluctantly concede that the sheer helplessness and humiliation suffered by CPI(M) cadres, supporters and their families, coupled with the ruthless Trinamool attack on the Communists provided an open field for the cash-rich BJP to expand in the state. Educationists like Pabitra Sarkar say that sections of the populace are simply using the BJP as a tool to extricate themselves from prolonged torture by Trinamool cadres.

And herein lies the crux of BJP’s rise in West Bengal. More than saffronisation, beleaguered people, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, are using the unscrupulous saffron outfit to settle personal scores with their immediate enemy — local Trinamool leaders.

Meanwhile, the saga of violence continues. West Bengal is now engulfed in TMC-BJP violence; inherently, a gang war over control of territory. And in this war, political workers from low-income families are ruthlessly sacrificed. Ordinary citizens, including children, have been caught in the crossfire.

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In June, the CPI(M) once again lost three of their young men — people who had worked relentlessly during a bitterly fought Lok Sabha elections. On June 6,  Raju Haldar, 27, of Lalpur village in Mathurapur, South 24 Parganas, was killed by TMC-affiliated criminals in his own home.  On June 22,  Nazimul Karim, 27, an active party worker, was beaten to death in Amdanga, North 24 Parganas. The same day, Nizamuddin Mandal, 28, was killed in Mallikpur village in Baruipur, South 24 Parganas, again by known Trinamool criminals. Both men had played a crucial role as polling agents. This brings the toll to 217 since May of 2011.

It is now street wisdom that to escape Trinamool terror, voters in West Bengal are gravitating towards the BJP.  For them, it is revenge, not Ram. However, it will take some time, before a highly partisan local media, scared intellectuals and apathetic social science researchers study the scale and impact of the oppression unleashed by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool on the vulnerable men, women and children of the CPI(M).

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