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Thursday, June 8, 2023

CBI summons Bengal minister in post-poll violence case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the different post-poll violence cases in West Bengal, has summoned the state’s MSME & Textiles Department Minister, Chandranath Sinha in connection with one of the cases. CBI sleuths has asked Sinha to be present at the agency camp office in Durgapur on June 28 (Tuesday).

He was summoned in connection with the murder of a local BJP worker in Birbhum district. Gourab Sarkar was murdered at Illambazar in the same district on May 2, 2021, soon after the results for the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections were announced.

Chandranath Sinha is considered to be close to Trinamool Congress strongman and the party’s district president in Birbhum, Anubrata Mandal, who is also under the scanner of CBI in the same case. Mandal has already faced a round of questioning by the CBI sleuths at the agency’s office at Salt Lake in the northern outskirts of Kolkata.

Besides, the post-polls violence case, Mandal is also under CBI scanner for his alleged involvement in the cattle and coal smuggling cases in West Bengal. The CBI is conducting the probe on the post- poll violence cases in West Bengal following an order of the Calcutta High Court on this count.

The CBI has already questioned several persons in connection with the murder of Gourab Sarkar, especially those who contacted Mandal soon after the murder took place. Three Trinamool Congress MLAs namely Abhijit Singha from Labhpur constituency, Sekh Sahanawaz Jahan from Ketugram and Abhijit Roy from Manteshwar were among those who were questioned in this connection.

According to CBI sources, after the questioning of all suspects on this count are completed, they will corroborate their statements with that of Anubrata Mandal.

A fact-finding team headed by a retired High Court Chief Justice had visited West Bengal a few weeks after the post-poll pogrom erupted on May 2, 2021. The team also included two retired IAS and one IPS officers. It found that there were 15,000 incidents of post-poll violence in which dozens were killed and 7,000 women were raped or molested. 16 out of the total 23 districts of the state were affected by the pogrom, which the team found was premediated, organised and conspiratorial.

So severe was this targeted violence against BJP workers and supporters that many were driven out of their homes and had to take shelter in camps within and outside the state, in Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha. The team found that in many cases of violence, WB police was hand-in-glove with the perpetrators.

The report submitted by this fact-finding team said that “in most of the cases, victims were afraid to lodge a complaint with the police either due to fear of reprisal or due to the lack of faith in the police. Those victims who gathered courage and went to report, police either turned (them) away to settle the matter with the culprits or flatly refused to register the case”.

The violence continued for months afterwards. It is estimated that at least 50 BJP workers/supporters & their family members were killed over the last 1 year, and many thousands are still afraid to return or are being asked to cough up jaziya aka protection money or submit their womenfolk to sexual exploitation in order to return.

The fact-finding team had suggested that Supreme Court should constitute a special investigation team (SIT) immediately and monitor its work either through a sitting judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court for fair investigation and early justice. However, the SC not only ignored this recommendation, it continued to drag its feet and refused to even grant some interim relief to the victims.

The Calcutta HC also initially gave a clean chit to the Mamata Banerjee administration. It was only when spine-chilling stories emerged and a few victims like the grandmother gang-raped in front of her grandson lodged petitions with higher judiciary, did the Calcutta HC finally order a CBI enquiry into murder and other serious cases of post-poll violence. The English-language media did its best to downplay this TMC sponsored pogrom as ‘usual political clashes’, and Lutyens’ intelligentsia is today projecting Mamata Banerjee as a viable PM candidate for the 2024 general elections. This is how little Hindu lives matter for elites in the secular Republic of India.

(With IANS inputs)

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