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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Book Review – Democracy under Siege, Ballot, Bullet and Blood

Book Democracy under Siege, Ballot, Bullet and Blood has been authored by Law Graduates, Shubham Tiwari and Shivam Raghuvanshi. Shubham Tiwari is a regular columnist with newspapers, magazines and digital media portals, including Swarajya and Organiser. Shivam Raghuwanshi has ground experience working as a student activist and researcher in West Bengal for two long years. He has co-authored the book Political Killings in Mamta’s Bengal. Book Ballot, Bullet and Blood has been forwarded by Former Member of Rajya Sabha, Author, and Columnist Sh. Swapan Dasgupta.

This book is a serious attempt to document Post Poll Violence in West Bengal, after the declaration of State Assembly Election Results on 02 May 2022. This book covers incidences of Violence, Arson, Stone Pelting, Rape, Vandalism and the sheer act of Goondaism, by the supporters of a particular political party across the state. The workers of the party went unrestricted by the core cadre of the political party and law enforcement agencies turned mute spectators.

This book also records attacks on BJP Leaders, BJP Booth In charges, BJP Cadre, BJP supporters, Counting Agents, BJP Offices across the state, including the State Head Office of BJP, ABVP office just for spreading social awareness to vote and other reasons.  This book catalogues the Killings, Rapes, Incidences of Attempts to Rape, Sexual Assault, and Kidnappings, of Bengali Civilians, mostly belonging to Scheduled Castes or Backward Castes just for the cause of supporting a particular political party.

This book highlights that with the early trends in the favour of TMC, its cadre was on the roads. The provocative atmosphere created in the State of West Bengal turned into attempts to settle scores on party lines.

This book records the horrifying incidences of rape, and rape being turned into a weapon of Revenge. In an interview with Supreme Court Advocate Monika Arora, who worked on Sanjukta’s Petition, (60-Year-old, Scheduled Caste Rape Victim) says more than 150 women victims have been interviewed but the actual figures are in Thousands.

The women have been punished for exercising their right to vote, and the police turned mute bystanders. Advocate Monika Arora also thinks that the 100% truth will never come out because the complainants are extremely terrorised and the perpetrators are intimidating to repeat the same with other family members.

This book records instances of 32 killings in West Bengal, either on political or communal lines having political backing. The post-poll Bengal was burning and screenings could be heard and suffering could be seen of victims through social media across the country. Unfortunately, this all was falling on deaf ears to the administration. The situation was so gruesome that civilians were fearful even in talking about those instances.

Muslims themselves were not safe in their community being part of the Minority Wing of BJP with the tag of being BJP supporters. This book also presents the crime against a person of a minority community named Mahammad Ali. The homicide was committed on 25th June 2022. The victim was mercilessly beaten by lathi, iron rods, and other sharp iron weapons. He sustained severe injuries and unfortunately succumbed to death. While he was being beaten, the police personnel were standing just 200 meters away, but they remained just mute spectators.

The expectation of justice in the case of Political and Communal violence is self-deception. The perpetrators are physically torturing the victims and the victims are being mentally tortured by the state law enforcement agency. Law Enforcement Agency is hand in gloves with Perpetrators can be observed in cases and the very modus-operandi adopted in investigations. It has also been sensed that the Police are working as an extended cadre of TMC. In some exceptional cases recorded by authors, it has been seen that Police Personnel’s family members are part of Ruling TMC. “It is pathetic to see rotten system operating as nexus” has been observed by Advocate Monika Arora in an interview with the authors.

This book highlights that Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee herself has been the victim of Communist Tyranny and Political Wrath in the State of West Bengal and she came into power on the promise of Good Governance, Rule of Law and Violence Free Bengal. She came with the promise of “Badla Noy, Bodol Chai” (We want change, not revenge), and landed at “Khela Hobe” (Game On).

This book also highlights that the problem was twofold on the one hand the violence was on Party Line and the other it took the form of communal violence in the garb of political outrage.

This book covers extensively the Details of the Journey and demographic status of districts of West Bengal, which will help the reader to picturesquely understand the cause and nature of violence. This also reflects that the book is based on ground reality sensed and understood by authors and largely on primary material and who would be a better narrator than the victims themselves.

It has been recorded by the authors that there are instances where the violence is completely on party lines. However, at the same time in Muslim Dominated areas, the violence is completely against Hindus.

The authors have dared to call a spade a spade. This book is largely in Black and White instead of grey. Authors have made it vehemently clear that they are not into the business of being the conscience keeper of the ‘secular fabric’ like pseudo-secularists who are the self-proclaimed protectors of an imaginary ‘Idea of India’. If something is Hindu-Muslim having a communal angle the authors have spelt it so. They have not engaged themselves in whitewashing and insistence to omit the truth.

The authors are of the view that the problems today in West Bengal have their roots in history and solutions to such problems also lie in learning lessons from history. The sheer amount of Hindu hatred and defying the modesty of Hindu women indicate that the situation is more or less similar to the pre-partition era.

 The atrocities on Jews and Blacks can be documented and told to the world but the bare truth of the pain and sufferings of Bengali Hindus also needs to be told to the people at large. And this work has been done by two brave voices in the form of Ballot, Bullet and Blood.

This is a serious work and a must-read book. Authors have made painstaking efforts to Bring Political and Communal violence to the people at large. This book can awaken one in deep slumber.

Reviewed By – Pranjal Chaturvedi and Aishwarya Majumdar 

Pranjal and Aishwarya are Law Graduate from Sharda University and has worked with the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology respectively.

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