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Monday, May 29, 2023

NHRC criticises Bengal govt for post poll violence

n its final report submitted to the Calcutta High Court, the National Human Rights Commission said that “The situation in the state of West Bengal is a manifestation of ‘Law of Ruler’, instead of ‘Rule of Law’.” The commission also made it clear that the violent incidents in the state reflect the appalling apathy of the state government towards the plight of victims.

In the 50-page report submitted to the court the NHRC said, “The spatio-temporal expanse of violent incidents in the state of West Bengal reflects the appalling apathy of the state government towards the plight of victims. This was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party.

It resulted in disruption of life and livelihood of thousands of people and their economic strangulation. The local police has been grossly derelict, if not complicit, in this violence.”

“To compound the problem, violence and intimidation has continued. There is palpable fear among victims against Police and goons of the ruling party. Many displaced persons have not yet been able to return to their homes and resume their normal life and livelihood. There have been several sexual offences but victims are scared to speak out. Loss of faith in state administration among victims is very evident,” the report mentioned.

Terming it to be a politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus, the report alleged, “An alarming aspect of this violence amply figuring in public domain was that it evoked no empathy in state administration in any tangible manner. Neither senior officers nor political leaders condemned the violence, visited the spots, assuaged the victims or did anything substantive to ameliorate the problems.

People were left on their own to protect the violation of their human and fundamental rights, including right to life, liberty, dignified living and health”.

Tabling the facts in the form of a data sheet, the NHRC in its report said, “Out of 9,304 accused cited in the FIRs, only 1,354 (14 %) have been arrested and, out of these arrested, 80% are already on bail. Thus, overall speaking, less than 3% of the accused are in jail, while 97% are out in the open, making a mockery of the whole system.”

“It is quite evident that the police is working under influence and in a biased manner and do not have the courage to take action against looming goons belonging to the ruling dispensation. The I/Cs (Inspector-in-Charge) of police stations have not even visited the places of many of the violent incidents, nor collected any evidence or recorded statements, let alone registering FIRs,” the report said.

The NHRC has recommended that grievous offences like murder, rape should be handed over to the CBI for investigation and that these cases should be tried outside the state. The other cases should be investigated by a court-monitored Special Investigation Team.

For adjudication, the NHRC has called for the setting up of fast-track courts, special public prosecutors and a witness protection programme.

The rights body also recommended ex-gratia payment, compensation for damage, measures for reinstatement and rehabilitation, static pickets of CAPF, protection to women, action against delinquent government servants, among others.

Reacting to the report, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “I respect the court and as it is sub-judice I will not make any comment on this but I would like to mention one thing. How did the report come into the public domain when it is still to be heard by the court? This shows what is happening”.

“The report that has been submitted is all before the polls and at that time the administration was not controlled by the state government but the Election Commission. They are distorting the facts. The court, I hope, will give a chance to the state government to speak and there we will say everything,” the chief minister added.

Ending with Rabindranath Tagore’s lines — “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls” — the report said, “If the above mentioned worrisome trend is not arrested, where the entire might of the governmental machinery has been used (through innumerable acts of omission and commission) for furthering the political objectives of the party in power, the disease may spread to other states also.

This may well be the death knell for democracy in this great nation. It is high time that the rot is stemmed and this trend is reversed in the interest of having a vibrant democracy in this nation.”

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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