An accused in a West Bengal post-poll violence case being probed by CBI has been arrested from Pune, Maharashtra. As per news agency ANI –
“CBI says it has arrested an absconding accused from Pune, Maharashtra in a case of post-poll violence in West Bengal. The arrested accused was produced before a court, which granted transit remand to the agency for four days, it says.”
Massive violence by ruling party goons broke out across West Bengal as soon as election results announced on May 2 made it clear that TMC was coming back to power. Workers of the main opposition party BJP like Avijit Sarkar, Debabrata Maity, Uttam Ghosh, Manik Mondal and several others were targeted and lynched to death. Even family members of workers were not spared. Two mothers – Kakali Kshetrapal and Sova Rani Mondal – were assaulted and died when they tried to save their family members.
Mass rapes have been reported although only a handful of victims managed to file FIRs due to the outright hostility of the WB police and administration. Some acts of persecution have been eerily similar to what Bengali Hindus faced at hands of Pakistan Army during the 1971 genocide:
- A 60-year-old woman in Purba Medinipur was tied to a cot and gangraped in front of her six-year-old grandson. When her son-in-law went to the police to lodge an FIR, the police refused to entertain.
- A minor girl from an SC (Dalit) community was dragged into the jungle, gangraped and left to die. A local TMC leader Sheikh Bahadur came to her family’s house the next day threatening them not to file a complaint. Police later pressurized her parents to withdraw the case saying they should worry about their other daughter.
- A Hindu girl was gang-raped by 7 TMC goons led by one Mamun Sheikh in front of her father. The goons barged into the house saying, “We want Hindu girls, we want your daughter.” The girl and her father have been facing harassment from WB police and threats from random numbers ever since they narrated their ordeal to NHRC.
- A BJP Mahila Morcha worker was stripped naked publicly, TMC goons then pissed on her palms and made her lick it. In another instance, 6 girls were forced to strip naked and dance to ‘Khela Hobe’, TMC’s election campaign song.
A fact-finding team headed by a retired High Court Chief Justice which visited in May/June found that there were 15,000 incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal in which at least 25 people were killed and 7,000 women raped/molested.
NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) also sent a team to WB and submitted in its report to Calcutta High Court –
“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.
“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….This may well be the death knell for democracy“
The NHRC 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.
All ‘secular’ parties in the country, especially the Maharashtra coalition partners NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress congratulated Mamata Banerjee for her election victory. None of them have uttered a word about the hapless victims of the pogrom unleashed by TMC.
After initially expressing ‘satisfaction’ with Mamata Banerjee’s handling of the violence, the Calcutta HC on August 19 finally accepted NHRC’s recommendation and ordered CBI to probe the serious crimes like rape and murder. The SC refused to fast-track the multiple petitions filed in this matter, and has yet to issue any orders to WB government to fufill their Constitutional duty towards citizens.
Meanwhile, kins of victims of this post-poll pogrom are still being threatened. Even today, on the last day of campaigning for the Bhabanipur by-poll which Mamata is fighting as she lost from Nandigram, BJP leader Dilip Ghosh was attacked and shoved around by TMC workers despite being surrounded by his personal gun-toting security.