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Sunday, June 11, 2023

Who are the enablers of Mamata’s murder of democracy in West Bengal?

Mamata Banerjee has demolished any pretence of democracy that might have still remained in West Bengal after 34 years of Communist rule. And our media and judiciary have, directly or indirectly, enabled her in shredding the Constitution to bits.

Mamata swept to power in 2011 with a reputation as a street-fighter who refused to bow down to the ruling CPM party’s tactics of intimidation. But after assuming power, she has copied Communist tactics and then some. Mamata has plunged West Bengal into a state of anarchy and proved to be more autocratic, whimsical and vindictive than any leader seen in the recent past.

The writing on the wall has been clear for some time now, and if any ‘expert’ pretends they are surprised with the reports coming from Bengal during LS 2019 elections, they are either lying or incompetent.

Right from her first term as CM, Mamata Banerjee gave free rein to to Islamists, who in turn unleashed an orgy of controlled violence and slow ethnic cleansing of Hindus from West Bengal.

The 2016 assembly elections conducted under Mamata’s rule had it all – plain intimidation, bogus voting, scientific rigging, attacking Opposition candidates & throwing out their election agents from polling booths, bombings and violence. And as BJP’s footprint grew stronger in the state, TMC backlash grew worse.

TMC goons Bangla film

Last year’s Panchayat elections was a tragical farce, with a new depth being plumbed with the brutal hanging of  20-year-old Dalit youth Trilochan Mahato for the ‘crime’ of campaigning for BJP.  TMC won a record 34% seats ‘uncontested’ in the 2018 Panchayat election, with atleast 29 deaths being reported in election-related violence, and several reports of assault, rape and intimidation of Opposition party candidates.

One report based on official statistics says that between 1999 and 2016, political violence in West Bengal claimed 365 lives, an average of 20 political murders every year. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, West Bengal alone accounted for 44% of the 16 political murders reported across the country.

From claiming Army is being used to enforce an undeclared Emergency on Bengal, to berating Central Forces as BJP agents for simply doing their job during elections, to sitting on dharna when CBI tried to question the Kolkata Police Commissioner, to arresting people for sharing cartoons and memes, to disallowing Opposition leaders from campaigning in the state – Mamata Banerjee has crossed all boundaries & violated basic Constitutional provisions, without batting an eyelid.

And all the while, our media and judiciary has stood by, either helplessly or with the air of an indulgent parent amusingly observing a spoilt child. Media’s attitude is not surprising in the least and they have glamorized WB election violence as ‘fighting fire with fire’ or through facile analogies like ‘Gujarat’s Gir lion versus the Bengal tigress’. But it is the Supreme Court pronouncements on goings-on in WB that make for interesting study –

  • When it was clear that 2018 Panchayat elections had regressed into naked violence, Supreme Court’s dismissed a petition by BJP asking the Court to intervene in the nomination process & requesting deployment of Central forces to ensure free & fair elections. SC refused to intervene as “election process was ongoing” and asked State Election Commission to look into all “grievances”.
  • When a petition was filed requesting CBI probe into murder of 3 BJP leaders, the SC first refused to  grant an urgent hearing, and then made a cryptic ‘”much is happening in West Bengal” comment. The court also appeared to weaken CBI by musing whether CBI could probe cases in West Bengal, considering that the state government had ‘withdrawn consent to the central probe agency’s jurisdiction within its territory.’
  • Something “very very serious” seems to be going on in West Bengal, was the Supreme Court’s cryptic comment as it agreed to hear a plea alleging harassment of custom officials at the Kolkata airport for checking the luggage of a Trinamool Congress leader’s wife.
  • When WB Govt. denied permission for BJP rallies on pretext of law & order disturbances, Calcutta High Court initially allowed BJP to hold the rallies but a second bench then set that order aside, and finally Supreme Court asked BJP to seek a fresh nod from WB Govt.
  • Supreme Court declined a BJP plea challenging the state government order prohibiting the use of loudspeakers at its rallies during the months of February and March due to ‘school examinations.’
  • In 2014, SC assigned CBI to probe the Saradha-Rose Valley ponzi scams. But when CBI went to question the Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in February this year for alleged destruction of evidence, and the CBI team was man-handled by WB Police and CM Mamata sat on dharna to protest CBI ‘excesses’, Supreme Court appeared to cave in to Mamata’s tantrums by directing Kumar to appear before the CBI in Shillong, Meghalaya’s capital as it was a “neutral” place, and barred CBI from arresting the top cop (that bar has now been lifted).
  • When BJP worker Priyanka Sharma was arrested by WB police merely for sharing a morphed image of Mamata Banerjee on social media, Supreme Court first granted conditional bail subject to Sharma tendering a written apology. It was only when Sharma’s lawyer Neeraj Kaul contended that asking for an apology will amount to infringement of the Right to Freedom of Speech, that the court waived the condition of apology.

One does not know what more evidence is needed from West Bengal before the highest court of the land issues a stern rebuke to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and takes suo-motu cognizance of the unacceptable way elections are being conducted in that state. Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures, and it is essential that the next Assembly elections scheduled for 2021 are conducted under a neutral caretaker Government which is answerable to centre and SC.

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