Now, 'summer heat' responsible for poll violence in Bengal
Almost every day, Bengal sees a political murder or political clashes in which dozens are injured. Trinamool Congress workers are allegedly involved in almost all of them till date even as the state is caught up in election frenzy. Asked about the reason behind the violence, one Trinamool leader told Asianet Newsable “It’s so hot, you see. The heat is getting to them”.
Ever since the race for the assembly began in Bengal, four political murders have been reported and many people have been injured.
On poll days especially, there are reports all day from the constituencies about violent clashes, voter intimidation and attempts at booth capturing. Again, the ruling party is named in the reports. The Trinamool has been in power in West Bengal for five years. It is also true that Bengal has a history of political violence, and has borne witness to it since the late 1960s. But has something changed in the way the state is experiencing violence ever since Mamata Banerjee and her party emerged victorious in the 2011 assembly poll?
“The violence perpetrated by the ruling party is a symptom of fear and the fear of losing. Mamata Banerjee believes offence is the best form of defence. But these terror tactics will not work,” said Mohd Salim, a CPM leader.
His views, however, differ from those of Kanchan Gupta, senior journalist, political analyst, and activist. “Violence became a part of the political process in Bengal since the early 1970s. As far as the scale of violence goes, if you compare the period 1971 to 1977 and 1969 to 1971 to now, the violence (in Bengal during this election) is a teddy bear’s party…. The CPM now complains of violence, but that party was responsible for chopping off the hands of those who did not vote for it. This is documented. In Sainbari (in Burdwan district), a mother was forcefully made to eat rice soaked in the blood of her murdered son. Bengal has seen horrific violence in the past,” Gupta said.
The murders in Sainbari in 1970, for which the CPM was allegedly responsible, are seen as some of the most terrible Bengal has ever witnessed. The case, which came to be known as the “Sainbari murders”, has come to symbolise political violence in West Bengal.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election too, Bengal witnessed violence. Rajat Roy, political analyst, said, “The violence is of the same character as 2014, when ruling party goons intimidated and terrorised people. But the Election Commission has been very strict after the first two days of polling. After violence in Birbhum, the district SP was transferred. Nine officers-in-charge were also removed. The EC is taking active measures now. The central forces are vigilant both inside the booth and elsewhere. Now, the Trinamool leaders are openly accusing the central forces of playing a partisan role. Ruling party leaders such as Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay and Siddiqullah Choudhury have gone public to point accusatory fingers at both the central forces and state police. Even Mamata Banerjee had done so. They seem to be on the defensive.”
As far as the scale of violence goes, if you compare the period 1971 to 1977 and 1969 to 1971 to now, the violence (in Bengal during this election) is a teddy bear’s party…. The CPM now complains of violence, but that party was responsible for chopping off the hands of those who did not vote for it.
He went on to say that the Trinamool probably did not expect the state police and administration to suddenly turn neutral. “They (the Trinamool) are panicking. Their violent actions stem from panic. This is indicative of the ruling party losing power. They have already lost their grip on the state police and administration.”
Predictably, Trinamool shows no such fears. Asked why Bengal was seeing so much violence this time, Sadhan Pandey, Trinamool candidate from Maniktala in north Kolkata and consumer affairs minister, told Asianet Newsable, “It’s so hot, you see. The heat is getting to them. In our calculations, Trinamool will win 180 to 200 seats this election.”
The Left Front-Congress combine is most critical of the ruling party’s “terror tactics”. “Trinamool leaders are almost admitting that they stand little chance of winning unless they loot poll booths. The party has become inseparable from violence. To expand its base and enhance its prospects, they have been using indiscriminate violence. This is only a reflection of deep-seated insecurity. They are trying to compensate for the lack of organisational coherence and organisational consolidation by resorting to violence. In this election, however, Trinamool is not expected to cross the 100 mark,” said Om Prakash Mishra, Congress leader and professor of international relations.
Whether the Trinamool retains power in Bengal or not, political violence refuses to leave the state. Perhaps Pandey is right: maybe it’s just the heat.