The shocking silence of liberals on panchayat poll violence in Bengal
The murderous attacks on opposition candidates have exposed the authoritarian character of Mamata Banerjee and the TMC.
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The prevailing terror and violence, allegedly unleashed by the Trinamool Congress against the Left candidates over filing of nominations for the panchayat polls, must ring bells of anarchy for anyone believing in democracy.
It is evident that the Trinamool Congress has disregarded the basic principles of democracy which is the right of the Opposition to take part in the elections. The filing of nomination, which began on Monday (April 2) and is supposed to be wrapped within a week, has seen unprecedented violence, injury and even deaths in a span of just three days.
Hundreds of Left and opposition candidates have been injured and their identity cards and other documents were snatched away. In many places, offices of the parties have been reportedly raided by Trinamool men to snatch away papers and to threaten people.
On April 5, former MP and CPI(M) Central Committee member Ramachandra Dome was brutally attacked and he sustained a head injury while leading a group of candidates to file nominations at Nalhati in Birbhum district.
The miscreants also assaulted the wife and daughter-in-law of former MLA Biswanath Karak of Forward Bloc in broad daylight on the roads of Arambagh when both of them were going to submit their nominations. Sujan Chakraborty, CPIM leader in Bengal Assembly, has also been assaulted in Bankura in the presence of police by armed criminals, who were shouting slogans of "Mamata Banerjee zindabad" and "Jai Shri Ram".
Basudeb Acharia, CPI(M) veteran and nine-time MP from Bankura, had also been severely beaten with bamboo sticks, allegedly by a group of Trinamool cadres in front of the police while leading a group to file their nominations for the panchayat polls. Shockingly, in all these attacks, the police has either refused to intervene, or, is in collaboration with the Trinamool cadres.
A picture from Raghunathganj in Murshidabad district was published in Anandabazar Patrika lately. The armed gang, police and special commando forces are supposedly in collaboration against opposition candidates to prevent them from submission of nominations in the upcoming Panchayat elections. The criminals are carrying arms along with the law enforcement angencies. Mamata Banerjee is presiding over the total wipe out of constitutional rights of the citizens in the state. Armed Trinamool gang, actively supported by police ferociously attacked the procession led by Left.
Just seven years back in 2011, Bengal's intellectuals had unitedly come out to support Mamata Banerjee’s protest against the Left Front's actions in Singur and Nandigram. A range of Kolkata's literati from Aparna Sen to Mahesweta Devi and Mrinal Sen were all speaking on the need for "poriborton" or change.
Even Arundhati Roy, Sumit Sarkar, Uma Chakravarty, Tanika Sarkar, Moinak Biswas, Kaushik Ghosh, Saroj Giri, Sourin Bhattacharya, Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, Swapan Chakravorty, Rajarshi Dasgupta, Anand Chakravarty, Apoorvanand, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Nivedita Menon, Aditya Nigam and Medha Patkar, all of whom were a part of the Liberal-Left protesting against CPI(M) during the Nandigram incident, are nowhere in sight when democracy is diminishing in Bengal.
It seems that these intellectuals safeguard their right to criticise the Left parties at any given opportunity and expect resolute unanimity from them while in trouble. They also remained mute spectators when murderous attacks have been unleashed by fascist forces against the Left in different parts of the country.
It is interesting to note that Mamata Banerjee in 2014 had through a cabinet decision decided to drop cases against 303 criminals whom the previous Left Front government had filed cases by referring them as land activists of Nandigram.
Finding fault in Left Front government in Bengal for all its failures is completely understandable, but that does not mean becoming a mute spectator when another political party turns democracy into anarchy in a state.
At present, not even a distant appearance of democracy exists in Bengal. Even considering the standards established by the TMC, this is disturbing. And most importantly, Trinamool miscreants who shout "Jai Shri Ram" while assaulting Left activists will not have second thoughts in switching over to the side of the RSS/BJP when the time is ripe. If even a part of what happened to Basudev Acharia, Ramachandra Dome and Biswanath Karak had happened to Medha Patkar, Prakash Raj, Jignesh Mevani, Shabnam Hashmi or Teesta Setalvad, would the CPI(M) have kept as quiet as they are today?
It is only the CPI(M), which supported and gave a platform to these activists.
What is shocking is the absolute silence over violence in Bengal in contrast to the clamour on Pehlu Khan and Junaid. The killers of Pehlu Khan, Junaid and Akhlaq deserve the harshest of punishment and no mercy should be shown to them. But what is disgusting is the manner in which the intellectuals have been selectively voicing certain incidents with respect to media coverage.
If in 2015 more than 40 novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets could return their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against rising intolerance in the country, then why be indifferent now?
One of the most prominent of them the, Nayantara Sahgal, who claimed that “India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault”, is nowhere in sight when intolerance has reached to an extent where the CM of West Bengal openly claims that she wants “opposition-free elections”.
If these people truly yearn for democracy, then they should also speak up against Mamata Banerjee’s autocratic rule.
The silence of other non-Bengal parties should also be looked upon. Former CMs of Hindi heartland, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have been silent on what is happening in Bengal. Some might assume that Ramachandra Dome is a bit less Dalit and not worthy of their considerate support because he marches under the Red flag and not under that of the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party. I doubt that the aspirants of the third front like K Chandrashekhar Rao, Sharad Pawar and others will rethink their relation with Banerjee, since an unrivalled TMC will yield maximum numbers in the Lok Sabha.
The murderous attacks on opposition candidates have brought out the authoritarian character of TMC most crudely.
In a joint statement, five Left leaders, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India national secretary D Raja, All India Forward Bloc's Dharmendra Kumar, Pran Nath of Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist and Kavita Krishnan of CPI-ML Liberation have accused the Trinamool of having resorted to a "full-fledged assault on democracy and the rule of law”.
The BJP has also filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking re-scheduling of the election. Even regular meetings of the Left Front delegation with the state election commissioner were rendered futile as the latter expressed his inability to address any of their grievances.
The state EC has completely surrendered and has remained totally insensitive to atrocities committed in the state. All these incidents are taking form of a pre-poll rigging which if not addressed at the earliest will make the elections a farce.
The intellectuals’ silence, the police’s support, the bureaucracy’s fear and the public’s ignorance is gradually aiding a process which is not only inhuman, barbaric and dictatorial, but essentially is one that projects India as the biggest mockery of democracy.
(Editor’s note: The representational image used in the story was erroneously referred to have been from Raghunathganj in Murshidabad district. The error has been corrected.)