Bengal has a history of political violence. It has been happening for decades. It started with the landowners unleashing brutality on peasants in the 1940s. Ek paisa Andolan, Naxalbari movement, murder of Himanta Basu, reportedly, by Communist/Congress, killing Ajit Kumar Basu, killings in Nandigram, and now in Mamata Banerjee’s regime.
Soon after the 2021 Bengal election results, political violence erupted in various parts of West Bengal, reportedly killing several people and injuring opponents. Mamata ‘s government, the TMC (Trinamool Congress) emerging victorious, the third time since 2011. Violence was primarily reported from Burdwan and West Midnapore. While Modi’s government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claimed that nine of its members were killed, Mamata’s government said three of its workers were killed. The Governor of West Bengal and all opposition parties have condoned the alarming situation under Mamata Banerjee’s TMC.
The Home Ministry ordered the deployment of CRPF in the state, but the situation is still out of control. There were reports of attacks on CRPF Jawans. The death toll crossed 25, and some journalists say that it is more than 100. The situation is out of control; the media is so scared that not even one investigative journalist is on the ground. People are begging for their lives. It was further reported that TMC goons looted shops of BJP workers, but police remain complacent. West Bengal is facing genocide. Supporters of every other political party are being ‘hunted,’ houses are being vandalised, and women are being molested.
Thirty years ago, the same was the situation in Kashmir. Reports of gruesome violence resulting from TMC’s victory celebration have shaken the entire nation. Political murders, soft fascism, and authoritarianism are the brutal reality after Mamata Banerjee’s return to the state for the third time. Photos and videos of violence went viral on social media, with several ordinary people and politicians of the country tweeting and condemning the raging fire.
TMC and BJP alleged murder of their party workers; photos and videos as proof have been doing rounds, with some even being touted as fake or fabricated. Amid the blame game, it is the state, and it is the citizens who are suffering.
Evolution & Development
Over the past decade, Mamata herself has been involved in multiple scams, had made controversial decisions, including her challenging the federal system of India when she ordered the arrest of CBI officials, who arrived in Kolkata to investigate the Sharadha Group Financial Scandal. TMC has also failed to control the communal disputes in the state, the two most recent ones being the 2016 Dhaulagiri Riots and the 2017 Badura Riots. The last party that ruled Bengal before Mamata was CPI(M) which got away with 28,000 political murders.
In 1971, the Hindu refugees came to Bengal after being persecuted in Bangladesh, and in 2021 we see history repeating itself as Hindus take shelter in Assam after being victimised in Bengal. The exodus of right-wing party workers and their families continues after the post-election violence. Assam’s minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, informed that around 300-400 people had entered the Dhubri district of Assam from North Bengal. Assam’s BJP president, Ranjit Kumar Dass, and MP, Rajdeep Roy, visited the refugees from West Bengal and distributed relief items. The ruling party of Assam (BJP) informed that around 600 people from Bengal were given shelter at a camp at Agamoni in Dhubri. They were from Cooch Behar district in West Bengal, where the Modi government won 7 out of 9 assembly seats.
People are heading towards a situation like the Kashmir genocide of 1990, where radical Islamists and militants threatened Kashmiris to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam, or get killed. The Kashmiri pandits were killed or forced to leave their homes. No one is taking any steps to save the citizens of West Bengal from the terror; they are losing their families and homes. BSF officials have requested the local administration and police to take strict action, but the Chief Minister has demonised the central paramilitary forces. She even urged the party supporters to ‘gherao’ them during elections. This the Bengal’s model, supposedly the finest. In 70 years, this model failed to give employment or a future, but it gave them a sense of belongingness to a team that can beat up a numerically weaker team.
The Centre has exerted pressure on the Bengal government to control the situation, while pleas have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking Presidential Rule under Article 356.
Mamata's party won this year again, but Mamata herself lost her assembly seat to the right-wing candidate, Suvendu Adhikari, in Nandigram by 1736 votes. Nandigram is the town in Bengal that catapulted Mamata Banerjee to power for the first time in 2011. Such is Indian Politics, where a leader running for Chief Minister got 70% of the seats but lost in her constituency.
To be the Chief Minister, one needs to be elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly. Now, since Mamata has lost her seat at Nandigram, the logical conclusion seems that she cannot be the CM. However, there is a workaround. Mamata can hold the position of the Chief Minister even without winning the election. However, she will have to win the elections from any seat within six months. This means that one of TMC's ministers will resign as MLA from their constituency, and Mamata will contest the by-polls. This can be done under Article 164(4).
India is a nation of Unity in Diversity where people of different castes, speaking different languages, having different cultures, and believing in different ideologies reside together. It is the largest democracy where people are free to vote and elect the leader of their choice. However, these differences have led to violence. Leaders of political parties are using the policy of ‘divide and rule’ to gain votes. People are killing others who have different choices or beliefs than them. The radicalisation amongst youth is why communal clashes in every other part of the country have increased. Nobody wants to hear anything against their ideology/culture/religion. No one is trying to respect another's choice or understand others’ perspectives.
Kashmir was always known as the land of terror due to the daily communal violence, and Bengal is following in its footsteps. The responsibility is on the head of the state to ensure peace. However, Mamata Banerjee, being the state leader, was seen openly threatening the opposition party workers. The situation was already bad because of the pandemic. Still, the ruling party carried out mass rallies campaigning for votes. Even after the victory, the ruling party celebrated by gathering in mass groups. Also, harassed the workers of other parties by looting, killing, forcing them to leave their homes and families.
In contrast, thousands are succumbing to the deadly pandemic. This increased intolerance and hatred will only shatter states and citizens. Ordinary people will continue to suffer due to no development in education and income, which is essential for a states’ welfare and success.
If communal riots or hysterical religious activities go on, Bengal might become a place full of religious hatred like Kashmir. Religious movements might take place intensely, increasing hatred between Hindus and Muslims. The youth must educate themselves and spread awareness about what is going on in their country instead of believing the political leaders blindly. Being tolerant towards different ideologies, faiths, and choices is necessary for a secular country like India to maintain peace. Electing a good leader is required who will treat all communities equally and with due respect. Citizens and state governments should focus on educational development and employment rather than demeaning each other and being intolerant.
A country can only progress once its citizens rise above these inequalities.