WEST Bengal witnessed brutal operation for murder of democracy, never seen after the dark days of seventies.
Panchayat elections in West Bengal have utterly exposed the anti-democratic character of the TMC government. Opposition parties were debarred from submitting nominations in thousands of seats, intending candidates were attacked in large scale particularly outside block and sub-divisional offices. Kolkata High Court intervened and stayed the election process, directed State Election Commission to declare an extra date for submission of nomination. The court also directed the Commission to ensure safety and security of candidates.
On April 23, the extended day of nomination, the entire state witnessed intensified and senseless violence. TMC armed gangs were determined not to allow any nominations from the opposition on the extra day. Apart from taking control of all BDO and SDO offices, cordoning off every road to administrative offices, a new method was applied. They started to attack CPI(M) offices. In Arambagh, CPI(M) candidates gathered at the Party office and the police assured them security. However, a gang of TMC miscreants entered the office and mercilessly started beating candidates, particularly women. TMC cadres tore off sarees of Rakhi Roy and Suparna Singh and severely beat them. The attack happened in front of media persons and video cameras and the photos became instantly viral in the social media. However, there was no arrest, no condemnation from the woman chief minister of the state.
In Diamond Harbour, TMC miscreants began to chase away Left candidates from early morning. They blocked all roads towards block and SDO office. They even stopped buses and cars to ‘watch’ whether Left candidates are coming. After repeated attempts, CPI(M) leaders Sujan Chakraborty and Kanti Ganguly reached to the spot. They tried to lead candidates but police resisted them on the way. Police began baton charge, fired tear gas shells and even fired in the air to disperse Left candidates. TMC miscreants had free run with the help from police in Bishnupur, Baruipur, Mathurapur, Canning, Falta. In all these areas, they lay seize to the SDO offices and charged bombs. Scores of CPI(M) activists including district secretariat member Alok Bhattacharya were injured. Candidates were not allowed to enter SDO offices.
In East Burdwan district, all block offices were rendered inaccessible to the opposition candidates. TMC gangs roamed freely in streets and attacked CPI(M) offices in Katwa, Manteswar, Purbasthali, Memari, Galsi. They burnt houses and shops of CPI(M) candidates. In West Burdwan, only seven candidates could submit their nominations. In Birbhum, TMC gangs surrounded all administrative offices and opposition candidates were attacked. Dildar Khan was killed in such an attack in Karadhya. His family was forced to declare that their son was a TMC activist. His father was forcibly taken to TMC office to tell media persons his ‘allegiance’ to TMC. In Bankura, TMC activists were seen openly moving with fire arms and they blocked all roads to BDO offices. In West Midnapore, TMC gang entered the Ghatal BDO office and tore all nomination papers. Many CPI(M) candidates were kidnapped from BDO office itself and they were traced hours after, nearly seven kilometres away. In East Midnapore, TMC gangs blocked Haldia, Khejhuri, Nandigram block offices. Finally police chased away Left candidates. In Murshidabad, TMC gangs cordoned every administrative office. CPI(M) candidates were attacked at Lalbagh Party office when they were preparing to go to BDO office. The office was ransacked. Congress MLA Manoj Chakraborty along with other party leaders, was beaten in front of police. In Nabagram, CPI(M) office was attacked with bombs.
In Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, opposition candidates were attacked earlier. With the High Court order, they came to DM office at Alipore, in Kolkata to submit nominations. They were beaten there and forcibly ousted. This murderous attack took place in the presence of Kolkata police. Later, in an unprecedented move, Kolkata High Court directed SEC to accept the nominations of nine candidates of Bhangar, submitted through Whatsapp.
Journalists were attacked throughout the state. At Alipore in Kolkata, journalists were beaten inside the DM office of South 24 Parganas. Pragya Saha, a woman journalist of a television channel, was locked inside a room and badly manhandled. She was beaten up, her mobile phone snatched. Journalists from ABP Ananda, Ei Samoy and other media houses were beaten in Durgapur. 10 journalists faced attacks in Durgapur SDO office and the court premises. Two of them were admitted in hospital with serious injuries. In Rampurhat, journalist Sabyasachi Islam was mercilessly beaten. Organised attack on media took place in Haripal, Balagarh, Suri, Shalboni.
On the one hand, organised lumpen forces were mobilised to terrorise the opposition and prevent them from submitting nominations, police was their partner in crime. In almost all places, police helped and shielded the miscreants. The higher level police officers were seen barricading Left candidates from entering BDO offices and playing the role of cohorts of dreaded anti-socials. Complete collapse of law and order machinery and the joint mercenary force of TMC criminals and police exercised pre-election rigging in an unprecedented manner.
Why so? It was clear from the statement of the chief minister herself. In an interview to a television channel, Mamata Banerjee brushed aside all incidents of violence as mere ‘drama’ and claimed that TMC would win ‘100 per cent seats’. She also declared that any panchayat without TMC in power would face difficulty. It was a clear indication that the entire operation of blocking the opposition was directly administered by the chief minister.
CPI(M) and the Lefts are, however, fighting back with zeal. Despite this all-out attack, thousands of Left candidates forced their way in and submitted nominations. CPI(M) state secretary Surjya Misra has declared that though a farce was being thrust upon West Bengal, democracy was being butchered, there would be intense resistance in every inch. The struggle to restore democracy in West Bengal will be fought in every village.