July 06, 2014

Politics of Terror & Intimidation


THE outrageous remarks made by a Trinamool Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Tapas Paul, have rightly caused nationwide indignation and outright condemnation. Such comments which legitimise terror, violence and rape as political instruments have no place in any democratic civil society. Those making such comments must be brought to book. Their party, currently the ruling party in the state of West Bengal, implicitly endorsing such comments cannot be allowed to remain unaccountable with a mere eyewash of “disassociating with such comments”. Stringent action and voluntary peaceful people’s social ostracization of such elected MPs must necessarily follow, to at least begin cleansing our polity. That the Trinamool Congress and its chief is not contemplating any such action, once again proves the point that it is a party which patronises the politics of terror. This speech made at a public rally on June 14 by the MP has gone viral on the electronic media and was widely condemned. Given the Trinamool Congress’s patronage, it is no surprise that the MP, Tapas Paul, has not been proceeded against by the state police under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The speech available on the electronic media shows that it covers all aspects of `criminal intimidation’ and can be tried under Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code. Further, the state police, under whose remit is the responsibility to implement the law, are empowered under Section 23 of the Indian Police Act 1861 to take pre-emptive measures to prevent a person from making such a speech without even getting a complaint. In this particular case, having made such a speech once, this MP is eminently qualified to be arrested in order to prevent any such repetition. Section 503 of the IPC says, “whoever threatens another with injury, reputation or property …commits criminal intimidation” is liable to be taken under custody. Naturally, with the patronage of the state government, the state police has not acted so far. To realise the grave dereliction of duty by the state police, consider what this MP has said. From what has appeared in the media and quoted in the newspapers, he said: “If any CPM man is present here. Listen to me. If you ever touch any Trinamool Congress worker or their families at Choumaha, you have to pay for this. Don’t try to act smart with me. I am smarter than you”. Further he said, as media reports, threateningly to “shoot down political opponents” and “unleash his boys to rape” their family members. He also proudly asserted that he always carries a gun. Such an obnoxious statement by an elected member of the Indian parliament is simply unacceptable. As we go to press, media reports that a Public Interest Litigation has been admitted by the courts. Instead of assuaging this public outcry, in response to the demand for stringent action against the concerned MP, the Trinamool Congress chief and the chief minister of West Bengal retorted asking, according to media reports to the effect: What should I do? Should I shoot him? This is equally outrageous. Given the fact that rape is being perfected as an instrument of political oppression in the state of Bengal and the fact that it needs to be shamefully accepted that Kolkata is now being recognised as the rape capital of India, the National Commission on Women must take suo moto cognizance and initiate criminal action against the MP. Likewise, the National Human Rights Commission must move as the contents of the speech by this particular MP violate Article 21 of our constitution that provides all citizens the fundamental right to `life and liberty’. In a sense what this Trinamool MP Tapas Paul has said is a reflection of the actual reality that exists in the state of West Bengal today. The Trinamool Congress has unleashed a saga of gory violence and terror as its primary instrument of consolidating its rule in the state and garnering electoral support. The facts speak for themselves: Since the 2011 assembly elections, between May 13, 2011 and till June 2014, 157 activists and leaders of the CPI(M) and the Left Front have been murdered in the state. Since the Lok Sabha elections were declared (March 5, 2014), 12 CPI(M) and Left leaders and sympathisers have been killed, 8,785 seriously injured. Large-scale disruption of agricultural activity particularly against poor peasants and marginal farmers has taken place in all the 17 districts of the state. 27,283 have been evicted from their lands preventing cultivation in 9,811.83 acres of land. In all the districts, there has been destruction of cattle worth crores of rupees. 48,382 families have been evicted from their homes. 6,152 houses have been completely destroyed. 9,529 people have been victims of blackmail and ransom and together they had to pay a staggering amount of Rs 27 crores 87 lakhs and 8 thousand. 1,365 CPI(M) offices have been ransacked. Additionally, 398 offices of mass organisations of the Left parties have been destroyed. Instead of taking any action against the culprits, the police under the state government have taken into custody the victims - 5,732 CPI(M) and Left activists – under false cases. And finally, women have been the worst victims of such politics of violence and terror. 291 women have been raped 675 molested 1,035 physically assaulted. All these and more details have been submitted by a delegation of the West Bengal Left Front committee to the chief minister recently. Needless to add, there has been no action that is forthcoming so far. The Indian parliament is soon meeting in its budget session. It has to take a decision whether such members who make such outrageous and illegal comments should be allowed to be in the midst of lawmakers. It would, indeed, be a travesty for democracy that those who violate the law with impunity continue to sit as lawmakers of our country. On a larger plane, the country and its people have to decide whether such politics of terror and intimidation can be allowed to operate with impunity undermining Indian democracy and its republican constitution. Surely, this cannot be allowed. The people of West Bengal, after long years of sufferings, agony, heroic sacrifices and through the powerful unity of a popular struggle had defeated the forces of semi-fascist terror in the past in the decade of the 1970s. A new generation has been born and grown-up since. There is a need to invoke this heroic legacy today in the defence of democracy, human life, liberty and dignity. (July 2, 2014)