September 11, 2022

Protests Rock West Bengal over Misrule

Subinoy Moulik

Discontent Spreads

BENGAL is in a bitter mood as one after another the names of Trinamool top brass are getting added to the list of the corrupt. The daily chain of new arrests and the angst over ever-increasing corruption is giving rise to agitating spirit among the people across the length and breadth of the state. Despite the Trinamool-led government’s usual attempts to impose extra-regulatory restrictions, and routine threats by Trinamool-backed goons, mass rallies and mass meetings, protest marches and demonstrations are taking over the streets in several districts.


At a huge youth rally at Curzon Gate in Burdwan on August 22, Meenakshi Mukherjee, state secretary of DYFI said, “Those accused of coal or cow smuggling and of recruitment corruption will not get away by ‘match-fixing’ with the BJP. Even if the CBI gives exemption to the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee's beloved nephew, we will not let them sleep in peace. Trinamool-BJP will tremble after seeing this historic rally today. We will not yield even an inch of land in this fight against thieves.” The gathering at the DYFI rally was indeed eye-catching.

The march started from Burdwan station. Young people overflowed from the pavement so that the roadway was quite impassable for traffic. In a little while, the entire stretch of Grand Trunk Road from Curzon Gate to Burdwan Station was occupied by the young crowd. This rally bore witness to the fact that many young men and women from poor families who had been lured into Trinamool and also BJP have joined the Left movement in recent times. The key slogan of this rally was “Save Freedom, Give Us Right to Work.”

Meenakshi Mukherjee also said at the meeting that the killers of Anis Khan, the protesting youth, have remained unpunished for 218 days. His father has not got justice. Meenakshi warned the police and said that if the police lay hands on the workers of her organisation while playing second fiddle to the Trinamool, then people would teach them how to act properly. “We will not forgive you either,” she added. Meenakshi said Bengal’s youth do know the culprits who snatched the nomination papers in the 2018 panchayat polls to stop candidates from filing nominations, the ones who looted the votes and rigged the polls are the henchmen of the bigwigs who have looted people's money. The time has come to turn around and resist this hooliganism and loot in the coming panchayat elections. Condemning the spread of hatred by the BJP, she said, by releasing the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case convicts, the BJP-ruled state had proved what they wanted in the whole country. Denouncing the policy of the Modi government, she said that earlier 22 lakh people used to work in Indian Railways; now the number has gone down to 5 lakhs. All the resources of the country are being sold. Where will the unemployed youth get jobs? “We have been fighting against this since the birth of our organisation with the basic demand of enshrining the right to work as a fundamental right in the constitution. And our fight shall go on,” she said. Meenakshi said that the Left Front government had created confidence and trust among the people of the state on how to conduct service-related exams. At present, the meritorious poor are being deprived of job opportunities because of the bribe-takers. She said that Trinamool leaders have threatened to make leather shoes out of the skin of every Trinamool critic. “Some have warned us that they shall put us in jail if we call them thieves,” she said. “Youth activists shall not relent in calling a thief a thief. We shall fill up jails, but we shan't stop. The movement shall spread demanding to jail all thieves, and to criminally prosecute them all. ”


Sabina Yasmin from Kolaghat, East Medinipur was walking in the march on August 23, with her daughter in her arms. "It’s not possible to sit quietly anymore. Their misrule, brutality, theft, and corruption can no longer be tolerated,” she said. The route was tedious. But not just her words but also her tone of voice expressed her determination to struggle. East Medinipur has become familiar with this resolve in the last few years. People from every region of the district came to the rally. The rally against Trinamool's corruption and misrule was scheduled to be held in front of the DM's office. Police troops, and barricades stood blocking the way of the long march. The barricades were overturned. Police used water cannons. Bricks were also thrown. but Nimtouri saw Abdul Sheikh of Nandigram, Nazrul Islam of Haldia, Somnath Goswami of Kolaghat, Shubhankar Burman of Nandakumar and many more remaining steadfast and determined to resist. As an example, let's listen to Nazrul from Haldia. The young man said, "We came to make this known today that you cannot restrain us by lathis and water cannons."

At the call of CITU, AIKS and AIAWU the rally and civil disobedience programme were held near the East Medinipur district magistrate's office on the demand of “Chor Dhoro , Jail Bhoro” (catch the thieves and put them in jail). When the march reached the district magistrate's office, the police became aggressive. After a massive scuffle, tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse the procession. The police had to retreat for some time in the face of people’s resistance. Then the policemen started pelting bricks to stop the rallyists. More than 50 people were injured in that brick attack, twenty of them quite seriously. Haldia- Mecheda national highway 116 remained blocked for more than an hour. The mood of the rallyists was radical from the outset. Padmavati Bishai who hails from Chandipur said at the end of the march, "Trinamool panchayat members ask for a ‘cut-money’ when people approach them for the unpaid dues of 100 days of work. And the police are working overtime to save those thieves. But they can't do this for a long time. It is time to settle all accounts.”

Leaders of various organisations including CPI (M) Central Committee Member Sujan Chakraborty, CITU state secretary, Anadi Sahu, and other district leaders were present in the march. In a meeting held before the beginning of the programme, Sujan Chakraborty said, "The root of this theft and corruption in the state is in Kalighat (the CM’s residence). This fight will continue until the kingpin is arrested. From state government jobs to panchayat level projects, inordinate theft is going on. A government is running, whose ministers are being thrown into jail for corruption. Bengal has never seen such a day.”

Anadi Sahu said, "During the BJP government and the Trinamool government in the state, the ordinary people are reeling under price hikes, unemployment, and unlimited corruption. The government of this state is encouraging corruption by not taking any measures against scamsters. The BJP government is selling the state-owned assets of the country. Lakhs of vacant posts in the central government are not being filled. This situation has to be changed.'


CPI (M) state secretary, Mohammad Salim addressed a large public meeting on August 25, at Sankrail, Howrah where the Trinamool and the police had staged a joint attack four days ago to thwart the rally of CPI (M) workers. CPI (M) workers were beaten up by miscreants led by Trinamool MLA, Priya Pal for holding a rally against corruption. CPI (M) area committee secretary, Sameer Malik and some Party workers were injured. Mohammad Salim said in the gathering of thousands of people: "Police are getting turned into slaves as they are busy providing security for Trinamool leaders who are thieves and murderers. So, they refuse to allow meetings to be held to protest against the theft of people’s money. But today’s rally proves that people's protest cannot be suppressed by the police.”

Salim said in the meeting that a section of the police extracts the money from illegal coal mining or sand mining and escorts it to the leaders of the ruling party. The same police are preventing protest meetings against corruption, arresting people when they march, and harassing the protestors with false accusations to silence them. They had killed student leader Anis Khan in his own home. However, the fact remains that since 2011, many police personnel have been killed by Trinamool in the state but the police are unable to arrest those murderers. This is happening because besides asking the opposition to sit mum applying leucoplast on the mouth, the chief minister has also applied leucoplast on the lips of her own police force. We, Leftists, are continuously fighting to mobilise people to demand the arrest of all murderers, miscreants and corruption mongers. Referring to the chief minister's hand behind the corruption, Salim said, it is hard to believe that the person who keeps tight tabs on any possible opposition while acting as the police minister of the state did not know about the corruption of his party's leaders. It is also barely credible that her police did not know anything. The people of the state do not believe this. Mohammad Salim also said in the meeting that corruption has reached unprecedented proportions in our state. “It is not the corruption of any one individual that we are bothered with. The leaders of the ruling party, the ministers and some top officials of the police administration are directly involved in this corruption which has grown using the entire government apparatus. Without this collective arrangement, such a mountain of illegal money would not have been amassed.” The ruling party is trying to gag the protesting voices of the people by using the police. But people will not stop, the truth must be spoken loudly. “Wherever you see Trinamool or police brutality, protest with the red flag,” he urged.

Appealing to people to unite for this, he said, BJP is creating division among people on the basis of religion and nationality. It is trying to incite people of one religion against another by spreading lies. They want to establish Hindutva in the country by taking away the rights of the minority population. but that is not all. The central government wants to sell the country's assets step by step. The red flag represents the unrelenting fight against this across the country. He urged the people to strengthen the red flag to save the country. The chief minister of the state has not kept any of his promises to the minorities. BJP and Trinamool together have April-fooled the people of Bengal. They are staging a mock fight among themselves.  


On August 31 every year, civil disobedience movements are held at all district headquarters in Bengal marking the martyrdom of over 80 people who were killed in the historic food movement in 1959. a civil disobedience programme in Burdwan on August 31 over recurrent recruitment scams and corruption, which was to take the form of peaceful protest, met with a wave of police brutality marked by indiscriminate use of teargas, batons, fists, feet and water cannons against protesters. The actions have left 41 protesters in jail including Central Committee member of CPI (M) Abhas Roy Choudhury, and over 250 CPI (M) activists and leaders injured. But despite all this, the police could not stop the protest of thousands of people. The demands of the march were: stop looting people’s wealth, against price rise, no GST on food products, and jail the corrupt. They broke the police barricade and continued their civil disobedience for more than an hour. They pulled down the awkward globe carrying the Biswa Bangla logo that had been erected in front of the city's iconic Curzon Gate, a heritage site.

Strongly condemning the police attack on CPI (M) activists, the party’s state secretary, Mohammad Salim said, "The very police who guard the thieves and help in illegal smuggling launched a brutal attack on the democratic movement today. Hundreds of our protesters were injured in the police attack. Old men and women were also beaten. On whose orders did the Burdwan police commit this heinous atrocity? Who will take responsibility? "

Salim himself was present in the civil disobedience programme. He warned the government saying, “They do not understand the mood of people. The CPI (M) cannot be dispersed by firing tear-gas canisters. We forbade workers to indulge in incitement. But after being attacked, they resisted. I appreciate the courage of the comrades. The strong morale of the agitators has shown what the mood of the people is now. What happened today will be protested against across the districts. Movement is going on all over the state. There shall be a huge march to Salt Lake CGO Complex on September 9.”

The police did not behave as they should have after arresting political activists. Protesters, even women, have been subjected to indescribable torture during the march and after the arrests. It looked as if the police personnel, especially the civic police on duty, were unleashing political vengeance. The police used abusive language, beat them with lathis and made random rape threats. The savagery of the police attack knew no bounds. Even the policewomen used foul language and used kicks and blows while hurling them all into the police vans. Women activists also had to bear the brutality of male police. But the detention, mistreatment and torture have only confirmed and strengthened the resolve of activists and they are determined to carry forward their resistance to this corrupt, incompetent regime. On the whole, the issue of corruption has come to centre stage in Bengal today and the need for creating an efficient and effective government working in the public interest is being felt more acutely again in many domains.