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West Bengal not new to political murders; after Congress, CPM, the baton seems to have passed to TMC

If there is one state in India where one should not be surprised to see political violence resulting in brutal murders, it is West Bengal. The recent deaths of two BJP workers is a reinforcement of the fact that the state machinery in West Bengal has been historically compromised to perpetuate political violence.

The state has been the most politically violent state of the country, at least since independence. Before 1977 it was the Congress which ushered in a period known as ‘hoodlum years’ between 1971 and 1977, till the time the Congress was defeated by the Left. This period saw organised political killings of Naxalites and political opponents particularly by the Youth Congress and Chatra Parishad. At that time the Naxals were after the Congress and the CPM, the CPM was after the Congress and the Naxals, and the Congress with all the state apparatus was after the CPM and the Naxals.

Toon By Manjul

Toon By Manjul

The Left got the mandate of the people of West Bengal against the Congress because of such atrocious level of violence. However, the Left rule proved no less violent and, in fact, surpassed all levels of political violence in the state, till the date. The Communist regime drove off the industry, the farmers became poorer and when it was finally driven out of power, it quite literally left more people starving in West Bengal, than any other state in India. Also, the Left, remaining committed to its ideology was not averse to compromising the democratic system and hence widespread election rigging had become a norm in those days.

It was against this anarchic model of governance that Mamta Banerjee got the mandate to rule West Bengal by its people. However, it is speculated that the entire lumpen Left cadre base was transferred to Trinamool Congress. It is hence no surprise that they choose to function in the manner they are used to. This meant that political violence remains unabated in the state.

The chart below shows the number of political murders in the state over a period of 2001 to 2016. The data shows that the state is consistent in political violence over this period, at least.

Murders due to political reasons in West Bengal from 2001 to 2016. Data source: National Crime Records Bureau

Murders due to political reasons in West Bengal from 2001 to 2016. Data source: National Crime Records Bureau

The following charts, reflect state-wise data of political murders. Only those states with political murders more than five have been taken into consideration for this visual representation. All the data is sourced from the annual publication of National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India.

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2007. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2007. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2008. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2008. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2009. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2009. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2010. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2010. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2011. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2011. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2012. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2012. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2013. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2013. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2014. Data source: NCRB

Murders due to political reasons in India in the year 2014. Data source: NCRB

As is clearly seen, in the years 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013, the state has the highest number of political killings. Even in other years, it has consistently remained among the states with the highest number of such murders.

However, in the years 2015 and 2016 the data only reflects that there has been only one political murder in the state in each year. This points to a data anomaly, especially because two such murders have happened in the last five days itself.

In the year 2016, the state of West Bengal records the highest number of Naxalism related deaths at 79. This is higher than Chhattisgarh. The data doesn’t make any sense because there is only one district in the state which is Naxalism affected. This begs the question: are the political murders now projected by the state government as Naxalism-related deaths?

What's the solution?

The basic premise of political violence is that it militates against the concept of democracy and rule of law. It attacks at the heart of the constitutional setup, and therefore, drastic measures are required to curb this problem.

The solution of such a systematic problem of political violence is only a methodical overhaul of the governance structure of the state. The Union Government needs to show its mettle in such a case. West Bengal presents a textbook case of the breakdown of the constitutional machinery in a state, especially when we contextualise the present murders with the massive and widespread violence seen during the panchayat polls in the state, just last month. There hasn’t been any such situation in our entire independent history.

BJP workers clash with police over the alleged killing of BJP Dalit supporter in Purulia. PTI

BJP workers clash with police over the alleged killing of BJP Dalit supporter in Purulia. PTI

The Modi government has all the reasons to exercise its powers under Article 356 of the Constitution and dismiss the Mamta Banerjee government with immediate effect and can choose to order fresh elections. If not this, then the Central government should order a CBI inquiry into the twin murders and a judicial inquiry into the violence reported during the elections. The trials should also be shifted outside the state in order to expect a fair outcome.

It is the utmost responsibility of the Union government that the rule of law is maintained and none of the federating units are subjected to a mayhem of this magnitude, at the hands of a despotic chief minister.

The author is a senior fellow with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, Mumbai. He can be reached at raghav10089@gmail.com, Twitter: @raghavwrong


Updated Date: Jun 03, 2018 14:20 PM

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