UNTIL recently, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee proudly called West Bengal an ‘‘oasis of peace’’. His pride has been severely dented since the Lok Sabha election results were out on May 16, 2009. Official stats say more people have been killed in Maoist and political violence in the last six months in Bengal than in all of last year in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Union Home Ministry, 381 people (78 civilians, 64 security force personnel and 239 terrorists) were killed in violence in Jammu and Kashmir in 2009.
Compare this to Bengal. Official estimates say 275 people were killed in 202 incidents of Maoist violence in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts between January and May, 2010. This includes 231 civilians, 31 security force personnel and 13 Maoists.
Violence is not restricted to the three Maoist-affected districts of the State. The bigger problem, it seems, is the raging political violence. After CPM-led Left Front’s drubbing in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and again in municipal polls in May this year, political violence has killed hundreds.
Between May 16, 2009 and June 30, 2010, 245 Left Front members were killed in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress claimed they lost almost an equal number of their workers during that period. There is a fear of escalation of violence in the run-up to 2011 Assembly polls.
Analysts attribute the violence to a turf war between Left and Trinamool. Left, especially CPM, has been considerably weakened, evident in every poll outcome since the 2008 panchayat election.
In bastions like south Bengal, the Left has been nearly routed by the Trinamool. This was unthinkable even four years ago, when Trinamool was called a Kalighat (where Mamata Banerjee lives) party, its influence largely restricted to Kolkata.
‘‘Everyone wants to be on the winning side, even goons, who invest political parties with muscle power,’’ said a veteran CPM leader in South 24-Parganas. Left parties are witnessing an exodus of cadres crossing over to Trinamool. Sensing a change, a section of government employees, including senior bureaucrats, are already shifting allegiance leading to a lax administration.