West Bengal’s politics for last five decades has been essentially based on violent control of territory and merciless elimination of political rivals
Among several lacunae in their society, like most communities engrossed in them, Bengalis find it distasteful to admit that anything has gone wrong. The politics of violence is one of them. Everybody knows about it, but would hardly anyone speak about it.
But just concluded 2016 Assembly elections were different and large number of people articulated their viewpoints eloquently. Some also took to the polling booths and exercised their voting rights.
West Bengal’s politics for last five decades has been essentially based on violent control of territory and merciless elimination of political rivals. Every Bengali worth his or her salt knows this. But when it comes to glib talks, most Bhadraloks will talk about jungle-raj in Bihar and insurgency-related killings in Assam and beyond.
Nevertheless, if such a culture of political violence had led to instability and fear psychology among the masses at the social level, outwardly Bengal would have so-called “political stability” under Marxist doyen Jyoti Basu. But such a political atmosphere also would have led to authoritarianism.
Basu could do no wrong and hence even episodes like murder of Ananda Margis openly remained part of
Few Recent Incidents
Hence in 2011, when Marxists were ousted in the name of ‘parivartan’ (transition); unknowingly Bengal had embraced Mamata Banerjee – a true substitute as a Didi to Marxist Dadas. At least, the Mamata Banerjee detractors after five years stand vindicated.
Mamata Banerjee – truly also has been a product of Congress backyards. Her admirers would often take pride in mentioning that as a young Congress activist she once jumped over a car of Congress leader Sitaram Kesri.
Earlier this year in January, Rupa Ganguly of Draupadi fame in a TV serial had her reasons when she said Left parties and the CPI(M) were “number 1” – to be blamed for the deteriorating law and order situations and “police inactions” in Bengal. “Trinamool Congress is something much bigger and even above that number one,” she said rather aptly.
Any Bengal observer knows what the spiral of violence and bloodshed is.
BJP sources in Bengal alleged that in 2015 civic polls, at least four political deaths and 462 other instances of violence were reported. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, there were 14 instances of political killings and 1166 incidents of violence.
Who did this?
The Congress under Siddhartha Shankar Ray perhaps discovered it first, the CPI(M) continued it with their midas touch and the Didi dispensation only took it to a new height.
As a Bengali by birth as one struggles to write these paras, one only gets a stomach ache for numerous reasons. West Bengal politics precisely poses special problems not only while reporting from the spot – it pervades one’s mind as I sit to key in few critical lines.
Why 2011 mandate could not bring in the ‘parivartan’?
Left to them, Bengalis are also born moral teachers. The likes of Somnath Chatterjees would not hesitate to talk about high-pedestal politics when the faultline was with other parties – especially BJP. But when it came to Nandigram, a committed Marxist, Chatterjee as Lok Sabha Speaker had disallowed members raising the issue saying they could not raise matters related to state governments.
BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra, otherwise a sober gentleman with pretty experience, was stunned and he was more often heard screaming, “Sir, but India is a union of states”.
But Nandigram and Singur and the subsequent mandate of 2009 Lok Sabha polls and 2011 historic Assembly elections could not help Somnath da’s ‘holier than thou’ politics. The fall of Marxist rule in 2011 had to occur. But the tragedy of Bengal is; all that happened in extra-ordinary swiftness. There was no change on ground – culturally or otherwise.
The same ‘club-dadas’ simply changed their flags outside the office. While ‘Nandigram policy’ of Buddhadev Bhattacharya was discredited, the blind faith of colony goondas on the age-old belief that police and political masters have to be kept in good humour was hardly discredited. A prominent Kolkata-based Trinamool leader would privately admit that among new faithful foot soldiers he has, there are a few known “former Leftist henchmen”. And he does not seem to help about it.
The truth need not be a casualty alone. It can be replaced by a silence. And the silence actually can take liberty with truth. Violence and bloodshed are thus here to stay in Sonar Bangla.
Without going into the past when Congress dispensation tried to eliminate Naxalism from Bengal, let us examine the use of “violence” as a powerful “instrument” of politics by the CPI-M especially since 1978 in an organised manner. During his stint once Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, when informed of rape of two women had surprised media men: “Such incidents do happen, don’t they?”
India’s one of the so called “the best prime minister country never had” – was responding to the inhuman acts against a UNICEF woman official and another with Government of India when the two women had detected corruption and abuse of “UN funds by some CPI-M organisation” in South 24-Parganas district. The case later came to be known as Bantala rape.
So are we surprised when more recently we heard authorities questioning the complaint of a rape of a Anglo-Indian woman? On 17 February, 2012, many years after Basu’s remarks on Bantala episode, Mamata Banerjee addressing the media had claimed the entire allegation was “cooked up with a view to malign the government”.
Her trusted lieutenant Madan Mitra went a step further. “She (the victim) has two children and so far as I know she is separated from her husband. What was she doing at a night club?”
Hence, we had two glaring instances of official sanction to rape!
Basu’s tenure had several such instances of violence and “political cleansing”. Late Congress leader Ajit Panja, who later also joined Trinamool, often used to say that “Jyoti Basu hardly encouraged discipline both among people and his cadres. His cadres were always right for him as long as they brought electoral victory to the CPI-M”. The same yardstick persisted with Mamata Banerjee.
(The writer is a political analyst)