At least eight living persons were charred to death as revenge for political murder in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. What was projected as just a feud between one Bhadu Sheikh (whose murder was avenged) and Mihilal Sheikh has a definite political colour. The two factions of Trinamool Congress are at loggerheads over controlling the illicit business after the recently held civic polls. This shocking and inhuman spree of murders needs in-depth analysis and long-term answers.
The Rampurhat massacre is not the first incident where West Bengal has witnessed the mayhem of political violence as a tool to control the democratic apparatus. Right from the 1937 elections, Muslim League introduced violence in the electoral process. The Calcutta and Noakhali riots orchestrated by H S Suhrawardy not just butchered Hindus but mainstreamed violence as a tool of political blackmailing and ransacking. Even staunch nationalists like Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Sarat Chandra Sen had to accept the Partition on religious lines. In the words of great Bengali litterateur Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay, “Good that Bengal was Partitioned. Bengali Hindus will heave a sigh of relief”. Did the politics of violence recede after Independence? The answer is an emphatic NO.
Till 1971, a continuous influx of Hindus from the then East Pakistan continued facing persecutions at the hands of Jamaat and other radical organisations. While illegal migration continued in the bordering areas of West Bengal and Assam, Communist parties and Congress chose to nurture them as vote banks. Especially from the 1970s onwards, Communists reintroduced violence and politicisation of police machinery as an effective instrument of governance, as they did everywhere else. Mamata Banerjee later mastered this art by fuelling goondaism of political and criminal nature. Unfortunately, pointing out this travesty of political violence practised in the name of democracy is painted as anti-Bengali. The former Chief Ministers of West Bengal have accepted this historical fact in the Assembly and High Courts, while delivering various judgements, have commented on this fact. If we continue to turn a blind eye towards it for political convenience, it will continue to take innocent lives in the name of democracy.
The political rivalry within the Trinamool Congress (TMC) will settle down. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has arrived as a political challenger and will have to find ways to establish itself as the ruling party for the ordinary Bengalis. The fundamental questions are: How far these intra-party or inter-party competitions are settled through democratic means?; being a bordering State, can we give preponderance to the narrow political interests over the national interest? From Kaliachak to Birbhum, each incident suggests a larger national security threat involved in this spree of violence. And whether the rule of law, virtues and humanity can be re-established in the land of Tagore, Vivekananda and Aurobindo? These are the key questions, and we as a nation have to find concrete answers to them to end the inhuman legacy of murderous politics. The culture of political violence started by the Muslim League, nurtured by the Communists and mastered by the TMC must end. Collective efforts by the entire Constitutional machinery and the nationwide democratic pressure are the only solutions.