Editorial, December 29, 2013
THE state of West Bengal is bearing itself for state level actions called in protest against the despicable attack on a rally of the Left Front in Kolkata on December 22, 2013. Armed hoodlums of the Trinamool Congress attempted to block the rally led by the chairman of the Left Front and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Biman Basu. Armed with sticks, iron roads and bricks these hoodlums attacked the protestors and ransacked the auto rickshaw carrying the sound system. This could not deter the protestors who continued with the march through the streets of Sinthi area of Kolkata city. Apart from Biman Basu, those targeted by the attackers included former state ministers - Mohd Salim (former MP in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), Manab Mukherjee, former MLA Rajdeo Gwala, current deputy leader of the CPI(M) group in Rajya Sabha Prasanta Chatterjee and others. Some women activists suffered grievous injuries in this attack. As it has by now become the norm in West Bengal, the state police team led by the deputy police commissioner remained mere by-standers refusing to even lodge an FIR and making no arrests.
This is not a mere `one-off’ incident or an isolated one. This is part of the overall strategy employed by the ruling Trinamool Congress to browbeat all opposition in the state through such strong arm methods of terror and intimidation. A form of terror not unknown to the people of West Bengal. The current situation today is menacingly moving towards a situation reminiscent of the semi-fascist terror unleashed in the state during the decade of the 1970s. The objective then, as it is today, was to establish political hegemony by snuffing out all opposition through the brazen abrogation of democracy and civil liberties. In the process, the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article XXI of our constitution is being mercilessly negated.
Since the elections to the state Assembly in 2011, when the Trinamool Congress-Congress party combine secured a majority defeating the ruling Left Front after seven consecutive elections, such a subversion of democracy and democratic rights has proceeded to accelerate furiously. The following statistics (from May 14, 2011 to December 5, 2013) will attest to this fact:
Killed – 142
Abetted to commit suicide – 12
Peasant suicides (from October 12, 2011) – 89
Rape – 24 + 209 [general women (from September 2011)]
Molestation – 521 + 124 [general women (from September 2011)]
Physical assaults on women – 987
Injured and hospitalized – 7433
Evicted from homes – 46937
Houses ransacked, looted and burnt – 5547
CPI(M) offices ransacked and captured – 1247
Attack on CPI(M) Party conferences – 14
Mass organisations and trade union
offices attacked/captured – 299
Attacks on the election process in different
institutions – 111
Attacks on educational institutions – 295
Student union offices captured – 85
Ganashakti display boards destroyed – 373
Pre-planned attacks based on so called
`arms recovery’ – 172
Arrests on false and fabricated cases – 4237
Forceful collection of money (instances) – 9529
Rs. 27,87,8,000 (approx)
Peasants not allowed to cultivate own land – 3418
Eviction of pattaholders and bargadars – 27283
In protest against such a murderous attack on democracy, elected members of the parliament, state assembly and local bodies from West Bengal staged a dharna at the Parliament Street in New Delhi on December 18, 2013. Members of the Left Front in both the houses of parliament raised this issue and organised a protest march to the President of India and submitted a memorandum drawing his attention to such a naked subversion of democracy in the state of West Bengal.
On the next day, a delegation met the chief election commissioner drawing the attention of the Election Commission to its constitutional mandate of creating conditions conducive for a free and fair elections, which is not the situation obtaining in West Bengal today. The details of the memorandum submitted both to the president and to the Election Commission are detailed elsewhere in this issue.
These memoranda highlighted the fact that apart from such attacks listed above, it has now become a practice in West Bengal that the ruling Trinamool Congress uses all forms of force, threats and intimidation to ensure that opposition members elected in the recent local body elections resign or change their political allegiance in favour of the ruling party. Spouses of prospective candidates and those elected belong to the opposition parties are `visited’ by ruling party goons with presents of white saris (worn by women when their husbands are deceased), thus, threatening grave consequences if the husbands do not withdraw from contest or join the ruling. Such is the naked assault on democracy and democratic processes.
Worse is the fact that the ruling party in the state appears to be perfecting the form of using rape as a political weapon. Large-scale increase in such cases, notwithstanding the national outrage on this score, in the state have been a source of very deep anguish and concern amongst the people, who, for the last three decades and more, have seen a vastly different and better levels of civil social environment. The instances of coercion, assaults and kidnapping are becoming the order of the day.
It is, indeed, ominous that such an attack on democracy and civil liberties in West Bengal comes at a time when there seems to be a rightward shift in Indian politics. It is well-known that the Trinamool Congress has absolutely no reservations or any compunctions in doing business with the RSS/BJP. Recollect that the Trinamool Congress chief served as the union railway minister under Atal Behari Vajpayee. Having left the ruling NDA then, on some reason, she rejoined the union cabinet soon after the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat. Obviously, she suffered from no sense of guilt to associate with the union cabinet that virtually condoned the Gujarat communal pogrom. Given this, the concern expressed for the welfare of the Muslim minorities in West Bengal today betrays both lack of sincerity and genuineness of intent. It would, therefore, be of little surprise if the projected RSS/BJP prime ministerial aspirant receives positive vibes from the West Bengal CM. The Gujarat CM as PM and West Bengal CM would, indeed, be a lethal cocktail threatening the future of Indian secular democracy.
Further, having aligned with the Congress party in the 2009 general elections and 2011 assembly elections, and serving as the union railway minister under Dr Manmohan Singh, the Trinamool Congress chief has displayed utter contempt for any political commitment or sincerity. For being party to share the spoils of office, the Trinamool Congress would be willing to do business with the RSS/BJP or the Congress.
However, in the pursuit of their ambitions through political opportunism, they cannot be permitted to destroy the foundations of democracy and democratic institutions that grievously undermine the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people. The CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal have, in the past, at the expense of immense sacrifice of thousands of its members and supporters had restored democracy in West Bengal. For over five years, when the CPI(M) was being targeted in the 1970s, many secular democratic opposition parties thought it was an attack confined to the CPI(M) and the Left alone. They realized only when internal emergency was imposed in 1975 that when attacks on democracy and democratic rights begin, they never stop at targeting one party or one part of India. They are bound to extend universally. The experience of the struggle to restore democracy by the Indian people during 1975-77 must be recollected, once again, as a learning experience to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself as a tragedy.
On its part, the CPI(M) along with its allies of the Left Front, will continue to unflinchingly resist such attacks and, like in the past, will surely overcome them once again to ensure the deepening and strengthening of democracy and democratic rights in the country.
(December 25, 2013)