A forum of retired judges, senior functionaries of civil and police services, Ambassadors and senior armed forces officers has submitted a petition to President Ram Nath Kovind over the recent political violence in West Bengal in the aftermath of the declaration of Assembly election results on 2 May.
The petition has been signed by 146 eminent persons, including former senior officials including 17 judges, 63 bureaucrats, 10 Ambassadors and 56 armed forces officers.
Some of the signatories are former Indian Ambassador to Netherlands Bhaswati Mukherjee, former Maharashtra DGP Praveen Dixit, former RAW Chief Sanjeev Tripathi and former foreign secretary Shashank.
Referring to media reports, the forum said that they show unabated attacks after the declaration of results for the Assembly elections in West Bengal and "deficient and inappropriate response of the local administration and police".
"These unfortunate developments, if unchecked, could establish a trend which will undermine and ultimately destroy the deep-rooted democratic traditions of India," read the petition, adding that the state government, as well as the institutions set up by the Constitution, has the "solemn constitutional duty to protect the life and liberty of the citizens which this political violence gravely undermines".
In the petition, the forum sought the intervention of the President to ensure that 'unabated' post-election violence in West Bengal is not allowed to hit at the roots of Indian democratic values, tarnishing democracy and damaging it at the cost of the future generations.
"It is further requested that the culprits must be punished without exception -- firstly, by identifying the public servants who failed to take any action and abandoned their duty; secondly, by identifying the political provocateurs; thirdly, cases should be registered in respect of all offences in the wake of violence; and finally, effectively proceeding against the actual offenders to bring them to justice," the petition read.
It is recommended that an SIT monitored by a retired Supreme Court judge appointed by the top court should be formed for fair investigation and speedy justice, it added.
Further, since West Bengal is a sensitive border state, the petitioners said, "We request that these cases should be handed over to the NIA to deal with the anti-national onslaught on the culture and integrity of the country."
The petitioners said they have unshakable belief in the greatness of Indian democracy and its sacred institutions and are fully committed to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, build a robust economy and a healthy cohesive society infused with the country's millennia old culture and civilisation.
"Recent targeted political killings and bloodshed after the Assembly elections in West Bengal highlight the need for every right-thinking citizen to observe non-violence at all costs and respect a democratic process which inherently rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.
"We are submitting this memorandum as we are greatly disturbed by the mindless instigation of reported violence in electoral vengeance against the people who exercised their democratic right to vote for one political party or the other," said the petition.
According to the petition, the media has widely reported that over a dozen people, including women, have been killed in post-poll violence in the state. Over 15,000 incidents of violence have reportedly taken place in Bengal, it said.
As per credible reports, the petition said, out of the 23 districts in West Bengal, 16 have been badly affected by violence. As a result, 4,000 to 5,000 people have reportedly fled to Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha.
In the petition, the forum sought for a special relief package to be announced for the victims of violence, and that all efforts should be made for their rehabilitation with full sense of security.
"Offences reportedly of rape, attempted rapes, and violating the modesty of women, targeting scheduled castes and tribes, and incidents of religious sacrilege are the worst manifestation of post-poll violence in West Bengal," it said.
According to their information, many offences have not even been registered, the petitioners alleged.
The democratic process provides for political change without violence, which, as a corollary, means that the retention of political power must eschew violence, the petition said.
Popularity should come from winning the hearts of the people and not by shedding the blood of those who do not support any particular political group or party, the petition added.
"The shocking nature and degree of retributive violence in West Bengal after the election results is the negation of the fundamental principle that there is no place for violence in retention of power or change of power through a peaceful democratic process under the Constitution of India," it said.
It further went on to say that the response of the state machinery, particularly that of the police, in such a situation should have been spontaneous, protective and unfailingly public spirited, rising above any political influence to act in one way or another.
It is clear, the petition said, that the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths resulting from political violence were the result of what should be understood as serious acts of commission and omission of the law-and-order enforcement machinery of the state, or, in the worst-case scenario, induced "state terror".
Noting that political violence is the bane of democratic values, the petition said that these values must be preserved at all costs.
"The state of West Bengal and its government under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee must act in accordance with the Constitutional mandate to maintain law and order, curb violence with an iron hand and ensure peace and tranquility amongst all sections of its people.
"The Centre must keep a close eye on the situation on the basis of the reports of the Governor in discharge of his Constitutional obligations, reinforce the state's law and order machinery by inducting sufficient number of CAPF personnel wherever and whenever necessary for peace and tranquility," it said.
With Inputs From IANS
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