A seven-member team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) set up by the Calcutta High Court to probe post-poll violence in Bengal has come out with a scathing indictment of the Mamata Banerjee government in the state.
The NHRC team observed that the ‘law of the ruler’ exists in Bengal instead of the ‘rule of the law’. It recommended that the CBI be asked to prove heinous offences like rape, sexual molestation and murder, and that the trial of the cases being probed by the CBI be held outside the state.
The rights body, in an annexure to its report, listed senior Trinamool minister and close Mamata aide Jyotipriya Mullick, Trinamool MLAs Partha Bhowmick and Saokat Molla, former Trinamool councillor Jiban Shah, Trinamool Youth Congress leader (and close aide of Abhishek Banerjee) Jahangir Khan, and Mamata Banerjee’s election agent at Nandigram Sheikh Sufiyan as ‘notorious criminals and goons’.
The NHRC also recommended the setting up of a High Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT), fast track courts for speedy trials of the cases, institution of witness protection scheme for those filing complaints against Trinamool functionaries and hired goons, adequate compensation to all victims of political violence and setting up of a monitoring body to ensure that all recommendations made by the High Court are implemented.
The NHRC team, in its 50-page report, said at least 1,934 police complaints (of political violemce) were lodged in the state between May 2 and June 20, including 29 complaints of murder, 12 of rape and sexual assault and 940 of loot and arson. Out of the 9,304 people named as accused, less than 3% are currently in jail.
The team noted: “The situation in the state of West Bengal is a manifestation of law of ruler, instead of rule of law”.
“It is indeed ironical that, in the land of Rabindranath Tagore...thousands of its citizens have been subjected to murder, rape, displacement and intimidation, etc. in the last couple of months,” the NHRC team noted.
The NHRC team also compiled and submitted a list of 13 ‘delinquent police stations’ in Cooch Behar, Birbhum, South and North 24 Parganas and Howrah that refused to accept complaints from victims of political violence or did not carry out fair investigations into the complaints.
Noting the Trinamool government’s “appalling apathy” to the plight of victims (of political violence), the NHRC report said: “The spate of violence shows a pernicious politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus. This was retributive violence by supporters of the ruling party against supporters of the main opposition party. It resulted in disruption of life and livelihood of thousands of people and their economic strangulation. The local police have been grossly derelict if not complicit in this violence”.
The NHRC team visited 311 spot visits over 20 days and held sittings in Kolkata, East Midnapore, Howrah, East Burdwan and Murshidabad. It examined 1979 complaints, including 57 from the National Commission for Women and 18 from the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
The NHRC sent 582 complaints to the state police chief following which 137 FIRs were registered. The team noted that at many places, complainants were under pressure from the police to withdraw their complaints.
The Calcutta High Court had asked the NHRC on June 18 to probe post-poll violence in Bengal.
The report also said that out of the 9,304 accused cited in the FIRs only 1,354 (14 per cent) have been arrested and, out of these arrested, 1,086 (80%) are already on bail. “Thus, overall speaking, less than 3% of the accused are in jail, while 97 per cent are out in the open, making a mockery of the whole system,” the report stated, adding that police didn’t have the courage to take action against goons belonging to the ruling dispensation.
“Hence it is recommended that all heinous crimes, including murder, unnatural deaths, rape and grievous hurt, and complaints carrying these allegations should be transferred to the CBI,” the NHRC recommended, adding that the trial of all the above cases investigated by the CBI should be held outside the state.
It also suggested a court-monitored special investigation team with a special public prosecutor, trial in fast track courts, deployment of central forces, and reforms in police. “This may well be the death knell for democracy in this great nation. It is high time that the rot is stemmed and this trend is reversed in the interest of having a vibrant democracy in this nation,” the NHRC team said in its report.
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