Mockery Of Democracy In Bengal

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Apr 24, 2018 03:45 PM +05:30 IST
Mockery Of Democracy In BengalCongress activists protest in front of the State Election Commission office in Kolkata. (Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • The poll process in Bengal has been marred by violence and protests, and some fear that this might, in essence, subvert democracy in the state.

If some people expected the Calcutta High Court-mandated extended window to allow opposition candidates to file nominations for the ensuing panchayat polls in Bengal to be any different from the violence-marked process earlier (read here), they were proved to be mistaken. The violence unleashed on Monday (23 April) to prevent opposition candidates from filing their nominations crossed all limits, reducing the polls to a joke.

While two persons, both Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists, were killed in Birbhum and South 24 Parganas districts as they were part of the groups of party activists accompanying candidates on their way to file nominations, at least a three-dozen BJP, Congress and left activists were grievously injured and had to be hospitalised. Opposition leaders, including a Congress Member of Parliament (MP) and two opposition Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), were attacked allegedly by Trinamool goons. Even journalists were not spared (read this and this news report).

A report in today’s Times Of India’s Kolkata edition details how the ruling Trinamool Congress, in collusion with the state police and administration, has made a mockery of the poll process and has succeeded in subverting democracy. The Calcutta High Court had on Friday (20 April) last asked the State Election Commission (SEC) to allow another day for candidates to file their nominations and reschedule the polls that were originally slated for 1, 3, and 5 May. Accordingly, the SEC allowed candidates to file their nominations on Monday (23 April).

According to the Times of India report, the office of South 24 Parganas district administration located in south Kolkata’s Alipore was where candidates for the gram panchayats, panchayat samitis, and zilla parishad of the district were to have filed their nominations. About 300 police personnel were posted there, but were outnumbered by 500 Trinamool cadres. The Trinamool cadres, the newspaper report said, “questioned every passer-by, prevented potential candidates from filing nominations, even as the posse of cops outside chose to focus their attention only on mediapersons, trying to stop them from filming whatever was happening inside”.

The newspaper further reported: “Journalists were not spared either. A woman reporter with a Bengali news channel was allegedly assaulted and held captive at a room on the court premises for several hours when she tried to photograph the gathering outside. She was later rescued by policemen. Another reporter from a Bengali news daily, too, was attacked and held captive for hours before fellow journalists rescued him. ‘The men grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to a desolate corner in front of policemen who did nothing. They kept me captive for over an hour, snatched my phone and a fitness band and punched me before letting me go, but kept my gadgets,’ he said. Both journalists lodged police complaints. Supratim Sarkar, the joint commissioner of police (HQ), however, said that they were yet to receive any specific complaint regarding assault on journalists”.

Other newspapers also reported extensively on the violence unleashed by Trinamool cadres. Anandabazar Patrika, the largest circulated Bengali daily, had a scathing “SHAME” screaming from its front page of today’s edition with the entire page devoted to various news reports detailing the atrocities and violence allegedly perpetrated by Trinamool cadres to prevent opposition candidates from filing their nominations. Congress MP Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury was attacked and his car bombed while he was taking his party candidates in Malda to file their nomination papers. Congress MLA Manoj Chakraborty and RSP MLA Narmada Roy were also attacked in other parts of the state while Union Minister Babul Supriyo, who was accompanying a BJP candidate on his way to Baraboni Block office (nominations are accepted in block offices) in his own Lok Sabha constituency (Asansol) to file his nomination papers was prevented from entering the office by Trinamool cadres.

Many other opposition candidates were prevented from filing their nomination papers by Trinamool cadres all over the state, thus rendering the High Court order a futile one. “Democracy is being subverted in Bengal,” said Supriyo.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh wondered why the national media was silent about this “rape of democracy by the Trinamool in Bengal”.

“Mamata Banerjee never misses a chance to project herself as a saviour of democracy, but in her own state, she has made a mockery of democracy by throttling opposition. The national media and the so-called intellectuals never bother about this. We will now highlight the hypocrisy of the Trinamool at the national level,” he said.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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