Baying for Blood

    21-Dec-2020   
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Frustrated over dwindling support base and burgeoning Saffron growth, Trinamool cadres have unleashed a reign of terror on political rivals
 

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BJP president JP Nadda's convoy was attacked in Bengal
on December 10, 2020. He was unhurt as his vehicle was bulletproof
 
 
Shortly before she had come to power, in April 2011, Mamata Banerjee had claimed she wielded the remote control over the goondas in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee was unabashed in the face of severe criticism at this remark. The people of Bengal understood what she had actually meant when she said she had remote control over the goondas, seven months later. On November 6, 2011, Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, stormed into the Bhawanipore Police Station in Kolkata demanding the release of two goons arrested on charges of assaulting the police.
 
She, indeed, was close to the culprits. Bhawanipore, the locality of her own residence, witnessed this unique incident. The opposition claimed that for the first time in the history of India did a Chief Minister herself reach a police station to ensure the release of accused criminals and to snub police officials.
 

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The main accused in the case of attack on the convoy of JP Nadda is Shawkat Mollah, A South 24 Parganas TMC MLA and close confidante of Didi’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. Shawkat, who had earlier wielded power as a CPI(M) strongman in the area, had shot to fame under the TMC rule
 
Her remark of April 2011 eventually culminated on December 10, 2020 when BJP National President JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked by those whom she had claimed to have held by remote control. BJP General Secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya’s car was also vandalised by these goons. The December 2020 incident is as unprecedented as the November 2011 one.
 

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BJP General Secretary and Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya
was injured in the TMC attack on December 10, 2020
 
 
The main accused in the case of attack on the convoy of JP Nadda is Shawkat Mollah, A South 24 Parganas TMC MLA and close confidante of Didi’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. Shawkat, who had earlier wielded power as a CPI(M) strongman in the area, had shot to fame under the TMC rule. Shawkat is accused of many crimes. He had switched over to TMC in 2011 and established himself as a TMC youth leader in the South 24 Parganas. Local BJP leaders confirm that it was Shawkat who instigated the TMC supporters to attack the convoy of the BJP National President. A few cars in the convoy, including those in which Kailash Vijayvargiya and BJP State President, Dilip Ghosh, were travelling, were vandalised by the TMC goons.
 
As the preparations for the 2021 Assembly elections are gearing up and BJP is all set to sweep through Bengal, a desperate and frustrated TMC is opposing every political move of the saffron camp tooth and nail. Violence is becoming increasingly overt and bloodshed inevitable as TMC’s policy of tacit intimidation is failing to be of effect any longer in Bengal. With the strong leadership of the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, and the BJP National President, JP Nadda, taking personal interest and initiative in the preparations for the Assembly elections, the situation becomes all the more uncomfortable for TMC. All the units of BJP in West Bengal have been activated and they are organising regular programmes throughout the state to expose the misrule and corruption of the Mamata Banerjee Government.
 

Unending Cycle of Violence

 
Gauri Naskar, a 37-year old housewife, was killed on May 17, 2008. She was killed in Basanti, South 24 Parganas, a remote area in West Bengal close to the Sunderbans. Gauri, the daughter-in-law of Subhas Naskar, the then Irrigation Minister in the Left Front government. Gauri was killed by a crude bomb hurled at her residence by CPIM goons.
 
Subhas Naskar, belonging to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), had won the Basanti Legislative Assembly seat in 1982, 1987, 1991, 1996,2001, 2006 and 2011. However, his house had also been attacked by political miscreants patronised by CPIM and Subhas could not save his own daughter-in-law. The following day, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bengal's most prominent and liberal vernacular daily, carried the news in meticulous detail. The headline was interesting. "Attacked in the Style of the Bandits of Sholay: Subhas Naskar's House Burnt Down", it stated. The description of the attack as it was reported would beat any Bollywood potboiler.
 
The death of Gauri Naskar only proves how CPIM used to control rural Bengal with violence and terror. Even its own allies were not spared. It is ironic but, therefore, not surprising that RSP, a partner of the Left Front, later quit the Left alliance in Kerala and joined the Congress-led UDF.
 
To understand the tradition of political killings in West Bengal, we must go back to the 1980s, when Jyoti Basu, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, admitted in a speech in the Legislative Assembly that 86 political workers were reportedly killed during that particular year (1988-89). Of the 86 people killed, 34 were CPIM activists. In 1989, Pradyot Guha, then Youth Congress President in West Bengal, wrote a letter to Rajiv Gandhi. Incidentally, Guha had later served as Personal Secretary of President Pranab Mukherjee. Pradyot Guha recorded in his letter to Rajiv Gandhi that in the first 50 days of 1989 (January-February), 26 political murders had taken place in West Bengal. Guha further noted that of these incidents of murder, 8 alone occurred during the first 19 days of February in Murshidabad. The death of prominent opposition leaders under mysterious circumstances was also a regular feature during the 1980s when CPM rule in Bengal had reached its peak.
 
The accounts of the deaths of ex-MLA Kashinath Tah of Burdwan and Asamanja Dey of Nadia are still remembered by people with great grief and horror. CPIM dissident leader Gautam Bhattacharyya, who hailed from the North 24 Parganas, had formed the Nagarik Mancha (Citizens' Forum) and challenged his former Party. Bhattacharya was brutally killed under mysterious circumstances.
 
An analysis of the National Crime Bureau Records establishes that from 1999 to 2016, there have been at least 20 political murders each year in West Bengal. However, this was contested by Derek O' Brien, Rajya Sabha leader of Trinamool Congress Party. In 2010, Derek tweeted to say that in 1990 alone CPIM had killed 400 of its political opponents. He also claimed that CPIM killed 40 activists of the opposition during the 2003 Panchayat Elections. By the parameters of political violence and cruelty, West Bengal is much above the national standard. This can also be explained from the data provided by the Election Commission. During the 2014 Lok Sabha election, 16 people were reported to have been killed in the entire country. Of them, 7 were from West Bengal. Before this, during the 2009 Elections, altogether 5315 cases of violation of election rules were registered in the country. of these 5315 cases, a total of 18%, i.e., 963 cases were recorded in Bengal. In 2014, this number was 7787 for the entire country, of which, 931 cases alone, approximately 18% of the total cases were from Bengal.
 
An RTI Enquiry lodged by one Shyamal Mitra in 2011 is an interesting pointer to how political killings take place in West Bengal. This RTI case was filed to understand the first five months of the regime of Mamata Banerjee. It was revealed that 27 people were killed in the first five months, and 128 students were injured due to student politics in the state. Of the 27 people killed, only 5 were TMC supporters.
 
During the first five months of the regime of Mamata Banerjee, 586 incidents of political violence erupted in different parts of Bengal. Of these 586 incidents again, 56 violent clashes occurred in an attempt to gain control over educational institutions, in the colleges and universities. If the first five months of the TMC rule had claimed the lives of 27 students, then it appears not very strange that the 2018 Panchayat Elections in the state saw the violent death of more than a hundred political activists.
 
 
In response to the pointed attacks and mobilisation of mass support from the BJP end, the TMC Government has resorted to the path of police brutality and systematic attack on BJP karyakartas. On December 7, a BJP activist, Ullen Roy, succumbed to police firing during the Uttar Kanya Abhijaan undertaken by the BJP youth wing, Bhartiya Yuva Morcha, in Siliguri. But the State police and the TMC Government denied any responsibility in the incident. On the contrary, both claimed BJP was responsible for the death of its own activist. The elder sister of Ullen Roy had challenged the claim of the police and demanded a second post mortem report to know the real reason of the death of her brother. The police turned a deaf ear to all such demands despite an order from the Siliguri Court.
 
Nishith Pramanik, MP from Coochbehar, has alleged that as TMC is losing its ground in north Bengal very rapidly, it is becoming increasingly violent in frustration  
Sonia Gandhi and her party have always supported Mamata Banerjee and her style of governance. They have tried to shield her from the criticism of the media in regard to police brutality in Bengal. However, we should remember that even the leader of her own Party, the present Congress leader in Parliament, Adhir Choudhury, had also been beaten up by the police in West Bengal. Adhir Choudhury’s shirt was torn and a devastated Choudhury had addressed the media in a vest, on August 19, 2015. The TMC Government did not take any step against the concerned officials even when Adhir Choudhury was physically assaulted by the police. Rather, they derided the Berhampore MP saying that everyone should not aspire to do what Sourav Ganguly did at the Lord’s.
 
 

Weaponising Islam  

 
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Mamata Banerjee’s blatant appeasement policy has emboldened the Islamist leaders. They make provocative speeches against Hindus. Abbas Siddique, a radical Islamist, claimed that Muslims (constituting 35%) are the majority religion in West Bengal since Dalits, Adivasis and Mathuas are not Hindus. He is replicating Mamata’s strategy: ‘Unite Muslims, Divide Hindus’. This controversial cleric had earlier asked Mamata, why she had sent such girls to the parliament who were useless (referring to 2 actor MPs)? Abbas is planning to ally with Owaisi’s AIMIM to contest the 2021 Bengal Assembly elections. With the leaders and supporters deserting TMC, the party is facing an unprecedented crisis since Mamata’s trusted vote bank- that of Muslims are leaving her. Abbas had initially asked Mamata for 50 seats for his about to be formed a party to ally with TMC. But Mamata is reluctant to share power with him.
 
Muslims in Bengal follow either of the two religious institutions, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Furfura Sharif. Jamiat is influential in the north, while Furfura holds the sway in the south. In 2011, Furfura played an important role in Mamata’s accession to power. But now they claim that Mamata didn’t do enough for the community members. With the AIMIM targeting massive expansion, due to the heavily polarised atmosphere, West Bengal is the best possible option before them. In the recent Bihar election, AIMIM had won 5 seats. A good performance in West Bengal can make upgrade them to the status of a National Party.
 
  
The months of November and December 2020 have witnessed several incidents of political violence and attack on opposition workers by TMC goons and miscreants. If the December 10 attack on the convoy of
 
 

Sinking Ship  

 
There is mass exodus from Trinamool to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Major shifts from TMC to BJP may happen within January 26, 2021. BJP leader and MP Saumitra Khan said around 58 TMC leaders are waiting to join BJP soon. Khan had defected from TMC and joined BJP in 2019. At present, the ruling TMC government has 221 seats on its own and two Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha MLAs and BJP 16 seats in the state assembly. The majority figure is 147. A number of TMC leaders have already joined BJP. They include Mukul Roy (in November 2017), Sabyasachi Dutta, Saumitra Khan, Anupam Hazra and Mihir Goswami. Suvendu Adhikary is expected to join BJP soon. BJP has already made inroads into Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by winning over 40 per cent of the state’s votes and 43 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats. The party cut into 20 per cent of Left and 7 per cent of Congress votes in the state to achieve a quantum jump in votes from 12 per cent in 2016 Assembly elections to over 40 per cent in 2019 Lok Sabha election. TMC’s vote share was 44 per cent.
 
Considering the 2019 Lok Sabha polls BJP is already ahead in 121 assembly constituencies. Estimates suggest if BJP can hold the lead then itschancesof reaching the magic figure of 147 looks very bright. For that it will have to win only 15% of the remaining 173 seats. TMC insiders said there is a 50-50 chance for BJP or TMC winning the remaining seats.
 
 
JP Nadda is the incident most talked about, we should not forget at least six BJP karyakartas have been killed in these two months. These incidents of political murder have occurred across the state.
 

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Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's rebel crisis could be worse than she may have expected
 
 
Take the instance of Kalachand Karmakar, a BJP booth level president, who was killed on November 18 in Tufanganj of Coochbehar district. Kalachand, who was trying control a political clash that had erupted suddenly between TMC and BJP, was beaten to death. Nishith Pramanik, MP from Coochbehar, has alleged that as TMC is losing its ground in north Bengal very rapidly, it is becoming increasingly violent in frustration.
 
 

No More Injustice  

 
TMC goons attacked a BJP rally in Pashchim Bardhaman district with crude bombs in the first week of December 2020. BJP alleged the role of TMC in the onslaught since there were similar incidents involving TMC hooligans in the past. Five BJP workers were injured in this incident. The BJP had taken out a procession under their flagship ‘Aar Noi Annay’ campaign to protest against the oppression of people under the rule of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
 
BJP leader Lakhan Ghouri says, “TMC goons fired and hurled bombs injuring five to seven people. We are on our way to the hospital. Despite asking for help no steps have been taken.” In the previous October, another BJP rally in Birbhum district was attacked with crude bombs. Union Minister and Bengal BJP MP Babul Supriyo said, "The block President of TMC, Ashik Mondol, is the biggest coal mafia in the area... And the whole mafia is controlled by TMC MLA Jitendra Tiwari. I know this area inside out.”
 
 
On December 12, Saikat Bhawal, another BJP karyakarta, was beaten to death in Halishahar, North 24 Parganas, while he was doing a door-to-door outreach programme in the Halishahar Municipality area. The state BJP has undertaken a door-to-door campaign called “Aar Noy Anyay” (No more injustice) to sensitise people about the misrule and corruption of TMC. He was suddenly encircled by nearly a hundred TMC activists who chased him for some time and eventually beat him to death. Arjun Singh, BJP MP from Barrackpore, like Nishith Pramanik from the north, claimed all this is happening because TMC is extremely nervous and the fear of defeat is looming large in the ruling party. But unfortunately, TMC’s frustration and Mamata Banerjee’s desperation continues to cost the lives of innocent citizens and dedicated BJP karyakartas in Bengal.