Even as the Election Commission of India facing criticism for not discharging its responsibility of conducting free and fair elections has increased the presence of security forces in the areas that will witness the last round of Lok Sabha elections of 2014 tomorrow, political violence continues to mar the State of West Bengal.
The day before yesterday, a police superviser was assaulted. In the evening, the office of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in Belgharia was attacked. Sayandeep Mitra, member of the party’s West bengal Committee and president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), had to be admitted in a hospital with serious injuries. Three more CPI(M) workers were injured in the incident of violence. There are reports of violence coming from different parts of Kolkata, with the Trinamool Congress (TC) being alleged to be the attacking party in all the cases. This has raised the question whether the additional security personnel deployed at the instance of the ECI are adequate to ensure peaceful elections in the 9th and last round of polling.
CPI(M) workers allege that, Saturday evening as they were about to hoist the party flag in the office building on Bhagabati Chatterjee Street in the Dakshinpada locality, TC workers appeared out of thin air and launched an attack on them. They ransacked things inside the CPI(M) office, the communists complain. As they went to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) at the police station in the neighbourhood, they were assaulted on the way once again. It was then that Mitra was hurt along with his colleagues Subimal Chakraborty, Jhantu Majumdar and Sudipta Ghosh. Mitra, in fact, lost consciousness, such was the impact of the attack on him, allege his colleagues. He regained consciousness in the hospital. The doctors had to put four stitches to sew the gaping wound he had sustained on his head. An eye of his has sustained some damage, too.
Late in the night, senior CPI(M) leaders including former finance minister Asim Dasgupta and fellow partymen Manas Mukherjee, Subhash Mukherjee and Tanmay Bhattacharya paid a visit to the hospital. Party State chief Biman Bose has visited the victims today. He has described the incident as “barbaric”. Conduct of the ECI and police was earlier questioned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Now the CPI(M)-led Left Front has put a question mark on the credibility of these two institutions. Gautam Deb, CPI(M) district head of the 24 Parganas, said, “If the police do not arrest the accused by 9 am, party workers in thousands would block the BT Road.” Bhattacharya alleged that Saugata Roy, TC candidate from the Dum Dum constituency, had visited the affected area a few days ago and delivered provocative speeches. Ever since, TC workers, riding motorcycles have turned into a menace in the area, hitting their rivals wantonly. On Saturday, his speech was immediately followed by the assault on the CPI(M)’s Belgharia office.
Deb alleged that the CPI(M) has not been able to appoint polling agents in places like Sasan because the potential recruits are all scared.
Roy has denied the charge on his party workers. According to him, TC worker Raban Chakraborty was assaulted by some CPI(M) workers first. Following this, more than a hundred workers of the communist party raided the local Trinamool office. The few CPI(M) members who are reported hurt must have sustained “minor injuries” during that “scuffle”. “The CPI(M) is exaggerating the incident,” said Roy. Nirmal Ghish, president of the TC’s North 24 Parganas district unit seconded Roy’s claim.
Police sources say Rapid Action Force (RAF, a riot police) has been deployed in the area. Mitra and Subimal Chakraborty’s statements have been recorded, say the police. However, nobody was arrested in Saturday.
Before Belgharia erupted, Berhampore was in news for a wrong reason. Kumar Indubhushan, police supervisor appointed by the ECI, had objected to the TC’s motorcycle rally. TC workers and supporters heckled him publicly following the objection. An FIR has been registered against 200 TC members led by the party’s Berhampore candidate Indranil Sen.
Berhampore has been tense since the night of Friday. It started with incidents of altercation between workers of the TC and Indian National Congress (INC). The latter’s worker Mithun Maitra was dragged out of his house and beaten up brutally. Ashok Das, president of the INC’s Murshidabad district unit, went to visit Maitra’s house on learning about the incident. It is alleged that head of the TC’s Berhampore town unit Kanai Roy then began launching assaults on INC workers and supporters. In the meantime, Maitra has been admitted in the Murshidabad Medical College Hospital.
On being questioned about the security arrangements, special observer of the EC Sudhir Kumar Rakesh said, “I have seen it on television and spoken to the returning officer. He will submit his report on Sunday.”
On the incident of attack on Mitra, Rakesh said he knew nothing. He had informed before this that the Central Forces had started patrolling the affected areas. He says now he is helpless unless there is a specific complaint.
After the attack on the police observer, the people fear they are all the more vulnerable. Fear psychosis has gripped the entire zone after the incident in Belgharia.
A procession of BJP workers and supporters was subjected to stone pelting in Barrackpore. Hooliganism by TC workers during a motorbike rally of the ruling party has been reported, too. The TC’s official response in each case has been that of denial.
TC district observer Jyotipriya Mallick has assured that the elections will be “free, fair and peaceful again”. He alleged that the CPI(M)’s Majid Master (alias Majid Ali) has hired mercenaries from Bangladesh to eliminate him. Superintendent of police Tanmay Roychowdhury said he has initiated an investigation into the matter after receiving this complaint from Mallick. There are complaints of TC workers visting every house of Sarberia of Sandeshkhali, Jhupkhali, Bermajur, Sasan, Amta-Khatra, Bhawanipur of Hasnabad and snatching away from the people their voter identity cards. The people are mortally scared of complaining to the police as they feel the police is working in cahoots with the ruling TC. Deb has threatened that if there are reports of rigging in the North 24 Parganas, the CPI(M) will take such steps that will dirupt normal life in the region.
Among all the phases witnessed in Bengal, the last one will see the maximum number of seats in contest: 17. In these, polling stations that are observing tension of imminent violence are the highest, too. The CPI(M), after the attack on its Belgharia offfice, has threatened to launch an agitation. It’s a tense Sunday as the people are not sure the Central forces can rein in the trouble makers, and no one has faith in the impartiality of the State police.
During the first three rounds of election in West Bengal, there were several allegations of inability of the ECI to tackle the situation. Complaints continue to pur in about the foruth round. Responding to these allegations, Rakesh informed the media persons that now the ECI is maintaining a log of the spots where the Central forces are patrolling. The patrolling activities are also being video-recorded. Rakesh said, “In case a party or candidate complains that the forces have not patrolled a certain area, the ECI will produce the recordings in its defence.”