Massive violence has erupted in Bengal ever since the declaration of the election results to the 294-seat state Assembly on Sunday.
Reports coming from Kolkata quoting official and unofficial sources state that at least 14 people have lost their lives in the last 36 hours, with hundreds injured and thousands forced to flee their homes, with those living in areas bordering other states fleeing to Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha to save themselves. However, the number of dead is likely to go up as many of the injured are in serious condition, while many more are missing.
Women too have not been spared and several cases of molestation have been alleged.
Sources say, what started as political violence, allegedly initiated by TMC workers primarily against the BJP cadre and sympathisers, is acquiring a “religious colour” and is likely to singe people in general, whatever their political leanings might be.
In the wake of the unabated violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rang up West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar on Tuesday to express his serious anguish and concern at the alarming law and order situation in the state. Officials monitoring the situation from Delhi said that the step was taken by the Prime Minister to give the message to the concerned authorities in Bengal to intervene before the Centre is “forced to look at other options” to contain the violence.
Intelligence agencies have warned that if the violence is not contained in the next 24 to 36 hours, it could blow up into a major communal conflagration, further deteriorating the law-and-order situation in Bengal and engulfing neighbouring states.
It is pertinent to mention here that very senior TMC leaders had “warned” BJP leaders and cadre of “repercussions” once the election results came out on 2 May. Mamata Banerjee will take oath as Chief Minister on Wednesday, 5 May.
Meanwhile, BJP president J.P. Nadda reached Kolkata on Tuesday to meet the family members of BJP workers who have been killed.
BJP workers, who are bearing the brunt of the violence at the hands of “hoodlums and criminals” allegedly belonging to the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, say that in the last two days more than 270 incidents of violence against their karyakartas have been reported from various parts of Bengal. Nine BJP workers have already died in these incidents. The nine BJP workers who have been killed allegedly by TMC goons include Shova Rani Mondal from Jagaddal, Uttam Ghosh from Ranaghat, Abhijit Sarkar from Beleghata in Kolkata, Horom Adhikari from Sonarpur Dakshin, Momik Moitra and Mintu Barman from Sitalkuchi, Gourab Sarkar from Bolpur, Haradhan Roy and Chandan Roy from Dinhata.
In fact, BJP leaders told this newspaper that several party candidates who contested the elections have been threatened, attacked and their houses torched, allegedly by TMC goons. Gobardhan Das, eminent scientist at Jawaharlal Nehru University and BJP’s candidate from Purbasthali Uttar, was trapped in his house with his elderly parents for hours as his house came under attack allegedly by TMC goons, who hurled country-made bombs at his house. Senior leaders from the state BJP started sending out SOS messages to the central leaders following the incident.
Even BJP’s “heavyweight” leaders such as Kalyan Chaubey, Suvendu Adhikari, Umesh Rai, Rajib Banerjee amongst many others were attacked allegedly by TMC goons.
The BJP also claims that hundreds of their party offices across the state have been set on fire. Photos and videos of which have been shared with the media.
The party claims that soon after the results were declared on Sunday, violence erupted in different parts of Bengal and soon spread to almost all the districts.
One of the first instances of violence on Sunday was when a BJP office was set on fire allegedly by TMC goons in Kolkata. Soon after this, hundreds of such reports started pouring in.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to several people from different districts to find that they have been facing severe violence since the poll results have been declared.
Haradhan Mondal, a resident of Swarupnagar Assembly constituency in North 24 Parganas district said that two of his toes would have to be removed since he was brutally attacked by “TMC goons”. “My brother and I were attacked on Sunday late night when around 100 people from the TMC surrounded our house and attacked us. They torched our house, looted our belongings and beat us up brutally. Two toes on my left foot are so badly injured that the doctor says that they will have to be amputated. My brother lost one of his eyes,” Haradhan Mondal told this newspaper.
There are reports of major violence taking place in South 24 Parganas district as well, where fish ponds have been poisoned, fruit orchards vandalised, houses destroyed of those perceived to be supporting the BJP.
A resident from Howrah district, who did not wish to be named, said that around 200 to 300 people attacked his house on Monday night because of which he and his family members were forced to flee and are currently hiding in an undisclosed location. “I was a booth agent of the BJP. The TMC has been constantly threatening us that they will ‘see us’ after the elections. Now that the election is over and they have won they are leaving no stones unturned to eliminate all opposition from Bengal. They are attacking everyone they know who was part of the BJP or any other opposition party,” the man said.
In South 24 Parganas district, BJP workers are sending out SOS messages about how they are being identified and beaten for supporting the BJP in the elections. Even from parts of Medinipur district where Suvendu Adhikari has defeated Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, reports of violence and arson are coming in. In fact, senior BJP leader and Bengal in-charge, Kailash Vijayvargiya shared a video on Twitter saying, TMC “Goons are beating BJP Women Workers in Kendamari village, Nandigram”, from where Adhikari defeated Mamata Banerjee.
Hundreds of videos of violence, loot and arson are being shared by BJP workers and common people alike, all of which are pointing a finger of accusation towards the ruling TMC. Videos are also being shared where alleged TMC workers are openly roaming the streets with pistols, sharp weapons and bombs. “Many TMC workers and including many belonging to a particular section of Bengal’s society are roaming the streets with rods, sticks, pistols and bombs and this in the garb of their victory procession. They are entering the houses of BJP workers, beating them up, vandalising the houses and asking them to leave their village. We are really scared and don’t know what to do. The BJP leadership should protect us,” a BJP worker from Nadia district told this correspondent.
In districts like Howrah and Hooghly shops have been looted and houses set on fire. Multiple videos floating on social media show how shops are being vandalised, houses burnt and stoned while the Bengal police stand by. However, it also must be mentioned that not all the videos can be authenticated and claims and counter-claims are being made about the videos.
The BJP has launched several helplines where party workers can call up and report incidents of violence to their state leadership. The party also says that since BJP supporters and BJP workers are being forced to leave their villages by TMC, the party has set up safe houses in all the district headquarters in the state to provide safety and security to their workers.
On Tuesday evening, BJP state vice president Jayprakash Mazumdar told The Sunday Guardian that violence was still continuing against BJP workers and supporters, with the Chief Minister-elect not taking any action to prevent it. “Bengal has been turned into a zone of violence by TMC workers who are on a mission to beat, kill and maim BJP workers. They are identifying booths where the BJP has taken a lead in the election, going to those villages, pulling out people from their homes and beating them. In places like Burdwan and Birbhum villagers are being ordered to vacate their villages. The situation in Bengal is very tense and all our workers are very sacred. Nowhere else in this country have we ever witnessed such level of post poll violence in independent India like what we are witnessing in Bengal. TMC workers are out of control and Mamata Banerjee is taking any responsibility. The situation here in Bengal is going to get more tense in the coming days if not controlled.” Jayprakash Mazumdar said.
The BJP filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking the court’s intervention in the matter to save lives and property of the citizens of Bengal and that of BJP workers.
Meanwhile, Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted on Tuesday that “In a sad development 300-400 @BJP4Bengal karyakartas and family members have crossed over to Dhubri in Assam after confronted with brazen persecution & violence. We’re giving shelter & food. @MamataOfficial Didi must stop this ugly dance of demonocracy! Bengal deserves better.”
Even Congress’ Jitin Prasada tweeted, “The post poll violence that has been unleashed by the TMC on the Congress workers is unacceptable. Even women and children are not spared. I’m sure the people of West Bengal did not vote for this lawlessness. @INCWestBengal @INCIndia”.
Left leaders too took to social media platforms to allege that their cadre were being attacked by TMC goons.
Slamming the incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the post-poll violence, BJP national president J.P. Nadda on Tuesday said this much intolerance was unprecedented in India.
Nadda also met the family of party worker Abhijeet Sarkar who was killed in post-poll violence in Beleghata, Kolkata. Union Minister V. Muraleedharan, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and state general secretary Locket Chatterjee accompanied Nadda. “Abhijeet Sarkar’s mother was weeping for him. Only those who cannot hear her screams can call such serious issues a stunt, a drama. BJP will not tolerate such bloodied politics—done just for power. BJP will not tolerate political oppression being done on the people of Bengal. I had said it earlier too, Mamataji does not represent Bengali culture. Intolerance, thy name is Mamataji,” Nadda said.
The BJP president took to Twitter to express his displeasure over violence in Bengal. “Met victim families of our Karyakartas (workers) who were targeted by the TMC post-election in Gopalpur, West Bengal. In independent India, this much intolerance is unprecedented till date. I want to assure our Karyakartas of West Bengal that crores of BJP workers are with them,” he tweeted.
“Our Karyakartas have suffered tremendous violence perpetrated by TMC in Pratapnagar and Sonarpur in West Bengal. Intolerance thy name is Mamata. We will put all these things in front of the people and provide justice to every Karyakarta in a fair manner,” he said.
State Governor Jagdeep Dankar went on Twitter to share that Bengal was witnessing a killing spree and that he had called upon Mamata Banerjee to restore law and order.
The TMC however rubbished all reports of their workers unleashing terror across the state. TMC senior leader and spokesperson Derek O’Brien said, “BJP is disseminating fake news and there is nothing like this happening in Bengal. The violence that is being witnessed is due to intra party rivalry of the BJP.”
The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo-moto cognizance of the violence based on media reports and has ordered an inquiry into the situation.
(WITH ANI INPUTS)