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Bengal is becoming Bihar

New Delhi, Tue, 20 May 2008 M Shamsur Rabb Khan

Violence and bloodshed are integral to politics so far Indian polls are concerned. However, whatever happened in the name of political violence over the past week in West Bengal during the panchayat polls put the state at par with Bihar, a state ridden with violence over caste for decades. For the Marxist, like Maoists in Bihar, it seemed perfectly justifiable to maim and kill for political gains. That is the only path known to a Marxist to hold on to his political turf or consolidate his party's grip over an area. Adversity or loss, they say, reveals the true colours of a man or a group. In Bengal, CPI (M) is hell bent on continuing its power whether by hook or by crook.

Past week, reports of violence were pouring in from West Bengal. The third and final phase of panchayat polls in West Bengal, which was held on last Sunday proved to be the bloodiest, with at least 16 people dead and dozens of others injured. The elections were marred by bomb attacks and clashes between the ruling CPM, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress. The earlier phases of elections too were not free from violence. While 8 persons were killed in the second phase on May 14 elections, there were incidents of rigging and booth capturing too in the first phase as well. The cycle of poll-related violence proves that the state government failed to make foolproof security arrangements. The manner in which CPM cadres indulged in violence is highly deplorable. Cameramen of the electronic and print media captured vividly CPI(M) activists' and leaders' attempts to rig the polls, including booth capturing, threatening voters and even stamping on ballot papers.

Before and during the just-concluded panchayat polls in Bengal, CPI(M) activists were widely reported to have threatened voters, forced opposition candidates to withdraw from the fray, seized voter ID cards from opposition supporters and activists, captured polling booths, blatantly rigged the elections, bombed houses of opposition activists, attacked and killed men and raped women. All these we did hear or supposed to hear from Bihar, but no all these happened in Bengal just to win the polls and show to the world that Bengal's rural folk were solidly behind the CPI(M). So blatant was the CPI(M)'s game plan to subvert democracy that its local MP, Lakshman Seth, called up the DIG of the para-military force, Alok Raj, and ordered him to confine his men to the barracks.

An hour before the polling began on May 18, 42-year old Bhavesh Mondal was killed when CPI(M) supporters allegedly threw bombs and fired bullets when a dispute occurred over queue formation.

But no, leaders of the party--including the party state secretary, the irascible Biman Bose--tried to project the marauding CPI(M) cadres as criminals. There was no word of condolence or regret from not only Bose, but also Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a man the rest of India mistakes for a man of culture and sensitivity. But why didn't, for instance, the CM offer a word of condolence to his bereaved cabinet colleague? Because doing so would have amounted to a show of sympathy for a political adversary who had to be defeated by all means. And that would not go down well with the party's militant cadres who had been given the task of wresting control of all areas that the RSP is strong in. The RSP, to the CPI(M), is no different from the Congress or the Trinamool, especially after the junior partner strongly criticized the CPI(M) after events in Singur and Nandigram.

As the bitter fight for the ensuing Assembly elections is likely to intensify further in the coming weeks, there is a need to step up vigilance, tighten security and depoliticise the local administration. The police and the district authorities cannot and should not be allowed to be subservient to the political causes of the ruling CPM. If the officials in charge of election duty behave as the ruling party’s agents and henchmen, the elections will be reduced to a farce and there will be no rule of law. In fact, the MP-DIG spat is a warning signal both for the state government and the Election Commission.

On the eve of panchayat polls, Nandigram has the look of a general election and the feel of a war zone. The flag squads have done their jobs thoroughly: road signs, vehicles, houses are blanketed with party insignia. Ordinarily, panchayat polls are not the most exciting events in the political landscape. Yet the atmosphere here remained heavy with tension and watchfulness.

2007 was supposed be a year of triumph for the CPM. It was the 30th year of their unbroken rule in West Bengal, and Nandigram was to be the Left Front’s laboratory for unleashing a spate of violence. In 2007, Nandigram was convulsed by a battle over land. In 2008, it boiled over a battle for political prestige. The panchayat elections on May 11 were the first electoral test in Nandigram since the SEZ upheaval began. The Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya described it as “sufficiently peaceful,” although an Election Commission observer calls it “grim and beyond normalcy.”

On May 11 the polls began despite reports of bomb explosions the previous night, polling proceeds smoothly. Four companies of CRPF, including one company of female jawans, a total force of 370, have fanned out across Nandigram. By mid-afternoon, the CRPF control of the area is growing shaky. The polling station in Sonachura, a BUPC stronghold, is overrun by armed men who spend half an hour stuffing the ballot box. Ballots lied all over the floor, torn, trampled, stamped over and over in favour of Left Front candidates.

In the 2003, panchayat polls in Nandigram Block 1 — where the land notified for acquisition is located — the Left Front won seven of the 10 gram panchayats, 20 of the 23 panchayat samiti seats and both seats in the zilla parishad. This time things are not looking as rosy for the CPI (M), as the results, which will be announced on May 21 will decide the political atmosphere. Whatever the result, one thing is blatantly clear that West Bengal does not lag far behind compared to Bihar in terms of violence, killing and subjugation of opponents.

Imagine a scenario: what would be the reaction of the CPI (M) if they lose the coming Assembly elections?

E-mail Author: The writer of this article M Shamsur Rabb Khan is currently serving as the Editor, Consumer Unity & Trust Society or CUTS, India. He can be reached at

DISCLAIMER: The entire content on this page expresses the views of the author and Newstrack India holds no responsibility whatsoever.


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May 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

West Bengal at present is a fascist state, where one party rule prevails. Any one voicing his descent will be eliminated. If the critic happens to be a national celebrity like Ms Aparna Sen or Mahasweta Devi, the goons of the party will resort to character assassination. The state CM is the smiling face of the party for the world outside.

Bihar is way behind their neighbours.

Tima Dubey

May 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

The comment that "Put Bengal at par with Bihar" is totally outragious and editor of this news media should have never allowed the defamation of Bihar while talking ill about other states. This author has no recollection of last election in Bihar where there was no violence in Panchayat. Bihar had been holding a peaceful pole for Panchayat election for years. I wish there could have been some Bihari community who should take up this issue and sue this author.


May 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

People have fake understanding of what is happening in Bihar. This is what happens when you start learning from news papers. These are lots of available well researched books, written no where in last few decades, which could educate people to understand the socio-political condition of Bihar and see the bigger picture. The manthan which is going in Bihar has nothing to do with a third party and it will end up with better social order. Hence it is foolish to compare Bihar with Bengal or vice versa.


May 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

This author seems to be totally ignorant of Bihar's track record in holding elections.Bihar never had election voilence in recent times.W Bengal false sense of superiority over Bihar is sheer dumbness.Shamsur Rabb Khan has shown his intellectual bankcrupcy but dragging bihar for no reasons at all.The article has nothing to do with Bihar but false and moronic parellels are being drwan for no reason.

Journalism at its worst..what a shame



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