History Repeating Itself; As Political Violence Continues in West Bengal

The last few months for the country have been shell-shocking and disturbing due to the increase in CoronaVirus, where the loss of life has been unbelievable and saddening. The prioritization of elections and vote banks over people’s health was one of the biggest highlights of the West Bengal Polls. The sheer negligence towards the guidelines laid down by the Election Commission on account of conducting elections during a pandemic outbreak was seen in the election rallies conducted in Tamil Nadu, Assam, Puducherry and West Bengal. As the spread of the CoronaVirus is increasing in India, the malpractices of the precautionary rules such as social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings were neglected during many election rallies.

To add fuel to the fire. The West Bengal Post Poll Violence erupted in the state right after the declarations of the winning polls to the country. Mamata Banerjee led All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) returned to power for the third term with a landslide win in West Bengal. TMC won 213 seats with a 48 per cent vote share, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win just 77 hearts with a 38 per cent vote.

The West Bengal elections have always been in the media coverage due to the political violence that erupted in the state since the times of Independence. The influencing factor in the 2021s elections was the power dynamic between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress. The aftermath of the West Bengal elections resulted in post-poll violence. The question became even more controversial as the violence in the state resulted in several deaths and injuries of the representatives of both political parties. Some reports also mentioned violence against the households supporting the respective parties.

An article published by FirstPost; mentions several alleged cases of killings in the Burdwan district. The article verifies that the TMC stated that three out of four people killed in Burdwan were TMC supporters. In contrast, the BJP claimed nine of the political parties supporters, including a woman, were killed by the TMC during the clashes that occurred in the state after the assembly elections. “Even after the results were announced, BJP attacked our supporters in certain areas but we ask our men not to get provoked and instead report to the police,” Stated the Leader of Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerji.

A digital newsletter, ThePrint: While covering the issue of post-poll violence in West Bengal, specified in their article that the Ministry of Home Affairs approached the Governor of West Bengal: Jagdeep Dhankar and requested a report on the law & order of the state, which included the eruption of violence as the aftermath of the assembly election.

The Governor even urged Chief Minister Mamta Banerji after the swearing-in ceremony the need of controlling the raging violence in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party highlighted the different angle of political violence as the act of Communal Violence. The BJP started to overdrive the perspective of communal violence in the state by Tweeting and reposting false images and video while talking about the Muslim-Hindu vandalism in different parts of West Bengal. One of BJPs influential member and journalist Swapan Dasgupta Tweeted the following on alleged communal violence: “Alarming situation in Nanoor (Birbhum district) with more than a thousand Hindu families out in the fields to escape marauding mobs seeking to take it out against BJP supporters. Reports of molestation or worse of women. @AmitShah please rush some security to the area.”

During the aggravated condition between the two political parties, social media was one of the victims of the clashes between the two parties as it acted as a medium to spread fake news along with disturbing images and videos. Many BJP supporters posted old and false visuals about the lynching of people and other videos where houses and shops were being looted under the pressure of post-poll violence by the oppositional candidate. Many tweets started to follow up these visuals and called them out to be fake and an act towards disturbing the social order and peace within the state. The rampant growth of misinformation, along with the usage of old visuals, which proved to be irrelevant to the current situation in Bengal, was concerning.

The West Bengal Police also tweeted and reposted news items and visuals and termed them as fake and incorrect to the current situation in West Bengal. Later, the TMC MP- Derek O’Brien tweeted his displeasure about the same through his official Twitter account, saying, “BJP IT cell could have given trolls some time off after results. All cases on SM are BJP intra-party fights. Three+ factions in Bengal. They hate each other. MO-SHA came here and spread hate for the last four months. Bengal wants peace and harmony. BJP wants divisiveness” (MO-SHA: Abbreviation of Modi-Shah Governance)

According to the Times of India article on the issue, it mentioned the killings of several TMC representatives. These clashes amongst the political parties resulted in the death of TMC workers like Debu Pramanik, who was hanged to death in his house. In contrast, Ganesh Malik, another part worker, was allegedly killed by the BJP in East Burdwan. The Chief Minister also claimed that the police officials handling the situation were also biased towards BJP in certain parts of the state. “I want to remind BJP that what they are doing is not right…I want to tell the police that some of them have workers in favour of the BJP. But this is the time we should perform Raj Dharma,” said the Chief Minister while concerned about the role of Cooch Behar SP as the violence continued in the northern districts of Bengal.

The situation remained worrisome, as JP Nadda: BJP National President, visited West Bengal during his two-day trip to the state where he was set to meet the families of the alleged victims of the violence, while the party also initiated a Dharna on 5th May, the day of the swearing-in of the TMC Leader Mamata Banerji.

“We are committed to democratically fighting this ideological battle and the activities of the TMC, which is full of intolerance,” I had heard of the immense atrocities committed during the Partition. Still, I have never seen such post-poll violence that is occurring in West Bengal after the declaration of election results (on May 2, 2021)- stated JP Nadda, BJP National President, to the reporters.

The aftermath of the West Bengal elections has been disturbing due to the loss of life and property that occurred in the mere span of days after the declaration of assembly results. The political violence in West Bengal always existed but never achieved a humanitarian media approach where discussions were based on people’s lives in Bengal getting affected for years now due to the unstable political atmosphere in the state. The citizens of Bengal have been witness to many such political disturbances over the years and what they need is a peaceful resource to the disturbances between the two political parties, which are solved by diplomatic dialogue without initiating violence and disturbing the public order in the state.

With inputs from First Post, TOI, Scroll, The Quint, Indian Express, The Print, MENAFN, & India News

Samrudhi Patil

Final Year student of Mass Communication with a special interest in the field of journalism. An aspiring feature journalist with a fueling passion for travel, culture, lifestyle, music, and food. I believe in bringing out the undiscovered and have a willingness to work hard and go beyond the comfort zone to get the work done. Music and Culture are the beats that get me going and inspires me to try and be the best version of myself.

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