From the recent murder of an RSS worker and his family which is being touted as a criminal case rather than a political murder, one cannot help but connect the dots to the other such murders on the rise in West Bengal.
In one of the most gruesome incidents, a worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his pregnant wife and their eight-year-old son were murdered in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
Bondhu Gopal Pal, a 35-year-old primary, his wife Beauty and son were found lying in a pool of blood inside their residence in Jiaganj earlier this week.
West Bengal RSS secretary, Vishnu Basu conformed that the deceased was an RSS worker and had been recently associated with the ‘weekly Milan.’
The initial assessment by the police states that the murder was not political and was purely a criminal case. While the response from the police was on expected lines, the fact is that the number of such murders have been on the rise in West Bengal and it’s clear that the authorities have not done much to stop such incidents.
The murder of BJP workers in Bengal has witnessed a sharp increase. Their opponents have used even bombs to carry out murders. In January 2017, the residence of BJP leader Krishna Bhattacharya was bombed by workers of the TMC at Uttarapura. The same month TMC workers had attacked the BJP’s office in Kolkata.
In June 2018, two BJP workers were found dead under mysterious circumstances. A report that was released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2014 stated during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 16 political workers were killed and a majority of them were reported from West Bengal. Between 1999 and 2016, the NCRB statistics state that Bengal registered 20 political murders on an average per year.
An NCRB report of 2014 states that Bengal had recorded 26 political murders in 2013. Ironically, this was more than 25% of the 101 cases of political murders reported across the country. Bengal moved to the top slot of this notorious list and it must be noted that in 2012, it stood at the number 3 position.
Data with the Home Ministry says that between 2016 and 2019 a total of 183 political murders have been reported in West Bengal. 2018 witnessed 96 political murders, the highest in the four years. In 2016, it was 36, 2017-25 and in 2019 it is 26. However, the NCRB which relies on state data says that the number for these years is 112. Home Ministry sources say that this is because there is a good chance that the state government may have underreported it.
While the TMC has denied playing any role in the deaths of the BJP-RSS workers, the killing of the 20-year-old Trilochan Mahato painted a different picture. Mahato who was part of the BJP’s youth wing was found hanging from a tree at Balrampur village of Purulia district in 2018. A note found next to him read, “punished for working for the BJP in the panchayat elections.”
Politics, terror and appeasement:
In the year 2014, the National Investigation Agency unearthed a huge conspiracy in which bombs were being prepared at Burdwan. The NIA probe found two startling facts- one was that the bombs were being prepared in cottage industries for several years and the terrorists of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) managed to get away thanks to political patronage.
Secondly, it was found that the JMB was planning on taking 500 bombs to Bangladesh to carry out explosions there in a bid to destabilize the government.
The Burdwan probe which was an eye-opener revealed the major nexus between the political class and members of the JMB. It was the same set of people hired to make bombs for both the political class and terrorists.
Terrorists have taken advantage of this fact and the bombs in their cottage industry are made both for political murders as well as terrorist activities.
NIA officials say that this obviously has made the security lax and the police too look the other way and do not act on such bomb making factories. Officials say that terror groups have taken advantage of both lax security and the appeasement policy in West Bengal. Former Bengal Governor, Keshari Nath Trupathi too had recently said that the Mamata’s appeasement policy has adversely affected the social harmony of the state.
Several Intelligence Bureau reports have been submitted to the Union Home Ministry about how the state has been soft on radical Islamic elements and the illegal. There was also an allegation that was made by Biman Bose of the Left that the TMC was shielding Islamic fundamentalists who were rejected by Bangladesh. He had also alleged that Mamata had sent Ahmed Hassan to the Rajya Sabha despite him being close to the Jamaat. Hassan was also a correspondent for the Jamaat’s newspaper Naya Diganta.
Political observers say that this is a deadly cocktail in Bengal. It is a cocktail of appeasement, and terror. The fact that Mamata Banerjee managed to retain her Muslim vote bank in the 2019 elections is a clear indication of this. This was largely due to decisions such as stipend for imams, postponing the Durga Puja immersions for Muharram, just to name a few.
Why the BJP worries Didi?
From two seats in 2014 to 18 in 2019, the BJP’s rise in West Bengal has been meteoric. The ruling Trinamool Congress was down from 34 MP seats in 2014 to 22 in 2019. The rise in vote share for the BJP too was impressive and the party witnessed an increase from 16% to almost 40% in Bengal over the past five years.
With the Congress and CPI(M) being reduced to nothing, it is clear that the BJP is inching closer towards unseating the Trinamool Congress and this has clearly got the cadre worried.
Bengal has always witnessed violent politics. Killing of opponents either through gruesome murders or hurling bombs has been normal in the state, whether it was the CPI(M) or the Trinamool Congress. The BJP says that at least 80 of its workers have died in political related violence and this year alone it had lost 40 of its workers. To send across a message to the TMC, the BJP invited the family members of over 40 BJP workers for the swearing-in-ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Political analysts say that the rise of the BJP has without a doubt made the TMC nervous. Bengal has always had a history of violence. First it was the Congress vs the Left and then the Left vs the CPI(M). Now the TMC is threatened by the BJP and the violence continues says leading psephologist, Dr Sandeep Shastri.
Dr Shastri also tells MyNation that in the run up to the 2019 elections, the violence had gone up and he is expecting the same ahead of the state elections. Mamata Banerjee is insecure and that was clear in her body language after the 2019 elections. When some BJP leaders chanted, “Jai Shri Ram,” she was clearly provoked. I could say beyond a shadow of doubt that the BJP is a huge challenger for the TMC in the state elections, Dr Shastri says, while also adding that when you live with the power of violence, you survive with it as well.
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Last Updated 3:26 PM IST