TMC Terror in West Bengal

The custodial killing of student activist Sudipto Gupta in West Bengal sparked off protests all over West Bengal and beyond. Since then, a veritable reign of terror of the ruling TMC has been unleashed in West Bengal. Offices of Left parties, including several CPI(M) offices and at least one CPI(ML) office, have been torched and vandalised in the State. And the attack by TMC cadres on Presidency University (presumably because of the fact that many Presidency students have been vocal and active against several acts of high-handedness by the TMC Government) has underscored that the TMC Government is at war with dissent and democracy.

At Presidency, TMC cadre armed with weapons not only ransacked the college and beat up students and teachers, they also threatened women students with rape. Mamata Banerjee is yet to take responsibility for the violence by her party’s cadre. Instead, a TMC student wing leader has registered a case against one student and one former student of Presidency.

The West Bengal Governor too has displayed blatantly partisan behaviour. He failed to chide the State Government either for the custodial killing of Sudipto Gupta or for the attack on Presidency University. While personally apologising for the Presidency violence, he took it upon himself to assure students of the CM’s anguish. However, the Governor expressed disproportionate condemnation at a protest by CPI(M) cadre in Delhi during Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the Planning Commission, in which the West Bengal Finance Minister was heckled and manhandled by some of the protestors who were demanding justice for Sudipto and were angry at the CM’s remark dismissing the custodial killing as a ‘petty matter’.

The Governor chose to declare this incident to be an ‘unprecedented’ and ‘premeditated’ attack on elected representatives, and a ‘blot on India’s democratic values’. There is no evidence that the incident was premeditated. On the contrary, it seems that the CM and her Ministers chose to defy the advice of the police to enter the Planning Commission by car through an alternative gate; and instead alighted from the car to deliberately confront the protestors. While the incident involving Finance Minister Amit Mitra was avoidable and unfortunate, the footage shows that it is mainly unarmed women workers who confronted Mitra. The Governor’s claim that the protestors were armed does not appear to be borne out by facts.

The question then arises: why does the Governor see a threat to democracy in the anger of grieving protestors, but fail to see custodial killings of student activists and assaults on educational institutions and offices of rival parties as a ‘blot on democratic values’?

The entire spectrum of democratic and Left voices is now at the receiving end of all-out attacks by the ruling TMC in West Bengal. However, West Bengal cannot forget that the CPI(M) too is complicit in the political culture of eliminating rival activists. Abdul Halim, a young activist and former SFI leader who had left the CPI(M) in Burdwan district to join CPI(ML), was brutally attacked and eventually killed by CPI(M) cadre in the 1990s. During the Singur agitation a young woman activist Tapasi Malik was raped and killed, again by CPI(M) cadre. Violence on campuses by SFI against rival student groups was rampant during CPI(M) rule.

The struggle in West Bengal now, therefore, is not a struggle for restoration of a past order of things, but a struggle to get rid of the entrenched culture of political violence and assaults on democracy. The CPI(ML) and its mass organisations have arisen in defence of democracy in West Bengal, and are at the forefront of the protests, alongside progressive intellectuals, students, and activists.

Box matter

Defying and Challenging TMC Terror in WB

On April 3, a day after Sudipto was killed, a spirited protest march was organised by AISA along with a few other progressive students’ organisations. The march started from College Square and ended in Subodh Mallik square. On that same day, AFSU (Arts Faculty Students’ Union of Jadavpur University) took out a protest march in Jadavpur.

On April 6, when lumpen forces unleashed by the TMC went on a terrorizing spree, ransacking offices of Left parties one after the other, the CPI(ML)’s Jatin Das Nagar branch office in Belgharia in North 24 Parganas was also attacked. Even the local Police Station cowered under political pressure and refused to register a FIR of the incident of vandalism which took place openly in public! Our comrades have since reinstated the ransacked office fully by April 12.

On April 9, TMC goons brandishing firearms attacked and ransacked a street corner meeting organized by AISA-RYA-AIPWA in Siliguri in protest against Sudipto’s custodial killing and Modi’s visit, injuring Pulak Ganguly, a district committee member.

After the shocking vandalism and violence in Presidency University (which was presided over and supervised by the local TMC councillor, and other TMC leaders), the city witnessed several spontaneous protests by students and democracy-loving people. One such march was organised by AISA in College Street on the April 18.

On April 9, student-youth demonstrators protesting Modi’s visit to Kolkata were severely lathi-charged by the Police in front of Grand hotel near Esplanade, and Suvajit Maity (AISA activist) had to be hospitalized having suffered injuries. 22 protesters including Joyraj Bhattacharya (actor and noted theater activist) were detained in Lalbazar police headquarters, and only released when Modi had left the city. A spirited protest march condemning such police high-handedness was organized by AISA and other left and democratic organizations in College street. Protesters blockaded the busy College street-MG Road 4-point crossing for well above half-hour.

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