June 22, 2013
IANS | (West Bengal Newsletter) | Kolkata June 22, 2013 Last Updated at 15:26 IST
What ails West Bengal's didi? After dubbing women villagers protesting against gang-rape and murder as "Maoists" and "CPI-M activists", she accused the entire opposition and the media of "hatching a plot" to eliminate her.
As if that was not enough, she said panelists on a talk show on TV were engaged in "pornography".
Never in her political career has West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee been renowned for prudence, but she seems now quite set on surpassing all her previous records.
Apparently rattled by the all-round criticism over the spate of rape incidents in the state, Banerjee has been calling people names and making insinuations about detractors in public meetings.
In the process, she is fast shedding friends who have earlier backed her to the hilt and aided her in dislodging the erstwhile Left Front government in the state.
The trigger for the latest bout of angry outbursts is the public reaction to the gruesome gang-rape and murder of a college student June 7, while returning to her village Kamduni in North 24 Parganas district, after attending her classes.
Coming close on the heels of the National Crime Records Bureau data, which put the state right at the top when it came to crimes against women, the Kamduni incident drew widespread condemnation.
The government cajoled the victims' family to come to the state secretariat, but the two brothers of the girl who was killed flatly refused the chief minister's offer of compensation and government jobs.
Their sole demand was death for the perpetrators of the crime.
The government arrested eight people and promised to fast-track the case, so "capital punishment" could be awarded to the guilty in a month.
Ten days after the incident, Banerjee visited the grieving village - which had in the past been the locale of Bollywood movies like Amitabh Bachchan-starrer "Saudagar" - but the trip turned sour after a group of women asked her to talk to them. The chief minister lost her cool and screamed at the villagers to "shut up", and branded both the perpetrators of the crime as well as the protesters against it "CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) people".
Two days later, addressing a public rally, she came up with a conspiracy theory.
Banerjee said: "The police told me, do you know there is a conspiracy to kill you? I know the CPI-M, the Congress, BJP and the Maoists ARE conspiring to kill me. But the plan is of (name of a media house)".
Another startling allegation came within the next 24 hours: "Two or three incidents (of rape) have occurred. But every evening some bankrupt channels invite a few people for salacious discussion on rape, disrespecting our mothers and sisters. What they are doing is not right. Many of those invited to the panels are involved in pornography. They claim to be social workers but are actually money seekers. Talk shows are nothing but money shows," the chief minister said.
That set off another storm of protest, with a section of civil society leading it.
Filmmaker Aparna Sen, who had thrown her weight behind Banerjee in the protests against the proposed Mega-chemical Hub at Nandigram six years ago, lashed out at Banerjee: "She was a different person before becoming chief minister. She used to rush to the cause of the deprived. We liked it. But within two years of coming to power, she has changed," Sen said.
On Friday, members of the civil society - inspired by personalities like filmmaker Mrinal Sen, poet Sankha Ghosh and thespian Soumitra Chatterjee - took out a huge march on the city streets where authors, painters, cultural personalities, educationists, students and thousands of commoners including families of rape victims decried the incidents of sexual violence and the insensitive reactions of the Banerjee regime.
The 90-year-old Mrinal Sen, who could not participate due to his advanced age, expressed solidarity through a letter.
"This protest is not only against atrocities on women, but also against the misdeeds of the government and its tendency to browbeat people," said Sen, one of the most venerated persons in the state.
A tough-talking Sen said through the march the masses have given a "fatwa" to Banerjee and her government to mend their ways: "If this forces the ruling party (the Banerjee led Trinamool Congress) to be mindful of their words and deeds, well and good. This is a people's fatwa."
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mamata's uncivil words rile civil society (West Bengal Newsletter) | Business Standard
June 11, 2013
9 June 2013
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 9 JUNE: The state is plagued by a combination of violence, CPI-M party secretary and Left Front chairman, Biman Bose said today.
Violence is on the rise in the state and death toll of CPI-M activists have risen to 95 with the killing of former party MLA Dilip Sarkar at Burnpur during the day, Mr Bose said at a Press conference at the party office in Alimuddin Street.
Sarkar had been assassinated by criminals enjoying the patronage of Trinamul Congress, the front chairman alleged. These incidents of violence have been occurring in the state since state Assembly results have been announced, Mr Bose said.
In Burdwan district alone, 13 CPI-M activists have been killed so far, he added. This is part of an intimidation campaign to dissuade Left Front candidates from contesting the panchayat elections, he said.
In Howrah district, many gram panchayat and panchayat samity candidates of the front could not submit nomination papers, Mr Bose said.
The front nominees' caste certificates are being snatched, they are not being allowed to submit their nomination papers and sometimes they are not being allowed to collect the nomination forms at all, the front chairman said.
Subhas Mondal, a CPI-M activist was killed in Pathartima in South-24-Parganas recently, Mr Bose said. The government which came to power mouthing the slogan badla noi, badal chai (we want change not revenge) is practicing the opposite of what it preached, he said, and called
upon the state election commission and the state government to ensure a free and fair panchayat elections.
The state cannot be developed by beating up scribes, the front chairman said. If these incidents continue to occur, it will scare away prospective investors who are already chary of coming to the state, he said.
Many left workers had been killed in political violence in the '70s, before the front came to power in 1977, Mr Bose said, But when the Left Front came to power in 1977, the then front chairman, Promod Dasgupta together with Jyoti Basu forbade any reprisals, he added.
The Left Front chairman also highlighted the issue of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in the state. In all, 63 farmers have committed suicide in Burdwan, the rice bowl of the state as they were groaning under the burden of debt and did not get support price for their crops, the front chairman said.
These persons are poor farmers, agricultural labour and marginal farmers to improve whose lot the rural polls are going to be held, he added.
IANS | Kolkata June 10, 2013 Last Updated at 20:08 IST
The West Bengal Human Rights Commission Monday directed the state police to probe the alleged rape and murder of a college student in North 24-Parganas district last week.
"The incident is barbaric and inhuman. The commission has directed the inspector general of police, South Bengal, to inquire into the matter and submit a report in three weeks," said Sujay Kumar Haldar, joint secretary of the commission.
A second-year college student was allegedly abducted, raped and killed by a group of youths June 7 while she was returning home after appearing in an examination in Barasat in the district. Her body was found beside a fishpond.
A full bench of the commission - including its chairperson Justice (retd.) Asok Kumar Ganguly - expressed concern over frequent incidents of sexual assault being reported from Barasat area.
Meanwhile, eight people have been arrested for the crime, including four of the three named in the first information report, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Banibrata Basu told journalists here.
"The trial will be conducted by a fast-track court," said Basu.
The rights panel also ordered a probe into the assault on two TV journalists July 7 while covering a clash allegedly between two rival factions of the ruling Trinamool Congress in Barrackpore, also in North 24-Parganas district.
Fourteen people have been arrested in this connection.
KOLKATA, June 9, 2013
Dilip Sarkar, a former MLA of the CPI(M), who was overseeing the campaign for the rural polls in West Bengal, was shot dead at Kulpi in the Asansol subdivision of Bardhaman district on Sunday.
Mr. Sarkar was gunned down by persons riding a motorcycle at 6.45 a.m. while out on his morning walk. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead, a senior official of the Asansol Durgapur Police Commissionerate said.
“The politics of murder” was being perpetrated by the Trinamool Congress, State Secretary of the CPI(M) Biman Bose alleged, strongly condemning the killing.
“So far 95 activists of the CPI(M) have been killed since the Trinamool Congress government came to power in the State,” he said.
Accusing the Trinamool Congress of indulging in the “politics of vengeance,” he said the murder of Mr. Sarkar, a secretariat member of the Bardhaman district committee and the district secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions — the labour arm of the party — has made clear the intentions of the ruling party.
“The CPI(M) will organise rallies across the State to protest against the murder and has also called a 12-hour bandh in the Asansol subdivision on Monday,” he said, adding that so far 13 CPI(M) workers have been killed in Bardhaman district alone, since the Trinamool Congress government came to power.
June 5, 2013
KOLKATA: Aided by the withdrawal of BJP's candidate at the last moment, the Trinamool Congress today managed to retain the Howrah Lok sabha seat with a comfortable margin.
BJP today also claimed that its decision not to field candidate had helped Trinamool Congress retain the Howrah Lok Sabha seat, but said the drop in the winning margin was a "warning to TMC".
"It is known to everyone that our decision not to contest the Howrah parliamentary by-election, which was our party decision, has helped Trinamool Congress win and retain the seat," BJP's state president Rahul Sinha told PTI.
He claimed that there was a "substantial drop in the winning margin" of the Trinamool Congress "which should be a warning for the party".
The BJP had decided at the fag end of the poll process, not to field candidate following instruction from the party's national president,Rajnath Singh.
Had the BJP contested the bye-election, Congress would have slid to fourth position, Sinha added.
Dispelling the negativity surrounding the Mamata Banerjee-government post Saradha scam, TMC candidate and former international footballer Prasun Banerjee defeated his nearest CPI-M rival Sridip Bhattacharjee by a margin of over 27,000 votes.
While TMC and CPI-M grabbed 4,26,273 and 3,99,258 votes respectively, the Congress candidate became a distant third securing 96,727 votes.In 2009, TMC had an alliance with the Congress and won the seat by a margin of more than 37,000 votes.
However, TMC-Congress had a lead of over 1,80,000 votes in 2011 assembly election in the seven seats that comes under Howrah Lok Sabha constituency. A comparison with political's party's vote share shows it was the absence of BJP that determined today's election result in favour of TMC.
While TMC got 44.62% votes, CPI-M secured 41.70%. It should be noted that BJP had secured about 4-5% votes in 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 assembly elctions in the area respectively. As it is believed that BJP's votes are more inclined to go to TMC than the Left in absence of the party, analysts poitned out, BJP's absence favoured TMC.
Left and Congress, however, were quick to accuse TMC of having an "understanding" with BJP ahead of 2014 general election. "The Howrah Lok Sabha seat was BJP's gift to TMC," said senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed.
BJP, which had secured over 50,000 votes in 2011 in the area withdrew its candidate at the last moment, despite announcing its candidate earlier.
But this time it was always a close battle, given that TMC was contesting on its own and opposition made the Saradha scam and TMC's alleged assoiciation with such companies a major campaign issue.
The by-election was necessitated following the death of Trinamool Congress MP Ambika Banerjee.
Reacting to the poll result West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said, "This time we have fought Parliamentary by-election at Howrah all alone. A new era is born. Our candidate Prasun Banerjee, an Arjun awardee, has won the election today."
June 4, 2013
KOLKATA: AFTER much confusion and deliberate attempts on the part of the state government to defer the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court on May 14 directed the holding of three phased panchayat elections in West Bengal next month. A division bench directed the West Bengal government to announce full notification within three days in consultation with the State Election Commission. The High Court also directed to complete the poll process by July 15 this year. The division bench did not agree to the state government's decision of holding the poll in two phases. It has asked the government to hold the polls in three phases and declare the poll dates after consulting the Commission.
The division bench in its ruling also directed deployment of armed police in each hyper sensitive and sensitive polling booths, though the deployment of central forces was not made mandatory. Earlier, the State Election Commission had moved the Calcutta High Court challenging arbitrary announcement of two phased panchayat polls by the state government without consulting them. The Commission had also raised objection to the state government's refusal of central forces for holding the elections.
Some grey areas still remained after the verdict about the consultation process between the state administration and the State Election Commission.
Expressing satisfaction on the verdict of the High Court, Biman Basu, the chairman of West Bengal Left Front Committee, said that at last the stalemate on panchayat elections seems to be cleared. He welcomed the deadline set by the division bench of the High Court that the panchayat elections of the state have to be organised by July 15. He demanded that without wasting more time the state government and the State Election Commission should initiate the process of election immediately by releasing the election schedule. The demand of the Left Front will be to ensure free, fair and peaceful election, he said in a press conference at Muzaffar Ahmed Bhawan on May 14, 2013. The Left Front is organisationally prepared to take part in the elections, he added further.
Biman Basu also said that the people became apprehended of losing their long-cherished democratic right. The Left parties repeatedly demanded for the timely panchayat poll and also said about the emergence of a constitutional complexity if the process is not completed in its due course. The absence of elected bodies would also have been responsible for stopping the national grants for rural development. The verdict of the court to hold the election immediately will ultimately release the apprehension of the people, he added. Biman Basu further said that the State Election Commission has to complete the three-tier elections and gazette the names of the winning candidates by this time. He also said that the elections of the students’ union should also have to be initiated. The adult students will cast their votes to elect their representatives in parliament, assembly, municipality and panchayats but how can they be debarred form electing their representatives in colleges and universities, he wondered.
Biman Basu also said that a section of the state police is blatantly toeing the directions of the TMC leadership. The recent verdict of the High Court in favour of CBI investigation regarding the murder of a TMC worker in Dhanekhali, Hooghly is a recent evidence of that. The police also lodged false cases against the CPI(M) leadership and activists in Arambagh in the name of arms-recovery. With such regular incidents it would be tough to keep faith on the neutrality of the state police, he articulated. “As we want the panchayat elections to be completed in time, so we are not raising this issue immediately,” said Biman Basu. But if the Left candidates face obstruction during filing of nomination or campaign then the matter will surely be taken up, he added.
Biman Basu further said that the Left Front is organisationally prepared to take part in the elections. The complete unity between the Left Front constituents has already been achieved in most of the districts. Few disputes will be sorted soon, he added.
Leader of the Opposition and CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Surjya Kanta Mishra commented that it was hard to expect that the state government would be neutral in the process of the election; so the responsibility to hold free, fair and peaceful election is lying with the State Election Commission. He also said that the Left Front and some other political parties launched movement for the demand of timely panchayat elections and ultimately the verdict could show ray of hope in that direction. It is better to settle the matter here instead of going to upper court to save further delay in the process, he said.
Surjya Kanta Mishra also said that the people of the state have witnessed the open threats given by the state ministers, MPs, MLAs and other leaders of TMC that they will ensure such an arrangement where the Left candidates will not even be allowed to file the nomination papers for the panchayat elections. Though the State Election Commission will be in-charge of the administration after the announcement of the election but the state government does not think twice before maligning any institution if they do not toe with the government line, may it be the State Election Commission, Human Rights Commission or judiciary. We are experiencing political intervention in the police administration. They hardly enjoy an atmosphere to work independently, he said.
Peoples Democracy, May 19, 2013