Political Killings in Bengal: Legal Angle

West Bengal, located at the eastern part of India along the Bay of Bengal is nucleus of geographical as well as cultural diversity. With more than 91 million masses, it is 4th most populous state of India sharing International Borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Being hotspot of freedom movement, the state has gone through the massive political upheavals. Bengal’s cultural, linguistic & religious diversity pleases to all. People belonging to almost all religions & ideologies can be seen in West Bengal. But the state which shares so much cultural, ethical & religious diversity has failed to align with political diversity. Individuals, specifically the supporters of opponent parties are being subjected the grave violence & death just because their political ideology does not equate to that of a dominant political thought. From decades the political killing by the ruling party or by certain people to achieve some political goal, have become an integral part of the state. Political killings are grave violation of human rights, rule of law and democratic principles of the country. The internal squabbling & tussle between different political ideologies leads political murders almost every year in the state.West Bengal which is  known for its indomitable spirit for cultural and religious diversity encapsulate riveting history of political killings.  

 Conflict Of Political Bloodshed In West Bengal Through The Decades

 With the astonishing fusion of various races & cultures and the land of many virtuous social reformers, freedom fighters & scholars, the West Bengal has traversed the wounds of partition on religious lines, immigration, international wars & famines etc. The State had played a pivotal role during  freedom struggle through its various political and social movements. After Independence the West Bengal politics took a divergent turn from the rest of India because of huge inflow of refugees from East Pakistan, later on Bangladesh .During the initial days West Bengal was governed by the Nehruvian Socialist Principles based Indian National Congress while Left Front  was emerging as strong opponent. The political culture in West Bengal underwent a major shift when Communist Party of India (Marxist) won the assembly election in 1977 defeating Indian National Congress. And remained into power for three decades consecutively. With the economical social & political growth in the state, perception of intolerance for opposition was at its peak. It was the time when the seed of political killings got fertilizers & favorable climate. Enormous conflicts can be traced in those three decades of Marxist ruling. 

The political ideology of the ruling government had become so conservative that it was unable to tolerate the opposition. Political killings of the people who uttered against the ruling party had become more prominent. Horrendous killing has invaded in the liberal political culture. However, political culture shall never be homogeneous, not even in stable societies because the main constituent of society is human, which is of changing in nature, his thoughts, attributes, ideologies are diverse. Those diversity in thoughts and ideologies shall be respected by the ruling as well as rival party in every democratic form of government. No society can claim single uniform political culture. The state must intervene in a conflict situation when conflicts are likely to have serious consequences. But West Bengal’s political culture shares the highest rate of political killings as compared to other states. The repetitive instances of political killings can be traced during the communist government. A state which always stood by its unity in diversity & sovereign principles has developed unethical political culture in its aspirations.

Sainbari killings 1970[1]

Two brothers, who were congress loyalists were brutally killed by the communist leaders, the mother was made to eat rice soaked in their blood which led severe mental disorder to her. Such a barbarous incident shook the entire nation. Whole West Bengal got tremor by massacres of 1970 in Bardwan but no charges were carried against the perpetrators for the condemnable crime.  

Marichjhapi massacre 1979[2]

On Saraswati Puja Day,  Bengali Hindu refugees from Bangladesh were evicted, starved, shot and killed who had trooped into the state and had taken shelter in the Sundarban area.They were seen as threat to Left political ideology.

Ananda margi monks burnt alive 1982[3]

Ananda margis from all over country  were on the way to an educational conference, CPI(M) cadre leaders struck and burnt them alive since the party was vigilant that they would emerge as alarming force encapsulating party rule in the state.

Nanoor massacre 2000[4]

 11 muslim landless labourers were slaughtered by the left cadre along with local leaders just because they were   supporters of the opposition party and was resisting encroachment & land grabbling.

 Nandigram massacre 2007[5]

The ruling government strenuously tried to acquire 10,000 acres of land for a foreign company. Farmers resisted the seizing of land. Consequently the workers of harmad vahini threatened the farmers. Villagers huts were set ablaze, 14 farmers died in well planned firing 70 injured. Though the real figure of death was never discovered. They mowed down the people who brought the party in power, who chose the government to protect and secure.  In a democartic country, the seeds of political killing was sowed very gently during these three decades  of marxist ruling and since then it has been an integral of West Bengal politics. The Communist party’s incapability to see the developmental opportunities for amelioration of the state, harmed its political figure steadily. The party eventually destroyed its long cherished political power in the state by promoting the violence.

The political activism against communist party’s political killings contributed landscape victory of Right Wing Trinamool Congress  in 2011. But the party could hardly go beyond the process of political brutality. Since 2011 assembly till present TMC is in power but the culture of political bloodshed is still continuing. Not a single electorate process goes without political violence. Cadres of the dominant party, workers of oppositions & politically motivated people spread constant terror in the region, specifically at the places where the dominant government is challenged. It seems the state is ruling over the Mao Zedong’s principle which state as “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”[6].  Arguably, at significant number of times political workers orchestrate pitched battles by attacking the leaders & cadre, creating fear to restrain the political activism

It is pertinent to note that under the guise ruling party the opponent & other local parties too serve the political killing of civilian as well as cadre representative. The act of unleashing violence is constant when the dominant party is in government Bharatiya Janata Party as an strong opponent. The tussle between the two has resulted in grave injury to the humankind. During the last assembly election of 2021 there are instances of political killings of cadres of both the parties.  

Legal perspective of Political Killings

  •   Threat to Democrac

The culture of political violence is a huge threat to the democracy of  the country.The systematic dehumanization of  specific supporters or cadres of an ideology shall not get a fertile land to grow against nation’s democratic principles. The political killings of the people because of difference in political ideology is equivalent to the death of democracy. To sabotage constitutionalism of democracy shall never be the agenda of government or any political ideology which is chosen by the people to protect & serve them.  Modern political discourse includes democracy in its mainstream along with the harmonious relation between people & politics. Apparently, the state has denied the principals of constitution to maintain democracy. 

  • Contrary to Rule of Law

When the government is in power it has obligation to maintain law & order situation rather     than unleashing violence & counter violence to inhibit even a single ideology against it.    Though the government has some discretionary power but the discretionary power shall never immune the dominant political thaught to rule arbitrarily, suppressing the voice commons or oppositions   

  • Grave violation of Human Rights  

The political killings implicate the repression of the basic human rights & attenuation of humanity. Politically motivated murderous physical attacks on rivals and confrontation between supporters leading to grave violence of human rights is detestable under every circumstances. Even years after the independence human right is receiving severe jolt because of repressive violence by the ruling government & counter-violence by the rivals.  

Conclusion

Beyond the shadow of the doubt, the disintegrative tendency of the ruling government reflects in the political culture of the state. Resorting the political violence has become inherent attribute of the state, no matter which party leads the government. Political clashes at large unleashing horrendous killing has become the trend by default. The human security & principles of coexistence in human society has to be the focal point of any state. The rich cultural, historical, geological, ethical and political diversity exists together in India, any act done in contravention of its integrity shall not be promoted in any form.

Diversity in political ideology is an integral constituent for the growth & sustenance of democracy, which is an essential characteristic of India. The laws prohibiting the incidents like political killings shall be formulated & implemented with certain degree of stringency withdrawing all the loopholes. Lastly, the thirst for power shall never overturn the principles of humanity. 


[1] Sainbari Killings Return to Haunt CPI(M) (outlookindia.com)

[2] Marichjhapi Massacre (wordpress.com)

[3] Bijon Setu Massacre: When 16 monks were murdered and set on fire (opindia.com)

[4] Nanoor massacre – Wikipedia

[5] India: Nandigram – the brutal massacre of peasants at the hands of the ‘Left’ front government (marxist.com)

[6] Quote by Mao Tse-tung: “Political power grows out of the barrel of the …” (goodreads.com)


Author: Archana Maurya from University of Calcutta.


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