This public statement is for immediate release. Please see the names of the signatories at the end.
The news of continuous violence on a daily basis coming from West Bengal is deeply disturbing. Journalists have been attacked by the members of the ruling party, school teachers are being asked to prove their loyalty to the new ruling dispensation failing which they are being barred from doing their duty and are made target of systematic physical violence.
People suspected of affiliation with the CPM are facing extortion threats and cases have been reported where they have been denied access to the means of their livelihood. Legitimate oppositional politics is not tolerated. Not only are ordinary members of the CPM being attacked, even senior leaders are not spared . Recently an ex-MLA of the CPM along with another leader was killed in a mob-violence led by the members of the ruling Trinamul Congress. Processions are not allowed. There have been incidents of intimidation by the ruling party to the supporters of the recent bandh call given by different trade unions.
The Chief Minister has been on record threatening bandh supporters that they would be ‘given a lesson to remember’. This was followed by attacks on the strikers by members of the ruling party. Generally in all these cases the role of the police is either of a mute spectator or of connivance.
Most shockingly, the response of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the recently reported incidents of rape, where she alleged that ‘it was all made up and stage-managed’ is creating a situation in which violence against women would either not be reported or police would simply refuse to register them, let alone act to apprehend the perpetrators.
It is matter of deep distress that the political leadership of the state is either denying the gravity of violent incidents in West Bengal or legitimizing most of it by claiming that it is the result of popular anger. Ironically such arguments were used by the earlier ruling party to justify the Singur , Nandigram and Lalgadh violence. We see members of the ruling party behaving like vigilantes. The dividing line between the party and government has been dangerously blurred .
It is sad that the mandate given to the Trinamul Congress arising out of the desire of the people of Bengal to come out of a situation where one political party controlled all aspects of life is now being misused to establish an authoritarian regime . It is a matter of concern that politics in Bengal is being conducted in a language of revenge and threats. It is high time a process in Bengal was initiated to allow normal democratic political activity.
We urge the governor of the state and leaders of all political parties to take lead and initiate this process. We also urge the people of Bengal to come forward to oppose the culture of violence and petty sectarianism dominating the state’s political scenario and help establish new norms of decency and democratic behaviour in public life.
Aditya Nigam, CSDS, Delhi
A Marx, Chennai
Anand Patwardhan, Mumbai
Apoorvanand, Delhi University
Arshad Ajmal , Sahulat, Delhi and Patna
Dilip Simeon, Delhi
Devika Jayakumari, CDS, Thiruavanathapuram
Dwaipayan Bhattacharya, CSSC, Kolkata
Dwijendra Kalia, Delhi University
Kavita Srivastava, PUCL, Jaipur
Kumar Rana, Pratichi, Kolkata
Madhumita Dutta, Chennai
Mukul Priyadarshini, Delhi University
Mukul Sharma, Delhi
Musab Iqbal, Newzfirst, Bangalore
Nasiruddin Haider Khan, Hindustan, Delhi
Nivedita Menon, JNU, Delhi
Pritam Mukherjee, Kolkata
Pushkar, PUCL, Delhi
Satya Sivaraman, Delhi
Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD, Delhi
Shivam Vij, Delhi
Shudhhabrata Sengupta, Delhi
Subhash Gatade, Sandhan, Delhi
Sukla Sen, Mumbai
Sumit Sarkar, Delhi
Sunalini Kumar, Delhi University
Tanika Sarkar, Delhi