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Our peaceful Bengal

Did anyone say assembly elections in the state saw violence?

Written by Samantak Das |
Updated: May 12, 2016 12:01:41 am
West Bengal elections, west bengal assembly election, west bengal assembly election violence, west bengal violence, TMC, assembly election w bengal, assembly election w bengal, west bengal news, india news, indian express West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a election rally in Bangaon, North 24 Parganas. (Source: Express file photo)

The just-concluded assembly elections, held under the watch of a perverse and partial Election Commission, have seen a few sporadic incidents of violence, engineered by the agents of the Left Front, in collusion with their unfair-weather friends, the Indian National Congress. A glaring example of this was the brutal attack on peaceful volunteers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) by a three-and- half-year- old female cadre owing allegiance to the CPM, which fortunately, was foiled by the volunteers of the TMC through the peaceful wielding of rods, lathis and country-made pistols — all acknowledged implements of self-defence and peaceful persuasion. This took place on April 25, 2016, in Halisahar, where, unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the TMC volunteers, unwanted votes were cast by members of the female cadre, including her mother, who even had the effrontery to carry this violent young person to the polling booth. This stands as testament to the ability of the state’s erstwhile rulers to inject the poison of hatred and violence among the young, something the TMC has never indulged in.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there has not been any violence in the state of West Bengal since the new government, under the dynamic and visionary leadership of Mamata Banerjee, took charge in May 2011, after three-point-four decades of unmitigated chaos and complete and utter lumpenism under the so-called Left Front, which was neither left nor led from the front (or the rear for that matter).

In sharp contrast, the TMC government has been proactive in nipping all potential for violence in the bud, before it can bloom into hatred and bloodshed. A few examples may suffice to illustrate this. Within months of assuming office, the TMC government issued a notification, number 1326-Edn(CS)/10M- 53/11, on September 6, 2011, asking all colleges to install CCTV cameras “in order to strengthen security measures”, thus allowing all-round surveillance of those potential anti-nationals called college students. Had the Central government followed this sapient measure, unwarranted incidents such as those at the University of Hyderabad or the Jawaharlal Nehru University could easily have been pre-empted. Similar was the arrest of a professor of Chemistry from Jadavpur University, that notorious den of Maoists and CPM cadres, who had the insolence to circulate a lampoon on the chief minister with the potential to inflame violent passions — something that did not come to pass, thanks to the timely intervention of those magnificent protectors of the peace, the efficient and impartial police force of the state.

In fact, had the police been given a free hand during these assembly elections, the kind of violence witnessed would not have taken place. Instead of sweating it out during the ongoing heat wave, voters could have remained at home, watching television or catching up with family gossip, whilst the hard-working volunteers of the ruling party cast votes on their behalf, thereby ensuring a further half-decade of the peace that has reigned in West Bengal since May 2011.

Instead, the central paramilitary forces made it difficult for people to enjoy a hard-earned day’s, or seven, of rest and recreation, by forcing them to go polling booths in these insalubrious conditions. Fortunately, such central interference was not all-pervasive, and in a significant number of cases, the hardworking TMC volunteers were able to cast the votes of those who did not, or could not, cast their votes — in many cases convinced by the wholly peaceful and reasonable arguments of the TMC workers.

It is to be noted that the TMC has taken enormous strides in making the youth of the state stakeholders in the construction boom through the institutionalisation of the “syndicate system”; whereby unemployed (whom sneering critics label “unemployable”) young men find gainful employment as suppliers of men and materials for the homes of the rich, if not yet famous. By so doing, these young men are kept away from violence and if, in the process, homeowners have to pay a small premium, not exceeding 30 per cent of the total cost price, of their swish new habitations, that is surely not too high a price to pay to ensure peace and spread the fruits of prosperity.

A further point to be made is the conjoining of corruption and violence. TMC MPs and MLAs who have allegedly been videographed accepting money from a shady fly-by- night operator, who does not even belong to this part of the country, are being held up as examples of the corruption that pervades West Bengal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the following facts. First, money may have changed hands, but who is to say that the money remained with those who were apparently seen accepting it? Second, given the trifling sums involved, and the financial clout of those allegedly receiving them, is this not rather a demonstration of the humility and frugality of those now being charged with accepting bribes? Finally, let us not forget the glorious Indian tradition of atithi devo bhava, a guest is as a god. If a guest forces money on his host, is it not incumbent upon the host to accept it? To refuse would surely count as an act of violence.

Given all this, it is time all good men and women faced up to the truth that the most conspicuous fact about violence in this golden land of Bengal is its almost entire absence. These assembly elections bear witness to this truth and, no doubt, the results of this exercise, to be declared on May 19, will prove that the people of West Bengal know which side their bread is buttered. Or else, all will be jammed.

The writer is associate professor, department of comparative literature, Jadavpur University.

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