People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 16

April 21, 2013








Ominous Signs in West Bengal Mayhem


Debasish Chakraborty


THE theory of ‘action begets reaction’ that was obnoxiously used by Narendra Modi in justifying the Gujarat carnage is now being used is West Bengal to legitimise the unprecedented violence. The mayhem, particularly for 48 hours after the protest demonstration in front of Yojana Bhaban in Delhi, by the ruling Trinamul Congress (TMC), has even been portrayed as a ‘natural one’ and as ‘political tactical defeat’ of the CPI(M).




On April 2, Sudipta Gupta, a 23-year old SFI leader, died a brutal death in police custody. He was arrested during a civil disobedience movement in Kolkata, brought to Presidency Jail, and from the jail gate he was taken to SSKM hospital with thoroughly mutilated face, unconscious in a pool of blood. The nature of death had shaken conscience of the people; there were very serious reaction among the people. There must have been a component of fury among the people, particularly among comrades of Sudipta along with mourning. Those who witnessed their friend’s brutal killing, those who received the dead body of a lively young boy from morgue were fuming with a fury. But that did not reflect in any kind of violence, the protests in the following days were absolutely peaceful, dignified. The chief minister visited the hospital even when post mortem of Sudipta’s body was in progress, did not meet any relative of him, declared on camera that the boy suffered the fatal injury due to ‘accidental hit on a lamp post.’ Students present in the hospital did not show any outburst of reaction. Not even after the inhuman, uncouth statement of the chief minister in Bangalore that Sudipta’s death was a ‘small and petty matter,’ there was any violent reaction in the streets of Kolkata. That was so because of the SFI, because of the Left parties’ leadership, because of a politics fundamentally different.


These are facts which are important to be underlined. However, there was a melee at the protest in Delhi on April 9. What happened involving a minister was unintended and unwarranted. The CPI(M) and the Left parties immediately condemned the incident; later the CPI(M) Polit Bureau issued a clear-cut statement on the issue. No one from the Left condoned the incidence, no one tried to legitimise it.


But what followed was absolutely barbaric. The chief minister herself issued threats from Delhi that her party would teach the CPI(M) a lesson and within hours the entire state witnessed what she meant. In the next 48 hours more than 1000 party offices of the CPI(M) and other Left parties and mass organisations were attacked, ransacked, destroyed, burnt. Those included CPI(M) district committee offices in Siliguri (Darjeeling), South 24 Parganas, Hooghly. Party leaders and activists were physically assaulted in every district. CPI(M) state committee member Manabesh Choudhury, AIDWA state secretary Minati Ghosh, former ministers Ashok Bhattacharya and Narayan Biswas were attacked. Houses of Left leaders were attacked. In many places, clubs were attacked too; a library was burnt. That the ruling party was out in the street to spread an all-encompassing terror was proved when they barged into Presidency University campus, beat up students, molested girls, and vandalized the famed heritage Baker Laboratory. Incidentally, their target in Presidency was not the SFI only; it was mindless hooliganism.




Did the Delhi incident really ‘provoked’ these attacks? Then what were the ‘provocations’ behind the murder of 93 Left activists in West Bengal in the last 23 months? A few thousand Left activists have suffered injuries, hundreds have been forced to stay away from their residence, hundreds of Left parties’ and mass organisations’ offices were attacked much before this April. SFI activists are barred from entering many colleges and universities and attending classes for the last 23 months. What ‘provocation’ led to mercilessly beating up Left MLAs within the assembly, resulting in grievous injuries to at least two of them? Veteran CPI(M) leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah, MLA, was fiercely attacked in broad daylight, the only ‘provocation’ being that he went to visit a burnt-down party office. Elected panchayats are either forcefully occupied or their shutters closed throughout the state. Did any ‘provocation’ led to that? And for the votaries of ‘provocation’ theory, what lied behind the attack in Presidency University?


The Trinamul Congress does not need any provocation, any pretext to attack the CPI(M) and the Leftists. The latest storm of violence is aimed to create an atmosphere of fear, to stifle the rising voices of discontent against a failing government.




This is no usual political violence either. Some features of the attacks bear the testimony of their dangerous nature.


1) More than a thousand offices of the CPI(M) and mass organisations were attacked within 48 hours. For example, 126 offices of the CPI(M), Forward Bloc, RSP and organisations like CITU were attacked in Coochbehar district alone. The modus operandi was the same in almost every case. Offices were not only ransacked; in many cases they were bombed and burnt. It is evident that the direction to attack came from above; these were by no means spontaneous but organised. In many cases, for instance in most gruesome consecutive attack on the CPI(M)’s Darjeeling district office in Siliguri and in Presidency University, TMC activists and hooligans were brought to the scene in hired buses.


2) The police remained either mute spectators or actively collaborated in the attacks. In Siliguri, the CPI(M) office --- Anil Biswas Bhawan --- was attacked on two consecutive days. On the second day a procession of TMC, led by state minister Gautam Deb, organised the attack. The police remained inactive throughout the vandalism, but rushed to arrest 53 CPI(M) leaders and activists immediately after it from the party office and its vicinity. They were put into custody. In Majhpara village of Khanakul, 40 houses of CPI(M) supporters were burnt down but the fire brigade personnel were directed not to go there for hours.


3) Not a single TMC man was arrested even after such large scale violence. The only exception was in the Presidency incident in which five persons were booked after a loud hue and cry from academic quarters. The state government completely abdicated its constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order. On the contrary, senior ministers stridently justified these attacks. Partha Chatterjee, industries minister and widely regarded as No 2 in the ministry, publicly declared that much more was expected. He openly directed the police to detain the official security person in Presidency who tried to resist the storm troopers. The minister spread venom against the vice chancellor and the registrar of Presidency University for publicly criticising the attack in the campus. In clear signs of state sponsored violence, the senior ministers justified the attacks on the CPI(M) and the police force was made subservient to the local TMC leaders. The chief minister herself denied that anything had happened while she was still in Delhi, even after the most dreadful night of April 9. Interestingly, there was complete silence on part of the DG or IG Police on this spate of attacks. They did not appear for formal briefings either for five days.


4) The attacks were perpetrated on the ground by lumpen and rowdies, not much in numbers, indicating the ruling party’s abetment of these elements and their increasing clout in the TMC.


5) Physical attacks on the Leftists were legitimised by a virulent campaign in a section of media. The pathological hatred against the communists once again came out through cheerful celebrations with headlines like ‘CPM in ICU.’ The CPI(M) was targeted as the initiator of political violence in the state. Another important aspect was the consistent attack on the so-called students politics. The responsibility of the death of Sudipta Gupta was squarely put on the Left parties and the SFI who organised the street protest; the attack on the Presidency was somehow portrayed as a consequence of political activities by students. The conclusion: Ban students’ participation in politics in toto. The fear psychosis generated by physical attacks is sought to be reinforced by attacks on democratic rights.


By all indications, thus, this April mayhem in West Bengal appears to be a prelude to still greater aggression in the future.