Union Home Minister P Chidambaram questioned the West Bengal government on its use of central forces in the state saying the killing of activists of political parties point to a "virtual collapse" of law and order there.
Chidambaram's strong letter to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee comes in the wake of ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee alleging misuse of central security forces in the state and offering to quit if her charge was proved wrong.
The home minister asked the state government to ensure that the armed cadres belonging to Harmad Vahini are "immediately disarmed and demobilised".
"If these armed cadres continue to take upon themselves the duties of maintaining law and order, I wonder what is the role of security forces, specially central para military forces which have been deployed at the request of the state government"? he said.
The home minister also said it was "a matter of grave concern" that these cadres have been provided with arms.
Chidambaram said the "violence presented an alarming picture, which was completely unacceptable in a democratic system."
The home minister's letter came a day after a Trinamool Congress delegation had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and conveyed to him alleged misuse of central security forces in West Bengal. According to Home Ministry figures upto December 15, 2010, the number of TMC cadres killed and injured were 96 and 1237 respectively.
Likewise, CPI-M cadres who have been killed and injured number 65 and 773 respectively and Congress cadres who have been killed and injured number 15 and 221 respectively. "These numbers present an alarming picture and point to a virtual collapse of law and order in parts of West Bengal,"Chidambaram said.
The letter in the backdrop of violent clashes between cadres of CPI-M and Trinamool Congress in various parts of West Bengal. Recently, a clash between rival students' groups at a college in Howrah district claimed the life of a youth who belonged to the Student's Federation of India, the CPI-M's student front.
South Bengal districts like Burdwan, Hooghly, Howrah, South 24-Paragnas and West Midnapore have been witnessing clashes between the two political parties.
The Home Minister reminded the Chief Minister about a meeting they had some time back where they discussed about the 'Harmad Vahini' that is active in West Bengal and that has given rise to apprehension and complaints.
"Complaints and references received by us indicate that armed cadres of the CPI(M) were deployed in a covert manner under the guise of 'village protection groups' to guard against Naxal attacks," he said.
Chidambaram said a sizeable number of armed cadres were recruited, trained and deployed in West Midnapore. "There is evidence to show that Harmad camps are mostly located in CPI-M party offices and thoses of local CPI-M cadres.
It is a matter of grave concern that these cadres have been provided with fire arms," he said. In his letter, Chidambaram told Bhattacharjee that security forces - both of the state and the Centre - have been deployed in large numbers in three districts of West Bengal, including West Midnapore, to counter the challenge of CPI-Maoist and the Police Santrosh Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (PSBJC).
"There are credible reports that the Harmad armed cadres are intimidating, and sometimes attacking, members and sympathisers of opposition parties. This, I am afraid, is completely unacceptable in a democratic system," he said. The home minister also said that in the run up to the West Bengal assembly election next year, there has been a perceptible increase in clashes between supporters of the CPI-M and TMC.