'If Mamata Banerjee doesn't want, then violence cannot be stopped.'
Dr Nazrul Islam, former inspector general of police, West Bengal, discusses the violence that erupted in the state after the election results were announced on May 2, 2021 and how it can end with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.
What is the reason for the violence in West Bengal between cadres of the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party?
Whenever an election is fought in West Bengal it is not just for electing an MLA or MP of a particular political party. The election is also fought for the dominance and forcible collection of cut money by the gram panchayat-level leader, panchayat samiti-level leader, the zilla parishad-level leader, the municipal-level leader.
The system is built in such a manner that everybody fights it out to get their cuts. While every political leader and parties have their well-defined fiefs, the lion's share always goes to the leaders belonging to the ruling political party because they have the police and the might of the power backing them.
Historically, the antagonism between two rival political factions has always been very bitter in the state and when after election people lose or win, both the losers and winners like to settle scores with each other.
Who wins or who loses doesn't make much difference. Everybody wants to have their pound of flesh and the ultimate weapon to achieve this goal is to prove one's dominance violently.
The winners want to take revenge because somebody opposed them and the losers want to do the same against those who organised their defeat because someone was responsible for your defeat.
This violence will continue to fester till every area in the state settles for who the dominant leader is in various areas.
Also, this will continue mainly if the political ruler does not allow the rule of law to have the dominant hand.
How can the law and order machinery in the state end the violence that Bengal is witnessing after the election results were announced?
The question is do they want to control it. I have my doubts because based on my experience as an IPS officer I can say that they don't want to control it.
The more the murders and mayhem, the more the collection of money. So, the police don't want to control it on their own.
Such an environment helps everybody in this political ecosystem that encourages violence to make more profits from cut-money and forcible collection.
You know what is happening in Maharashtra where the home minister (Anil Deshmukh) had to resign on allegations of collection money worth Rs 100 crore every month by none other than a former police commissioner (Param Bir Singh) of the city.
In West Bengal, the same business is far better organised.
What measures can the law and order machinery, and now Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee employ to stop the political violence that has led to several deaths in the state?
Any difficult situation, even related to violence and law and order, can be controlled. Such bouts of violence can be controlled in just about a week.
If the criminals know that the police mean business, then they will either flee the area or stop the crime.
Any self-respecting police officer will vouch for it that such violence doesn't take much time to control provided we have upright police officers in charge and their political masters don't use such instances as opportunities to make more money and expand their political power.
If I used the same police force while I was in charge of Siliguri as an additional SP when such situations arose and stopped violence on several occasions, then why can't it be done now?
This violence can be stopped quickly provided the police as well as the ruling political party want peace.
Do you think that Mamata Banerjee is responsible for the violence that is taking place in the state since May 2?
I have no doubt about it.
Imagine a chief minister, who is also in charge of the police and the home department, asking a local MLA and district party leaders to trap an SP and an inspector in-charge of a local police station because they were not working as per the way she wanted them to work in a particular matter.
A recorded tape to this effect was leaked by a BJP leader in the state (during the election).
If this is what the chief minister of a state is heard on a leaked phone call recording asking her party leaders to entangle an IPS officer, then you can imagine what direction she can give in private meetings with her party leaders.
If she says let me take charge (of the violence in the state) and stop it, then she can stop this violence in just about three days.
Are you saying that only TMC goons are resorting to violence? That this violence is directed and dominated by just one party?
Whenever there are violent confrontations the party that is more powerful can keep indulging in violence only till the time the other party is not pressed against the wall.
Once that happens, the other party has no choice but to retaliate. At that point, either I have to hit you back or die.
Are you saying that the BJP cadres are only reacting to the violence unleashed against them by TMC cadres?
To be fair, it is possible that cadres of other political parties (other than the TMC), wherever they are strong, must be indulging in attacking the others (from the TMC) because of the intense political rivalry and the game of domination.
Out of the 292 seats, they (the TMC) have gone above (won) 211 seats and their percentage vote is above 50 per cent.
So, half the voters in these many constituencies are their (TMC's) supporters. So, if they (Mamata Banerjee) don't want violence, violence will not continue.
How do you look at the BJP dubbing the violence between the cadres of the two political parties as communal? IsThe the BJP trying to communalise the situation?
The BJP government at the Centre passed the CAA (Citizenship [Amendment] Act) just to diminish the dignity of Muslim voters. We have seen how people (Muslims) have suffered in Assam (because of the CAA). How they were taken to different detention camps.
Given this situation in Assam, the people (Muslims) of Bengal are afraid of the CAA because if a person (a Hindu) has come from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan (legally or illegally; or does not have any valid paper documents to prove they were born in India) then they will get citizenship, but if that person happens to be a Muslim he will not get (the citizenship).
So, a person (a Muslim) who has been born and brought up in India but doesn't have the deemed valid documents to prove that, then that person can be easily branded a foreigner and deprived of citizenship.
The Hindus are also afraid (of the CAA) but the Muslims are more afraid.
Given this situation, Muslims in Bengal would not like the BJP to come to power in West Bengal. But naturally, they would have voted for any party that was in a position to defeat the BJP in the recently concluded election and that could be the reason why the Congress could not win even one seat in the state.
This means that most of the Muslims might have voted against the BJP.
In this situation, when a person (belonging to one political party) attacks another person and if the religion of the attacker and the one under attack is different, then it becomes very easy to brand it communal and derive political benefit out of it.
If somebody hits you because of one's political affiliations, and if you want to exploit that person's religious identity to communalise the situation, then who can stop you?
It is not that Hindus (from the TMC) are not attacking the Hindus from the other party (the BJP). That is also happening. But who can stop you if you want to give it a religious hue?
But then every political party only thinks about their own benefit. They have never and will never think about the poor who become the victims of their game of political dominance.
What measures would you suggest to contain the violence in Bengal?
Being an IPS officer I can think of only two ways. Taking strict action against criminals as per the law and the violence can be stopped in just two-three days.
The second way is for political leaders to instruct their cadre to not indulge in criminal acts.
Is only the TMC indulging in acts of violence in Bengal after their election victory?
Institutions like the CBI, the NIA, the state police or any institution responsible for maintaining law and order should act as per law. But do they?
They act as per the instructions of their political masters. So, under whose instructions are the state police acting in West Bengal? The ruling party.
And who has been the ruling party in the state from the last 10-15 years? Mamata Banerjee.
If Mamata Banerjee doesn't want, then violence cannot be stopped.
The BJP is today in power at the Centre and in most of the states. Now, if they think that giving communal colour to every incident will give political profits, then who is powerful enough today to stop them from doing so?
If a large section of people of India had not voted them (BJP) for indulging in communal politics, they would not have indulged in fomenting communal issues.