Elections in West Bengal: A history of violence | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Elections in West Bengal: A history of violence

Communism may have failed as an ideology in the rest of the world but the culture of violence and social conflict it introduced through the Bolshevik Revolution continues to be a part of Bengal’s political ethos. Tanmay Chatterjee reports.

kolkata Updated: May 11, 2009 01:29 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee

Communism may have failed as an ideology in the rest of the world but the culture of violence and social conflict it introduced through the Bolshevik Revolution continues to be a part of Bengal’s political ethos.

Except for two Maoist attacks, the first phase of polling witnessed no political violence. But the peace was short lived. After May 7, Nandigram, Asansol, Howrah, Murshidabad, Burdwan and Nadia have witnessed clashes between armed CPI-M and Trinamool supporters and there is no indication of an early ceasefire. The violence has so far claimed 11 men and a two-year-old.

Once results of the Lok Sabha elections are announced, these deaths will become part of the dry statistics that go back to the turbulent ’70s when the Communists were literally at war against the regime of Siddhartha Shankar Ray and beyond it.

In February 1971, just ahead of the general elections, Forward Bloc national secretary Hemanta Basu was murdered in broad daylight in Kolkata. Surprisingly, a section of Bloc leaders pointed fingers at the CPI-M while the latter put the blame on the Congress.

Throughout the ’70s, when the Marxists were struggling to spread the movement in Bengal’s cities and villages, deaths were part of everyday life because the Congress was in no mood to abandon its deep-rooted regime and make way for an agrarian movement.

On the one hand, S.S. Ray wanted to keep the Marxists under control while on the other, the Naxalites needed to be crushed. Police atrocities and fake encounters added a new and violent dimension to the political conflict in the state.

Even on Saturday CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose blamed the Congress-Trinamool combine for the violence over the past 48 hours.

It is no news that Bose and his fellow comrades leave no opportunity to preach that it was the Congress that introduced the reign of terror in Bengal in the ’70s. They did so even when Kespur and Garbeta were bleeding in 2000-2001 or Nandigram resembled a war zone in 2007.

Today, as Bengal once again witnesses the rise of the Opposition and an anti-incumbency wave gathers momentum, it is only natural that the CPI-M cadres will come under attack. Leaders on both sides of the fence have probably realised that vested interests, localised conflicts and suppressed aspirations may all combine to trigger another spate of violence in Bengal.