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West Bengal govt asks National Commission for Scheduled Castes to cancel visit

The West Bengal government on Monday told the Kolkata high court that not a single incident of post-poll violence has been reported in the state after May 8. But the NCSC claims to have been receiving letters and complaints of atrocities against Dalits after the May 2 election results.
By Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 12, 2021 07:24 PM IST
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (File photo)

The West Bengal government has asked the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) to cancel its two-day visit to the state to inquire into the cases of atrocities against Dalits in the aftermath of post-poll violence, citing the pandemic restrictions and protocol.

The commission, however, has decided to go ahead with the visit.

The state government on Monday told the Kolkata high court that not a single incident of post-poll violence has been reported in the state after May 8. But the NCSC claims to have been receiving letters and complaints of atrocities against Dalits after the election results were announced on May 2.

The Commission is a constitutional body established to check the exploitation of Scheduled Castes.

According to a person aware of the details, the NCSC conveyed to the West Bengal government its plan to visit the state on May 13 and 14 and inquire into the cases of atrocities in East Burdwan and 24 Paraganas districts. The NCSC also sought a meeting with the chief secretary and the director-general of police.

In a letter to the NCSC, dated May 11, the chief secretary asked the Commission to forward the complaints it has received to the director-general. “The letter from the state government has informed the NCSC that a five-member bench of the high court... heard the matter on May 10. The solicitor general has made a submission before the bench that a number of complaints have been received by, inter alia, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. And that the high court has observed that in case any such complaints have been received by the commission with reference to violence during the polls or post-poll, the same may be forwarded to the director-general... so as to enable him to transfer the same to the concerned police station for appropriate action,” said the person aware of the details.

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When the Commission wrote back saying that it was part of its mandate to conduct spot visits, the government wrote a second letter, also dated May 11, pointing out the NSCN should reconsider its decision during the pandemic. “The West Bengal government said there are many containment restrictions arising out of the current disaster management... which the NCSC is aware of,” said the person quoted above.

“Even the hotel that was booked for the team has called to say that it cannot accommodate the visitors, citing excuses. The Commission will take it up with the state government.”

When asked about the exact number of cases of atrocities and violence, the person said it will have to be provided by the state.

NCSC chairperson Vijay Sampla declined to comment on the WB government’s letters but confirmed that he was scheduled to travel to the state on Wednesday.

“It is the mandate of the commission to conduct spot visits. If there are cases of violence against Dalits anywhere in the country, we are entitled to set up an inquiry, seek reports, and even summon the state officials. There will be a problem if the state does not cooperate with the Commission or stops us from visiting three spots we have identified,” Sampla said.

HT tried to contact West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay twice on Wednesday afternoon. His office staff said he was busy in a meeting and would not be able to take calls.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that its workers are being attacked in the state allegedly by the ruling Trinamool Congress cadre, a series of inquiries have been initiated.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankar will visit families of those affected by post-poll violence in the state.

The Union home ministry has sanctioned security to all 77 BJP lawmakers following an assessment of the threat to them.

The BJP has claimed some of the women cadre as well as family members of their workers have also been attacked.

A team of National Commission for Women headed by chairperson Rekha Sharma also visited the state last week.

The panel has set up a three-member committee to look into post-poll violence against women. The team visited West Midnapore where it met the family of a victim of rape and murder.

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