By Arun Srivastava
It was a protest with a difference on Tuesday by Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee. If opposition leaders appeared at the dharna place to express their solidarity with Mamata Banerjee, Hindu religious leaders and Muslim clerics were also present. The woman general secretary of the Hindu Maha Sabha unambiguously extended the support and was also highly critical of the action of Sunil Arora, the outgoing chief election commissioner. She openly said that EC has been acting at the direction of the BJP leaders.
While Magmata Banerjee sat on a dharna on Tuesday near Gandhi’s statue on Mayo Road to protest against the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision to ban her from campaigning for 24 hours, her senior party colleagues who usually are seen with her on such occasion were not to be seen near the dharna site. She arrived on the wheelchair with her painting tools and stayed on till around 3pm. During her four hour dharna she kept herself occupied by painting.
The outgoing CEC Sunil Arora at the directives of his political masters had punished her for her call to the women voters to gherao the central forces if they do not allow them to vote. The manner in which Arora had conducted the elections, simply reinforced the belief that he not only outraged the modesty of the democracy he also legitimised the killings of five labourers by the CISF in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar on Saturday by punishing the TMC chief Mamata Banerjee not to campaign for twenty four hours, till 8 in the night of Tuesday. CEC did not seek a clarification from the officers leading the forces. What was most shocking was no EC official visited the families of the voters killed in firing.
Taking a cue from the proverbial fable king and his monkey guard who cut the throat of his boss in his enthusiasm to keep the flies away, Arora no doubt has inflicted severe damage to the interest of his bosses. His action not only underlines his extremely poor understanding of the election rules, it also exposes the complete political bankruptcy of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Strange enough the state BJP leaders were feeling unease at Mamata resorting to dharna. Ghosh who is known for abrasive statements said; “The Commission has taken a lot of steps against several BJP leaders in the past, but none sat on road in protest against the Commission like Mamata Banerjee. We all follow ECI’s instructions”. He is the person who had threatened that such killings would take place if “someone crosses his limits”.
While Modi has been using his office ruthlessly to communalise and polarise the voters and teasing Mamata with the intentions to woo women voters, his lieutenant has been criminalising the security forces, the bureaucrats and the electoral machinery. His two senior leaders, state president Dilip Ghosh and Rahul Sinha have issued veiled threat that Sitalkuchi is a trailer of the asolparibartan and many such actions would take place. Shockingly neither Modi nor Shah pulled them for making such statements.
There is no denying the fact it is at the behest of Shah efforts are being made by the Commission officials to justify the firing by using words like ‘polarisation’ and ‘self-defence’. These are obvious traits of deception. It is noticeable that no BJP leader is questioning the role of the CISF. They are simply trying to minimise the intensity of the brutality.
People expected that Modi and Shah should have reached out the families of the bereaved and stood by them in this hour of grief. But they did not do it as they nursed the feeling that identifying with the four victims who were Muslims would alienate their Hindu electoral base. The residents of Sitalkuchi’s Jorpatki have a question for the Election Commission: why did it not send any representative to the village after the deaths of four voters in CISF firing, unlike its prompt action when a BJP politician was found dead in the same district? The Commission had ordered an investigation and sent the special police observer to Cooch Behar to conduct an inquiry and submit a report”.
In their endeavour to appease their supporters both of them blamed Mamata, claiming that her inflammatory speech against central forces had triggered the incident. In fact Modi at a rally had promised to ensure that CEC takes action against her.
The desperation to win Bengal election gets reflected in their move to neglect the primary duty of governance. India is witnessing the worst resurrection of coronavirus wave which is rampaging through the country but the two makers of New India are busy devoting their time and energy campaigning for Bengal elections.
Some experts claim that the EC faces its toughest credibility test. But this is a wrong notion. If at all it was concerned of its credibility in that case Sunil Arora must not have indulged in such a dirty game. Significantly while the EC has been least bothered of the communal utterances of Modi and Shah and not willing to initiate any action against them, the BJP leaders were goading EC to take more stringent action against Mamata. They even lamented that it was not swift to take stringent against Mamata as it should have been.
The new CEC Chandra will also have to take a stand on the allegation that the Prime Minister is an “aggravator of the culture of eve-teasing” A complaint levelling this allegation has been filed with Amherst Street police station of Calcutta police, which has forwarded it to the Election Commission. The complaint points out that Modi has been referring to Mamata Banerjee as “Didiiiii” or “O Didiiiii”. The complaint filed by members of the Bangla Citizens Forum says that Modi has mentioned the word in “almost all the public meetings with an intent to cause teasing and mockery to common women in society.” The letter also underlines; “it is unfortunate to use the said word which aggravated the culture of eve teasing which is a serious penal offence as laid down under the provision of Section 294 of Indian Penal Code”.
Mamata also referred to the misogynistic manner in which Modi addresses her. She said; “The country had never seen such a Prime Minister. A Prime Minister should speak in dignified language. He should behave properly, respect women and respect the Constitution. But the way he has been behaving and talking, the way he has been taunting and mocking me is a matter of shame”.
After two days of the incident the villagers have started opening up. Some of them who had witnessed Saturday’s firing at the Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra contradicted administration’s claim that the central forces had fired to protect themselves, their weapons and the electronic voting machines from a violent mob.
CPI(ML) Liberation in a complaint to the Commission sought to know: “why the EC has accepted the CISF version without demanding evidence to back the story. Surely there must be CCTV footage, or other videographed evidence of the CISF claims.” The party’s politburo member Kavita Krishnan sought ban on Amit Shah, Dilip Ghosh and BJP leader Sayantan Basu’s campaigning. She alleged; “BJP planned the killings with the district superintendent of police. I will probe this. I will find out the truth. Who attended the meeting, how they planned, how a woman was sent first. She was instructed to say her child had been stolen and then they opened fire, killed”
The people in Bengal are seething with anger at the unprovoked killing of the village people by the CISF on Election Day. The true picture of what actually happened, are coming out despite all efforts by the central officials to remove evidences. BJP’s game plan has got a jolt in the remaining four phases of polling in Bengal. Mamata, instead of being cornered, has been strengthened in people’s mind following April 10 killings. (IPA Service)