West Bengal post-poll violence: NHRC says ‘law of ruler’, names TMC leaders; minister threatens legal action

In its final report on the alleged post-poll violence, submitted to the Calcutta High Court on July 13, the NHRC has said that the serious incidents should be investigated by the CBI and tried outside the state, in fast-track courts. It also called for a court-monitored Special Investigation Team to follow up on the investigations.

SAYING West Bengal has “law of ruler” rather than “rule of law”, a committee of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has slammed the Mamata Banerjee government, accusing it of subjecting “thousands of its citizens… to murder, rape, displacement and intimidation, etc. in the last couple of months” following the Assembly results, and recommended deployment of Central forces in the state.

In its final report on the alleged post-poll violence, submitted to the Calcutta High Court on July 13, the NHRC has said that the serious incidents should be investigated by the CBI and tried outside the state, in fast-track courts. It also called for a court-monitored Special Investigation Team to follow up on the investigations.

Naming 123 political leaders among accused and suspects, including an election agent of the Chief Minister and several Trinamool leaders, and calling them “notorious criminals/ goons”, the NHRC says very “few” arrests have been made “in contrast to the large-scale violence”.

In a sharp reaction, Banerjee accused the BJP of using “impartial agencies” to hatch a conspiracy against her government. “Because of political vendetta, the BJP is misusing some institutions to malign the image of Bengal. They cannot digest their electoral defeat in West Bengal,” she said.

Two of the TMC leaders named in the report, minister Jyotipriya Mullick and MLA Saukat Mollah, said they would take legal action against the NHRC.

Claiming that incidents of pre-poll violence in the state, when “law and order was under the Election Commission”, had been passed off as post-poll incidents, Banerjee said the NHRC “should have respected the court”. “Instead of leaking the findings to the media, it should have first submitted the same to the court.”

The NHRC released a statement refuting this, saying it had already shared a copy of the report with advocates of the parties concerned, in accordance with High Court directions.

In the 50-page report, the NHRC says, “The situation in the State of West Bengal is a manifestation of ‘Law of Ruler’, instead of ‘Rule of Law’.

Recommending deployment of Central forces, it says, “Static Pickets: of Central Armed Police: Forces should be deployed in all the villages from where five or more complaints have been received (relating to murder, rape, grievous hurt, vandalism of homes, etc).”

The report recommends this while observing that very few of the accused had been arrested, and most are on bail. “… this shows inept performance of local Police and there is no deterrence for criminal elements”, it says. Of the 9,304 accused cited in FIRs, only 14 % were arrested, of whom 80% are already on bail, says the report.

“Thus, overall speaking, less than 3% of the accused are in jail, while 97 % are out in the open, making a mockery of the whole system. It is quite evident that Police… do not have the courage to take action against looming goons belonging to the ruling dispensation,” the report says.

Of the leaders it names, the NHRC says, “Their exact culpability will be established through greater scrutiny of records, analysis of telephonic records and cross verification of statements recorded and police station records.”

The annexure talking of “notorious criminals/goons” names, apart from minister Mullick and MLA Mollah, TMC legislators Partha Bhowmick and Khokan Das, former party MLA Udayan Guha, and Banerjee’s election agent Sheikh Sufiyan, among others.

Mullick said, “I feel ashamed and hurt to see the NHRC submitting my name as a notorious criminal. I was the executive chairman of the state bar council for 10 years. Forget about an FIR, there is not even a single general diary (entry) against me at any police station.”

Mollah also claimed there was no police complaint against him. “I don’t know on what basis the NHRC prepared this list.”

The NHRC report names 13 police stations specifically where registration of FIRs is low, and said statements by people showed they had “no trust in police”.

It adds that its own members had observed during their tour of the state that people were scared of filing complaints as ” goons of TMC will further victimize their family members”. Despite “constraints of manpower and resources”, the report says, its teams covered 311 spot visits in 20 days and received around 1,979 complaints/petitions involving 15,000 victims.

“A large number of cases related to murders, rapes, molestation and vandalism (were) received from local sources in West Bengal while the teams were camping there.”

According to the report, a large number of complaints were received from Cooch Behar, Birbhum, Purba Bardhaman, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Kolkata districts, and the most affected police districts were Baruipur, Bashirhat, Barrackpore and Diamond Harbour.

The Calcutta High Court had on June 18 directed the NHRC to probe post-poll violence in the state, on a plea by one of the BJP candidates who lost, Priyanka Tibrewal.

The eight-member NHRC committee headed by its member Rajiv Jain included Atif Rasheed, vice-chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and Rajulben L Desai, member of the National Commission for Women; apart from officers of the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission.

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