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NHRC panel gets 1,600 complaints of post-poll clashes, Bengal says ‘team controlled by BJP’

NHRC-led committee, appointed by Calcutta HC to look into alleged political killings, is likely to submit its second report soon. Bengal Law Minister questions panel's integrity & neutrality.

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Kolkata: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)-led committee, appointed by the Calcutta High Court to look into alleged political killings in West Bengal, is likely to submit its second report to the court soon, even as the Mamata Banerjee government has questioned the integrity and political neutrality of the panel. 

The committee has so far received over 1,600 complaints of post-poll assaults across the state, ThePrint has learnt. 

Since 24 June, when it was appointed, the team has visited 34 locations across nine districts, where alleged killings and vandalisation took place, a senior official of the West Bengal government said.

The NHRC committee had submitted its first report to the high court on 30 June, following which, the court, in an interim order on 2 July, directed the state police to register all complaints and record statements of the “victims” in accordance with the law. 

Stating that the committee will need more time to investigate cases, the court had also directed the state government to provide it with logistical and administrative support. 

On Tuesday, the committee wrote to the state’s chief secretary seeking logistical and security support to continue with its investigation in Hooghly, Howrah and parts of Kolkata districts. ThePrint has accessed a copy of the letter.

The government, however, believes that the committee is working at the behest of the BJP. 

“The person heading the committee, who holds the position of vice-chairman in National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and is a member of the NHRC, has his twitter handle as Atif Rasheed@AtifBjp,” West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak told ThePrint.

“The NHRC and NCM are constitutional bodies but the senior member’s social media profile mentions him as a nationalist and has hashtags of the ABVP. Will you still want me to believe that the committee is not controlled by the BJP?

“All these committees and some of its members have political mandates, and the cases are politically motivated,” Ghatak added. “We have nothing to comment on the court order, though. We will comply with the directions and orders of the court.” 

Speaking to The Print, the NHRC panel head Atif Rasheed said he was “hurt” by the West Bengal’s law minister’s comments questioning his integrity. 

“I am not on a political tour or picnic here. I am not associated with any political party and I am not a BJP activist,” he said. :There has been a repeated slander campaign against me by the people holding high offices in the state. Did the ruling party see me as a BJP activist and engineer an attack on me at Jadavpur? By questioning my credibility, they are questioning the honorable HC’s credibility too? I have been appointed by the HC to investigate the cases of post poll violence and record the statements. I am hurt by this comment of the state’s law minister.” 

Reacting to Ghatak’s remarks on his Twitter handle, he added, “How does he know that the abbreviation of AtifBJP stands for Atif Bharatiya Janata Party? It can be Atif Bhai Jaan Poonawala also. It is a democratic country and anybody can have anything in their social media profile. It has nothing to do with the assignment I have been given.”

Also read: Disinfection, ‘purification’, shaved heads — How TMC is ‘welcoming’ workers who went to BJP   

Campaign to malign Mamata

Law Minister Ghatak said the visits by the NHRC committee are “politically motivated gimmicks” and an attempt to malign Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 

“There has been no incident of political violence since the new government assumed office (on 5 May). There were some instances of sporadic violence but those happened when the administration was under the Election Commission of India,” Ghatak said.

“There are some individuals who file cases before the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court every day to malign the Mamata Banerjee government and her image nationally. If they want to discuss political violence, they need to take Uttar Pradesh and Tripura into consideration as well.” 

Ghatak further said that the state government filed a 39-page revision petition Tuesday seeking a recall or modification of HC’s interim 2 July order.

The petition by the government has also urged the court to “expunge the prima facie observations of the Special Bench (of five judges), which are based on the interim report and the annexures attached … by the NHRC…” 

The law minister also said that the state government has formed a ‘special cell’ to address and verify the complaints. “We are following the court order,” he said. “Our government has formed a special cell to address the complaints, verify them and register FIRs if true.” 

Looking into complaints, say police

West Bengal’s police directorate has been examining the complainants or the victims and inquiring into all complaints reaching the district authorities or the commission since 10 May, said a top police officer. 

“We have lodged many complaints. We cannot reveal the exact number because the case is pending before the court,” the officer said. “In some instances, we found complainants refusing to come forward and denying that they sent complaints to the commission. We are checking those too. In each case, we are reporting back to the NHRC committee according to the court order.” 

A source in the police department, however, said the police have received around 2,000 complaints directly from victims, around 400 complaints forwarded by the NHRC, and around 1,400 complaints from the SC/ST and minority commissions.

“In many cases, the complainants have denied having filed any complaint with anyone,” the source added. 

“We are documenting evidence and reporting back to the commissions. We have started sending complaints to the concerned districts and relevant authorities for physical verification and inquiry,” said a second senior police official, who is the member of the special cell. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Mamata now labels Dhankhar ‘corrupt’ over 1996 hawala case. He says ‘CM crossing limits’


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