Soon after Trilochan Mahato’s body was found in Purulia, West Bengal, another BJP worker Dulal Kumar was found hanging from a pole on 2 June.
BJP members, including party president Amit Shah, have alleged that the two men were murdered by workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). As government doctors quoted an autopsy report and said it was suicide, TMC spokesperson, Derek O’Brien, tweeted that the case has swiftly been handed over to the CID.
ThePrint asks- Purulia killings: Are RSS-BJP workers under threat in Mamata’s West Bengal or is it orchestrated panic?
TMC workers are victims of violence inflicted by BJP
Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar
MP, TMC and president, West Bengal Mahila Congress
For starters, your question is framed in the wrong manner.
The government of West Bengal immediately constituted a board to look into the death in Purulia. Not one, but five medical experts were on this team. They reached the conclusion that Dulal Kumar committed suicide. Why is it so easy to dismiss the voice of expert medical practitioners? They followed the procedure and carried out an autopsy. We should pay heed to their report.
If it’s a question of suicide, I do not understand how the TMC gets involved. Suicide can have many reasons – personal or professional. How can we know what was going on in the mind of the person?
The BJP and its cadres have been making allegations, but I cannot comment on those. But let us be clear that it is the TMC, which has been a victim of the violence inflicted by the BJP’s workers. We are the ones who are being killed. We even gathered the grieving families of those who have been targeted in this politically motivated violence in front of the President of India. We wanted him to hear their plea as we submitted a petition. We have proof that they are targeting us.
West Bengal is a peaceful place. The BJP can keep trying to create unrest, but it won’t work. Bengalis are smart people, they can see through what the BJP is doing. Bengal isn’t like a state in India where you can kill anyone and get away with it.
The BJP is trying very hard to shift the political narrative from development by raising such divisive agendas. But our politics is not about killing people, neither is it the way of Bengalis.
Hangings of BJP workers a result of Mamata Banerjee’s call for “birodhi shunno” elections
The two public executions in the district of Purulia in West Bengal have sent shock waves across the country and the world. This reminded us of the historical hanging from the lamp post we have all read about. The murderers also ensured that everyone should know why the two young men were executed and by whom. What was the crime of Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar? In a democracy, they were party workers of the main opposition party, the BJP.
These two hangings should not be viewed in isolation but as a sequel to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s desire that panchayat should be “birodhi shunno” or free of opposition. This is the most violent panchayat election ever seen in the state.
Panchayat elections are normally a farce in West Bengal because the state panchayat act, which was drafted by the Left, gave primacy to the state government for all crucial decisions, reducing the state election commission to a mere spectator. The TMC now is making full use of this. Over the last three decades under the Left rule, 10-12 per cent seats were won unopposed because the opposition was prevented from filing nominations. This time, the figure shot up to 35.
Mamata Banerjee’s TMC came to power by fighting the CPM for over a decade. However, immediately after coming to power, the TMC not only followed in the Left’s footsteps, but only made the elections far more violent. In Kerala and Tripura, the CPM always targeted the RSS workers; the TMC is doing exactly the same in West Bengal.
It’s a triangle – the BJP, the TMC and the CPM are all participants and victims of these violent clashes
Senior journalist and political analyst
Violence during election time, especially during panchayat elections, is not new to West Bengal. In 2003, nearly 40 people died in election-related violence. Nearly every five years, we witness a similar pattern. Earlier, the TMC and the CPM were baying for each other’s blood, now it is the TMC and the BJP.
Unlike Lok Sabha or assembly elections, panchayat elections are rife with violent clashes because of a number of reasons.
First, once you control the panchayat system, which includes gram panchayats, panchayat samiti and zila parishad, you control most of the rural voter base in Bengal.
Simply put, of the 294 constituencies in West Bengal, nearly 214 are rural, 40 are semi-urban and semi-rural while the rest are purely urban. This is why every party is vying for a control over the panchayats.
Second, over the last few years, even the lowest rung in the panchayat receives nearly Rs 2-2.5 crore in funds from various schemes like the MGNREGS.
The panchayat has the direction to allocate these funds. Whether these are used for job creation or kept aside for political campaigning, either way, these funds add to the party coffers in terms of votes or monetary assets. Controlling the panchayat is the equivalent of having both muscle power and monetary power.
The recent violent clashes portray the BJP workers as the victims, but they too have participated in this. It’s a triangle – the BJP, the TMC and the CPM are all participants and victims of this.
In Jangalmahal, the two BJP workers were killed after the local tribals distanced themselves from the TMC.
As the Left weakens in Bengal, we can see that the TMC is getting desperate. It is even using police and local administration for alleged political ends. These are signs of nervousness on part of the party.
TMC has unleashed terrorism in areas where BJP is growing strong
Former vice chancellor, Gour Banga University and Professor, Jadavpur University
BJP workers are not safe in West Bengal because of the undemocratic Trinamool Congress’ rule. They use muscle power and anti-social elements to intimidate people. At least 20 young BJP workers have been killed in West Bengal since these panchayat elections began.
People associated with the BJP are good people; some of them are tribals while others are from the lower castes. Unlike the TMC, they don’t stoop to using anti-social elements. Therefore, the TMC is actually attacking marginalised sections of society.
It is a calculated measure, coming from the highest level of the party. The TMC, under Mamata Banerjee, is no longer a political party, but rather a gang of robbers.
West Bengal is being run by communal forces supported by the ISI and other such organisations. One of the TMC MPs was the founder of SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India). He came to Kolkata from Assam and was originally from Bangladesh. The TMC made him a Rajya Sabha MP. These are the people the TMC is associated with. The party is mostly supported by the Muslims. People, especially on a national level, should be aware of this.
The TMC has unleashed terrorism in areas where the BJP workers have consolidated their position, like in Jangalmahal. Both Mahato and Kumar were killed as a result of this.
When nominations were filed, the TMC tortured and killed candidates not affiliated to the party. Those who won the elections, their winning certificates were snatched from them. The TMC is reacting against the BJP’s increasing footprint in Bengal.
It’s not just the TMC, other parties are also supporting its anti-BJP agenda.
Bengal politics trapped in vicious cycle of violence, no party eager to break it
Hindi professor, Delhi University
The real cause of the murder of the two BJP workers, Dulal Kumar and Trilochan Mahato in Purulia, would be known only after an impartial investigation. The problem in India is that law and order authorities, especially the police, are so closely aligned with the ruling dispensation that their role is always suspect in the eyes of the rival parties. So, the hasty claims of the ruling Trinamool Party that these were cases of suicide can only be seen with scepticism.
The recently concluded elections to the local bodies have been bloody. All the opponents of the Trinamool Congress were at the receiving end, so the protestations by it that it does not believe in violence and its efforts to explain it away as small skirmishes do not wash.
Purulia, however, is said to be different. The RSS has a strong presence there and is also violent. The viciousness displayed in the recent Ram Navami processions with open display of arms is a proof that the RSS has access to the means of violence and also willingness to use it to further its political end.
What makes the murders messy is the note found on the body of one of the ‘murdered’. It says that he was killed for joining the BJP. This is not the template of violence used by the Trinamool. This is a known Maoist way. Many Maoists have joined both the BJP and the Trinamool. Many former CPM workers have also joined the BJP to save themselves from the violence of the Trinamool.
The politics of Bengal is trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and no party is eager to break it.
West Bengal, Kerala show intolerance is ideology and party neutral. It can hurt even BJP
Editor, Opinion, ThePrint
In recent years, ‘intolerance’ is a word that has been hijacked by one set of political ideology in the country. In popular understanding, everytime someone uses the words ‘rising intolerance’, it has come to mean the politics of hate by the practitioners of Hindu majoritarian politics.
But intolerance is ideology and party neutral. It can hurt anyone. Even the BJP.
In states like Kerala, and now West Bengal, the BJP/RSS workers are at the receiving end of ‘political intolerance’. It is here that they realise painfully what it is to be in the minority. Many so-called secular parties in India are as intolerant as they accuse the BJP of.
That is no justification, it is an explanation.
The latest victims, Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar, were found hanging from a tree and a pole – in just the last four days. A handwritten Bengali poster stuck to Mahato’s back said: “Being involved with the BJP politics at the age of 18 claimed your life. I have been searching for you since the elections, and now you are dead.”
The panchayat elections have seen a bloodbath in West Bengal. The BJP claims it has lost 18 workers since the election preparations began.
When we sign up for a political culture that calls for complete dominance, this is what we get. Such a quest is poisonous for a democracy – whether it is a call by the Left parties or Mamata Banerjee or Narendra Modi. When you give a call like ‘opposition-mukt Bharat’, the next step is political violence.
compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint.